Taking A Drink Of Living Water!

Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:38)

It’s funny how one small thing could be so important.
Take water for example, if one were to go without it for three days, the consequences would be terminal.  Vital organs would shut down and the body would die.  Water is THAT important to each of us.  Sometimes we might take it for granted, especially those of us who live where fresh water is in abundance.
ice water
I recently suffered a mild bout of heat exhaustion…and it wasn’t pretty.   It happened this week while taking my children to a theme park in Orlando.  The temperature was well past the 90 degree mark, and we were in the throws of a typical Florida summer: HOT.  Like a typical guy I thought I could “handle it”.  We went from attraction to attraction and I apparently did not drink enough water nor stay out of sun as much as I should have.  By the evening, as crowds continued to ebb and flow and we lined up for one more long wait on a new attraction, I had a pounding headache and became horribly sick to my stomach.

Yes, water is THAT important.
I learned a valuable lesson that day.
(It’s good to still learn lessons, and I hope we never stop learning them…however hard they may be from time to time)

I also have a new found appreciation for a nice cold glass of water.
If you have ever been truly thirsty while working out in the hot sun, you too will understand.
Nothing quenches your dry throat and deep thirst like a cold cup of water.
Water brings with it life…a spark to carry on…a refreshing spring to desert land.

livingSimilarly, Jesus uses this cultural understanding of a dry and thirsty land to explain what He had come to do for all who were seeking.  He would quench the thirst of the heart and soul.  He could bring a refreshing like no other known to earth.  His “living water” would provide life – true eternal living – to the soul!  How could we not wish to drink from this source of living water?  How could we not yearn for His presence in our lives when the world around us at times is a rather arid and lonely place?   His living water can heal our brokenness.  His living water can restore our static and sun burnt lives.  He provides this freely…and the beauty of this living water is that we can come to this source of real life and drink over and over again.

waterAre you thirsty today?
Have you been to the living waters?  It will quench the thirst of your soul!  Jesus longs for us to come to Him and stay beneath his fellowship and beside these living waters.  Sometimes, I must confess, that I have thought (like my bout with heat exhaustion) that I could handle it on my own…but I was wrong.  Perhaps you’re a bit like me.  Perhaps there are days where you feel that you require no such support and that this living water is not really needed.  May we run to these living waters once again.  Don’t wait too long!  Don’t assume you have it all “worked out” and that you don’t need His help.  Drink from these living waters again…and be healed!

Something more for us to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

Ponder Cast #9 “Setting Our Sights”

uniform4
Dear Salvationists, dear fellow Brothers and Sisters in Christ…
let me ask you two questions –
Is there a cost to discipleship?
Are we called to make sacrifices?
The answer to both of these questions is “Yes”.

Check out our latest “Ponder Cast”  – #9 “Setting Our Sights”
Please share our Ponder Casts, and also please subscribe!

Our Scripture Focus today is:
itunes pic

Luke 9:57-62 “As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the [a]air have [b]nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 59 And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” 60 But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” 61 Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

Burn Your Ships And Commit!

cortesThe History Lesson
In 1519 Hernan Cortes, Spanish explorer, landed on Mexican soil.
He and his 600 Spanish troops were commissioned to take Mexico for Spain.
In a swift move to stave off any thoughts of retreat, he commanded that his fleet be burned.

Can you imagine being one of those six hundred men on alien soil standing there watching your only lifeline to the ‘old life’ being burned at sea.  The only recourse was to make progress deeper into this unknown land; to fight, survive and claim it for the crown.  The ships were gone, they had to fully commit or die.

For Us. 
I am not justifying any other actions of Cortes.
Some of his decisions were down right brutal.
That being said, I do believe that there is something here for us today.

Spiritually speaking…
Have we burned our ships in the act of a full commitment to Christ?
Or
Are we still looking back longingly at the places that we used to live before we accepted this new life in the form of Salvation?   Do we (even subconsciously) consider this “commitment” to be temporary while all along we have a fall back plan in case it just doesn’t pan out?

I believe even Jesus had disciples in His day that had one foot in the new life while the other foot was still firmly grounded in the old.

Read:
(Luke 9:57-62)

The Cost of Following Jesus
57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. 59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”  60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”  61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

The cost of following Christ is high!
The commitment level of such a calling is total or none at all.
We cannot have one foot in the new life while our other foot is firmly planted in the old life.
Either we are all in or we are not in at all.

