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

Hail the conquering hero

Though in the picture since before the dawn of creation, our hero made a pretty unremarkable entrance into this world. Born under circumstances that would have brought him scorn, he grew up as any other Jewish child and didn’t start to push the boundaries (much) until he was fully grown.

Rejoice greatly. O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—even on a donkey’s colt.

Zechariah 9:9 (NLT)

Believing he would overthrow the stifling Roman rule, Jews welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with open arms and shouts of hosanna! Yet only days later, they called for his crucifixion. He died the death of a convict between two thieves. Many thought that was the last they’d see of him. But, in a remarkable turn of events, he showed up again several days later. He spoke with many people in the 40 days he remained and they watched him ascend into the clouds and then began the wait for his return.

In his first appearance on earth, Jesus made a quiet entry. But when he comes again, there will be nothing calm about it.

Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. And the one sitting on the horse was named Faithful and True. For he judges fairly and then goes to war.

Revelation 19:11 (NLT)

From a donkey’s colt to a white horse. From an infant to a warrior. Jesus’ next entrance is depicted as a hero returning from battle. His clothes are stained in blood—either from his enemies or his own sacrifice, or both (verse 13). From his mouth comes a sword with which he struck down the nations (verse 15).

On his robe and thigh was written this title: King of kings and Lord of lords.

Revelation 19:16 (NLT)

It is thought that this title was written in two places for a reason: on Jesus’ robes so that it can be read while he remains stationary, and on his thigh because once he begins to move, his robes will billow out behind him, revealing his thigh. No one will be able to question his title and the authority that goes with it.

In all the talk of beasts and monsters and blood and fire, we tend to skip over the final book in the Bible. And as a result, we never see this glorious depiction of our Savior. In artwork, we see him in a manger. We see him as a boy, challenging the priests in the temple. We see him as a carpenter. We see him as a teacher. We see him on the cross. And we see his ascension into heaven. But rarely to we see this great and mighty warrior, Faithful and True, The Word of God, King of kings and Lord of lords. No one and no thing can stand against the sword from his mouth and the iron rod in his hand.

Our Jesus isn’t merely the baby in a stable or the youth in the workshop. He is not just the teacher nor is he merely the man who gave his life for a fallen world. He is also the conquering hero. Our hero.

Daily Bible reading: Zechariah 7-9, Revelation 19

About the future

Yesterday we talked about the couple on the road to Emmaus—Cleopas and his wife. They walked seven miles with Jesus without recognising him. Cleopas talked for seven miles of all that had happened to Jesus while Jesus spoke to him of all the prophecies concerning the Messiah. Cleopas was still clueless. It wasn’t until they’d reached their destination, invited Jesus to stay for dinner and Jesus blessed and broke the bread that they realised who they’d been with the entire time.

Cleopas and his wife returned to Jerusalem to share their story with the rest of the disciples only to discover that Jesus had also shown himself to Peter. While all this is happening, Jesus suddenly appears again. He’s there. He’s not there. What are these people supposed to think? (Even after Jesus had said all along something like this would happen.) Even though Jesus stood before his believers with scars on his hands and feet and boiled fish in his belly, they doubted.

Then he [Jesus] said, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me by Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must come true.” Then he opened their minds to understand these many scriptures.

Luke 24:44-45 (NLT)

These followers of Jesus knew him. They knew the scriptures. They had grown up hearing and reading the prophecies about the coming Saviour, yet when that Saviour stood right in front of them returned from the dead, they couldn’t understand. Not until it was revealed to them.

How many situations do we go through in our lives when we can’t see God? We beg and we plead and we walk away in disappointment because we couldn’t see the answer. We stand on the promises of God only to throw them back in His face because we are blinded by our own hurt and pain. Spiritual tunnel vision. We only see one thing.

Yet God sent the Spirit to show us many things.

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not be presenting his own ideas; he will be telling you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring me glory by revealing to you whatever he receives from me. All that the Father has is mine; this is what I mean when I say that the Spirit will reveal to you whatever he receives from me.

