Category Archives: Church attendance

A Lesson in Survival From Ollie the Owl

On a recent cold winter evening my husband David was delivered a wounded screech owl from our area of West Virginia. It had been hit by a car, and a 6.5 oz. owl verses a 4000 pound car survival story certainly speaks of the tenacity of this little creature. But when David brought it to the house I really thought he brought it home to bury. It was not in a good way. The first day it sat lifeless with an occasional opening of one eye. I guess to see if the humans taking care of it were still there. The second day he was more alert and obviously in pain, but by the third day it was apparent it was going to survive! But the quality of survival was still iffy. Probably the only one more shocked than we were about the survival was the owl. I named it Ollie, it just seemed like a good fit. We attempted a release but Ollie could only glide to the ground and then couldn’t take flight from there. We then called the WV Raptor Center to ask what we should do, because keeping an owl is a federal offence and wild creatures shouldn’t be caged anyway. That’s a no brainer. The center was very helpful and got in touch with raptor transporter who came in a few days to retrieve Ollie for assessment and owl therapy. Who knew! that owls could have therapy?

Our last few days with Ollie at our house were spent letting it perch on our hand, scratching its head and rubbing our fingers down its feathers. It made no attempt to bite us, it was gentle as a pet, but the better it felt, the less it encouraged us to touch it. I fed it raw hamburger (not the best diet) but I couldn’t do the frozen mice thing. According to the Raptor center raw liver would have been better. But Ollie loved the hamburger that I would spoon feed it. Needless to say, I grew quite fond of this little creature of God’s.

Historical Job’s Temple in Route 5, Gilmer County, WV

Karen, the raptor transporter assessed Ollie for a few days and then called to say it seemed apparent that it could fly and she invited us to take part in the release. The release had to be in the same area for which it was hit by the car, and that happened to be at a historical site in our neighboring county of Gilmer called “Job’s Temple.” A  Methodist Church building built between 1860 and 1866 and is constructed of poplar logs. It’s a beautiful location.  And too ironic not use for a correlation between Ollie’s rescue and faith.

Because of the condition of Ollie’s eyes it was apparent that it had a concussion. I feared that it couldn’t see at all. When our hand would pass by its eyes there was no reaction.

I Once was Blind but now I see…

A few days following his collision with the car.

I was in that same state of condition prior to my salvation in 1996. The walking dead. I was a part of the problem with religion. I professed but didn’t possess the Spirit of God. And that sad part is, I wasn’t even aware; I just knew something was missing. That missing piece was the Spirit of God! It caused me to soar in life… wait… I’m getting a head of Ollie’s story. Ollie didn’t know or care who David and I were, only that we were caring for it. Feeding it, nursing it back to health. Oh how very grateful I am for the church people that took me under their wings and discipled me when I finally was rescued through salvation. Please don’t ever underestimate the importance of helping a new convert find their way through Christian faith. Just like Ollie, if people hadn’t protected and spoon fed me for a while on the ways of Christianity I would have been devoured by the beast of Satan. I wouldn’t have been lost… but I could have very easily been discouraged from flying.

Your Grace Still Amazes me!

Salvation is amazing! But much like Ollie I fear the captivity. If we’d have gone against the law and kept Ollie caged, it would have continued to heal and had the ability to fly but its flight would have been constrained to the area for which it was kept. Sad. So many Christians are constrained to the walls of the church when it comes to experiencing the full power of God’s amazing grace!

Everyone is at risk if they don’t take risks.

Ollie trusted David and I for a few days as it was healing. I was under the direction of several people in our church for a time, until they were certain I could take flight on my own. It was then that I was encouraged to branch out into the ministry and take my spot on the branch. I began devouring the word of God until I felt I understood it enough to share it and then I began to teach. I began on the very elementary level, junior high and high school classes for which I needed. Slowly I progressed into the adult ministry. I came up through the ranks of every age class in our church. And with each one I learned more and more.

Ollie was a mature adult bird. It should have known better than to fly in front of a car. I was brought up in a Christian home, I should have known better than to be lost. But I did not. It doesn’t matter our age, it matters how we react to Rescuer. And it matters if you’re in the right place of rescuing.

I won’t say that anyone else couldn’t have done what we did for Ollie. But they couldn’t have possibly cared more. And that’s how I felt when I found my church family. I’d never been cared for in such a way. If you’re not in that church… find it. Find the one that will encourage and strengthen your soul until you fly!!!!

I’ll Fly Away

Ollie’s release was bitter sweet. It was the right thing to do, but I had so enjoyed the company of God’s precious critter.