Perhaps it is time that we burned the ships.
Perhaps it is time to burn that which holds us back from making that full commitment to Christ.
Don’t allow those things to pull you in two different directions any longer.
His path, His calling is the path of true peace, of true redemption, of true love.
When we burn the ships, we can no longer turn back from His will for our lives. ships
He wants a relationship with us that requires a full commitment.
So, how about it, are we willing to burn the ships?

Something more to ponder today!

Living within the sacred.

The sacred.
It is not strictly for the holiest of us.
The sacred was kept hidden.
The sacred was closed off to the “public”.
Only those who were cleansed could enter.
Those who did enter the space of the sacred who were not cleansed would die.
space
God’s holy presence makes a space sacred…nothing else will do.
No amount of gold, incense or prayers can make something devoid of God sacred.

But the sacred moved…
On the day of death.
On the day of the cross.
The day when Jesus died for the sins of the world, the sacred moved.
not far away from Golgotha, the temple stood.
The place where the presence of God resided within the sacred holy of holies.
cross3That dark and mighty day the sacred space moved.
The very presence of God relocated.
He wasn’t evicted…perhaps in a way He was.
He wasn’t changing…God is the same today and yesterday.
But circumstances changed.
The plan of salvation, the day of redemption unfolded before humanity who had not it recognized Him.
The curtain to the sacred tore.
Its space now vacant.
No, God had not would not abandon them,
but the space became bigger.
The sacred expanded.
Satan and Death were conquered.
Beyond our human understanding and our existential vision,  something supernaturally remarkable took place.
Messiah had come.
Death was defeated.
New life was possible and available to those came seeking.
The sacred space didn’t move, it became available to everyone.

-Living within the sacred-
path
Truth:
living here within the sacred takes time.
Not because God’s presence isn’t enough but because many times we are still dealing with stuff.
We are still in need of full surrender.
We have not completely relinquished our old patterns of life to fully embrace this new creation Christ has won for us.
Living within the sacred requires our full devotion to the Risen Lord.
Living within the sacred requires us to embrace our own crosses and to lay down our selfishness only to pick up His image of selflessness.

This is the beginning of Holiness.
The Holy Spirit can, and will, take up residence within a new sacred space – our lives.
He will transform us.
He will begin anew within us…
but living within the sacred demands our allegiance and attention.
Living within the sacred requires us to embrace fully the divine plan of redemption.
We can live here.
We can grow here.
We can be holy…here.
The Holy Spirit will transform us…
the only question is are we willing to live here no matter what the cost or earthly sacrifice?

Something more for us to ponder today.

Looking At The Cross

I’m not here to proselytize,
no, we will never be moved from our positions and convictions by mere words.
9 times out of 10 most will never be “saved” by signs on billboards saying “Jesus Saves”
or by a “Preacher” on a soapbox with a bullhorn.
No, none of these things seem to penetrate the heart.
None of these things contributes to the glory of God…
it only adds to the noise.

pathIt’s a slow walk…
This path towards the cross.
The place where Jesus was killed was literally called the place of the skull because it looked like a skull cap.
It was never pretty.
Death. Is. Not. Pretty.
Even when the Son of God faced death…it was not pretty.

Death is brutal. death
Death has its claws into the sides of humanity and many learn to fear it.
Even Jesus prayed for the “cup to be taken from Him” while in the garden of Gethsemane, yet He was still faithful and He still went through with it.

BloodBlood was spilled.
People spat in His face.
A crown of thorns was forced upon Jesus’ head…
more blood was spilled.
The path that Jesus walked is called the ‘Via Dolorosa’ which means “the way of suffering” or “the way of sorrow”.
No, this was not, by its own a rite, a “glorious” day…and yet we look at the cross,
we explore His gruesome execution,
we peal back the “polished” veneer of the cross’ description,
and we discover just how much our Father in Heaven desires to rescue and redeem us from our sin tattered lives.

We linger here…
we must not overlook its importance and its horror.cross1
Divine carnage, blood, suffering, pain.
We ought not turn our eyes away too quickly in order to get to the “good stuff”… just yet.

Divine love was broken and spilled out for us.
His blood became our atonement.
His sacrifice our salvation.
His willingness our redemption.
Perhaps THIS, above all else, speaks louder than any of our “big” words could.
Perhaps THIS, the mark of suffering could capture the hardened heart.
nailsPerhaps THIS, is where healing can take place…
if only Christians would get this.
if only we would live this.
if only we would “take our crosses” (no really) and selflessly follow Him.
I’m not being preachy here,
I’m listening to the groaning of my own heart
and this truth rings out in me.

