The Church Is a Big Deal!

Some people claim to follow Jesus, but do not see the need to be a part of the church. They want to say “Yes” to Jesus, but “No” to the church. These people have a problem. God doesn’t give us the option to accept Jesus and reject the church. Such a notion is completely foreign to Scripture. In fact, in the Bible, the church is a really big deal.

The church was in the heart of God even before the creation of the world. Ephesians 1:4 says, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight…” Before he created us God knew that we would choose to sin and that we would need to be saved. Therefore he planned to send Jesus to die for the sins of the world so that anyone who would put their full trust in the crucified and resurrected Jesus could be saved. Those who are saved are added to the church at the time of their baptism (Acts 2:41) and are taught to be faithful members of the church (1 Cor.12:27) until the day that they die (Rev.2:10). That’s a big deal!

Being a regular participant in the worship services of the church is also a big deal. Heb.10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Our church friends need our encouraging presence in the Lord’s house on the Lord’s Day. We need to see each other’s smiling faces. We need to hear encouraging words from our brothers and sisters in Christ. We need the hugs and handshakes and the occasional shoulder to cry on. We need to lift up our voices together in song and in prayer. We need to celebrate communion together. We need to pool our resources to further the work of the Lord. We need to open up God’s Word together and reflect on how we will obey him. We need to worship together, therefore, the church is a big deal!

We are not only the church on Sunday morning, we are the church 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Therefore, the church is a big deal as we spread out into the community where we live, being the salt of the earth and the light of the world that Jesus has called us to be. The church is a big deal because we can make a difference in the lives of those around us. In this world where there is so much suffering, you can find a broken heart anywhere you turn. The church can offer hope in times of trouble, and that’s something that the world cannot do. Whenever disaster strikes, it is the church that is quite often the first to arrive with help and the last to leave the scene.

The church is a big deal because God has chosen us to make known his wisdom concerning the gospel message, the good news of salvation through Jesus (Eph.3:10). Jesus says that we will be his witnesses (Acts 1:8). While there is much that we can do individually to bear witness to Jesus, our witness is magnified many times over when we consolidate our efforts to evangelize. Working together we can be a great force in spreading the word about the salvation that is available through Jesus.

There is much, much more to be said about the fact that the church is a big deal, but let me close with this thought—God purchased the church with the precious blood of his Son Jesus (Acts 20:28). It cost God the life of his one and only Son in order for the church to come into existence. If this is how God shows how much he values the church, how do we show how much the church is worth to us?

The church is indeed a big deal!

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Destiny

A man recently went looking for his sow that had gone missing. When he found her he discovered that she had found a hiding place to give birth to six piglets. Ironically, the birthing site she chose was underneath his BBQ smoker!

The pigs’ destiny might serve to remind us that we too have an appointment with death. Therefore, we ought to make the most of our lives and make sure that we are ready to keep that appointment when our time comes.

“Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”—Hebrews 9:27-28.

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Lawn Care

In a few weeks I will wrap up the seventh summer of mowing the grass at the house that my wife and I built. My how time flies!

We moved into the house on a snowy day in February. There were some delays in the landscaping, so I didn’t get to level the ground and sow grass seed until late spring or early summer. Then it suddenly turned hot and dry, and the seed did not do well in the sandy soil. It seemed like I was mowing nothing but weeds and dust that first year. When the rains did come, it washed out gullies in parts of the yard. I spent a lot of time filling in ruts, working up soil, re-seeding and watering. Still there were few signs that my efforts were being rewarded. We had some people over one day in July. One boy, maybe five years old, looked at my lawn and offered this solemn, unsolicited proclamation: “This is a disaster!”

I continued to work on my disaster for the rest of the year. The next year the lawn finally appeared to be more green than brown. I continued to seed and fertilize and pull up weeds. Slowly but surely, I could see some progress. Year after year I have continued to tweak trouble spots and address any issues that came up. Now I have what might be called an average or above average stand of grass. It will never look like a golf course, but my yard is finally looking somewhat like I always imagined it could be.

That doesn’t mean that mean that my work is finished. I will continue to care for the grass the best way I know how and address any issues that may need attention. It will be an on-going effort to maintain a nice-looking lawn.