I met Karen at Job’s temple and we trekked up the hill behind the church. She allowed Ollie to familiarize with the area again. It posed on her hand like it was waiting for us to get one final picture, and then within a few minutes, Ollie took flight! Oh my stars what a wonderful sight! I rejoiced to have been a part of the process.

If you’re a child of God, you too should rejoice in being a part of the process of seeing another child of God take flight.

Just like Ollie and the car, the world can hit us when we’re off guard or on guard. We need to encourage one another to stay strong in the faith. We all have times when we feel faith waning and that we’re not sure if the journey is going to end well. If you’re a child of God, it ends so much better than “well!” But the journey also can be amazing. Study and learn the word of God, learn to listen to the Holy Spirit, and when it’s time to take flight, soar like you’ve never flown before. God’s got a plan for you. Nothing just happens.

God sent Ollie to David and I because He knew the end of the story. He knew that He would be glorified. Will He not do the same for His children.

Luke 12:4-9

And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows. Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.

Ten Things that won’t be said in Heaven

  1. What did the doctor say?
  2. Want to hear some good gossip?
  3. Is there a deacon’s meeting this week?
  4. Did you read the obituaries?
  5. Why are you sad?
  6. What’s the latest trend on twitter?
  7. Is that bread fresh?
  8. What church do you go to?
  9. A lost person’s name L
  10. Are you saved?

I’m sure there’s a million others that we could come up with, but those were at the top of my list this morning as I pondered that question. I find myself thinking a lot about Heaven, especially the more wicked this old world gets, and the more Christians are viewed as the enemy.

Monday’s are my Long Term Care Facility visiting day.  I spend about an hour with the residents singing songs, sharing the gospel and listening to their testimonies. Yesterday, every time I’d sing an old hymn, they’d talk about their childhood and remembrance of hearing it sung in an old country church. We are still blessed with many “Old Country Churches” in our part of the world. Unfortunately many have closed their doors because somewhere along the line the congregations drifted and no longer filled the pews. That’s a reality check for us all on Sunday mornings as we look around at the empty seats in our own church. At least it was for me.

It also brought me to those 10 questions…

  1. What did the doctor say?
    1. There won’t be any doctor appointments in Heaven, Glory to God!!!!
  2. Want to hear some good gossip?
    1. There won’t be any.
  3. Is there a deacon’s meeting this week?
    1. No board, business or bantering in Heaven. God’s got it all under control. He does here too… we just fail to listen.
  4. Did you read the obituaries?
    1. We’ll be living with the Good News. There will be no death.
  5. Why are you sad?
    1. What would we be sad about in a perfect land?
  6. What’s the latest trend on twitter?
    1. Twitter?
  7. Is that bread fresh?
    1. Oh yes!!!!!That brings joy to this bread lover’s heart. I love biscuits and hot rolls, but I love the Bread of Life so much more. It’s all good.
  8. What church do you go to?
    1. Glory to God the same one!!!! Why can’t we understand that now and play better together for those of us who believe in the blood bought path to Heaven through Jesus Christ.
  9. Are you saved?
    1. Of course, else we wouldn’t have made it there.
  10. A lost person’s name.
    1. The saddest of all. There will not be second chances when Jesus returns and yet we treat life as if we all have a thousand years before He returns to take the church home. Who of us doesn’t have a lost loved one that we can’t imagine life without? It will be the case if we don’t get busy…

The Decision after the Dance

I have a fascination with the redemptive story of Israel. That is likely the case because I have a great resemblance with the children of Israel; I too get out of line, get in trouble, get right, get rescued and then like a good shampoo, I will lather, rinse, repeat. Over and over again it happens. So when I read chapters like the 15th chapter of Exodus it always make me wonder why God puts up with me. The children of God had just seen the miraculous work of the Lord in parting the sea so they could walk through on dry ground, they then watched it kill their enemy by crashing back down on them. Think on that a second! So they’re on the shore, singing and dancing and praising the Lord, and Moses breaks up the party to continue their journey to the Promised Land.

I envision this much like a car ride with my kids for vacation. They start out excited, but after the first few hours on the road the whining and fighting would begin. Multiply that times the million or two that Moses had in the back seat. I don’t know what kept him sane. But following the great miracle came a time of dryness when the children of Israel couldn’t find water; and that’s a legit complaint. But they had just seen God take millions of gallons of water and displace it through the staff of Moses, so why did they really think a drink would be a problem for Him?

Exodus 15:23-27

And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah.  And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? And he cried unto the Lord; and the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them, And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee. And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters.