So I look at the cross…cross2                                                                              for a little bit longer.

Seeking Dead-Jesus… (a reflection of Mary at the tomb)

I keep thinking about Mary encountering Jesus in the garden post-death.
Imagine it with me if you can:

She is going there to properly take care of his dead body.
She is going there to shed a few more tears in private.
She is going there to say goodbye.
Her heart is as heavy as a led balloon.
She just can’t wake up from this nightmare.
Rising early that morning, a night wrought with bad dreams and sleeplessness, she heads directly to the grave.
Call it a moment to convince herself that He’s really gone.
Call it a part of the mourning process.

Rounding the last turn in the overgrown garden she comes upon a sight that she cannot quite explain.
Reason fails her and she is pauses a step to take in the scene attempting to comprehend it all – His grave is open.   Picking up the pace, she closes in on the tomb and enters all in one quick motion.  The place where they had laid Jesus is empty,  it is vacant.  Had the authorities changed their minds?  What happened to the body of her teacher, her rabbi?

Mary runs back and gets the disciples who, upon hearing this troubling news, run to the tomb to check it out for themselves.

Fresh tears begin to well up in her eyes as a lump forms in her throat as this all takes place.
Where is Jesus?
Why had they done this?
Could they not have left Him be, allowing this one ounce of dignity?

griefStepping back out of the tomb, the early sun begins to crest the horizon and spills effortlessly out upon the garden igniting it in hues of orange and red.  Mary doesn’t know what to do.  She is dumb-founded.  Mary peers again into the tomb to make sure she has seen it correctly, as grief can often cloud the ruffled edges of judgment and understanding.   Then…something catches her eye – two angelic forms standing beside the place where dead-Jesus had been laid.  They speak to her.  “Woman, why are you crying?” they ask…as if the meaning of death and loss meant nothing.  But Mary swallows back tears and replies “They have taken away my Lord and I don’t know where they have put Him.”    Uttering this very statement is like releasing the floodgates in a dam and her resolve breaks and so does her heart.

Suddenly, a shadow passes between her and the fire branded sunrise.  It is the silhouette of a man.  It MUST be the gardener coming to tend to the property before the hot sun engulfs and wilts the plants.  It must be someone who knows something about where Jesus has be taken.  Once again, the question is asked of her, this time by the man standing silhouetted in front of her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”  Again Mary sniffles and forces out a tired, bitter response amidst her flowing tears “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

She is at the end of her strength.
She is beyond heart-sick.
At the very least this can be done – recovering Jesus’ body.

Then, something remarkable happens – the dead speaks.
The man before her says one word that brings water to a desert.
This one word means more than the content of thousands of words meticulously strewn together in a book.
He speaks this one word and the storms of mourning cease.
He speaks this one word and shattered pieces of her heart become whole again.  mary
MARY.
In her weakest state she recognizes just who He is.
In her tear-blurred eyes and flood of grieving heart, she finds renewed strength in His presence.
She calls out to Him by His respected title – ““Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

Mary is overwhelmed with joy.
She is filled with relief.
The sun, now in its fuller light shines upon the son of God in all of His resurrected glory.
He is alive!
_____________________________________________________________________________________
I keep coming back to this story because often we too keep going to back to the empty tombs in our lives.
We keep coming up with the wrong conclusions.
Doubt casts its shadow upon our faith and it weighs heavily on us.
Doubt blurs our resolve and shakes our foundations of belief.
We stoop down into that tomb time and time again and we forget that we do not serve a dead-savior, but a risen one.
We need to look up and see Him.
We need to recognize our teacher.
We need to find Him once more for ourselves.
He wipes away our tears and longs for us to cry out to Him.

Will you?
Something more to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

“NOT WORTHLESS!!” 3 Ways to Discovering Your Self-Worth Pt.2

Yesterday we explored three basic lies that many have convinced themselves are important in order have a sense of self-worth.  (See Pt. 1 Link Here)
(RECAP) These basic lies are –
#1 Self-worth is all about what you do (Employment/Career).
#2 Self-worth is all about how others see you (the People pleaser trap)
#3 Self-worth is all about being “happy” all the time.

