Monday, August 29, 2016

The Bride: Why I go to Church

I have read 2 blogs this week and it’s only Monday.  I read 71 books last year and I’m on pace to read that many or more this year. For as many books as I read I spend a lot of time reading blogs and sermons, religious though both pro and con.
I’ve heard said and I believe that leaders are readers.
I love the reading list on my phone. If I'm out and about and I see an article that catches my eye on a website I can hit the glasses symbol and add it to a reading list for later. It’s awesome and if you aren’t using it you should be.
Do it for a month, just add stuff to it then at the end of the month its like you have your own private curated magazine.

the other day I was on Facebook and an article called “Why Attending Church is So Important” popped up.  The author is Matt Brown, an evangelist, author of Awakening and founder of Think Eternity. It’s not the best article I have read on the subject but I saved it for my reading list and finally got to it today.
I remembered it because there was blog going around with reasons why a christian doesn’t need church. So I read both.

Probably the best thing I have read on reasons to go to church was written by pastor Rick Warren. Rick Warren if you are somehow unaware wrote the book Purpose Driven Life. He is the founder and lead pastor of Saddleback church. Saddleback church has touched literally millions of lives. Through written word, sermons, or out reaches. They are the gold standard.

Pastor Warren delivered a sermon in 2003 that is a very comprehensive sermon on What God says about church, and other reasons you need a church if the “Because I said so” by God isn’t enough for you. You can read it here but be warned it’s long.

Instead of going over his reasons though I am going to tell you why I need church.

I was hurt by several churches and crushed by one denomination. I decided I didn’t need church. I was convinced I could do this on my own.  
What I ended up doing in those subsequent years was build a god that was made in my image rather than me in His.
See it turned out that when I stopped going to church a lot of the things I wanted to do that I knew God frowned on was fine with god now.
I could simply google things like “reason’s why ________ is ok for a christian” and find dozens if not hundreds of articles why all this stuff God was against from sexual immorality to what I put in my body turned out to be fine with god.  I mean I had articles to prove it.  Anything I wanted in my little human heart to do or get away with could be easily justified by articles online. Someone had already done the work for me.

So I drifted farther from church, though god and I stayed tight. Turns out I didn’t need to pray much either anymore.  
I might have read my bible more in that time than I have at any other time before my complete surrender in 2013.
I could tell people I was reading the bible and some were impressed. Some didn’t care cuz they were worshipping my god too.
All that did was make them feel better about their choice. Thats something too. It's amazing how people that make the same poor or selfish decision will back each others play.

I could have went on like that forever if God had not rescued me from the slippery slope. I could have lead my family down the path marked “decide for yourself”.

God rescued me on February 13th 2013 as I slept he formed in me a new heart. A heart soft with His fingerprints.
It was way easier to not go to church, I assure you.  It’s almost always easier to not do something than to do something. 
The fact that you are reading this right now and it would be way easier not to is astounding, so thank you for continuing.

I believe deeply that it’s not about me.  It was about me, until it was about Him. Now it’s about them.

So thats the best reason I can give you to attend a church.
The church is full of hypocrites thats true. So is Walmart but I'm sure I’ll see you there.

I attend church because God can do more with my 10% than I can do with 100%.  That’s true with my tithe and it’s true with my time.

In the last 5 years locally I have helped dozens of families with food assistance or shelter personally. 
I have tithed and watched God honor that tithe in my personal life and watched the church use that tithe and others like it to provide shoes for over 50 kids that couldn’t afford them. To send christmas gifts to active military. Feed countless numbers in our town. Help break the chains of addiction. Turn lives completely around and bring friends and family to Jesus.  The list could go on for pages.
Internationally, personally I have helped build a kitchen in Haiti. I have served orphans in Ethiopia.  Through the church I've helped plant churches and change lives in Ethiopia and other countries as well as feed orphans and further the gospel to a degree that without the church I could not have feasibly done.
I've been part of, either in the crowd or actively participating in 65 baptisms just this year. Lives are changing. Lives that may never have changed.  People that may have never met Jesus and thus spend an eternity separated from Him.
When two of my best friends had a tragedy recently, I saw a church rush to comfort and mourn with them. To take care of them in a way that family alone couldn't have.  The whole church hypocrites and all.

In my wildest dreams, working as hard as I can without a church and that connection with that encouragement I could not have accomplished an eighth of that.  Maybe, just maybe I lead some one to God  while I'm on my own but would it be the God or my god? I don’t know.  
I need that anchor to hold me steady. I need the teaching and correcting so my vision doesn’t get blurred by what I want to do.

We can do more as a whole body than I can as just a finger.