We might compare our spiritual life to growing a lawn. Perhaps at one time your soul was a dried up, desert-like wasteland. Others might have looked at your life and proclaimed—“This is a disaster!” And maybe they were right!

However, our current spiritual state can always be improved. Applying the seed of the Word of God to our lives will eventually reap results. The showers of the Lord’s blessings will fall on your life and cause you to be productive for the Lord. We always need to be pulling out the weeds that are the sins that creep into our lives. With careful cultivation and the help of the Lord, our lives can become everything that God envisioned for us.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”—Galatians 6:9.

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From One Little Spark

A 19-year-old sailor was charged with arson as a result of an incident that happened in the summer of 2020. The sailor allegedly became so disgruntled with his duties that he set off a spark that turned into a blaze that destroyed a $1.2 billion warship.

$1.2 billion! That’s a lot of damage from one little spark!

With that in mind, let’s consider the power of the spoken word. The Bible says that we can do a lot of good with what we say, but it also warns of the potential damage we can do with our words. James 3:5b-6 says, “…Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”

Let us always be on guard against speaking carelessly. A thoughtless word can cause great damage to a relationship, to a family or to a church. Be very careful when you speak!

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First Things First

There was a knock on the door of the hut where a missionary in Africa lived. The missionary responded to the knock and found one of the boys from the village holding a large fish in his hands. The boy said, “You taught us what tithing is, so here—I’ve brought you my tithe.” As the missionary gratefully took the fish, he asked the young man, “If this is your tithe, where are the other nine fish?” The boy smiled and answered, “Oh, they’re still back in the river. I’m going back to catch them now.”

Now that boy understood what tithing is all about!

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”—Malachi 3:10.

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Are You Prepared?

I just read this morning that September is “National Preparedness Month”. The headline of the article I read said: “National Preparedness Month: Are you prepared for a disaster?”

That rather ominous warning caught my attention, for sure! As I scanned the article I discovered that it was primarily cautioning us to be prepared for severe weather events. This is indeed something that we need to be concerned about. Many people are injured or killed each year by such occurrences. A lot of these kinds of deaths can be prevented by taking certain precautions.

There is another kind of disaster for which we must be prepared—the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ! Now, for those who are ready for his return, it will not be a disaster at all; it will be a much-welcomed blessing!

However, for those who are caught unaware, it will be the greatest disaster of their lives, one from which there will be no recovery. It is little wonder that the teachings of Jesus contain so many warnings to be ready for his appearance by living a constant life of faithful obedience in anticipation of his return.

“What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”—Mark 13:37.

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Worship

This is a big subject for the limited space that we have, but let’s talk about worship. We were created to worship God and to bring him pleasure. There are many good definitions of worship. One that I like says that “worship is to recognize the worth of God and to respond appropriately”. In other words, worship is to give God the attention and devotion that only he deserves. There are many ways that we can worship God. Let’s talk about a few of them.

First, we worship God when we gather together as the church on Sunday. The Bible continually speaks of how God’s people throughout the years assembled to give their attention to God. Our gatherings declare that we believe that God is worthy of our time and trouble to get to the meetings. On the other hand, one’s neglect of these worship gatherings betrays a lack of desire to worship God. That’s why Hebrews 10:25-31 urges us to keep meeting together and warns of dire consequences for anyone who deliberately forsakes the assembly of believers.

Second, we worship God when we bring him an offering. Going all the way back to Cain and Abel, we see that mankind knew of the responsibility to bring something of worth to the Lord as an act of worship. We see various offerings described throughout the Old Testament. The early church continued this practice of worshiping God through their giving. It is interesting to note that Jesus watched people bringing their offerings to the Lord and commended one widow for the outstanding faith that she showed by putting her last two coins into the collection. May we always be mindful of how our giving is perceived by the Lord as an act of worship.

We also worship God when we sing. Music has an important place in Scripture, however, worship and music are not synonyms. Singing is but one of many ways we can worship God. Certain Israelites were designated to lead in the playing of instruments and the singing of worshipful songs. In the New Testament, Christians continued to worship the Lord with music and singing. Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”

Another way we worship is to pray. Did you ever notice how many prayers are recorded throughout the Bible? We are urged to follow in the footsteps of those faithful people who came before us by offering our prayers to God. The decision to pray is a sign that we believe the Lord is worthy of our attention and that we believe that he has the power to intervene in our lives in many beneficial ways. Prayer is a crucial part of our worship of God. That’s why 1 Thessalonians 5:17 urges us to “pray continually.”