Now onto the “good” stuff – Discovering true self-worth.
You can’t buy self-worth…at least not in the long term.
You can’t work capture self-worth by attaining your “dream job” either.
These things are temporary.

vaporOur Lives Are Like Vapor:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)

Understand how temporal this all is.
I don’t mean to sound all “doom and gloom”, but this life is brief…we can make a difference in how we live by recognizing this one. small. truth.
We.  Are. Like. Vapor.   So…what are we going to do with this “vapor” of ours?

#1 Our true Self-Worth is found not in who we are but Whose we are!child
“And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” -2 Corinthians 6:18

Beyond anything that we can “do” in this world, the most vital argument for finding our true self-worth is tied up with Whose we really are.  Places of employment and careers are great things but they shouldn’t be the primary definer of who we really are.  From the very onset of creation God longed to fellowship with us.  He has made a way for this to happen even when we distorted our true identities with sin.  In a very real sense realizing Whose we are leads us to find our true self-worth in life.  This doesn’t mean that nothing else matters now in life, it just means that we re-align our perspectives in life allowing for this primal and vital identity to take first priority in our being, thereby releasing false images of self-worth while reclaiming this ancient, yet eternal truth – We are God’s creation, and we are called sons and daughters.

In moments when we feel the sting of rejection by others around us, let us remember that despite all of these things we are His -both first, last and everything in between.

cross#2 Our true Self-Worth is found not in our identity but in Christ’s!

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” -Galatians 2:20

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” -2 Corinthians 5:17

I hope you get the sense that all three of these “self-worth declarations”  are interconnected.
Once we can come to terms with the notion that we are children of God, we too must understand that our self-worth isn’t tied up in the old life prior to conversion.  Since Christ has conquered sin and death, we too can share in this eternal redemption story!  If we are Christ-followers, we too recognize that the old lives we used to live prior to our salvation story no longer dictate where our self-worth comes from.  Before this we followed the ingrained patterns, we indulged in selfish gain, we strive to climb the corporate ladder because that’s where true success and self-worth came from…But now, ah now we are no longer blind to these trappings.  It doesn’t mean that we have become better than others, it just means that we have begun to identify with the eternal Christ more than the temporal measures of self-worth.

Becoming crucified with Christ means that we have aligned ourselves with His love, His redemption, His purposes, His grace. We have allowed Christ to replace the lie with His truth within us.  This new creation (because of Christ) provides us with a deeper, more clearer sense of self-worth because it is divine and untarnished by our old sinful selves.

Within this identity shift, recognize too that we must be gentle on ourselves.  What do I mean by this?  Don’t denigrate and berate yourself when you slip and fall back into some of the old patterns.  These old habits are sometimes hard to break.  That doesn’t mean that Christ can’t miraculously redeem you from them, but many times we must strive to overcome them through His power…sometimes inch by inch and yard by yard.  Be gentle on yourself as you realign your self-worth with that of Christ’s.  Sometimes we can become our own worst enemy…If Christ believes in you, you too should find some encouragement and confidence to believe in this new creation that is “You”.

#3 Our true Self-Worth is found not in being served but through service! service
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you…” 1 Peter 5:6

“With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love…” Ephesians 4:2

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

Jesus washed His disciple’s feet.
He did this to display how vital humility and servanthood was.
Serving others because of our new identities in Christ is an outpouring of this new self-worth and purpose!
No longer are we tied to what others think of us.
No longer are we tied to a self-indulged lifestyle.
No longer are we tied to a selfish success oriented binge of climbing the corporate ladder.

Fame and fortune (which is temporal) take a back seat to the utter gravity of the Salvation Story.
We find our self-worth in serving others because we long to be like Christ in every way!
When we follow this path of servitude, we further execute our old ideals of self-worth while taking up far more significant and eternally impacting cause!  serve

Sometimes we assume that we have this humility thing all worked out, only to find that we still have miles to go in this journey. Be patient.  This is day by day.  Submitting to Christ completely can be will be difficult…But isn’t identifying with authentic worth…worth it?

So…
How is your own sense of self-worth today?
Has it been tied up with all the wrong things?
Mine has too.
This is a reminder for all of us.
This is a pondering of encouragement also.
Perhaps we can break these old lies of their power over us, and rediscover how God intended us to live all along.

Something more for us all to ponder today!
To God be the glory!

