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

Please, Daddy.

Read: Deuteronomy 20-22, Mark 14:26-50

As kids, most of us were asked by one or both of our parents to do something we didn’t want to do. Maybe some of us begged not to have to do said task. We’d plead. Even throw a tantrum, depending on how distasteful we perceived the task to be. Eventually, and maybe with the help of a firm hand to the behind, we’d grudgingly do what we were told. That tenuous relationship with our parents was a love/hate one. We loved them for what they did for us and hated them for what they made us do. In all but a few rare cases, all that forced labour was for our own benefit.

Even Jesus had a moment where he questioned God’s resolve regarding the task at hand.

Mark 14-36.jpg

The double title Abba Father occurs only two other times. “Abba” was a common way young Jewish children addressed their fathers. It conveyed a sense of familial intimacy and familiarity. The Jews, however, did not use it as a personal address to God since such a familiar term was considered inappropriate in prayer. Thus Jesus’ use of Abba in addressing God was new and unique. He probably used it often in His prayers to express His intimate relationship with God as His Father. Abba here suggests that Jesus’ primary concern in drinking the cup of God’s judgement on sin necessarily disrupted this relationship.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary

As technically as this paragraph is written, it brought me to tears. In my mind, I’ve known since I was a small child that Jesus was both fully God and fully man. I knew that he was/is the Son of God. But in thinking about the intimate relationship Jesus had with his Father, we can see just how wrought with pain Jesus was in this moment. Never before had anyone recorded him calling out to God on such a personal level. Maybe he was even hoping that, like with Abraham laying Isaac on the altar, a substitution would be made at the very last minute.

Even greater than the thought of feeling every thorn, every lash, every nail, Jesus would feel the eternal pain of separation from his Father. It is literally a pain worse than death. In death, you know that person is gone. Jesus knew that neither he nor his Father would be gone, but rather there would be an eternal separation between the two.

And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:8 (NIV)

Think about the one person you are closer to than anyone else in the world. Now imagine knowing that they are still there, but you can’t see that person. You can’t speak with them. You can’t touch them. For eternity. If you knew ahead of time, that would be the result, would you still go through with what was asked of you?

Jesus did. The pain of his torture and death was unimaginable. But I think the pain of separation was even greater. As the time grew near, Jesus became distressed and cried out to God, not as a servant to a master, but as a child to a father, “Please, Daddy…”

Yet he still submitted his will to God’s so that we would not have to endure that pain.

The God of my father

Read: Genesis 31-32, Matthew 10:24-42

My grandfather was a pastor. For nearly my entire life, he was my pastor. That is, until he died.

Called to the ministry long before he entered it, he had an anointing to heal. People from all over were drawn to his charisma, his grand personality. He was a strong man in ideals and in faith. When he passed away, another minister preached—yes, preached—at his funeral. A room full of people from every facet of his life, both from church and work, heard this pastor speak of the mantle that would now be passed on. Like Elijah to Elisha, the anointing of Papa’s ministry would pass on, but not just to one person. It would spread. The foundation that he laid would not go to waste. The ceiling of his ministry would become the floor for those who would follow in his footsteps.

What is the significance in those who have gone before us?

All through the Bible, God is referred to as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel). It was recognised that the men who had gone before had a certain relationship with God. It was generational. And it was important to remember.

…the God of your father…

Genesis 31:29 (NIV)

If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac…

Genesis 31:42 (NIV)

Genesis 31:53

“O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac…”

Genesis 32:9 (NIV)

In two chapters of Genesis, there are no less than four examples of God being referred to as the God of a generation passed. Why?

Because God made promises to Abraham and to Isaac. Over and over again, God had proven himself faithful to Jacob’s father and grandfather. In his persistent reference to the God of his fathers, he reminded himself of those promises and that faithfulness.

We may throw away many things from the previous generation, but one thing that should never be set aside is the faith—the God—of our fathers. I don’t for one second take for granted the spiritual foundation that my grandfather laid. I know that he prayed for every person in his family by name every day. He prayed for me. I know that his work and his prayers were not in vain. I know that the relationship with God that I enjoy today has a lot to do with the relationship he had with God while he still walked this earth.

If you are fortunate enough to belong to the God of your fathers, don’t take it for granted. Look into your heritage and see the promises and the faithfulness.

If you are the first in your line, lay the foundation for future generations. Be the Abraham in your lineage.

Let us never forget the God of our fathers.

In His own image

Read: Genesis 1-2, Matthew 1

Genesis-1-27

Reading through the account of creation, we see that man is the only thing God created in His own image. Man is the only being that God breathed His own life into. Though they were made on the same day, man was different from the beasts of the field.

Man was made upright. His understanding saw Divine things clearly and truly; there were no errors or mistakes in his knowledge; his will consented at once, and in all things, to the will of God.