The Dance

My previous Pastor called it “the honeymoon” stage when a person first accepted Jesus as Savior. It seems like everything in the world is roses and chocolate if you’re a woman, or Black and Decker ® if you’re a guy. It’s all good. But it’s not long until you discover that life’s not always good, sometimes it’s downright lousy but you eventually come through it and it is once again time to dance. But then there is another time…

The Dry

It’s a longer period of time, when things do not get better quickly. You don’t feel the presence of God and frustration begins to set in. You try to have faith, but it’s wavering and your patience for change grows thin. You ask questions of God such as “Why and When.” Just like the children of Israel.

The Decision

There comes a time when you have to decide, am I going to whine, or am I going to whip the Devil through the promises of God?

In the very last verse of that chapter, the rescue came in the form of a camp sight oasis of sort. Twelve wells and seventy palm trees. That oasis also came with the promise of healing and rest if they were obedient to God’s commands.

Numbers play an important role in scripture. Especially the numbers 12 and 70. There are multiple references to those and they make an interesting study, but for today’s message I offer this thought:

12 Disciples and the 70 sent (Matthew 10:1 and Luke 10:1)

Not likely a coincidence that God used those numbers and it draws my mind into the importance of Christian fellowship and service. The children of Israel had lost sight of the role that they played in God’s plan. They were His chosen! After this journey He had promised them a wonderful life. Technically the journey too could have been wonderful. But they blew it when the lost sight of the power of God.

New believers in Christ usually believe that they could whip a bear with a fly swatter if they thought God told them too. But over time we begin to take our relationship with God for granted. We’re grounded in the faith, we don’t need to be in church “every service.” A few “worldly things won’t hurt,” and it’s not long until we’re dry and dusty and there is no water in sight. And we begin to complain that God’s just not there for us anymore, knowing that He didn’t move, we did. It’s so much easier to blame God than to look at where we left Him.

New Testament references: When Joseph and Mary left 12 year old Jesus in the temple, they found Him just where they left Him. When the woman with the
12 year” issue of blood reached out for Jesus she was healed, when the 12 year old girl died, and her father came to Jesus, Jesus brought her back to life. Twelve is the number of completion and we are complete in Christ. He has chosen us, just as He did the twelve.

As for the number 70: By God’s direction Moses appointed 70 elders in Israel to stand with him in the tabernacle. And in Luke 10:17 “The seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.” The 70 were excited about what the Lord had done. They had gone out two by two and God provided for them in their walk with and for Christ.

I don’t know if I’m correct, but I know how the Lord impressed my heart on this matter this morning. Fellowship is important, both with the leaders (12), and with the servants (70). There is great and healing, comfort and rest in the people of God. Israel should have trusted God and they should have looked to Moses for leadership instead of complaining. They also should have come together as people of God. But they decided to whine. That whining cost them 40 years of no direction and they missed the joy of entering into the land of promise.

Whining because things aren’t what you’d like won’t keep you out of Heaven, but it will prevent your joy in the journey. Staying out of church won’t keep you out of Heaven but it will costs you your joy, fellowship and relationship with the Lord. We need it. I need it.

Hearing the Word of God and being in the fellowship of God’s people brings healing and comfort to the soul. Don’t miss out. Be in a bible believing, preaching, serving church this Sunday!!! and share this message with someone struggling to stay faithful. I love you, but more importantly, JESUS LOVES YOU!!!

Do You Know How Mighty You Are?

I have multiple vices in life that can get me distracted and off on an “Oooo that’s shiny” moment. The most recent one is Netflix. I’m not an avid television watcher, as a matter of fact I’ve gone months with very little television, until… it was be placed on a portable device that I can watch from any room in the house, has no commercials and I decide when I want to watch it. Netflix speaks my Attention Deficit Disorder language. I won’t watch just anything, I have a few set rules: it has to make me laugh or add a sense of adventure. I won’t watch sad or grotesque shows that make me cry or cause my stomach to roll over. Life is sad and gross enough. But throw a slap stick comedy on the screen or one of a super hero and I’m hooked like a fish on a line until the last episode is off the air. Hence why Netflix appeals to me, and gets me in trouble, you can binge watch every episode until it’s done! This is not a Netflix commercial, it’s a warning.

I said all that to say this, my latest run on superhero shows is the “Arrow.” A green hooded man who was done wrong, out to right the wrongs of the world with a few sidekicks thrown into the mix. As I watch in disbelief of their super strength and warrior tactics my eyes roll and I begin wondering how I can get sucked into this story line. This isn’t humanly possible. But then, as I read merrily along in 1 Chronicles 11 this morning on the historical truths of King David, I’m not watching Netflix but I’m reading the very truths I rolled my eyes at. But even to a greater degree of strength.

One man without the aid of special effects and stunt doubles killed 300 men in battle. Alone. No Robin to his Batman. No Kevlar. One man and his sword took down 300 warriors.

