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Why Do You Go to Church?

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In Mark 1 and Luke 4, we are told about a man who had an unclean or evil spirit.  He wasn’t at home or hanging out in the streets.  He was at church.  I don’t know if this was his first time going to the synagogue or if he was a faithful churchgoer.  Why was he there?  Was he looking for answers?  Was he looking for help?

Like a lot of Christians today, he probably looked like he had it altogether on the outside.  I say this because he wasn’t described like the demon possessed man who wore no clothes, cut himself and lived in the tombs (Mark 5).  The church members and the teachers probably didn’t know what this man was dealing with inwardly.  Every Sabbath, scribes would teach the law, but none of their words gave life.  No one was healed.  No one was raised from the dead.  No one was delivered from yokes, burdens, devils or oppression in these meetings.

The spirit that was in this man was like the serpent that was hiding in the cold until Paul laid a bundle of sticks on the fire (Acts 28).  No one was ministering to this man the way Jesus had ministered to the woman at the well.  He told me all that ever I did  (John 4:39). This man sat quietly in a cold synagogue until the word came in the form of a burning fire.

Can you imagine the looks on their faces when they heard what was speaking through this man?  Those who knew him knew that it was not him speaking.  Can you also imagine how they felt when this man was set free?  Well, it didn’t take long for the news to spread.  When Jesus left the synagogue, he went to Peter’s house and healed his mother-in-law who was sick with a fever.  Mark 1:33 tells us that “all the city” was waiting at the front door to be healed of something.

Jesus was different.  He wasn’t like the scribes who just preached a good word and sent everyone home.  He spoke with power and authority.  He demonstrated what he preached.  Signs and wonders followed.  He just didn’t say what He heard his Father say, but He did what his Father did (John 5:19).

I grew up going to church because I didn’t have a choice.  I had to go, but now as an adult, have you ever asked yourself, Why do I go to church?  Some of us go to hear a good word and to be encouraged for the week and that’s good, but what about the person who sits beside you, in front of you or behind you?  There is someone in church hurting, but you can’t see their wounds.  There is someone crying, but you can’t see their tears.

Thank God for pastors, but they can’t do everything.  Just like how you expect the pastor to show up when you are in the hospital or show up to the funeral when your loved one has passed away or show up to preach on Sundays, the pastor needs us to show up.  Every gift is needed.  Some of us are like the man at the pool who was waiting for someone to put him in the pool when we should be walking by now and helping others to get in the pool.

God wants what we hear in church to be demonstrated outside of the church.  But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only  (James 1:22).  I don’t think we realize how much people are watching us – at work, at home, while you’re driving your car.  They see your attitude.  They see how you treat your spouse and your children.  They are following our lives – and not just on social media.

The writer of Hebrews warns us to not stop meeting with other believers (Hebrews 10:25).  Go to church.  You don’t know who needs strength or encouragement.  If you only look at church as a building to go to when you need something, you’ve got it all wrong.  Your presence is very important.  We need you to be present and functioning.  As I said in my last blog, if Elijah hadn’t showed up – if he hadn’t done what God told him to do, the widow and her son would have died.

I think about the times I struggled to get out of bed to go to church.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I sometimes struggle to go to work too, but I get up because I want that paycheck.  Unless you are self-employed, most of us don’t show up to work when we want to because we would be fired, yet we show up to church when we want to.  I’ve learned that those times I didn’t want to go church was when I really needed to go the most.

The next time you attend church, go with an expectation – not just to get something, but to give something.  Give a hug.  Give a smile.  Let someone know that God hasn’t forgotten them.  Let them know that God still loves them.  You don’t know what people are dealing with.  Let them know that God is not punishing them or that He’s disappointed in them.  Sometimes as Christians, we act like the disciples, who when they saw a boy that was blind from birth, they immediately assumed  it was because either the boy sinned or his parents sinned, but it was so that God could show others what He could do for this boy as well as for them.

I haven’t always treated everybody right.  At times, I’ve been judgmental and hypocritical, but I’m learning to give to others what God has given me.  I’ve decided that I don’t want to be the reason why someone falls, but I want to be the reason why they get back up again.

Going to church was a ritual for me.  It was something to do, but now I see it as an opportunity to be.

Don’t just go to church.  Be the church.

 

Don’t Settle

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The children of Reuben and Gad had a lot of cattle.  God promised them a land flowing with milk and honey, but they saw the land of Jazer and Gilead and thought it would be a great place for their cattle.  They thought it would be better.  They went to Moses, the priest and the princes of the congregation about their plan (not God’s plan).  May we settle here instead of crossing the Jordan into the promised land?  (Numbers 32:5, VOICE).  Moses couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Shall your brothers go to war and shall you sit here? (vs 6).

