Category Archives: worship

An Open Letter to an Average Disgruntled Church Member

Dear Disgruntled:

I noticed that coming to church has become something of a dying habit for you (well, to call it a habit might be stretching it a bit; habits do require some sort of consistency). From what I’ve heard, you’ve become disheartened and disillusioned with the whole church “thing.”

Is that true? If it is, my heart breaks for you. Believe me, there’s not a single church-related heartbreak or disappointment I haven’t already endured. However, there is something simple you can do to turn things around.

What you need to do is develop a Christ-like love for your brothers and sisters, then even the worst of disappointments will have a hard time turning your heart cold.

You could start by repeating the following statement over and over: “Because He first loved me… Because He first loved me…” Why? Because He first loved you (1 John 4:19)! Believe it or not, Jesus loved you long before you were loveable…long before you stopped breaking His heart on a daily basis…long before you became perfect and quit messing up.

Wait, you are perfect, aren’t you? No? Wow! And He loves you anyway?

Amazing, isn’t it?

So, if you would just try to love others the way Jesus loves you – faults and all – His Spirit would turn those tears of disappointment into healing streams of grace.

Then, if you’d keep your worship more vertically oriented and less horizontally irritated, there’d be a lot fewer things to complain about.

Loving and missing you,

An Average Pastor (without a jet) 

 

P.S. Service times haven’t changed, and no one has claimed your seat.

 

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Filed under Christian Unity, Church, grace, Struggles and Trials, worship, writing

One Week After FBC Sutherland Springs, Will You Go to Church?

From my Facebook page this morning…

One week ago nearly half a congregation was murdered in church. Sadly, it won’t take a terrorist to scare people away, today – just the weather, the hard pew, or the encouragement to worship a God other than self. Frankly, any excuse will do. But I guarantee you one thing, I’d rather stand before the Lord one day as one of those in Texas than one who died peacefully while shunning the very commandment of God to “forsake not the assembling of yourselves together…”

Remember how your parents or grandparents used to tell you to clean your plate or eat your vegetables because there are starving children somewhere who would love to have what you’re eating? Well, there are millions who would love to have the freedom you enjoy to worship in a church without fear of being arrested, bombed, burned, beheaded, or shot by their own government. To waste the blessing you’ve been given is to dishonor all those who’d give their lives for what you care so little about…

And, frankly, it won’t go unnoticed when we all stand before the Savior and give an account, either.

Pastor Jacques Houeto in the middle of his burned-out church in 2015.

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Filed under Christianity, Church, worship

A Thought for Thursday

Why do we ever treat any day like it’s “just another day”? This day was created by God as a unique, one-of-a-kind event never to be repeated, and possibly our last. Would you treat your last day as any other day?

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Filed under Christian Living, General Observations, grace, Life/Death, wisdom, worship

“Self” Worshippers

“The clearest evidence one worships the god of Self is the degree to which one considers blasphemous the sin of disrespect.” A. Baker

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Filed under Culture Wars, worship

If We Could Only Comprehend!

This morning, as I preach from the third chapter of Ephesians, my prayer for you (and myself) will be the same as what the apostle Paul prayed…

I pray that he may grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:16-19 CSB

Oh, that we might comprehend the the width, the length, the height, and the depth of God’s love through Jesus Christ! If we could only even slightly comprehend the vast, expansive spread before us, mercy and grace for every need; the never-ending, eternal, infinite promise of his love and care; the heights to which we are raised, far above the lowly, humble truth of our natural condition and state; and the the depths of Christ’s love – humble depths to which the love of God had to reach down in order to pluck us from the pit of sin… If we could only even slightly comprehend them!

Yet, through His strength (v. 16), and being rooted and grounded in His love (v. 17), it is possible! Hallelujah! Because He “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according the power that works in us! (v. 20 NKJV)

This morning, and every morning, to God the Father be all glory in the church by Christ Jesus, to all generations, wherever they may be, forever and ever, “world without end” (v. 20).

And all the people said… “AMEN!!” 

 

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Filed under Bible Study, Christianity, Church, Faith, God, Love of God, Preaching, worship

“First” Conviction

Since I first – no pun intended – heard the song “First” by Lauren Daigle, I can’t open my eyes in the morning without the lyrics popping into my head.