1 Chronicles 11:20

And Abishai the brother of Joab, he was chief of the three: for lifting up his spear against three hundred, he slew them, and had a name among the three.

That lead me to the question of the day, where are those people of valor today? Why have we allowed our nation to get in the position that it’s in today. Who told us we were weak?

I believe I can tell you where it started: When church became of little importance in the homes across America.

Oh… I know I’m preaching again! But I fully believe the reason we are weakened as a nation is because the comradery of the church was the backbone of America and it’s gone. It’s been a long time since anyone in the boundaries of America has had to fight a hand to hand battle for a piece of ground. But it’s beginning again. The church has lost so much ground, and fewer and fewer are on the battle ground of faith.

A few things those of us in church need to remember about this battle we’re in:

We are Mighty in Christ

(2 Corinthians 10:4). For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)

Satan loves to make us believe that we don’t have the strength to fight this battle we’re in. And yet, through one man, in the weapons of the day, 300 men were slain. I haven’t even seen that on Netlix! And if I could, it’s still Hollywood. We have the genuine article of ability through the Word of God.

We are Mighty in the Word

Just like the men of David lived according to the word of God, so should the might men and women of Christ.

(1 Thessalonians 1:5) For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.

The same word that changed our hearts has the power to change the heart of anyone on earth. And yet we doubt. Who are we to say that if we continue in His word, getting it out in our communities through face to face evangelism as well as using the technology at hand, we couldn’t each bring thousands into the fold of Christ? We’re not fighting with a spear, we’re fighting with the power of God!

We are Mighty in Unity

David didn’t have the biggest army, but he had the biggest victory, because his men were a unified body fighting together. One of the reasons I think unity scares many of the believers of Christ is because we hear unified and think “one world church.” And that church is coming, but that church has nothing to do with Christ. If your church believes that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life, and the one and only way to Heaven is through His blood that made the sacrifice for all mankind, then you shouldn’t care what’s over the door of those who believe in the same like manner. You can disagree on a few of their ideas of worship styles and church rules, but we can all agree on Jesus. And through that belief work in unity to bring souls to Christ.

On my next superhero show, I think I view their tactics a little closer. Possibly consider buying a cape. Just kidding. Maybe.

 

 

 

The Church Bones

A Facebook friend posted a question last night for speakers asking “If you had to speak for 45 minutes without preparation what would you speak on?” My response was “Church Bones.” Although the title is somewhat cryptic, it’s a subject that I feel I’m somewhat an expert on after 21 years of studying people. I’m somewhere between a friend and a non-creepy stalker with ministry people. I love watching to see what works and what doesn’t in a ministry. What floats my boat and draws me to Christ and what’s just “oooo that’s shiny” moments. I also like watching the congregation. Especially that in my own church because I’ve been there when many of them began their path in our church. It’s exciting stuff when you see God working in peoples lives.

What I don’t do is look around the church at those who “don’t do.” What could I possibly gain besides an ulcer?

The body of Christ is the bones of the church. And there’s a lot of bones that I won’t mention that are crucial joints in the church. But the ones in my illustration are the movers and shakers of the group. They’re what makes it work… or not. Depending upon the church. I could actually put names beside every bone in my illustration. God has been good to our people. So I’ll tell you in brevity about a just a few.

The Attitude Bones

Glory to God, that’s one of the most important ones! A smile seems so small, but when someone new has just walked in a church a smile goes a long way. When someone old walks in a church a smile goes a long way! We need to let people know that we’re glad they’ve arrived. I can tell you of way too many times I’ve walked in a church (to which I was invited to sing) only to be greeted (if you want to call it that) by people who look more like I’ve walked in on them in the bathroom. True story! Check your attitude when you get to church and make sure you’re a welcoming sight!

Shoulder the Load Bones

The spiritual load of the church is a heavy load for those who work in the ministry, especially the Pastor. We often times do not see the heaviness that someone carries because they’ve got the attitude bones in check. Their load would break the back of a normal person. But because God’s given them an added strength, they carry on. That doesn’t mean that we as the congregation of the Lord and friends shouldn’t try to shoulder any of the load we can to help out. We can make calls, we can bring supper for a busy family, we can tuck a dollar or two in the hand of someone for encouragement. The list is long of ways to shoulder the load.

Leadership Bones

The direction of church is turned on the leadership bones. I heard it once said that the church rises and falls on leadership. It also goes right or wrong. Leadership isn’t for the faint of heart and those in leadership will answer to a greater degree when they stand before the Lord.