In Numbers 20, Moses was told he wouldn’t enter the promised land.  The Lord spake to Moses and Aaron, Because you didn’t believe me, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, you shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them  (vs 12).  Here we have Moses, who wanted to enter in, but couldn’t while the Reubenites and Gadites had the opportunity to enter in, but chose not to.  Moses couldn’t believe that they came this far only to settle here  when God wanted to give them there.  He was also concerned that it would discourage the others from going across to the land that the Lord had given them.  Eventually, half of the tribe of Manasseh decided not to cross over either. Our decisions do affect other people. 

Moses told the Reubenites and Gadites that they were just like their ancestors (Numbers 32:8).   When Moses sent their ancestors to survey the land, they went as far as the valley of Eschol, took one look at the land and quit.  They discouraged the others who wanted to go by telling them how strong and tall the people were that inhabited the land and that they wouldn’t be able to go up against them.  God was so angry with them that He made them (with the exception of Caleb and Joshua) wander in the wilderness for 40 years until that generation (20 years old and older) died out.

The Reubenites and Gadites vowed to help the others fight and to cross over, but their minds were made up.  They were content.  They didn’t want to go any further.  Now that may have been fine for them, but that’s not okay for us.  Don’t settle.  Don’t accept something or someone just because you don’t see what God said yet.

God has better for you. 

God has already given what He promised, but you must want it. You must go and possess it.  Wishing and hoping is not enough.  Going to church and hearing the word is not enough.  You must do what the word says.  Some of us are trying to find different ways to enter into the promise, but there is only one way – obedience.  This is how Caleb and Joshua entered in.  They followed God completely (vs 11).  And lazy people don’t inherit the promise.  You can’t be like the five foolish virgins who expect other people to have oil for them – and for you.  Get your own oil!  Do what you are supposed to do.  Use what God gave you.

In Mark 6:45, Jesus revealed to the disciples their destination, but He never told them what would happen during the journey.  And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship and to go to the other side to Bethsaida  (vs 22).  On the way there – in the middle, the wind was blowing against them and their ship was tossing because of the strong waves.  Jesus saw them struggling, trying to row the boat.  Even though the journey was hard, they never stopped rowing.  They did what Jesus told them to do.  They kept moving toward the other side.  They kept resisting the wind and the waves.  They made it to the other side (with Jesus in the ship with them) and so will you. The enemy wants you to get discouraged in the middle.  He wants you to give up and settle where you are.  If you are going to become settled in anything, become settled in the word.  Come in agreement with God and accept what He said as true.  Don’t sit here  when God has promised you there.  God wants to give you more than what you can see.

But as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Please understand that this isn’t just about receiving ‘material things’ on the other side.  This is about discovering who we are in Christ (here) and doing what we were anointed to do (there).  The enemy wants us to remain in the middle, straddling the fence (lukewarm), halt between two opinions.  He doesn’t want us to grow spiritually.  He wants us to just go to church and have a ‘good time’.  He wants us to be hearers only – always learning and getting new information and revelation, but never understanding the truth (2 Timothy 3:7).

Let’s look at this another way.  When the disciples entered the ship with Jesus, a severe storm came (Matthew 8:23).  The ship was covered with waves.  Jesus was sleeping while the disciples were panicking.  When they woke Him up, He asked, Why are you fearful, you of little faith  (vs 26)?  Jesus rebuked the winds and the sea and they got to the other side.  On the other side, they met two men possessed with devils living among tombs (vs 28).  Now do you see why the enemy fights you so hard?  The reason why he doesn’t want you to cross over to the other side is because he doesn’t want you to heal those he oppressed.

Let us not be like the tribes that only thought about what they wanted for themselves.  God doesn’t just want us to go to the other side, but He wants us to help someone else get to the other side, too.

I pray that we all cross over and enter into what God has promised.

Let It Be

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Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her (Luke 1:38, NJKV).

God sent an angel to Mary.  Gabriel told her she was going to become a mother.  You shall conceive in your womb  (vs 31).  He also told her what she would carry and who He would become.  He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest  (vs 32).

All of this sounded good, but Mary had one question.  How can this be?  (vs 34).  How was she going to have a baby?  She was a virgin and she wasn’t married yet.  The angel explained to her who would do the work – the Holy Ghost (vs 35).  It wouldn’t be by her power or by Joseph’s might.  It would be by HIS Spirit.

The angel knew that what he told Mary sounded impossible so to build her faith, he told her about her cousin (vs 36).  Elizabeth was barren and too old to be a mother. No one ever thought she would have a child, but in three months she was going to have a son.

The impossible is possible – with God.