Take away my job, any perceived status or influence I have and I'll still be there week in week out because I need it.  I've been without it and I know that road.

Paul, who I’m gonna go ahead and say was better than any of us was flabbergasted by the fact that he found it hard to do what was right because his flesh was so hard at work wanting to do whats wrong (roughly paraphrased from Romans 7:15-20)
This was a man that was all about the church. Building the church attending a church living and growing together.
If it was hard for him in a church how hard is it for me without one?

For those of you unhappy at your church and looking for a reason to leave, stop read these articles please. 

For those of you that were hurt like me, I urge you to find a church.  Grow in that church serve in that church be part of that church reach others in that church. Live out the great commission in that church. 
When you get hurt, like you will in any family happy or not you get over it and you carry on. It’s not about you, thanks to Him it’s about them. Help them, Love them. 

Love and lead as many of them as you can in the time you have.

Thanks for Reading.
Alan





Monday, August 22, 2016

Standing

Standing on the promises

That's the lyrics to an old hymn. One I have heard countless times. 

There are hundreds of promises in the bible. 
Promises for comfort that I cling to.
Promises of protection I count on. 
Promises of Jesus' return that I stand on.

I've been reading and studying Kings for a few weeks.  Kings 1 and 2 are great books. You can see God work in the lives of Israel thru His promises.  
Israel wanted a King, like everyone else.  God didn't want them to have a King at all but they begged and he eventually gave them what they wanted.  He loved them so much that he gave in just like I will sometimes with my kids when they beg.

One of the kings was King Omri, Omri was an awful King and an all around terrible guy. If it was bad then he had a hand in it. 
Under his rule Israel was pretty much thunder dome. 

Omri eventually died and as with kingship it was passed to his son Ahab. Ahab was surprisingly even worse. In 1Kings 16:25 the bible tells us that Omri did more bad than any other king in Israel's history.
His son and new king, Ahab gets his own description, it's identical as his fathers until vs 33 when it says not only did he do more things that were evil in the sight of God but he did more to provoke the anger of God than anyother king. 
The king at the time was Ahab and the bible says that of all the kings of Israel up to him he was the one that provoked Gods anger the most. 

When my kids do something wrong I do get mad. If I tell them specifically not to do something and then they do it right in front of me I get furious. It provokes my anger.

Israel had turned once again from a God. It had gone beyond disappointing him with their actions. 
We all disappoint God from time to time in the choices we make. The friends we hang out with the language we use.  They had under Ahab's leadership provoked Him to action. 

To say the least when Elijah enters in 1 Kings God is not happy at all with the ones that are supposed to be HIs people
Elijah tells Ahab in ch 17 that the water has been cut off until further notice.  Until he as sent back to them to give the word there would be no water. 

There was no time limit set. The usual prophet spiel about repenting and turning back to God was spared. They knew what they were doing. 

They knew who God was. I sill remember all the stories my mom has told me about things God has done for our family. When my grandma was sick mom prayed and begged God for 2 more years with grandma and by Gods will she lived 2 more years.  
I prayed that night God changed my life. These are the stories that we pass down and help us explain our faith in God to the next generation. 

The Israelites had even greater stories to pass down. The burning bush, the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea.  Still they turned from God

So Elijah passed on Gods message. No demands by God it wasn't a ransom it was a promise. No bargaining to do because it wasn't a threat it was a promise. No pleading with him because it wasn't a choice it was a promise. 
Just like that the water shut off. Just like my water would get shut off if I ignored city utilities. They ignored God simply cut it off. 
I'm not sure how much it rained usually there. They might have went weeks without it and not realized it was a punishment. Being supremely just and merciful though God wanted them to know right away and give them the chance to turn from their sin. They could save themselves the suffering by turning back to Him.  So when Elijah gave them His message he said it would not rain and there would be no dew even until he returned with Gods word. 

Who knows what would have happened if they had repented right then.  God may have opened the floodgates immediately

That however wasn't the case

3 years later they were still in this drought. There was a huge famine because of it. People and livestock died off crops were so sparse that's the king himself had to lead a party of men outside to try and find anything for the horses to eat. 

It was rough.  Promises sometimes are. 

There were according to the bible 7000 people in the kingdom that refused to worship Baal.  They still had a hard time for those 3 years but they made it thru. It wasn't easy but they made it. I'm sure they prayed for rain themselves but God made a promise and he sees ALL of his promises through. God took care of them.  I can't imagine it was easy but they made it through the drought to the rain. 
They lived in a kingdom openly defying God and they did nothing. They didn't worship Baal but they weren't actively fighting the Baal worship either. We can be confident in this because they didn't get killed and that seemed to be the preferred punishment for insubordination when it came to idol worship in the Old Testament.  They were the pew fillers. 
They made it thru to the rain. Wasn't fun but they made it. 