John 16:13-15 (NLT)

If we truly believe and trust in God, we be assured that the Holy Spirit will lead and guide us into all truth. Even in the difficult situations—the times when it seems as though God is far—the Spirit can reveal Truth to us. He can open up our vision to see purpose in the pain and to help us through our hurt.

Cleopas and his wife assumed Jesus had abandoned them to the point of walking away, yet Jesus chose to walk with them on their journey. They didn’t understand everything until they’d returned, but Jesus was still there. Walking with them. Talking to them words from the past about the future.

If you’re like the disciples in Jerusalem, disappointed, but still waiting for a miracle or like Cleopas and his wife, walking away, Jesus is there. He appeared to both parties where they were. Don’t fool yourself into thinking he can’t reach you where you are.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Kings 12-13, Luke 24:36-53

Detour

How much of the Bible do you believe? A little bit? A lot? All of it?

In the short time Jesus ministered on earth, those who followed him saw miracle after miracle. They listened to his teachings. They trusted him. They believed he was the fulfillment of the prophecies that said one would come to be the King of the Jews. Jesus was that man. Jesus’ followers believed of him what they wanted to believe.

Jesus made no secret of the fact that He would have to die. But He also never hid the fact that He would rise again. These things His followers seemed to ignore.

It’s now Sunday following Jesus’ death. (We know that He wasn’t put to death, but He gave up His own life.) Jesus’ followers are dismayed because He’s dead. The man who was supposed to rescue them from the tyranny of Roman rule had be put in the grave. Some people stick around. Maybe someone else will step into His shoes. Others leave.

We meet a couple on the road to Emmaus. We’ve never met these two before. Some scholars believe they were husband and wife. Cleopas was the man’s name. We never learn the name of his companion. These two were discussing the events of the last few days when a man joins them on their journey and asks about their conversation. Cleopas, astonished that this stranger has no idea of what just happened in Jerusalem, goes on to tell this man about all that had taken place.

Jesus goes on to explain all of the prophecy in the scripture that pointed to Him and all that had to happen. Cleopas and his companion are taken in by this man and, when they reach Emmaus, invite him to dine with them and spend the night as it was getting late. It wasn’t until Jesus took the bread from the table, blessed it, and broke it, that Cleopas and his wife truly saw the man before them.

How often do we walk away in disappointment, baffled that what we thought was supposed to happen didn’t? We believed what we wanted to believe and ignored the stuff we didn’t like because it didn’t suit us. But still, in our ignorance, Jesus is with us—walking beside us on the road that leads away from the place we’re supposed to be. Yet, if we’d only believed everything He said, we’d have never left in the first place.

Listen to or read Seven Mile Miracle by Steven Furtick. You’ll learn that God is not the God of the destination, but the God of the detour. He is found, not in the dramatic, but in the details.

Our Christian walk is just that, a journey, not a destination. It is a long walk and—get this—Jesus walks it with us! No matter where you are—whether you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be or you’ve walked away in disappointment, Jesus is right there walking the road with you.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Kings 10:11, Luke 24:1-35

Hosanna! to Crucify!

The human mind has an incredible ability to change. We can have one thought one moment and a completely different one the next. The introduction of one tiny piece of information can change our way of thinking for years to come. Even pressure from people around you can force a change in thought or opinion.

Upon Jesus entry into the city, Jerusalem was stirred. He rode in on a young donkey saddled in coats. People who knew who he was spread their own cloaks on the ground before him. They cried,

“Praise God for the Son of David!
Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Praise God in the highest heaven!”

Matthew 21:9b (NLT)

What a wondrous reception for the Son of God.

But while the people in Jerusalem were celebrating the arrival of a prophet, Jesus had to have known that this same crowd would turn on him. These people that were shouting words of welcome and blessing would be the same crowd that would shout just days later, “Crucify him!”

How easily swayed man can be. There are so many who will merely shout the word of the day whether it be Hosanna! or Crucify!