Discipleship Bones

Countless people put their arm around me and steered me through the beginning of my walk with Jesus. It’s probably the greatest neglect of the church today. We see a soul saved and we’re so excited but we leave them in the deep water to drown. Sound dramatic? I usually am, but it’s the truth none the less. You wouldn’t leave a newborn beside the ocean unattended and you certainly shouldn’t leave a new convert to be attacked by every shark in the sea of Satan. It’s why they don’t stay and why they go astray in life. They need to be discipled just as the early church did.

Funny Bones

Oh my stars! A sense of humor is a necessity in a child of God! For the reason of stupid people (those who don’t have a filter and can cut you to the core) and to lighten the load that many of us carry in the door. I know Jesus laughed. I’m pretty sure I’m responsible for His laughter much of the time now when He sees me trying to make it on my own.

Back Bones

If you’ve been in church any length of time at all you know them by name. They are those who will stand flat footed and tell you like it is without wavering biblically. They’ve been there a while and have stayed standing through every storm.

Hug Bones

So, so very important. And also it’s important to know who’s a touch me not. But I’m a hugger because I’ve known many days when I just needed to know someone cared. Being cautious about folks who hurt and those who don’t like touched is important though because you can just as well run them off or physically hurt them. We often don’t know our strength and for someone with arthritis or fibromyalgia the lightest squeeze can send shock waves. So hug, but maybe with just your smile sometimes.

Work Bones

Most churches do not have an abundance of work bones. Another quote I heard was that 20% of the people do 80% of the work. I fear that a more realistic number would be 5/95. If you just show up at church on Sunday morning, get your message and go, you’re clueless on the background of your church. Hours and hours of preparation goes into a good service. Floors don’t clean themselves, dinners don’t get planned and materials don’t just show up un-ordered. We need more work bones!

Praise Bones

God desires it. You need to experience it and the folks behind you need the encouragement to join in! Raise them hands to the Lord all ye people!

Prayer Bones

Another neglected anatomy part. The altars of America are not well attended. Prayer is a formality at a few tables and an act of desperation when times are tough, but seldom relied upon for survival of everyday living.

Visitation Bones

What’s visitation? Exactly. It’s a lost art and it’s why churches are not growing.

Tail Bones

Every church has them. They’re pew sitters. And it’s not a bad thing unless that’s the only thing you do and you leave no better than when you came. But the very fact that people come to church is wonderful and shows that they have a heart for the things of God. Celebrate every single one, even if you sometimes have to check pulses.

That’s just a few of the many, many parts of a church. As my Facebook friend said last night, there’s some squishy parts too. They’re the kind hearted souls who come, worship and encourage us just by their presence. I love the body of Christ. Every one. Even the tails bones.

1 Corinthians 12:20

But now are they many members, yet but one body.

I’m not raising babies in the ministry

Dressing for Success takes on a whole new meaning when you’re talking about church, at least for me. I’m not referring to what you physically wear to church, I’m pretty flexible on that matter, just be decent, and be in church, and I’m a happy camper.  I’m talking about what you spiritually wear to church.

If you’ve been in church any time at all you’ve likely heard a sermon or two preached from Ephesians 6 on the whole armor of God. It’s a necessary sermon for getting through life’s every day battles that leave more than a dent or two on us. But what about the armor we wear to church? Is there such a thing?

I personally want a sermon preached to me that when it’s over my toes are bruised from all the times they’ve been stepped on. I know that’s not the norm. Most people like a sermon that powders their tush and makes them feel all fluffy inside. My opinion of that, is that’s what gotten America in the shape she’s in. My friend Roger preached last night and hit the nail on the head when he said, “We’ve quit preaching on personal sin.” Nobody wants anyone to hold them accountable, they especially don’t want God to hold them accountable. We want the Lord of love but we don’t want the Lord of accountability. Just save us Lord, then leave us be. And so the world now caters to that in churches across the land because it brings numbers… or does it?

I’ve heard those against the mega churches say that those churches are full because it’s easy believism being preached. There are those I’m sure. But I’ve listened to several that stir my soul. And I’ve been in little churches that have been mighty in the Spirit and some that were few in number because nobody was preaching a message of conviction to make anyone loyal to God. We need what David knew was necessary for successful living in Psalm 139:23 when he said “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me and know my thoughts.” David didn’t want baby powder, he wanted talcum powder from a work out with God.  We need a strong word to make us stronger. Weak words do just that, they weakens us. So stomp my toes Mr. Preacher and I’ll wear the appropriate attire for church.

Fully Dressed

In earlier times, pre-spanking days, a father wouldn’t send you to your room to think about what you’d done. He’d fully dress ya. Maybe that’s a word from our region, I’m not sure, and I really never heard it from my own dad, but I’ve been fully dressed on more than one occasion by God.

