Stuck in the House


Well, today marks the second day that the schools have been closed and people have been hunkered down enduring the cold. Many people are looking towards tomorrow when the temperatures will begin to rise and it will start to feel more like east Texas again. I actually love this cold weather and would be OK with it sticking around for awhile, but I know I am in the minority opinion on that. Many of you reading this are trying not to go stir crazy. You have binge watched T.V. shows on Netflix as you sat by the fire, you have read books and done numerous other things to try and pass the time. There are undoubtedly parents with small children who are on the verge of a nervous breakdown today, because their children have been cooped up inside for far too long.

As I sit in my office thinking about all of this I can’t help but to think about the parallels that exist within our Christian life. You see many of us live our lives in Christ like we are stuck in the house during bad weather. That is to say that we are just trying to get by. We have decided that the best thing for us to do is just endure. We are OK with not getting out and fully living this new life given to us by Christ. We see the difficulty of this life and feel like we are justified to just wait it out, but let me remind you that God did not save you to leave you stuck in the house. Sure, things might not be ideal. They may even be miserable at times, like this weather is to many people right now, but God is greater than the circumstances we face. That same God has equipped you in Christ Jesus not to stay stuck in the safety of your “Christian bubble,” but to accomplish the work He has given you to do. Ephesians 2:8-10 states, For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” My prayer for you is that you would walk in the good works Christ Jesus created for you to do, and not live your life stuck in the house. If you have been made new by the power of the gospel then God has equipped you to be His hands and feet. He has equipped you to glorify His name by bringing the light into the darkness. Remember believer you have been equipped and there are no bad weather days in the kingdom of God, so let’s not be found stuck in the house. 

Finally, as you seek to live this new life in Christ may the words of Colossians 3:16-17 guide you, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.



The word missions is a word often used within the church to describe a variety of things. In many churches, anything done outside of the church building takes on the label, “missions.” In one sense I understand why, after all, much of what we do has some sort of missional component implicitly connected to it but in another sense, I see this as a big problem. I think it is imperative for us, as the Church, to not lose sight of the difference between outreach and missions, especially as it relates to the call of the church.

Traditionally, when we speak of missionaries and mission work, we are speaking of people who have given up the comforts of home to serve God elsewhere, specifically to bring the good news of the gospel to those who have not heard. William Carey, Adoniram Judson, David Livingstone, Hudson Taylor, Lottie Moon, Jim Elliot, Eric Liddell and many other men and women are examples of those who gave their lives so that others may know the truth of the gospel and be saved. These men and women inspire us and give weight to the words of Jesus when He called us to pick up our cross and follow Him. To study the lives of these people reminds us of the true work of the gospel and the cost associated with it.

However, with this in mind, if we are honest, much of what we do is not really mission work, at least not like that of those mentioned. Much of what we do in the church today is about doing good deeds for people and serving them. This is not to discount the importance of meeting the needs of people, it is what we see modeled by Jesus at various times throughout His ministry, but while it is good and important it is also incomplete.

You see, to just help people and be kind to them, doesn’t mean they have been given the gospel. Maybe they have experienced the outworking of the gospel seen in your life as you served them, but they still have not experienced the gospel. If we are to be a missional people we need be a people who are concerned with more than just doing good things. We need to be a people who are concerned with more than just serving others. Both of these things are important, but neither of these things are in themselves missional.

Let’s face it, many people in our world are very kind toward others without ever loving God. There are relief agencies and generous people who give of their time and resources to help others and to do good things in this world but yet have nothing to do with the things of God. Some of the most ungodly celebrities, athletes, and wealthy people give much to help others and make a difference in this world. So, with that being said, we can’t just think that doing good is the same things as sharing the gospel.

As a pastor, I desire for the people of God to serve, not just every once and awhile, but all the time. If you live in the world then you are constantly confronted with opportunities to serve those around you. You are constantly offered opportunities to make a difference and you should take advantage of those opportunities. I hope that we would seek to cultivate an environment that was marked by people serving others not just because of a workday or because someone is watching but rather out of a sincere desire to serve as though serving Christ. (Eph. 6:7)

While we should be a people who serve, I would hope for us to be a people who are burdened for the lost and desire to share the gospel. We should not only be a people who are defined by service but a people who are defined by missions. As we serve and as we partner with people who are serving, my heart’s desire is that we would be a people who are always looking for ways to share the truth of the gospel, for only the gospel has the power to save. Only the gospel has the power to ultimately help those who are in need.

It is this desire that leads me, along with our leadership team, to evaluate what we do missionally as a church. We often ask ourselves the question, how does this enable us to share the gospel with those who are lost? As a church, we should be about the work of the Kingdom of God first and foremost. Therefore, we should be a people who are always seeking to be missional as we live our lives together in Christ. This means that the organizations we partner with missionally need be organizations that have a burden for the gospel as well and have the gospel at the center of their ministry.

