July Summer Fun

Good evening to all of you. I hope everyone had a great day today and enjoyed the mild temperatures this evening. It sure was a change from this morning. My day started with breakfast at Too Fat Sisters with several of my Saturday morning bible study partners and it was a wonderful time of just fellowship and prayer. Also saw a number of guys who I’ve had the opportunity to be part of a Sunday School class with. It’s always great to renew old acquaintances and be reminded that something we started several years ago continues to this day. A fellowship breakfast on every fifth Saturday in the year has turned out to be a great tradition. Hopefully our bible study group will also want to continue the tradition.

My day ended with the final family July birthday party for the year. Our Owen has turned 6 years old and all of the grand-kids had a great time playing laser tag with the new guns that he received as birthday gifts. Of course he won the first round of free-for-all laser tag but his team play wasn’t too good after that. However, he had a real good time and a great birthday party. As a matter of fact, everyone just left about 30 minutes ago. Well, enough of family business so we’ll move on to something else.

As I finished up with the Then and Now series last week I began thinking about where to go from here. It seems that most of my recent posts have centered around issues that are negative in nature but are quite real. For the record, I am not an unhappy pessimist but I do consider myself a realist. More than that, I lean more heavily towards optimism most of the time. And the reason for that is because I realize no matter what is going on in this old world are even in our churches God is still in control and nothing has caught Him by surprise. He is still in the saving business and I’m so thankful for that because there are still others that I love that have not responded to His invitation to accept His gift of salvation. To get to the point, I want to spend the next few weeks on some things that will be a great deal more positive and should be a great encouragement to all of us. So hang one and we will begin that ride next week.

In way of announcements I want to remind you of the open bible study we have every Saturday morning at 7:30 am. We meet at Helen Keller Hospital in the 2000 medical office building behind the hospital and the study lasts about an hour. It is great time with other guys who live the Lord and God’s word. We are going through the book of John verse by verse and what a great study it has been so far. So, welcome to all of you. We would love to have you be a part. 

One more thing before we sign off. Our men’s vocal group Reassurance will be singing tomorrow evening at Washington Park Baptist Church. The service starts at 6:00 PM and if you like classic southern gospel music and traditional hymns of the faith I believe you will really be blessed by being a part of this worship experience. We are so excited and humbled about the way God is blessing our ministry and how it seems the people are encouraged and reassured that Jesus is all we need. We would be honored by your presence.

May God richly bless each and every one of you.

David

Then and Now; The Master

Over the last five weeks we have been talking about changes we have observed over the last few decades in what I call the Christian way of life. Of course that is an inclusive term that covers many things but particularly we have looked at the differences we see in our churches today as compared to yesteryear. That’s why the series has been titled “Then and Now”.  We began the series with a preview and then covered four topics as they relate to the changes we’ve seen. We talked about changes in the messengers, the message, the members and the music. This evening we are going to finish the series with a look at the one thing that hasn’t changed; The Master. Our Lord. Our Savior. Jesus.

That famous passage in Hebrews chapter 13 and verse 8 really sums it up: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”. It doesn’t get any plainer than that. Jesus was in eternity past, He is today, and He will be forever. He is the second person of the trinity and has always been. He was God. He is God. And He always will be God. There has never been a time when He wasn’t. Even when He left His throne in Heaven and came to earth in the form of a baby, 100% man, He was still 100% God. Even when He wept at the death of Lazarus, He was God, Even when prayed in the garden, He was God. Even when He became sin for us and suffered His death on the cross He was still God. He was God when He arose. He was God when He ascended. And He is God the Son today sitting at the right hand of God the Father, ever interceding on our behalf and waiting on the Father to say “Go get your bride”. He will be God for all eternity future. He truly is the same yesterday, today and forever.

With all of this said, when the messengers refuse to preach the word, when the message is so diluted when presented that there is no power in it, when the members don’t make an effort to grow in their faith and when the music becomes so shallow and secular that it adds little to the worship experience, Jesus still remains the same. he is the one constant in our faith. To God be the glory, forever and ever, amen!

Then and Now; The Music

It’s been a long day today. But a great day. A wonderful time at our bible study this morning and a wonderful evening with family and friends as we celebrated another birthday. All the kids in the pool and the adults on the deck with several different conversations going on. Hamburgers, hot dogs, birthday cake and ice cream. Boy, it just doesn’t get any better than that. Well, enough of the family stuff. Let’s get back to our series.

We have been looking at the differences in what the Christian world and church life was a few decades ago as opposed to how it is today. We’ve discussed the messengers (preachers), the message and the members to this point and tonight we are going to move on to another subject, the music. I think we can all agree that there has been a significant change with the music that is now the norm in many churches today. Possibly the majority of them. But let’s first go back a few years and see what the music looked like.