“Cleaning the inside of the Cup”

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.26“You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.” -Matthew 23:25,26
dishes
I hate doing dishes, just ask my wife…There, I’ve said it.
Sometimes I put dishes into the dishwasher and put that  little soap dispenser in and just hope for the best.
Most of the time that little soap dispenser lets me down…but sometimes I get lucky.

We do this too sometimes within our spiritual journeys too.
This passage of scripture may have been originally directed at the Pharisees and “hypocrites”, but it may as well have been directed at us too.
Jesus blasts these teachers and scholars of the Torah.  They know all the right things to do and all the right things to say, but their hearts are far from clean.

Sometimes we just load up our spiritual practices. practice
We just pile up the songs and scriptures and outfits that we wear…and we hope for the best.
Sometimes we get lucky.
Many times we do not.
A lot of the time, it makes us feel hollow and empty inside…almost as if something is missing or somehow, something has been overlooked.

Why?
cupBecause the inside of the “cup” has not been cleaned.
We can polish away at the soft glow of a sparkling clean exterior, but if the interior is still gross and filthy – what good will that polishing do?  I’m sure we can fool everybody.  We can fool even ourselves into thinking we have it made spiritually…but we aren’t fooling God.

News Flash:
You. Can’t. Fool. God!

I’m not saying we don’t sing songs of praise.
I’m not saying we don’t read the scriptures.
I’m not even saying “don’t go to church”.
But if all that we do is for “appearances”…then what’s the point?
If all we do in “worship” is hope that we sound good and “man did that worship team nail that last song“…we’re misguided and we could be avoiding the “camel” for the gnat (Matthew 23:24)…me may have some serious internal issues to deal with.

How is the inside of your cup?
Does it still need work?
Does it still need some cleaning?
A lot of cleaning?

This is a personal thing.
This is deeply personal…and yet this is also a corporate “Church-family” thing too.
Each of us should be mindful first of the condition of our own hearts before we even begin to contemplate the condition of others.

Are you sick of just going through the motions in Church? –So am I!
Are you tired of comparing yourself with others of the faith because they seem to have it all together and you’re just pretending?  -So am I!
Are you ready to do the hard work?
Are you prepared to allow the Holy Spirit to strip away the grime and caked on gunk in your heart?  -Me too.
You see this is the constant work of the Lord.
We must not stop seeking to be like Christ in our lives today.
We must not give up because holiness seems to be so far from where we are right now.

How is your cup?
May you seek Him out.
May you diligently allow Him to reveal and remove the dirt within.
God Bless you today!

-Something more for us all to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

What if we are “doing” Church all wrong?

Have you ever stopped to wonder about why we do what we do in church?
Was this how Jesus did “church”?
Was this how those first disciples and apostles did “church”?
How did some of these practices come to be…and what if we’re doing “Church” all wrong?

Let’s face it – Church is more than a building.
It is more than ceremony and ritual.
It goes deeper than the color of the carpets and how comfortable the pews are.
It is more than how much this entity gives to Missions, World Services and Benevolence funds.

Here are 3 ways (trust me there are more) that could indicate whether we’re going about “Church”
 all wrong:

concertErroneous Concept #1:
It’s all about the music –
Believe it or not, the role of music within the early church consisted more of chants than fancy electronics, strobe lights, amplified guitars and thumping drums. Many times the usage of music was more to bring to mind the works of psalmists and other well known songs of praise from the Torah.  All of these songs or chants pointed to the Almighty.  His deeds.  What He has done for us.

Many people, within a wide demographic, (not just the younger generations) tend to gravitate to those churches that possess a rockin’ worship team.  Many times the focus becomes more about the band playing all of our favorite worship songs than about the content of any scriptural teaching.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE, LOVE music.  I love worship bands and performing/leading worship music…but it shouldn’t become the focus and sole identity to any church.  People should not come and go solely because they like the music or they think the music stinks (or is too loud).  These reason for staying or leaving a church seems to me to be very fickle and shallow.  It almost says to me “I only go to church to be fed and I have no responsibilities other than receiving what I WANT”.   -Don’t even get me started on traditional or contemporary styles either…SERIOUSLY does it truly matter in the grand scheme of things?  It’s a preference, it shouldn’t dictate (or become the sole reason) which church you go to.