The angel said what God told him to say.  Now, Mary had to make a decision.  According to Luke 1:38, she decided to serve the Lord.  I am the servant of the Lord.  Mary had no idea what she was about to go through.  She didn’t know that she would have to leave her home, leave their families and flee to Egypt during the night to protect her son.  Even though Simeon prophesied that she would suffer as though she had been stabbed with a sword, she didn’t know that meant watching her son being mocked, beaten, spat on and crucified.  My point is this: Even though she didn’t have all of the details, she surrendered.  She trusted God.  She wanted what God wanted and she was willing to do whatever He commanded.  Her response to God was, Use meDo what You want, not what I want.

Maybe God has told you what you are going to do for Him and who you are going to become and just like Mary, you either looked at your past or your present condition, and wondered how.  How is this going to happen?  I don’t have a college degree.  I don’t have a spouse.  I don’t have that much money in the bank.  I don’t know anyone who could help me. I don’t speak very well in front of people.

But I will tell you what Gabriel told Mary.  The Lord is with you  (vs 28).  You don’t have to be afraid.  You were chosen for this.  What you are carrying and will bring forth is great.  What you must go through is going to save and deliver many.

Stop running.  Stop resisting.  Stop fighting God and let it be – according to His word.  Let it happen.  Stop trying to figure it out.  Stop thinking about yourself and think about those who are hurting.  Think about those who are bound.  Think about those who are not saved.  This isn’t about you.  Forget about your plans and find out what His plan is.  Make a decision.

Mary’s mind was made up. 

It didn’t matter that Elizabeth was old or that Mary wasn’t married.  God is able to perform what He promised.  No word from Him will ever fail.  If He said it, then He will do it.  All He needs from you is your obedience.  All He needs is a ‘yes’.  What has been hard for you is not too hard for the Lord.

Maybe you’re thinking about what happened the last time.  Like Simon, you tried and nothing happened.  We have toiled all night and have taken nothing  (Luke 5:5). You were disappointed.  You had enough.  You were even thinking about giving up.

But, try again.  Trust God again.  Nevertheless at your word, I will let down the net  (Luke 5:5).  Sometimes we have this picture of how the ministry, the marriage, the career, or the children should be, but let go of what or how you think it should be. You have to believe that what God wants to give you is better than what you’re holding onto.  Let it go and…

Let it be.

Don’t Miss It!

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One day, Jesus told a parable of a certain man who had two sons (Matthew 21:28).  The man went to his first son and said, ‘Son, go work today in my vineyard’.

  1. Go (move, take a different course).
  2. Work (assignment).
  3. Today (now).

I’m not sure what these men were doing when their father called them, but he apparently had a different plan for them – to work in HIS vineyard.  It reminded me of when Simon Peter and Andrew were casting their nets to catch fish and Jesus told them, Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.   Prior to the invitation, they had been working for themselves and for their families, but this day Jesus called them to work for his Father.

The man didn’t ask his sons if they wanted to go.  He told them to go.  This wasn’t about what they wanted to do.  This was about what he needed them to do.  He sent both of them to his vineyard to plant and to water so that it would bring forth fruit.  The first son’s response was, I will not.  Initially, he didn’t want to change. He was stubborn and disobedient, but afterward he repented and went.  The man went to his second son and said the exact same words.  The son said, I go, sir, but he never went.  

The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few (Matthew 9:37).

God just doesn’t want us to attend church every week.  There is work to do.  Just like Joseph, God has sent  us ahead of the famine (Psalm 105:16-17).  There are people who have a need and God needs us to be in our place to meet their need.  God doesn’t want us to be like the second son who hears the word, but refuses to do the word.

The first son almost missed a great opportunity, but he believed  and went to his father’s vineyard. The second son saw his brother go to work.  He saw the change and the ‘fruit’ of his labor, but still refused to change.  To be honest, I don’t think he wanted to work.  I think he is like some of us who just expects our Father to do  everything.

If faith does not have works [deeds and actions of obedience to back it up], it is by itself dead [inoperative and ineffective] (James 2:17).

God told Abraham that a great nation would come out of him.  He was going to make his name great.  And not only was He was going to bless him, but He was going to make him a blessing.  How do we know that Abraham believed God?  Because He obeyed God.  He moved toward the promise God made.  He went to get what God had given him.  Some of us have missed out on things that God has promised us because we refuse to do the first thing He told us to do.

Your blessing is in the obedience. 

Maybe God is not telling you to leave a certain location or to walk away from some people, but maybe you need to leave the lies that the enemy has told you – what you can’t do and what you will never be.  Sometimes there are things such as hurt and unforgiveness that are keeping us from moving forward.  Joseph could have blamed a lot of people for what he was going through – his brothers, Potiphar’s wife and the butler who forgot about him.  It seemed like the people who he was sent to help, only hurt him.  My point is this: The longer he stayed angry and bitter, the longer he would have stayed in prison (mentally).  And in Joseph’s case, he didn’t have a lot of time to waste.  A famine was coming and his family as well as many others needed him to be free from prison.

