In just a few short weeks my family will be taking a couple weeks of holidays going to beautiful British Columbia. I am really looking forward to this time of seeing family and friends and just being about to have some time away. It is not that I don't like to work in fact, I love what I do and the people I get to spend time with. It is just that as much as we have been programmed to work, we've also been programmed to rest (see Genesis 1-2). Some times, the resting part comes easy like looking ahead to vacation time or counting down the days until retirement.
But more often than not, working is what comes more readily to us. We like the idea of rest but we feel compelled to work. I don't think it is uncommon for many of us to work 50-60 hours a week without even knowing it (I am guilty of this on occasion). The mentality of society says that we have to keep going, keep keeping up with everyone else around us and the only way to do that is by spending more time working. I would argue that we are being conditioned to work 24/7 especially now that we can carry our work in our pockets wherever we go (who's not guilty of checking a work email just before you crawl into bed?).
Unfortunately, this working mentality has made its way into the church. The most obvious way it presents itself is in the amount of time we have to give to Jesus. Where we once were able to give a couple nights a week to church activities, we are now find it hard to give an hour (and only an hour!) to the Lord on Sunday mornings. The bigger issue might be the mentality of working that has crept into our churches. We have bought into the notion that we always have to be doing something--there's always more work to be done (and in some ways, this is true). But this expresses itself in the push for new programs, new ways of doing the service, always doing something to try to attract more people.
This push to keep doing is leading us all to fatigue. The few that are very active in the church are stretched to capacity while those who are not very active think they can't possible measure up. We have fallen into the trap of a works based religion. We tell ourselves (usually subconsciously) that if we aren't actively sharing/talking about Jesus every minute of every day then we are failing; if we aren't doing all that we can to build/save the church then we are not worthy followers of Jesus
We have fallen into the trap of a works based religion.
But the good news is that is not what the church is supposed to be about! Sure, in Matthew 28 Jesus tells his disciples to Go and make disciples... we always focus on the verbs in that verse which make it sound like the mission is up to us. When we make that our focus we forget that Jesus declared that he has all authority in heaven and on earth and that he will be with us always (in the person of the Holy Spirit pointing us to Christ). It is not up to us to convert the world or to fill the church. It is the Holy Spirit's job to call the world to Christ using His hands and feet- the body of Christ, the church. The assurance is in the power authority of Jesus as expressed in the Spirit who sustains the church and keeps it focused on Jesus Christ.
Instead of striving and working to try to 'save the church' simply listen (which requires we put the work aside for a time). Listen for the voice of God through the Holy Spirit and be ready to move where He leads.
Image: Public Domain: CC0 http://pixabay.com/en/man-person-business-businessman-319286/
As I was doing my devotions out of the book of 1 Kings (yes, people actually read that book) this morning I came upon the passage where Solomon dedicates the temple he built to the Lord. The Lord replies with a promise of blessing and a warning (as good Lutherans know He is want to do). He promises to establish Solomon's line forever if Solomon walks with integrity before the Lord. But then comes the part that I tripped over. I'll quote it here in its entirety:
But if you or your sons turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to
serve other gods and worship them, then I will...reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples....though this temple is now imposing, all who pass by will be
appalled and will scoff and say, 'Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple? People will
answer, 'Because they have forsaken the Lord their God, who brought their fathers out of Egypt, and have embraced other
gods, worshiping and service them--- that is why the Lord brought all this disaster on them. 1 Kings 9:6-9 [bold mine].
Wow. Harsh words, especially in a society where we don't like to think about God's judgment. You might be saying, that's all well and good, but what has this to do with me? God laid on my heart that we, as the North American church are part of that imposing temple. We have build for ourselves a comfortable and grand institution. When you stop to think about it you see just how imposing it has been. Simply look at the church's revenue (not pointing the finger at just one church group) or the sway its held within government or the social conscience it has been. These are all well and good but do they miss the point?
As the church continues in what appears to be a never ending free-fall, becoming ridiculed by all peoples, what is the Lord trying to say to us? Is He bringing ruin upon the imposing institution of the church (note the word institution, we have the sure promise of Jesus that the Spirit will keep and sustain the church, overcoming all in Matthew 16:18)? Is He calling us to turn from the things that distract us and return to Him with integrity and uprightness? YES!
God does not delight in judgment but He uses it as a means of last resort to call His people to repentance (read the entire Old Testament and see what I mean!). May we see how our imposing temple distract from the Goodnews of the Kingdom and return to the Lord with our whole heart, delighting in His mercy, receiving His grace, and being strengthened by the Holy Spirit to persevere in truth and holiness as we proclaim the abundant life that is ours in Christ Jesus!
Before coming to Leader, I never really had an appreciation for rain. Sure, I lived in a region that regularly receives rain, I mean a ridiculous amount of rain. We're talking somewhere around 170 days of the year where there is measurable precipitation to the tune of 60" (yes, 5 feet!). When you are inundated by rain, you have a tendency to take it for granted and even complain about it. But in a place like this where everything revolves around and is dependent on moisture we eagerly await and even long for the life giving rain.
During this most recent rainfall, I could see people's expressions change. Even though it was dark and gloomy outside, people were rejoicing in the water falling from heaven. That got me thinking about our relationship with God. In many places throughout Scripture, the Lord is referred to as life-giving water, most dramatically in John 7 where He invites, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them." Jesus is repeating the Father's invitation from Isaiah 55:1, "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters."
In North America, we are surrounded by a plethora of options with which to encounter God. There are too many Bible translations to count, churches on every street corner to meet every possible person (for better and worse), and 'spiritual gurus' permeating the media. We are inundated with access to God. And yet, it seems that we take God for granted more and more everyday.
God invites us to come. To come to Him and drink. To come to him and receive the Spirit which is the streams that flow out from us. The invitation is there, we are inundated by it. Let's not take it for granted; instead, let's celebrate each time the Spirit fills us as we are drawn back to the life-giving relationship with Jesus our Lord.
Image: Public Domain. http://pixabay.com/en/rain-raindrops-window-glass-72914/
On Sunday June 8, we celebrated Pentecost Sunday. It is the day marking the birth of the church in the power of the promised Spirit of God. It is a day of celebration; a day of rejoicing in the powerful potential of the Church of Jesus Christ which is equipped to speak words of truth, healing, and life to the whole world as nothing else can. It is also a day in which the church prays for a fresh renewal, an outpouring of that same Spirit which came at Pentecost to be made real and alive to us today.
However, the power, the renewal, the promise of life isn't restricted to just Pentecost Sunday. It should be our desire to receive a fresh outpouring of the life giving Spirit everyday. Our church year helps to remind us of the importance of having this prayer at the centre of our lives. Until the middle of November we will be in the Season of Pentecost (only interrupted by a few Festival Sundays). Spending so much time in the Season of Pentecost, also called Ordinary Time, can leave us feeling complacent and well, ordinary. Much of the season takes place during the summer months when church activities slow down and many people are away on holidays; it can start to feel kind of dead around here. And yet, over the next 23 Sundays, we will focus on the life of the church; its hope, its promise, its mission in the world. The excitement and power of Pentecost Sunday carries forward to each day of our lives as the Holy Spirit draws us into a new relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ.
So while we may be in the season of Ordinary Time, it is my prayer that our time would not just be ordinary but that it would be a season of refreshing, renewal, and of life as we set our eyes on Jesus eagerly following where He leads.
Pastor J-M shares some occasional thoughts and musings on our life together as followers of Christ. The views are his own.