entertain meErroneous Concept #2
Church is about MY entertainment…it’s all about the “show”!
It is both a blessing and a bane to grow up in such a media saturated culture.
We spend hours and hours a week on social media sites, we check the weather, sports, latest news feeds via our portable devices (even during church…ahem…)…and so when we view “Church” through THIS lens, we sometimes expect to be entertained at church as if it’s some sort of show.  Why else go to church?  (sarcastic font)  Why else pause our latest episode on some season that we’re currently watching on netflix and come to church?  In our day and age we want entertainment…and so we seek out those churches that “gets it”.  We want videos, and music and drama so that we feel like we could reach for a bag of popcorn while singing “Mighty to save“…don’t choke on that kernel.  (sarcasm again, sorry)

Is that how we truly view God as well?
Some higher divine form, God of the universe,  the “Big Cheese” sent here to “entertain” us?
I mean, beyond the smoke and mirrors, and big screen tv’s and expensive sound systems…what sort of substance is there?  Don’t get me wrong, there are some very slick churches that DO get the message across this way.  I even use videos in my services, but is THIS all that “church” is about?  Have we, in some way, lost our way?  Are we so focused on ways to entertain that we have begun to lose the main reason we gather in the first place?  And what does it say about us when our attention spans are so short that, in our minds, we’re flipping channels and checking our facebook status’ in church during the “boring parts”…oh what’s it called?  Oh, that’s right THE MESSAGE or the teaching, or the sermon…whatever your church calls it.  Could it be that we’re in search of the wrong things in church?  Could it be that we demand these things in our worship while subconsciously we’re look every which way other than in the direction of Jesus?

churchErroneous Concept #3
Church is all about “OUR” Fellowship and edification!
Sometimes our entire focus in Church remains “IN”.
Now, what do I mean by that?
What I mean is that sometimes we stop looking outside of our pretty buildings and fancy sanctuaries.  Sometimes we stop looking into our own communities.   We usually don’t do this on purpose.  It’s just safer this way.  It’s easier to just “hang out” with our church friends.  It can almost become an exclusive social club where outsiders aren’t welcome…and if we do get the occasional visitor, either they fit into our mold or we just pity them.  What happened to becoming “all things to all people”? (1 Corinthians 9:22)  Do we care about others?  Do we still care about the lost?  The hurting?  The broken?  Or do we just wall ourselves up in our churches and expect those that view as sinners and wretches to just come to us if we sing all of the right songs and act in just the right way?   Has the Great Commission taken a back seat to our comfort and safety?

Sometimes we have this division between our “Church life” and our “Work” or “School” or “Social” lives.  Seriously, do we behave differently from one area of our lives to the next?  Do we differentiate and keep these places separated?
When we get to church it can become about not only “entertain me” but this is “My group of friends, My source of strength…not yours”.  It’s easy to fall into this train of thought.  It happens because we crave acceptance with a group, and we don’t really like change.  When new comers come, it upsets the balance of OUR Church.

Were the disciples like this?
Was the early Church a social club?  An internally focused community?
Was it one dimensional like that? -NO.

Sure there is safety in Christian fellowship, and in a way that’s good.
BUT, if this fellowship only benefits you and your group and there is not outward looking focus then we are doing “Church” all wrong!

Questions to consider: 
Who is your church ministering to?
What are the reasons you go to church?
Why do you worship the way that you do?
Are there aspects of your motivation to worship that are misconstrued, improper, shallow?
How can you break these erroneous molds (when they appear) in your church, in your life?

Note: there’s nothing inherently wrong with any of the three things that I mentioned,rather if they become an idol in our worship and n our religious practices then we have issues to contend with.  Be mindful of the true purpose for Church. Be aware of the trappings that surround our practices…and in so doing, perhaps we will regain the proper priorities if they have become lost.

Something more to ponder today.
To God be the glory…far above anything else!
-Amen.

Ps. Thank you for subscribing to http://www.pastorsponders.org
Thank you for your comments and your questions!

Dear Salvation Army, The Angel Said Whaaaaaaat???

(Luke 1:26-45)
Today’s Pondering, Dear Soldier…

It had been a quiet morning as the sun seemingly struggled to wake the slumbering cobwebs from the earth.  This is how Mary always began her day.  She helped her mother prepare the house then it was off to collect water and the list went on… The sun began to pour into their dwelling, rays of gold catching every glimmer and spec of dust falling in the air.  Mary enjoyed these silent, ponderous moments.  Abruptly, her silent moment is caught by the heel and turned upside down in the most remarkable way possible.  Perhaps, years later, she will look back upon her life and identify this as the moment when everything changed.