Before I bring my need
I will bring my heart
Before I lift my cares
I will lift my arms
I wanna know You
I wanna find You
In every season
In every moment
Before I bring my need
I will bring my heart
And seek You

(chorus)
First
I want to seek You
I want to seek You
First
I want to keep You
I want to keep You
First
More than anything I want, I want You
First

Believe it or not, these very lyrics convict me like crazy. They have affected me so much I’ve even re-ordered the order of service on Sunday mornings at the church where I pastor. And speaking of pastoring, or preaching, read the words to the second verse…

Before I speak a word
Let me hear Your voice
And in the midst of pain
Let me feel Your joy
I wanna know You
I wanna find You
In every season
In every moment
Before I speak a word
I will bring my heart
And seek You

I wake up each morning, no joke, hearing Lauren Daigle’s powerful, Spirit-empowered voice exploding out the first word of the chorus… “First!”

This morning was no different, and that is why I am sharing this with you. Are you putting God first in your life? Are you putting Him first every day, every moment, before your own desires or needs? Are we not commanded by Him to “Seek ye first…?”

I don’t want to wake up each morning with guilt, but so often the first things on my mind are  coffee, checking my messages, going to the bathroom, letting the dog out, or hitting the snooze button one more time. I need to work a little more – as in working out my salvation – on growing my love for and dependence on the One who should take priority in every area of life.

It might be easier on a Sunday morning, but what about Monday? What about the next holiday morning? What about when you’re running late, or want to sleep in?

We talk about putting “first things first” all the time, but will you strive along with me to put the Lord first, before everything?

He is worthy. 

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Filed under worship

Imperfect Me

Are any of you perfect? You might think you are, but I’d bet you’re not. I know I’m not. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty messed up.

Just today I was reminded how flawed I am. I’ve screwed up so much it ain’t even funny.

For one, I got into a heated argument with my wife which led me to say things in anger, things I wish I’d not said. Two, it was made obvious that I’ve made some poor decisions in parenting, some of which will haunt me till the day I die. Third, I’ve made some bad decisions in my past, and tonight I wish I could roll back time (cue the Cher music).

On top of all the above, I’m facing issues for which I have no good answers, and I’m not even sure there are any. Do you know how helpless that can make one feel?

Wednesday night I shared an impromptu sermon based on something I had written earlier in the day, and today I was reminded of it. I had been to the church parsonage and seen the work being done, took a picture, and wrote the following.

This a blessing to behold, and further confirmation that God is not only doing something now, but will be doing something more in the future to bring glory to the wonderful name of Jesus.

And to be honest, I’m as clueless as anyone to what plans the Lord has for this little old church, but plans He has. We are just going to be faithful, prayerful, worshipful, and hopeful (not with an earthly hope, but one that rests in His promises that never fail)!”

Faithful. Just keep doing what’s right, even when it’s hard. Don’t be like the one who gets inpatient and steps out in his own strength to accomplish what is not in God’s timing. The results of faithless action never produce a positive outcome. See Proverbs 28:20.

Prayerful. If Dory had been a Christian fish, she might have said, “Just keep praying, praying, praying.” Pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17).

Worshipful. God deserves our worship. But not only that, some of the Israelite’s greatests battles were won when, instead of swords and spears, the first line of offence – their Spec Ops Choir – carried trumpets and lyrics into combat.

Hopeful. Why be worshipful? Why praise? Because we have a hope that is different from the world’s kind, the kind that is more like wishful thinking – like, “Now that I’ve picked the numbers, I HOPE I win the lottery.” No, we can be hopeful in fact, because God’s promises, when made, are as good as done – actually, they’re already done – in Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20)!

I’m not perfect. I’m not a source of unfailing wisdom. I’m not the best husband, father, preacher, pastor, or anything. I have no clue how God is going to get glory from what He has planned to accomplish in my life, but I’ve read the first chapter of Ephesians, and one promise is that I’m going to bring him glory and praise (v. 12). It’s as good as done!

And, even though I feel pretty weak and helpless, He wants me to understand that what’s going to be accomplished will not be determined by my own ability, but His “exceeding greatness and power” which raised Jesus from the dead (Ephesians 1:18-20)!

So, even though I’m not perfect (which is an understatement), my faith is in One who is, and He keeps his promises (Prov. 22:6; Isaiah 55:11; Matt. 16:18).

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Depression, Life Lessons, Parenting, Relationships and Family, self-worth, worship