We are always open to how the Lord might lead us to partner with organizations who have a burden for the gospel as we do. Over the last year, the Lord has placed two such organizations in our lives, both of which are doing the work of the gospel in Africa. The first organization is ‘Empower One’. It is a ministry that seeks to bring the gospel to the estimated 20 million Sudanese people who have not yet heard the good news of Jesus. About two years ago a representative from ‘Empower One’ spoke to our church on a Wednesday Night and then this past November six of us from the church had the opportunity to attend their annual banquet in Dallas. Our church has already helped them in building a kitchen in South Sudan at their school facilities where they are teaching children and training pastors for the work of the gospel.

The second organization is the Central Africa Baptist College in Zambia. Many of you met the Ilunga family while they were here on furlough. Allan Ilunga is the head of the chaplaincy department at the college and teaches and trains chaplains there in Zambia. Along with his chaplaincy training in Zambia, Allan goes into the Congo to preach the gospel and distribute the Word of God. The college and the various ministries connected to it are focused on spreading the true gospel in an area where the prosperity gospel and African spiritualism, dressed up like Christianity, have run rampant. Many people speak of Christianity in Africa but understand something very different from the truth found in the Word of God.

This year we have been given the opportunity to visit both of these ministries so that we may see first-hand the work of the gospel being done there. This will also enable us to pray more effectively about how the Lord may be leading us to partner with these organizations. I would ask that you pray for me and the small groups going on these two trips. I will be headed to Uganda in October to come alongside ‘Empower One’ as we visit the refugee camps which are housing many Sudanese people who have been displaced because of civil war. Then in November I have been invited to speak at a leadership conference being hosted at Central Africa Baptist College in Kitwe, Zambia. I will have the opportunity to share with pastors who are doing the work of the gospel in various parts of Africa. At the same time, we will have the opportunity to see the ministry of the college and the impact they are having not only in Zambia but all throughout Africa. I would ask that you pray for these trips. Pray specifically that The Lord would provide the resources needed to go, for safety as the teams travel, (especially during the Uganda trip), that The Lord would give clarity regarding our level of involvement as a result of the trips, and most of all, pray that God may be glorified and that people would be saved as a result of the mission efforts of these two organizations.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Mike


“A Family Dinner Table”

I recently read a quote by Mark Dever who is the pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. He stated, “The difference between ‘going to church’ and going to your own church is the difference between a restaurant and a family dinner table.” This quote got me to thinking about what it means to be a part of a church in today’s culture and society. With so many things that compete for our time, and so many forms of entertainment at our disposal what role does the church play in the life of a believer, and what role should it play?

I grew up in a family that valued a sense of loyalty. As a result loyalty has always been a big deal to me. My Father use to say, “blood is thicker than water.” What he meant was that you have to be loyal to your family, and you should never chose friends over family. That sense of loyalty, especially in regards to family, has always been deeply implanted in me as a result of my upbringing. In general, I have such a sense of loyalty that I am the kind of person who will pay a few more dollars to a company simply because of a sense of loyalty that I feel towards them after years of service. I will endure difficulties with people because I feel a desire to be loyal to them even when it is hard. I will root for my sports team even if they go 1-15 (and they have).

Unfortunately this deep sense of loyalty does not appear to be common in our culture today, and as a result I am often left feeling like a dinosaur when it comes to this subject. If I may chase a rabbit for minute, take television providers for example. As a new customer with many companies you are entitled to certain discounts and benefits if you will enter into a contract, yet when you go to renew that contract those discounts and benefits will no longer be available. But, if you cancel and go to another provider you can get the benefits and discounts by entering into a contract with them. If this isn’t crazy enough after that contract is up you can go back to your original provider and get discounts and benefits as a new customer again. How crazy is that! They not only refuse to reward loyalty they encourage a system that helps you benefit by being disloyal.

At this point you may be asking yourself the question, what in the world does any of this have to do with what this blog is about? Well, I have half-jokingly said many times that I always appreciate the church member who says to me I was here before you got here and I will be here after you leave. Now, to be sure, I don’t appreciate what that often infers about me, but what I do appreciate is what that infers about them, namely that they are loyal to their church. Their loyalty to their church is not dictated by whether they like everything or even agree with everything, instead their loyalty is founded in the deep sense of belonging they feel. This sense of belonging is rooted, I believe, in a sense of family. This is the family that God has given them, and you don’t just walk out on family without a good reason, so they won’t even if that means they have to put up with me 😉

You see I can’t help but wonder if this is not one of the things that is missing from today’s church culture. I can’t help but wonder whether we have lost our ability to appreciate that deep sense of family that is found within a local church? And, whether we have lost a desire to even cultivate that deep sense of family within the local church? With all the other things to distract us and pull us away, are we forsaking the good gifts of God that are only experienced in the local church? Over the years as a pastor I have watched the church walk alongside hurting families through difficulties and heartaches. I have watched the church laugh, cry, celebrate and mourn with part of its family. Yet I have also watched as many of those who have experienced that sense of family walk right out the door, never to be seen again.

Now please do not misunderstand, there are times when it is appropriate and God honoring to leave. There are times when you would be dishonoring the family that God has given you by staying, and there are times when God is calling you to something else and as a result you would be dishonoring God to stay. There are many good reasons to leave a church, and these are not the things I am thinking of as I write this.