Matthew Henry

Before Adam made the worst decision in the history of humanity, he was at one with God. He knew no separation from his Creator and lived in perfect communion with Him. We know, that at the moment Adam chose to eat from the forbidden tree, that unique relationship was severed. While that relationship can never be fully restored on this side of heaven, God made a way for us to still have communion with Him. But it takes work. It’s not an instant fix; it is a lifelong effort on our part.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2 (NIV)

The only way to gain back even a portion of what Adam experienced with God in the garden is to continually renew ourselves to His will. You truly to become like the people you most spend time with, so spend time with God. Become more like Him—the way we were all created to be. This process of renewal must be constant and consistent. always moving forward and never looking back.

Paul said we need to be forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead (Philippians 3:13). We have a decision to make. We can continue to live in separation from God and do as we please. Or we can approach Him through the grace provided through Jesus’ sacrifice and get to know Him and His will for us. We can live as we were created to live in perfect harmony with our Father.

The Devil’s fence

There is a story that describes a person sitting on a fence. On one side of the fence, there are green pastures. It is clear and peaceful. On the other side of the fence is every pleasure the person could ever desire.

A man approaches from the peaceful side and offers a hand. “I’d like for you to join me here.” The person on the fence considers the offer. The peaceful green grass is mighty appealing.

Then a man approaches from the other side and makes a similar offer. “Join me here and you’ll have everything you ever wanted.” The man on the fence also finds this offer appealing, but cannot bring himself to make a decision and tells both men so. The second man shrugs. “Have it your way.” He turns and smiles to himself. “Good thing I own the fence.”

By making no decision at all, the man on the fence unknowingly made his decision. To do anything other than choose God is to choose against Him. Sitting on the fence doesn’t absolve you of anything, because the Devil owns the fence.

I will search with lanterns in Jerusalem’s darkest corners to find and punish those who sit contented in their sins, indifferent to the Lord, thinking he will do nothing at all to them.

Zephaniah 1:12 (NLT)

There is absolutely no benefit at all in sitting on the fence, waiting to make a decision. An offer has been made from both sides. It’s time to choose. Every day you sit on the fence is a day that could have been spent in the presence of the Lord.

Gather together and pray, you shameless nation. Gather while there is still time, before judgement begins and your opportunity is blown away like chaff.

Zephaniah 2:1 (NLT)

Even if you have already made a decision to follow Jesus, you must still make every moment count. There is no better time to deepen and strengthen your relationship with him than right now.

Daily Bible reading: Zephaniah 1-3, Revelation 15

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

One bad apple

Yesterday, after being out for most of the day, I was anxious to get home. I like being at home. I pulled into the driveway, grabbed all my stuff from the car and stomped up the front steps. Unlocking the door, I expected to be greeted by warm comfort. Instead, an overwhelming stench assaulted my senses. Dropping my things, it then became a bit of a wild goose chasing trying to find where the smell was coming from and what was causing it. While all of our organic waste is supposed to be kept separate, something landed in my garbage bin and stayed there for a while—long enough to stink up the entire house. The bin barely had anything in it.

I’m sure you’ve heard the term one bad apple spoils the whole bunch. When it comes to produce, once something starts to spoil, it doesn’t take long for it to spread to the good fruit. Back in Ezekiel, God was busy giving the prophet some very specific instructions regarding the temple. One thing among many stood out.

Take careful note of who may be admitted to the Temple and who is to be excluded from it.

Ezekiel 44:5b (NLT)

Only certain priests from a certain lineage were permitted to enter certain places in the Temple. To have anyone else enter would mean that it, and any utensils they came in contact with, would no longer be holy. A long process would then have to take place in order to re-sanctify that place and those things.

Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? God will bring ruin upon anyone who ruins this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you Christians are that temple.

2 Corinthians 3:16-17 (NLT)

Now, we no longer live under the Old Covenant and we don’t need to go to a physical temple to make sacrifices in order to atone for our sin. Jesus was the sacrifice that made eternal atonement for us. And we are now the temple—that holy place where the Spirit of God resides. And, just like the priests of old, we should be very aware of who and what we allow into the temple.

Like a little bit of garbage can stink up an entire house, one wrong person in our lives can ruin the temple. We all have different social circles and levels of relationships in our lives. Our inner circle should be reserved for a very select few people. How do we know who to let in? Here are a few questions we can ask ourselves:

  • Does this person share my faith?
  • Do they lead me toward Jesus or draw me away from him?
  • Am I challenged to become better and stronger with this person in my life?
  • Can I depend on this person in the bad times as much as I can in the good?

The list could go on, but I think you get the point. The inner circle, like the holy of holies, is sacred. It should be protected so that it—we—can remain holy. We may even have to distance ourselves from certain people in order to preserve that sanctity. Don’t let that bad apple in.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 43-44, 2 Peter 2