Participating in the Lord’s Supper is still another important way we worship God. When we take communion we remember the sacrificial death of Jesus and declare that God is worthy of our worship because he sent his only son to die for us. The early church devoted themselves to this “breaking of bread” (Acts 2:42) and met every Sunday for this purpose (Acts 20:7). Let’s make sure that we do not neglect this meaningful act of worship.

Finally (at least in this short study), we worship God when we obey his Word. This is more than listening, more than studying. This is putting the Bible into practice in our daily lives. By doing what God says to do and avoiding what he says not to do, we show that his ways are worthy of our acceptance.

Well, those are a few ways that we can worship the Lord. Let’s devote ourselves to becoming better worshipers of God.

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How We Are Valued

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Every man is entitled to be valued by his best moments.” We would all hope that such would be the case for us. We all have had our moments that have not exactly been our best!

Unfortunately, the world tends to remember people for their worst moments. When I bring up the name, “Will Smith”, what first comes to your mind? Probably one of his worst moments, his encounter with Chris Rock at the Oscars.

Even people in the Bible are sometimes remembered for their worst moments. We call him “Doubting Thomas” because that disciple was slow to believe that Jesus had indeed been resurrected. But Thomas also had some better moments. At one point he was ready to go and die with Jesus (John 11:16). And after his initial doubt, Thomas did eventually express his faith in the resurrected Jesus, professing Jesus to be his “Lord and God” (John 20:28).

On the other hand, we see examples of those in Scripture who made some serious mistakes, yet are more remembered for their good deeds and qualities. Moses killed a man and later made excuses why he couldn’t obey God, but he went down in history as the one who led the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt. David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then tried to cover it up with murder. But he is best remembered for defeating Goliath, writing Psalms and being one of Israel’s best kings. Job questioned God, but he is known for his faithful perseverance in times of extreme adversity. Rahab was a prostitute, but she is listed in the Hebrews 11 “Hall of Faith” because she expressed her belief in God and aligned herself with God’s people (v.31).

Because we are all sinners, everyone has had their share of bad moments. Most people have had some good moments as well. How we are remembered by other people (if indeed we are remembered at all!) does not matter nearly as much as how God views us. Through the blood of Jesus we can receive forgiveness for our sins, and God will see us as pure and holy.

Paul the apostle writes these words to the church at Corinth—“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Some of the members of the church at Corinth had committed some horrific sins. However, because they had repented and been baptized into Christ, their past sins were not held against them. Their true value was measured by their new identity in Christ.

So let’s not be burdened with worry about our sinful past. Let’s trust the blood of Jesus to cleanse us of our sins and let’s know for certain that we are highly valued by God!

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Stop Denying

Ponto

“More people would learn from their mistakes if they weren’t so busy denying that they made them. –Ponto the Office Dog, the Maysville Ledger Independent.

Ponto, who happens to be one of my favorite philosophers, hit the nail on the head with that statement. We can’t grow in our faith if we don’t confess our sins. In order to be forgiven and to experience the joy of that forgiveness we first have to admit that we have done things for which we need forgiven. If we deny that we have done anything wrong, we deny ourselves of one of the greatest blessings available to us—the forgiveness that God offers us through his Son Jesus.

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”—1 John 1:8-10.

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Did You Notice the Difference?

There is a story told about a church that was struggling financially. The preacher asked one of the members to take on the responsibility of overseeing the congregation’s finances. The man, who was the manager of the local grain elevator, agreed, but only on two conditions: No report would be due for a year, and no one would ask any questions during the year. Since the man was known to be a person of outstanding character, the church agreed to his conditions.

At the end of the year the man made his financial report. He had paid off the church debt of $200,000. He had also redecorated the church, doubled the congregation’s giving to missions and tripled the amount of money the church had in the bank.

The shocked congregation asked, “How did you manage to accomplish all this?”

He answered, “You people bring your grain to my elevator. As you did business with me, I simply withheld 10 percent and gave it to the church. And you never missed it.”

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. ‘Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.’”—Malachi 3:10.

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