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

Put on the whole armor, not just part of it. While we think of this as verses for life, it’s also verses for church. We need to be prepared to hear the word of God because in that place of worship the first one to show up for a service is Satan himself. He’s got every open pew filled with evil. And with the churches of today, there’s plenty of open seats. But while we’re there we need to come prepared to hear the word of God even if that means we’re gonna be fully dressed by him. That is how we grow. We discipline our children so they know there’s a better way, God does His children no different.

Fully Drawn

12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Entering a spirit filled service of the Lord should find our minds fully drawn into the Holy Spirit. Focused on what He’d have us to know even if that means putting on blinders to all else in the room. Satan knows the house of God is a place of business for God. It’s not the only place He works but it’s one of the best. So it’s there that Satan launches an attack to keep eyes and minds off the sermon. He’ll do it with people, thoughts, bugs, babies, anything that can pull your mind away from the word. Get fully drawn into God when you hit the building.

Fully Determined

None of my three points sound like something you put on until you think of them in the spiritual sense. Being dressed, drawn and determined are all spiritual mindsets that must be put on inwardly and worn outwardly so that the not only Satan and his cronies can see it, but others can see it.

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

Each piece of the spiritual armor has a purpose to shielding us from the wickedness of the spiritual realm. But one of the most detrimental things to the spiritual man is self. We have to allow God to dress us when we’re drifting away from His purpose. We have to allow ourselves to be drawn to the spiritual side rather than the flesh and we have to put on that determination before we ever enter the service of God.

Fully Devoted

18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; 19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

We need to wear it, but above all we need to speak it. Telling others about Christ is a devotion few have any more. They’re devoted to Sunday morning… not so much Monday through Saturday. Tonight is Wednesday and I’ll teach this thought to my teens, because I’m not raising babies in my ministry. I want them battle ready when they hit life head on!0

If you’re in the valley, take heart

As the summer winds down in West Virginia, the nights are getting cooler and the days are filled with crisp air and falling leaves. A drive through the hills and valleys is filled with the splendid colors of fall and you can almost smell the pumpkin pie in the oven. I love this time of year! It’s a time of refreshing of the soul as the hustle and bustle of summer lends itself now to rest and a slower pace. At least until Christmas!

This morning I’m in Psalm 84, a Psalm said to have been written by David during the time his son had forced him out of his city, a Psalm that anyone who has been away from a place they longed to be in could understand. Perhaps it’s not a place you long to be in but rather a state of being you long to be in. That is more along the lines of where I am this morning. I long for a time of rest and not a constant battle to survive. Hmm… that may sound a bit dramatic, but it’s none the less true. And the places of refuge I find is in the word and house of God, so Psalm 84 encourages me this morning as I glean the understanding of the place David was in.

Psalm 84:6

Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.

According to bible scholars, the valley of Baca was a part of the desert country filled with many risks and dangers and it lead up to the city of Jerusalem where the house of God was located. Along the way there were wells of water that were apparently far apart and not easy to get to. It was a hard, suffering way to travel which is why the Valley of Baca literally means “Valley of weeping.” Those wells would have been a welcome sight as David fought his way back to his beloved Jerusalem.

During any struggle in life, time in the word of God is that refreshment between the times we’re in church. Church is a soul filling station, but for every day away the journey of life can become consumed with thorns and cares, and although few of us have to fight wild beasts, there are some pretty scary times to be faced, which can feel like something has its teeth in us that’s not about to let go.

David’s Psalm 84 has him longing to return to the house of God. Verses 1-2 says How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.

But he couldn’t get there. And for much of our week there’s not a service to be attended until Wednesday and Sundays, so on the other days it’s so good to know that there is a soul filling station a hand breadth away in the Word of God.

As David traveled that rough terrain, a well was a welcome sight.  But take note that the spring of water didn’t just appear, when David was passing through he had to “make the well.” In our pursuit of God while traveling a rough terrain, the well that satisfies our soul may not just spring forth for a ready drink. We may have to dig a while. But that too is a welcome distraction away from the cares around us.

As always I have a long to do list and a performance at the end of the day. It was good to stop by the well location this morning and dig a little in the word of God.

I love the McKamey song that says

“Life is easy, when you’re up on the mountain, you’ve got peace of mind when life’s at it’s best

But it’s down in the valleys of trials and temptations, that’s when life’s really put to the test,

For the God of the mountain is still God of the valley, the God of the day, is still God of the night!”

Glory, if I had shoes I kick’em off. (that’s what mama McKamey would do at a performance when she’d get in the spirit!”)