Elijah was a man in motion however. He was going wherever God wanted him to go. God says go to the king then he goes to the king. God says go to this hideaway by a brook and he goes. God says got to this town because I have a widow there that will take care of you and he goes there.  Elijah made it thru to the rain spectacularly and miraculously. Elijah was doing the work he was called to do. He held tight to the promise that God would eventually send him with the message. He knew God had told him he would deliver the message of rain when it was time. He had faith in that promise and was confident he would make it thru to the rain. 

I like the story of Ahab and Elijah because it shows God see a promise through to the end.  God said this would happen and it happened. There are lots of stories in the bible  where God faithfully keeps his promises. Stories where God protects those that are truly His when things around them seem impossible. 

After Jesus' sacrifice for you and I, we were given another promise because he loves us. If we live our lives for Him if we believe in Him and what he did we will have eternal life.  

That's the promise that produces.  

When we commit to God when we accept Jesus and daily choose to do His will we are doing it because we have faith in the promise. 

That faith produces fruit and that fruit makes even the droughts an oasis. 

A promise that through Jesus we will make it through the drought to the reign

Thanks for reading










Monday, August 8, 2016

the Sunflower Patch

It’s Monday which means time for a new blog.  Honestly there is nothing on my mind this week except Mikayla. I haven’t posted much about any of this. I just had nothing to say that didn’t speak of my sadness.  There is plenty of that to go around so I kept quiet.

Some of you knew Mikayla and some of you only knew of her.

As I was walking from the church to my office Sunday during 3rd service something happened to me.  There has been an ache I couldn’t stop. A sadness that permeated everything I did the last few days.  There have been tears and screams. There has been long conversations with God and long silences with my dear friends as we just sit.

I was halfway between the church and my office when I was overwhelmed with joy. I started laughing and crying at the same time. I was just overcome with the idea that I got to know Mikayla.  How incredibly blessed am I that I really got to be a part of her life.

As I said some of you knew her and some of you just knew of her. 
If you knew of her you knew of a girl that had a handicap. Maybe you felt sorry for her. Which was ridiculous because she never felt sorry for herself. You knew of a girl at church that got around better on her hands or in her chair better than half of us get around unassisted. You knew of a girl that never complained, never let her situation get her down. You knew of a happy kid that shared that happiness with total strangers. A girl that always ALWAYS smiled at you.

I however was blessed to get to know her.  Her love of her family and pets. Her wicked little smile when she said something sarcastic to tease me (which was nearly constantly).
I got to hug and hold her, I got to tease and pester her. I got to really know her strength and fearlessness facing the world. Her unceasing overwhelming joy. 
I loved her and I like to think she loved me. 
She was always my priority when James and Heather got to church. I had to get to Mikayla, get my high five and if I was lucky carry her in.

The sense of loss is great but today my sense of privilege is greater. I got to know her, I got to play with her and I got to love her. 
Like the sunflowers she loved so much, she bloomed bright and left us too quickly with just the seeds of memories to cultivate.  
One day I’ll see her again only then her head will be as high as the tops of the sunflowers  in the patch she is undoubtedly planting in heaven and she will run to meet me on healthy legs.  

Thank you Jesus for your mercy and comfort.  
Thank you for loaning that beautiful girl to us if just for six years.  
Thank you for reminding me how blessed we all were.





Monday, August 1, 2016

As One at 1

Family, thats what we call ourselves as a church.

Family is important, family is strong.  This week while I was away on a mission trip the enemy has attacked family.

It’s sometimes uncomfortable to talk about the Devil. Just something about it makes you feel weird. We try and humanize him. We dress him up in a cute little red costume and make him harmless.  We dress him up in a suit and make him look cool. We make a cartoon of him and we lose the idea that he exists and he HATES US.

Let us never forget this. He is real, he is on this earth and he hates you.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
-1 Peter 5:8

Recently families within our family and across our community have been attacked. It’s not fair, it’s not right but it’s true. He hates you so much that he attacks that which we think is safest. Our family, our bonds.  No one expects their marriage to be attacked. Especially when both husband and wife are together in Christ. We get blindsided by this. That is what is happening in our houses and it will not stand.

Tonight I ask that you join me in setting an alarm on  your phone for 1pm for the next week. At 1pm everyday ending next Monday pray for marriages with me.

Pray for families, pray fervently.  For 1 week we pray as one, at 1.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

-James 5:15 (nlt)