In John 5:4, an angel would go into the pool at a certain season so it was important that one be ready at all times.  Whoever stepped in the water first after the angel troubled the water would be made whole of any disease he had.  I don’t know how long the impotent man had been lying at the pool, but he had an infirmity for 38 years.  According to this man, he kept missing  his healing because someone would always step down before him.  One day, Jesus saw the man lying at the pool.  He knew how long he had been in that condition and He gave him another opportunity to be healed, but the man had to want it.  Do you want to be whole?

It’s not too late for you.  God has not counted you out.  A missed opportunity doesn’t have to be a lost opportunity.  Another opportunity is coming to you.  I believe God is going to do something even greater in this next season.  And just like the impotent man, He doesn’t want any of us to miss it.  He wants you to be a part of what He is doing.  In fact, He wants to do it through you.  He wants to use you greatly in this next season.  He wants to make you whole.  He wants to restore years to you.

If you believe it, then do the thing that you’ve said in your heart, I’m not going to do it  or I’m afraid to do it  or I don’t want to do it.  Maybe some of you are thinking, I’ve done what the Lord told me to do and nothing has happened yet.  The key word is yet.  It may not have happened the last time, but it will happen – if you don’t faint.  Try it again.  Believe Him again.  God wants you to see His goodness.

Don’t miss it!

Learn to Wait

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wait: stay where one is or delay action until a particular time; to stay in place with expectation

I think one of the reasons why we get ourselves in a mess from time to time is because we don’t want to wait.

In Luke 15, a certain man had two sons and the younger son had a waiting problem, too.  Father, give me the share (portion) of property (estate, inheritance) that is coming to me (vs 12, ESV).  According to his statement, it wasn’t his time – yet.  Normally, a person has to die before his/her property is transferred to another person, but this young man couldn’t wait for his father to die.  He wanted to possess what was promised to him NOW.  There is a right time for everything, but when you refuse to wait, impatience leads to stupid mistakes (Proverbs 14:29, CEB).

He was where he needed to be, but not many days after receiving what rightfully belonged to him, he left for a country that was far away – from his father, from his position and from the life already chosen for him.  Had he understood all  that his father had, he would have never asked for a portion.  His father was training him and preparing him for what was coming to him, but he left the process prematurely.  He thought he knew more than his father.  He thought he had it figured out.  What he didn’t know was that responsibility came with the inheritance.  I’m not sure of his age, but asking for something only to use it on oneself was a sign of immaturity.

Sometimes the enemy will try to convince you that you’re missing out on something or that you’re running out of time. I don’t know what he was in search of, but whatever it was, he never found it because it was in the place that he left.  He wasted his substance living a life contrary to the one that he was taught.  He knew right from wrong.  The moment he spent it all, a mighty famine came and he began to be in want.  He wasn’t prepared for a time such as this.  When he lived with his father, he didn’t want for anything, but in this country, he had to toil and no one gave him anything.  He was feeding another’s man pigs, but he himself was hungry – so hungry that he desired to eat what the pigs were eating.  No one cared for him or took care of him like his father.

I’m not sure how long he worked in the fields, but he was literally in a mess – a pig’s mess, to be exact.  He probably was afraid to go back home.  What would his father say?  Would his father receive him again?  Maybe he was too ashamed to go back home so he tried to stick it out.  He tried to fix what he messed up.  He tried to make things work.  But one day, he finally came to his senses.  He remembered that his father was rich and had hired servants.  So, if his father was rich, that meant he was rich, too.

Some of us have been in situations longer than we should have been.  You’re not waiting on God. God is waiting on you to come to yourself.  The younger son made a choice – to arise and go (vs 18).  Yes, he could have left at anytime, but he had to first want to leave.  He had to get tired of being in that situation.  He could have said, I want to go home, but I don’t have the money, which would have been a true statement, but he didn’t let anything stop him.  He had been in that field long enough.

Make a choice, not excuses.

This young man didn’t wallow in guilt or self-pity.  He didn’t beat himself up over his mistakes.  He walked away from his past and walked into his future.  You must do what he did and lay aside the weight.  You’re not going to go very far in life (or in ministry) being bitter, angry, refusing to forgive, blaming other people or refusing to do what God told you to do.  The ability to get up – to arise – is in you.  The only person who is stopping you is you.

It was going to be a long journey back home, but that journey was life changing because it caused him to humble himself and to repent of his sin (vs 21).  What was so beautiful about this parable was that in the end, he got what his father wanted him to have all along – the best!

Bring forth the best  (vs 22).

To every purpose, there is time.  Don’t focus on the time – When is God going to do it?  Focus on the purpose – What am I doing now?  I know we want things now, but if you learn to wait, you will not be disappointed because the Lord is good to those who wait for HIM (Lamentations 3:25).