I sincerely hope you’re having a mountain top day, but if you’re in the valley, take heart. There’s a well ahead. Dig…

The Rules for Playing Church

It’s hard to imagine that in the twinkling of an eye; that split millisecond of time we will be gone from this earth and in the presence of the Lord Jesus Himself. It is for certain a “whoa” thought. There is a part of me that says, “Yes Lord, yes! Let it be today.” And then there is the realization that although I am ready and excited for that moment, I have friends and family who are clueless to what those words mean.

Evangelism is all but a lost art form in most churches. Everyone’s preaching love one another, but few are loving others enough to keep them out of Hell and tell them that that trump is going to sound and when it does the opportunity is over for those who have had an opportunity to be saved and rejected it. There will be no more “playing church.”

So how does one know if they’re playing church? Ask yourself and answer honestly these questions:

Rule Number 1 of playing church: Say you know Jesus.

Was there a time in your life when you realized that you were a sinner? Everyone has, but do you recognize that as a sinner, you need saving? And you can’t do it yourself.

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3: 23)

The realization of being a sinner also brings with it the realization of how Holy God is. As a child, who did not know Jesus Christ as Lord, I knew there was a God. And I knew in my heart when I examined it honestly, that I knew of Jesus, but I didn’t know Jesus.  There’s a difference. When I realized that to know Jesus and to be able to come into His presence was to be sin free, I didn’t “know” Jesus.

Rule Number 2 of Playing Church: Say nobody’s perfect.

True story in regards to people, but not God! Jesus Christ was perfect in every way. Sinless and blameless and yet willing to take on our imperfections so that we could have an opportunity to be with a Holy God. Perhaps that’s too “churchy” of a conversation for you to understand. The bible says this:

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

We understand as children that doing wrong means punishment. It’s engrained in our hearts at birth that we know right from wrong. Now, human nature takes over and wants what’s wrong much of the time, but we know it’s wrong. How do we know? Did an explosion at the onset of time put that notion in your heart… that theory is crazy. A intelligent Creator built you with that ability to draw you in to a relationship with Him.

The bible says we deserve to die for our sins and go to Hell. But a loving God didn’t want that to happen so He made a way to escape Hell, which was created for Satan and his demons. You have no doubt felt the presence of evil in the world too. God was willing to be born as a man, and die the painful death of a man, as a gift for you to have eternal life. One final sacrifice.

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5:8)

Rule Number 3 of Playing Church: Make a profession without a personal relationship

“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  (Romans 10:13)

Being saved is that easy. Ask Jesus to save you and He will. There’s no trickery. But often times people say that prayer, or that statement without truly acknowledging that the end result is giving yourself to Him. If you’re saved you won’t say that prayer and walk away without being changed because a Holy God is now living in you, and He wants no part of un-holiness. I know. Because I test Him continually. Getting saved doesn’t make you perfect, it places a perfect God within you that guides you and instructs you and when you sin God makes His presence known. So if you can sin, and not feel Him within you, I would have to think you’re playing church.

So are you? Please don’t. Any second that trumpet could sound and God will call His church home. People who are saved will disappear in a millisecond from this earth and if you’re not saved, you will not see them again and Hell is about to be unleashed on earth. So how do you remedy that end?

Ask Jesus to save you and mean it. Find a bible believing church and stick with it. Don’t buy the lie of the world that you can make it on your own. You won’t last a day.

A prayer to be saved might sound like this:

“Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner.  I know that I need you.  I believe that you died on the cross for me. Forgive me of my sins. Right now, I turn from my sins and open the door of my heart and life to you.  I receive you as my Saviour, come into my life and save me.  Thank you for what you did for me.  Amen.”

Or you may want to open that conversation with God on your own. If you ask Him to save you, He will, and then.. let the conversation begin!

I Have an Issue with the Church

I’ve had it for quite some time. I just didn’t know how to verbalize it. But this morning I got somewhat of a grasp on my issue. It’s the same issue I have with my life right now. It’s what happens between the coming out and going in. The a.m. to the p.m. of my day. What am I doing for the cause of Christ? The early church didn’t have that problem, they were too busy trying to keep their heads off the chopping block. They knew what their purpose in life was, TELL THE WORLD ABOUT JESUS. But somehow between the cross and the crazy we call life in modern times we lost the purpose as a church. The church has now become this resting place for children of God. And while Christ did indeed stress the importance of rest, the rest was meant to prepare for the next leg of the journey.

When Apostle Paul got saved he made some people very uncomfortable. After all, he had been the one calling for the Christians to be killed, and now he professed to be one of them. It was no wonder they had an issue with Paul. But that didn’t stop Paul from pursuing the purpose that he now understood to be his, TELL PEOPLE ABOUT JESUS.

Chapter 9 begins Paul’s life post conversion.

