Last night, our church had a joint worship service with Damascus church in Emerson. At the beginning of the service, I asked everyone to greet one another. I shook a few hands and hugged a few necks and then I backed away and observed the greeting time. As I saw black Christian brothers and sisters hugging white Christian brothers and sisters the thought popped in my head, “this is a picture of the kingdom of God.”
The Kingdom of God is big. Includes lots of people. It includes some who like to worship freely. It includes some who follow a liturgy. It involves some who have white, male preachers and some have white female preachers. It involves Hispanic preachers and Oriental preachers.
At times we can mistakenly think that WE are the kingdom of God and anyone who worships differently for us is wrong. Not so! Has it ever occurred to us that maybe the others we don’t think or worshiping correctly might, actually be correct?
As Christians., we need to understand that the Kingdom of God is big. It includes lots of people. It includes, Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Pentecostals, etc… It includes white people, black people, oriental people and hispanic people.
Last night, I thoroughly enjoyed our worship with our black brothers and sisters at Damascus. Our church did as well. It was a reminder to me of the kingdom of God.
Today is a day of worship. It is a day to set aside a couple of hours and worship at the church of your choice. To worship means, to give someone the praise and adoration they are due. So why do we worship?
I Peter 1:3 says, “It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead.” Think about that… “it is by His GREAT mercy… that we have been born again.”
It is because of God’s mercy, that Jesus went to the cross.
It is because of God’s mercy that Jesus paid for our sins.
It is because of God’s mercy that Jesus rose from the grave and lives today!
It is all because of God’s mercy and grace. We did not deserve it. But God overlooked our sin and sent His Son to the cross.
Today, worship the Lord because of His grace and mercy.
I’m a Lonesome Dove fanatic. That movie came out back in the late 80’s and I’ve watched a jillion times. Yes, I just about know all the lines, I’ve watched it so many times. And, it’s like with other movies I’ve watched.. For example.. Remember the Titans… Wyatt Earp…Broken Trail… the Clint Eastwood westerns… etc…
You are probably like me in that you have some lines memorized. And, you probably have song lyrics memorized. Any time we listen to something repeatedly or watch repeatedly we are going to remember those lines.
But think about WHAT we memorize… movie lines… music… ok, that’s not bad but we need to memorize scripture. A verse of scripture implanted in my mind is going to help me WAY more than a song lyric.
Psalm 119:11 says, “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.” I encourage you to memorize scripture. Do a verse a week. Or, if that’s too much, shoot for a verse a month.
Scripture memorization is a great discipline. I encourage you to hide God’s word in your heart.
How much do we NEED?
Yesterday, that thought popped up in my mind. How much do I need? We live in a very, very materialistic world. People are judged based on the house they live in, the car they drive, the clothes they wear. If they live in a nice home, they are perceived to be doing well. If they drive a nice car… the same…
But Jesus said, as Christians, we are not supposed to focus on things… stuff. He promised to feed us and clothe us (Matthew 6). He promised to take care of our needs. But there is a major difference between our needs and our wants.
When I was a student at Mississippi College, a Professor shared a quote that came from Dr. T.B. Maston, a Professor at Southwestern Seminary. Dr. Maston said our goal should be “…maintain, not gain.” In other words, have enough clothing for the basics but don’t store up clothing. In everything in life, don’t accumulate… instead focus on the basics.. focus on needs.
How much stuff do you have? If you are like most you have clothes in your closet you hardly ever wear. You may have electronics that you don’t need. Jesus challenged us to focus on the basics. Focus on needs.
Today, is there something you WANT but don’t NEED? Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you are what you drive or wear. It’s not true. Jesus loves us regardless.
I went into the ministry in the 80’s. It was the time of the “church growth movement.” Purchase some books on church growth, go to some conferences, etc… and you could grow a church. So, when I left New Orleans Seminary, I set out to grow a church.
For all of my ministry, my focus was on getting people. Growing the Sunday School, having revival meetings etc… And, those are good things. But I missed the boat some. In the past, I led people to believe that if you came to church and gave an offering well, you were a good Christian. After all, us Preachers want a good crowd. Surely, God has to be pleased with that, right?
But I didn’t do much in the area of meeting practical ministry needs in the lives of people. And I missed the boat some. If Jesus were on earth, he would be helping people. That’s what He did when He was here 2,000 years ago. He helped people. He forgave people. He healed people.
With the Lord’s help, I want to do more in that area. The Lord has shown me, I need… we need… to do more of that.
Back in August, I attended an Awana conference at Salem Baptist Church in the Dalton, Ga. area. One thing stood out to me about this church. Their theme.. is “others.” This church had grown significantly in the last several year and the reason for their growth was “others.”
Their Pastor, Darry Kittle, has for years, led the church to focus on “others.” Their church wifi password is “others.” “Others” is a reminder to the church to think about “others” first. Now, let’s be honest; that’s NOT how it is in most churches. Instead of thinking of “others,” we think of ourselves.
“Don’t take MY Sunday School class… doesn’t matter if a class may be needed for others… this is MY class.”
“Don’t change the schedule… I don’t care if we might be able to reach more people.. I like the schedule just the way it is… don’t make my uncomfortable.”
“Don’t change the music… I like it just the way it is… everyone else will just have to adjust…”
And the list could go on and on and on…
James 3:17 says Christians should be “willing to yield to others.”
What about you? Are you focused on yourself or, are you thinking of others? I am so thankful Jesus thought of others… because He did, He went to the cross to die for our sins.
Today.. think of others first and self, second.
Do you enjoy living for Christ? I mean, are you happy you are a Christian? Most of us would say we are not enjoying the Christian life as we should. But we can. Jesus tells us in John 10:10, “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” However, most Christians that I know are not living the abundant life.
So, how can we? How can our Christian lives flourish? How can we put a spring in our steps spiritually? In Ezekiel 37, there is a story about God taking the prophet Ezekiel to a valley that was filled with dry bones. God spoke to Ezekiel and asked “if the bones could live?” Ezekiel replied “God, thou knowest.”
Then, Ezekiel watched as the dry bones came alive. Human beings were formed out of the dry bones. How did that happen? The spirit of God moved and the dry bones lived.
Just like those dry bones lived, God wants us to enjoy the Christian life. We can if we allow the Spirit of God to work in our lives. As the Spirit works in us, the Spirit cleans out the things that do not honor God. The spirit leads us closer to the Lord. We begin to live a live of faith trusting God. Today, ask the Holy Spirit to fill you and lead you closer to Christ.