When I was child and even as a young man the church was filled mostly with traditional hymns of the faith and on some occasions what we know as southern gospel. When the congregation stood to sing they were prepared to put everything into it and the sound of many voices filled the sanctuary from the floor to the ceiling. At the same time you could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in a mighty way. It was apparent that the people not only loved the music but cherished the words themselves. The words meant something. Songs such as Amazing Grace, It Is Well With My Soul, When We All Get To Heaven and Just As I Am held a special place in the hearts of the people. If you go back and look at the writers you find that the words came to them out of some kind of life experience where God’s presence or His intervention was the basis for the song. There was no emphasis on having a catchy tune but a great emphasis on expounding words of truth. The music was an instrument of worship that set the stage for what was to come. And that was the message from the pastor that God had laid on his heart for the people and the pastor himself. It wasn’t a time for entertainment but a time for honoring God with true worship and hearing Him Speak form His written word as the pastor proclaimed it. What a wonderful time that was!

But what about today? What can you expect in most cases? It seems that there has been a migration to a style of music for many churches that is nothing like before. Most of the time it is referred to as “praise and worship” music and is usually let by what we now call a “worship leader” and in many cases a “praise team” There is very little involvement by the congregation and those who do participate are most likely to be the younger group who probably have never been exposed to what we grew up with. It is becoming unheard of to use a hymn book and actually sing an old hymn. Most of the music has been written by folks who have previously been involved in secular music and has brought that style into the worship service. It is easily accepted by the younger generations but you can hardly tell a difference between it and the music that the world outside the church is used to . And some times it is even enhanced by strobe lights and fog generation equipment. It looks to me like it is more entertainment than anything else. It is a good indication that there is as much world inside the church as there is outside of it.

I recently visited a local church on a Sunday morning and it is one of the older churches in the area with a lot of history. The congregation was a mixture of senior adults and a number of young couples with children. The music was led by a young man with a guitar and the music he had chosen was mostly contemporary with a lot of repetition. There were no hymns although an attempt was made to use some of the words from an old hymn that were embedded in the contemporary. As I observed the congregation during this time it was obvious that the older folks were not singing probably because they didn’t know the words and many had sat back down because the repetition of the song lasted so long they couldn’t continue in a standing position. There was no sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit although the “worship leader” tried very hard to sound and act very “spiritual”. What a shame! My God deserves much more than that. God help us.

Again, I must admit that I write these things from a biased position because of how I was raised. And I’m afraid that the folks this style appeals to has never experienced “the way it was” as I have. But the real question is this: Is God satisfied with our worship? Is He glorified with our efforts? I want to remind each of us that it really is all about Him and not about us. So you can make a judgement on which is really more likely to give Him the honor and praise He deserves; the then or the now?

May God richly bless you this coming week.

Then and Now; The Members

Anytime you want to talk about people in general there are a number of things that must be considered. Folks come from all different walks of life, from all kinds of homes, from so many varied backgrounds and races that it is almost impossible to name them all. We know that there are no two people exactly alike. They may be similar in some aspects and may even look like each other but if you look close enough you will soon spot the difference. Even identical twins have some distinguishing mark that makes them different in physical appearance. In other words, every person is a one of a kind and God knows everything about each one!

In our Then and Now series we have already presented two major changes that have taken place in our Christian way of life over the last few decades. We have discussed the change in many of the messengers (preachers) and we have looked at how the message has been altered to some extent to satisfy many in the church realm today. Now we are going to focus on what has changed about the membership that makes up the churches of today. Therefore the title Then and Now; The Members.

We opened the post this evening talking about people in general but from this point on we will be focusing on a specific group of people we know as the church members. I’m sure we all realize that this term doesn’t always mean Christian , Believer or any other name you want to attach to a real born again person. A person that has put their total faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit permanently indwells them. So when I use the term members I am talking about anyone who attends a local church on somewhat of a routine basis and may even have some involvement in some of the programs offered by that church.

So let’s get to the point(s). I truly believe that what separates the real Christian/Believer from the “member” is their character. Their Christian character. Their “like Jesus” character. Not some “I’m this way today because I have to be but I will be the way I want to be tomorrow.” character. One of our greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln, once said “Character is like a tree and reputation is like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” There seems to be real character missing in a lot of folks these days.

Now, let me take you back a few years, more like a few decades. Let’s go inside a small local church of that day. When you went in you were usually met with a firm handshake and a “glad to see you’ salutation. Let’s assume it’s Sunday morning. When you take a seat you look around and you see families just like yours seated around the building. Most of the time it was mom and dad all of the kids. There was no nursery, no children’s church. There wasn’t anyone assigned to take care of the kids. That was the parents job. The kids were expected to sit, be still and listen to the preacher. Now I realize this may have not been fun for the kids in their eyes but none the less that was the way it was. And the older kids and teenagers certainly were expected to sit up and act like adults. Sounds pretty tough doesn’t it? Everyone was there to worship in their singing and hear what God had to say through God’s man. I was in many of those services and there is no doubt in my mind that the Holy Spirit was present in that place. And the fact is, you saw the same people at church on Sunday evening and on Wednesday night. You could hardly tell a difference in attendance numbers between any of the meeting times. So, why was that? Because churches were full of people who truly loved the Lord and wanted to worship Him alongside other believer’s. They had real character. Christian character. They were who they were and not trying to be someone else. The services weren’t for entertainment or pleasure and the people were committed to Jesus and His church.