He Joined the Church

26 And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.

Paul knew that in order to grow in the grace of Christ and understand his new found faith, he needed to be with God’s people. So he joined the local church. That is step one following salvation. Find a local body of believers for whom you can serve with. That means, they too need to be serving, not just sitting.

He Joined the Movement

28 And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. 29 And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him. 30 Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.

Paul didn’t know all there was to know about Christianity, but through the Holy Spirit he was able to speak boldly in the name of Christ and face people who desired him dead because of it. Paul was more than a church member, he was a part of the movement.

I personally don’t see much movement in the church today. I see people going in and out of the buildings but outside of the church, the movement stops. Few are telling others about Christ and the discipling of young saints has all but stopped. If there are any young saints. When Paul began his journey, Barnabas took him under his wing and introduced him to the church and defended him. Barnabas helped to fuel the fire that he had witnessed burning inside of Paul. That is a missing piece in the church, there’s no fuel in the tank. How are we ever going to see a movement if people are not getting fired up?!

He Joined the Multitude

31 Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.

Because of the work of the church, the church had rest. That seems kind of oxymoron-ish doesn’t it. To work for rest? We wonder why this world is so crazy and full of strife? It’s because the church (as a whole) has all but stopped working. Our work is to show people where to find rest, and that rest comes in Jesus Christ. Once the churches of Judaea, Galilee and Samaria heard the preaching of Paul and the others, they obviously didn’t just rest in the pew waiting for next Sunday, it says they began walking and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost were multiplied.

The churches are drying up across America. It seems that at every bend in the road there sits an empty church house with overgrown grass and broken windows and it breaks my heart. The church is no longer a saving station but rather a rest stop. The church has lost touch with its purpose.

So what’s the answer? Give up on the church? Heaven’s NO! The answer is to follow Paul’s example. If you’re not part of a body of believers, you need to be. Once you’re there you need to serve, not sit. And never lose sight of the Mission… Muliply.

The Rules Haven’t Changed Since the Cross

1 Corinthians 12:20 – Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular

Members in Particular

For 21 years I’ve been a card carrying member of the body of Christ. And although the rules haven’t changed since Jesus was on the cross, there are days that I feel that there have been some man made addendums to the rule book. Rules such as “Thou must look like this, talk like this, participate like this.” And yet, I’m not so sure that all those “this’s” are particularly addressed in the bible as they are written in man’s book of church ideology.

When I say I’m a card carrying member, I really don’t have a card, because (at least at our church) there are no cards. But what I mean by that is I am proud to be a member of the body of Christ at Victory Baptist Church in Grantsville, WV. I am there because I agree with the doctrines and bylaws of the church. There’s not one that I disagree with. So that is not the rule book to which I refer to. I refer to the rule books on the inside of man’s head. Or women’s heads, as the case may be. Maybe members of my own church or of another. But all members of those whom I consider fellow Christians and fellow laborers in Christ. I gave two fellows, because not all fellows labor for Christ… some just sit. So in my own mind I put them in another category, because they scare me. They tell me they’re saved, but they give me no evidence. So I’ll not say they’re lying… but if not serving Christ got you kicked out of the club… they’d be gone. However, it does not.

I’m usually referring to a “fellow laborer” as those who stipulate what a servant of God should look and act like outside the parameters of the bible and outside their particular church. Because pew sitters usually don’t say anything for fear someone will call them out. But those who are active in churches often wear me out with regards to the rules of worship. Worship is very personal.  Which is why I believe that you should worship with people of a like mind, else there is contention and confusion and we all know who loves to stir that. But, can we not come together outside of the sanctuary of our own church and worship and agree that we serve Jesus without having to agree on what color our hair is, if the music is too bouncy, or whether or not pants are an appropriate attire for women of God.

I once spoke at a church (in a larger city) for which their biggest claim to fame in the community was, they were known as the “church on the hill, where women don’t wear pants.” Hellllloooooo. That’s not what a church should be known for. How about the “church that loves people.” So when I read “members in particular this morning, I thought perhaps we’ve taken Paul’s word too far.

“Members in particular” means that you have a particular job in the church not that you are someone in particular in the church. Now… back to those people sitting on the pew and those who serve and feel that they’ve got a right to complain because they do.

I’m relatively sure that there is no “member in particular” that Christ assigned the position of fashionista judge or worship police or even, pew warmer.

If Christ’s people spent more time doing their particular job, that Christ has called them to do, rather than policing the jobs of others, perhaps more people would feel the “freedom” to attend our churches.

The Rules really haven’t changed since the cross… Jesus said go. An invitation to our church would be an awesome place to start! Forget what anyone looks like or acts like, just go…