It is in this analogy that we see the great importance not just of making a simple confession of faith, but of making disciples. Words can change from day to day, but when your words become your way of life, you will not be so easily swayed.

In Jerusalem, we see crowds who followed the loudest voice no matter what it said. When the voice shifts from blessing to cursing, does your own voice add to the noise or are you the one who remains steadfast shouting Hosanna! while the crowd calls Crucify!?

Daily Bible reading: Exodus 25-26, Matthew 21:1-22

All

ALL, adjective

The whole quantity, extent, duration, amount, quality, or degree; as, all the wheat; all the land; all the year; all the strength. This word signifies then, the whole or entire thing, or all the parts or particulars which compose it. It always precedes the definitive adjectives, the, my, thy, his, our, your, their; as ,all the cattle; all my labor; all thy goods; all his wealth; all our families; all your citizens; all their property.

This word, not only in popular language, but in the scriptures, often signifies, indefinitely, a large portion or number, or a great part. Thus, all the cattle in Egypt died; all Judea and all the region round about Jordan; all men held John as a prophet; are not to be understood in a literal sense, but as including a large part or very great numbers.

I don’t know about you, but when the Bible says all, I want to see all.

Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles… And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

Acts 5:12-16 (ESV)

I want to see people from all over filling our churches and, not only expecting, but actually seeing miracles. I want to see all who come in added to our numbers. I want to see all who are sick healed.

In this case, I don’t think that wanting it all is wanting too much. It’s wanting what Jesus wants for his Church.

Daily Bible reading: Esther 1-3; Acts 5:1-16

Rejoice

I’ve had people look at me strangely when I’ve discovered something in the Bible I’d never seen or noticed before.

Do you ever have those moments? Where God’s Word truly comes alive and you feel as though God is pulling words of the page for you so that you can see and understand them in a different way?

Israel had this experience. Once they returned to Jerusalem from exile, they took the time to read the Book of the Law in the presence of everyone who was able to understand it. Not only did they read it, but they presented it clearly and with interpretation so that every would understand it. Men, women, and children stood for hours listening to scripture.

What’s your response when you’ve grasped a new revelation from scripture. Do you tell someone? Do you pause to think about it? Or do you do like the people in Jerusalem?

And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.

Nehemiah 8:12 (ESV)

When you understand more than just the literal meaning of the Word, rejoice! When you’ve taken hold of a deeper meaning in scripture, see it for what it is – God personally revealing Himself to you.

These are God’s words. Living words. Active words. And He has given them freely to you.

For the word of God is living an active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of the soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)

Daily Bible reading: Nehemiah 7-8; Acts 3

Prayer for the Church

I don’t know about you, but I have a very difficult time reading the news these days. When it comes to politics and law, a lot of changes are being made. A lot of changes that – whether you realise it or not – affect the Church. And by church, I don’t necessarily mean individual churches or organisations, I mean The Church. The global Church. A group of individual believers striving together for the Great Commission. There are individual churches that I do no include in this group.

But the church is the church, isn’t it?

Is it?

Reading through the book of Nehemiah, I am struck by how relevant the prophets words are even today. Nehemiah has taken on the great task of rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem and at every turn, he’s met by resistance.

And they plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it.

Nehemiah 4:8 (ESV)

Does this sound like anything that’s happening right now? Government officials along with public opinion are pushing against the church trying to cause confusion. Telling half-truths (which are really lies) or outright lies insisting this is the way things are and that to proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ is considered hateful.

In the fifty-two days it took to rebuild the wall, the Jews banded together. Not only did they work together, they fought together. There were workers and their were soldiers. And even the workers had swords strapped to their sides while they worked.

Do no be mistaken, Christianity is not for the faint of heart. We are not called to a happy little hippy community to sit around draping each other with daisy chains. There is a war and it is real and it’s not just being fought in the Middle East. It’s a war that is already in our schools, our churches, and our homes.

