Romans 3:23 is one of the first Bible verses that many people hear and learn on their way to accepting Christ as their savior. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That verse sets a standard. None of us has gone through life to this point without having sinned. We see it in others, and even if we don’t recognize it in our own lives, others see it in us. Some are comfortable continuing in a life of sin, but most people want to remove it from their lives. The problem is that there doesn’t seem to be a guide anywhere for how to remove sin from your life.
I was struck by something as I read from Colossians this morning. We want to know how to remove sin, but maybe we should be learning to remove ourselves from sin. Joseph did that in Potiphar’s house to avoid sin. He got himself out of the situation. Cyclical sins are harder to get away from though; those sins that we find ourselves repeating over and over again. Generational sins that have plagued our families are difficult to run away from.
It is the Wednesday of Passion (or Holy) Week and a thought struck me as I was preparing for our student worship night tonight. As I often do when reviewing songs for a worship service, I began singing other worship songs in my head after I put my guitar down. Jesus at the Center.
Jesus at the center of it all
Jesus at the center of it all
from beginning to the end
it will always be
it’s always been You Jesus.
How often do I allow other things to push Jesus out of the center of my life?
The story has always been about Jesus. “In the beginning was The Word (Jesus)…” (John 1:1).
He was there at the dawn of creation and in every situation ever since.
From the fall to the flood to the cross where He shed blood, to this exact moment in time, Jesus is.
But there is so much for us to do, and so much going on, that outside of special times we all try to move beyond.
Beyond complete dependency to rely on our own strength.
Beyond a true heart of worship to fix our eyes on what we want.
Beyond faith that can move mountains just to hear the diagnosis.
Beyond patience for God to move because we don’t have the time.
But from beginning to end, there is one constant. Jesus.
I can’t believe how long it has been since I’ve written. I’ve journaled off and on, written “net outs” (one page book reports) for class, rewrote a couple of messages, and plenty of texts and emails over the past six months, but haven’t written anything else. I have not blogged. I have not even looked at the book I started. I haven’t written any new songs or even one line of lyrics. You could say it is a moment of writer’s block. But it is a different kind of writer’s block that has been missing from the equation.
It’s not that I haven’t wanted to, or thought about doing those things. I just haven’t been struck with inspiration when the time has been available. When the time has been available, I haven’t had the motivation to write. Right now, I have the time and the motivation, but little inspiration.
What is The Church? I mentioned in my post, The Importance of The Church, that I like to close the services at Crossroads Church – Bridgeville by saying “…be The Church…” but it occurs to me that those words may be an abstract concept to some, if not most. It’s easy to understand what it is to go to church, but what does it mean to be The Church?
Many of us who grew up in church were taught a little hand trick…
Here is the church,
here is the steeple.
Open the doors
and see all the people.
But a better description of The Church would be “Here is a building that’s topped with a steeple. Open the doors, The Church is the people.” Gathering with other followers of JESUS and bringing others with you is an important part of our Christian faith tradition, and an important aspect of being a part of The Church, but it is not what it means to be The Church.
Church is not a place you go on Sunday. It is not a building with a killer worship band and crazy fun kids rooms. Church is not pews or chairs aimed towards a stage where a preacher teaches from GOD’S Word. Church is the Body of Christ. Church is the nation of disciples called by HIS Name. Christians are the Church. The Church has had a tainted image in the view of a growing number of people in our nation though.
“I like your Christ, but I don’t like your Christians.”
“I believe in God, but I don’t like organized religion.”
“The church is too hypocritical, so I just live my faith on my own.”
Those may not be precise quotes, but I have heard lines like that many times. Whether or not people believe in JESUS as their LORD and SAVIOR, an increasing number of them are against the idea of an established church, or disregard its importance at the very least. For some it is a season of rebellion from what they grew up within, whereas others have been deeply hurt and cannot bring themselves to find forgiveness. Still other people just choose to not believe in GOD for any number of reason.
Has anyone ever said something that stuck with you for a long time. You might not have even noticed how it impacted you until months later, and then you remember in an instant those words that branded your heart. I’ve been thinking a lot about something a friend told me when I stopped to visit him at his car wash. He was working on fixing a part for one of the automatic wash bays and asked me if I needed my car washed. I politely declined as we were walking out of his shop and he offered again to send me through the wash. His continued desire to send my car through the wash is not what stuck with me though. It was the words he spoke as he handed me a coupon for a free wash.
“We can’t have you representing The Kingdom with a dirty car.”
I honestly did not think my car was even that dirty, but he insisted that I start in a self-serve bay to be sure that I got the bugs off the front. Regardless of how clean or dirty my car actually was, I had not thought about its condition as a representation of the Kingdom of God. I have strong desire for excellence in everything that I do, but that desire never permeated other areas of my daily life.
The following is an excerpt from the first chapter of a book that I am currently working on…
I think a majority of people have a tendency to see GOD in one of three ways that do not reflect a true image of who He really is. It’s as though we see HIM through the reflections of the curved mirrors in a funhouse. There is some truth in what we see, but it is distorted and we believe the distorted view instead of what is true. We might see GOD as a power-hungry tyrant that causes pain in our lives just to see how we will react. Maybe we see HIM more like our sugar daddy or genie-in-a-bottle, ready to give us whatever we want or wish for. I think the most common mirror we look at GOD through is the mirror of ourselves. We see Him in our own image rather than HIS own image that has always been and will always remain unchanged.
When we try to add our own perception to GOD, it is like adding tetrahydrozoline to pure water. Tetrahydrozoline is the chemical compound found in eyedrops that can cause serious problems with the nervous system or even death if ingested. It is a tainted view of GOD that is poisonous to the soul. Adding anything to the GOSPEL is just as bad as subtracting from it. To add the GOSPEL subtracts the life that it promises. Conversely, sometimes our misperceptions about who GOD really is come from seeing less than all that HE is. It is as if we are looking at only one or two facets of a diamond without appreciating the fullness of beauty that can only be seen through the intricate complexities of the entire diamond as a whole. To know GOD by only a few of HIS characteristics is to not fully know HIM.
Like many other parts of my life, my prayer life has gone through different seasons and changes. The prayers of my youth were often centered around my selfish desires. Even that first prayer in kindergarten to ask JESUS into my heart was a fire insurance prayer. I don’t want to burn in hell so I better pray that JESUS saves me and takes me to heaven. I would pray for the salvation of others too, but most of my prayers were about things that I wanted for myself. GOD, help me with this test. LORD, please get me out of this speeding ticket. Help me with this. Please provide that.
There was a season of prayer when I focused on the a.c.t.s. prayer. adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication. I think the season of selfish prayers rolled into the a.c.t.s. season though because the adoration, and confession were the shortest parts of those prayers, and the supplication was always the easiest.
The first course correction came when i left my job of fourteen years at the end of january to embark on a new journey that I felt GOD was calling me on. I heard HIM call me, and i’ve continued to hear HIM call me since my early years in high school. There were seasons of my life when things weren’t panning out that i began to doubt. I even got to the point of telling myself that i made up that story in high school because i wanted to be something that i wasn’t. But even then, GOD never stopped calling me.
The second course correction came five months later when it became increasingly clear that i was not going to stay in the place that i left my old job for. The excitement had faded and i had lost my traction trying to push through issues that i was not originally aware of. Both my wife and i, as well as trusted friends, recognized that it was time to change again, but this time i didn’t have a new job waiting for me.