By comparison now, let’s take a look at what is happening in most churches today. The family arrives and immediately everyone is looking to go their separate ways. The kids are dumped off at the nursery and the teenagers make a beeline for the youth hangout. Mom and dad find a seat near some of their friends so they can talk about the activities of the previous week and what their coming week is going to be like. If you were able to overhear all of the conversations, I think you would be hard pressed to find one that involved anything to do with expectations of what God is doing, what He is going to do and how they can be a part of it. Once the service starts you will be lucky to hear one of the old hymns of the faith, or a worshipful choir number if there is even a choir. But you will hear plenty of what everyone calls praise and worship choruses, usually led by a ‘worship leader’ and his special entourage. It will appear like they have all been caught up in some religious trance and supposedly the congregation is now prepared for the sermon that is to follow. Once the service is over everyone try’s to beat everyone else to the restaurant so they can eat and then get about the business at hand which most likely is something other than resting. Let’s now go back to the church for the Sunday evening service. When you enter you will generally only see senior adults there. There won’t be any younger people. They won’t be there because there is nothing planned for the children or the youth. Besides that, it has been a long week and there is another one coming up. And you will find much the same scenario on Wednesday evenings as you do on Sunday evenings unless there are programs for the kids and youth. There is so much of the world in our churches today that you can’t tell them apart from the world. God help us!

I know I have been rather harsh and sarcastic about today’s churches and I certainly realize that all churches are not totally like what I have described. However, when you compare the then to the now, it is very obvious which one would God be more pleased with and which would have the greatest positive impact on the world around us. I want to be a part of that kind of church.

I guess the real question is, why has it gotten to this point? My personal opinion, and it is only opinion, that the majority of church members have never had a real encounter with the Savior and the Holy Spirit does not reside in them. The bible says that we are a new creation when we are born again and therefore it is evident in our lives. The other problem is that many Believers are not staying in God’s Word and the result is a lack of spiritual growth so they remain uncommitted babes and act just like the lost world. The world has subtly and slowly infiltrated our churches and we have not been spiritually mature enough to recognize it as it happened. Is the condition irreversible? Well, the bible says that nothing is impossible with God so there is no doubt it is going to take His mighty intervention. However, it also requires a repentant heart on our part and a turning back to Him. We must humble our hearts and pray and He will hear us and heal our land. I pray that this will happen, and as I’ve said before, it needs to begin with me.

May God richly bless each of you and I pray that we together will make a difference for the kingdom of God.

David

 

 

 

Then and Now; The Message

What a great day it has been! Started the day again with a wonderful Bible study in the 5th Chapter of John. The diseased man at the pool of Bethesda had endured his disease for many years and could never make it to the pool when the Angel stirred the waters. He was sick, helpless and hopeless until Jesus came his way and changed everything. You know, that was exactly how we were before He came our way. But for those of us who have put our faith and trust in him, He changed everything.

This morning we also had the privilege of laying hands on and praying for one of our Christian brothers who is facing some very serious health issues. That was very special for all of us and I know it was greatly appreciated by our brother. We certainly believe in the power of intercessory prayer but we also believe that God deserves all the glory in every situation no matter what the outcome. However, our selfish desire is to see our brother healed and we will continue to lift him up in prayer on a regular basis.

Last week, as we continued our “Then and Now” series, we discussed how the “messenger” seems to have changed over the last few decades and how it has affected the present day church. This evening I would like to consider how the “message” has also changed as it is delivered by many of the “messengers” that fill the pulpits today.  The change I’m referring to has been very subtle and slow and many Christians do not even recognize that the change has taken place.

Let’s begin by asking a few simple questions. How long has it been since you heard the word repentance? When was the last time that you heard from the pulpit that one must repent? That one must place their faith in Jesus and what He did at Calvary? The words sin and the blood are very seldom used to describe man’s problem and God’s solution. We’ve grown accustomed to hearing feel good sermons and walking away with a warm fuzzy feeling but no burden for the lost and no change in our lives. One of the favorite words used today is surrender. It certainly sounds like a real spiritual word and it is. But in the context in which it is used, it’s almost like saying God has determined what your fate is and you don’t have a choice in the matter. So you might as well just give in. Just surrender. No need to repent. No need for faith. And that, my friend, is just about as untrue as anything I’ve ever heard or read in God’s word. And it is definitely far from what the message was when I realized that I was lost, that I was a sinner, that I needed to repent and place my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The conclusion to this matter is also very simple. The message from God’s word has never changed. Man has attempted to change it through the centuries but it has never changed. It is just simply this. Man has a sin problem that he is born with because of Adam’s fall in the Garden of Eden. Man can in no way or in his own merit solve the problem. The solution to the problem was provided by God Himself. That was the shed blood of a perfect sacrifice which was accomplished by Jesus, God’s own son, by His death on the cross. His blood covered a multitude of sin which included yours and mine. Therefore, we must have a repentant heart towards God and a sincere faith in Jesus before we can be reconciled to God. That is the real message and it will never change. Check it out for yourself. Don’t rely on what someone else says. God said it in His word and that settles it.

Next week, we will see how the church “members” have changed. Hang with me.

God bless each of you.

David