My prayer for the Church is this:

God, let us stand strong.
Set a guard of protection around our hearts and minds.
Lead us in the Truth.
Your Truth.
And only Your Truth.
Help us to stand when the world would see us fall.
Give us strength when the world sees us as weak.
Make our mind and path clear.
Go before us.
Victorious.

If you’re Canadian, remember this: engraved on the tower of Parliament is Psalm 72:8 – He shall have dominion also from sea to sea.

If you’re American, look at the change in your pocket. In God we trust.

The founders of our countries knew what they were doing even if many of our current leaders don’t. These ideals were firmly set in the foundation of our nations and, if we don’t stand up and fight for them, they will be removed and anything and everything that was built on them will crumble.

I leave you with Nehemiah’s words:

Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.

Nehemiah 4:14 (ESV)

Daily Bible reading: Nehemiah 4-6; Acts 2:14-47

No Exceptions

When there’s work to be done in the church, are you the person who jumps right in and joins the crew or are you the one hanging back making the excuse that you’re not the expert, this isn’t your “thing”?

When it comes down to it, it’s not about the work at all or whether it’s your area of expertise or not. It’s about service. As Christians, we too often wait to feel called to something. Do you think that’s what the disciples were doing on their boats? Waiting for their calling? No! Of course not. That was their livelihood.

I’m not saying that Jesus is calling you to drop everything, leave your job and family, and join the full-time ministry. Maybe he is, but that’s for another day. What I’m saying is that every Christian is called into service in one way or another. If you wait until you feel called to something, you’ll be waiting a long time. Sometimes the service that needs to be done is cleaning the toilets (I’ve done it – dudes, your bathroom is gross). Sometimes it’s being at the front door of the church greeting people with a smile. Sometimes it’s demolition and sometimes it’s rebuilding.

In Nehemiah, we see people from pretty much every walk of life joining in the work of rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. Nehemiah had a burden on his heart to do the work, but there was no way he could have done it on his own. When the work got going, we see goldsmiths and perfumers. These people were not your general labourers. If you were working with gold and perfume, you had a highly praised skill set. Along with these men were local rulers. Men repaired the sections of the wall that were near their homes. And yes, according to Nehemiah 3:12, women worked, too.

The only verse that mentions people not joining in is this:

And next to them the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord.

Nehemiah 3:5 (ESV)

To me, this is a bit of an oxymoron. They would not stoop to serve their Lord. Is there no greater work than to serve our Lord?

So the next time you have the opportunity (yes, service to God is always an opportunity) to serve in any capacity. Serve. Don’t wait. The greatest satisfaction in service comes when you do it with a joyful heart full of thanksgiving.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Colossians 3:23-24 (ESV)

Daily Bible reading: Nehemiah 1-3; Acts 2:1-13

Moved

Are you often moved? Moved to change your mind? Moved by the humility of others? Are you easily moved to forgive? When you’ve been greatly wronged, what does it take to move you?

Manasseh, unlike his father Hezekiah, did evil in the sight of God. His father reigned over Judah and the land knew prosperity and economic growth. 2 Chronicles 32:30 says that Hezekiah prospered in all his works. One would think that, if the father prospered, the son would wish to emulate those actions.But Manasseh wanted things his own way.

He rebuilt the high places and altars to Baal and Asherah. He built altars in the temple. He sacrificed his sons as burnt offerings. If you’re God, are you going to forgive this guy?

Down the road, Manasseh gets captured by the very people that God turned away during Hezekiah’s reign. This must have been the bottom for him.

And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers.

2 Chronicles 33:12 (ESV)

What strikes me here is that, even though Manasseh had been worshipping the foreign gods, he still recognised the Lord has his God. God was still a personal God to him.

He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.

2 Chronicles 33:13 (ESV)

There is nothing, nothing that God won’t forgive when you humble yourself and recognise him as God. Here is a man who spurned him father’s faithfulness, worshipped foreign gods, defaced the temple, burned his own sons and God still had mercy on him.

God is moved when we humble ourselves and know that He is God.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Chronicles 32-33; John 18:24-40