Her neck hairs stand on end and she immediately knows that she is not alone.  Something behind her catches the eye…movement.  Spinning around swiftly she is caught off guard by the imagery in front of her.  Imagine something not of this earth, strikingly radiant, suddenly appearing in your home.  Wouldn’t you be caught off guard as well?
mary1
She notices beyond the aura of light that a being stands before her.
Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’ An unknown voice calls out.  The being’s voice is deep, confident and strong.  Mary is afraid.  A momentary swell of fear captures her and she is glued in place, unable to move.  Mary peers around for the closest door, her muscles tense as she prepares to escape this fear.  But The angel, for that is what it is, calls out again and says “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,and he will reign over the house of Jacob                                                                                   forever; his kingdom will never end.”  


Whaaaat???

Okay, perhaps Mary’s response wasn’t exactly like that, but a look of concern crosses her face.  How could this be?  She isn’t even married yet.  She is, in fact, still a virgin.  It is unnatural, unheard of, it is just too much to take in all at once.  The Angel had told her not to be afraid and yet she was certainly anxious and afraid.

There in that lowly room so long ago, history was being made.  It didn’t happen to a mighty queen,  nor did it happen to one who was prepared for such a feat…but it happened to a teenage girl, inexperienced in the world, naive and young.  How could this be?  The Savior of the world is placed in the arms, or soon would be, of a young woman.  Think of it!  Mary experiences this theophany of sorts and the symphony of salvation is born to all the world!

I find it interesting that Mary doesn’t refuse the Angel’s announcement, or laugh as Zacharias (Elizabeth’s husband) does.  She takes in this message.  She absorbs the news.  She is strong, much stronger than most…perhaps this is one of the reasons she is chosen to be the mother of Jesus.  It still astounds us today if we contemplate it long enough.  Salvation will be born of a virgin.  Could it be that because of such a concept the Christ is not born into sin as we were?  Could it be that all of the “messiah’s” who came before Jesus, the bloodshed, the violence was all in vain?  Could it be that man’s attempts to find salvation and restoration from sin was imperfect for the lambs they were sacrificing were also imperfect and not enough?  There is much to ponder here today my friends.

Immediately following the proclamation from Gabriel, Mary runs as fast as she can to the nearby village…(was it the same day? Was it immediately, as in ‘that day’?  We don’t know, it just says “at that timeMary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea.) Perhaps she stumbles a few times on the way in her haste to seek out solace and reassurance.   Mary seeks out the comfort of family.  She seeks out someone in whom to confide.  No one will believe that she is still a virgin.  No one will accept such a tale…but family, the trusted few will help, protect and guide.

For Us…faith2
What do we make of this tale?  What do we find reassuring from this record?  Is there not something we can all glean from this?  What does faith look like, dear soldier?  Certainly Mary’s response to the Angel’s proclamation is a indication of courage and faith.  Certainly the mother of Jesus provides us with an example of how we are to respond to the workings of the Lord.  Are we so far removed from this narrative?  Does this not still impact our daily lives?   Mary doesn’t laugh at the Angel.  She doesn’t weep and rebel and refuse to participate in this salvation story…in fact she accepts it and moves forward.  It doesn’t say that her life improves immediately.  I am sure she could not have hidden this pregnancy for too long.  From a pure physical perspective, Mary’s life could have been in danger and at the very least susceptible to all kinds of scorn, gossip and sideways glances.  “Oh look, there goes THAT Girl“.

QUESTIONS:
How do we respond to the leading of the Lord in our lives?
What is our response?
Are we fully submitted to His will or do we still struggle, moaning and groaning within this call?
Can we reflect within this holy narrative today?
Can we find comfort in a mighty God?
Have we forgotten, or taken His holy presence for granted, especially during this busy season?

Prayer:
Dear Lord,
renew us again.  May we respond to you as Mary once did so long ago.  We all face challenges, some large and some small, instill in us Your comfort again no matter what season we are in.  We long to be your people.  We long to give you praise in all things.  Refine us, O Lord.  Restore unto us, this joy of our salvation today!  Reignite our passion to serve you and to reach out to those who are still lost.  O Lord, we can do nothing without your hand upon us.  Journey beside us today.  This we pray.  -Amen.

To God Be The Glory!

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