When thinking about the original quote that started all of this I want to share with you what Justin Childers (pastor of my former church) had to say. He wrote, “One of the aspects of this analogy that should challenge us is this: at a family meal, we have to contribute (cook, clean, host, etc). And we have to put up with that crazy uncle. But at a restaurant someone waits on us and cleans up after us…all we do is consume (and we choose who we sit with). Far too many people just attend church for this reason. They don’t want to contribute and be responsible for the life and health of the church. They just want to keep their distance…just in case there is another restaurant they want to try out.”

I wonder if this is not true of the church today in America. I wonder if what Pastor Justin has said is true of more of us than we would care to admit. Have we lost our sense of loyalty because we treat church more like a restaurant and less like a family meal? Have we as the church done a bad job of teaching people, and raising up a generation of people, to view their role in church as a participant and not simply as a recipient? Have we started making our churches look more like restaurants and less like family gatherings? When I think of these questions I can’t help but to ponder the scriptures in 1 Corinthians and Romans that speak of the church as a body. When we read those descriptions we see a connectedness that is hard to ignore. If what is described in those passages is true then there is a real sense of investment we should feel, as parts of the body, shouldn’t we? As a part of the body there should be a sense of obligation to contribute, as well, right? With that being said I wonder, what would our church look like if we took seriously the gifts God has given us in each other? What would our church look like if we all began to view it more as a family dinner table and less like a restaurant?  This analogy is so rich and full of many beautiful take-a-ways.

I don’t write these things to point my finger. Instead, I write these things to invite us to think more deeply about one of the greatest gifts we who are in Christ have been given, the church. If I am honest I have often thought to little of this amazing gift. I am grieved to think of all the ways over my walk with Christ that I have viewed my church wrongly. As a pastor, I am grieved to think of the ways I may have contributed to this in one way or another. This thought leads me to pray, and I hope would lead you to as well. It leads me to pray for myself, and to pray for God’s church. I pray that God would continue to develop in me a deep sense of love and commitment to His church. I pray that I would see more clearly the church that God has placed me in as a beautiful family dinner table and not a franchise restaurant. I pray that I would find joy in the family God has given me (even with her flaws), and I pray you would as well.

Grace and Peace,

Michael Meadowslong_table_bypermissionofeatingalabama

The Heart of Crave

1 Peter 2:2-3 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

With the new school year upon us, Crave Student Ministries is eagerly awaiting the opportunity to welcome brand new “Cravers”! However, with the passion of Crave not only being in the service to students but their families as well, we also eagerly await the brand new Crave parents!

Nonetheless, I am aware that this time can cause more angst and anxiety in the parent’s heart than anyone can fully understand. The thought of my 6th grader entering into a stage of discipleship and worship alongside a 12th grader definitely weighed heavy on my heart just 12 months ago…and I’m “in charge” of his experience as well as everyone else’s! Therefore, I can only imagine the trepidation that is on the hearts of those parents entering into this transition now.

With that in mind, allow me to share with you the heart of Crave Student Ministries. Several years and two student ministers ago the passage above, 1 Peter 2:2, was adopted as the central scripture that captures the heart of this student ministry. At the core, our prayer is that each student in Crave begins to or continues to yearn to draw closer to their Savior. However, we recently added the third verse in this passage as it brings to light a very real truth reflected in the ministry that God has cultivated here.

First, let us consider what is actually being “craved”. In verse 2 we see that we, believers, are called to crave pure spiritual milk. If we’re not careful this phrase can be lost on us and easily filed in the drawer labeled “Christian Jargon.” What can that possibly mean? I know milk, and I love the 100% whole, vitamin D, gotta shake it up every time but not too long because you might make butter, milk. But, I’ve never seen “pure spiritual milk” on the shelves of our local store. We have to dig a bit deeper to answer this question.

Verse 1 of this passage begins with “So…”, so…lets go back a bit further. If we do, we’ll see an exhortation for believers to set their minds and hope on the grace that saved them, and to live holy lives with our hearts being made new by the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. But we’ll also see Chapter 1 end with this reminder: “And this word is the good news that was preached to you.”

This word…the word of the Gospel, the good news. How much more pure can any word be? Furthermore, how much nourishment can be had at that very news of grace, mercy, life, and holiness in Him? We are called to crave that pure spiritual milk, His word, His good news. But not so that we may forever be bound to the “dairy isle of life.” The whole purpose of this call may also be lost on us as well. If we’re not careful, we’ll easily be tossed too and from congregations and local churches based on whether or not we’re “being fed.” I’ve been lost in this sensation and can easily see where others may be as well; nonetheless, we cannot settle for this immature and incomplete call. We have to see the later part of this verse- “that by it you may grow up into salvation…”.

There’s a purpose! That we may grow up! This is not a stagnant call for us, nor is it ever described as such in scripture. If we want to be really convicted, lets read Hebrews 5:12 “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” But wait! Now milk is bad? Absolutely not! But what are we doing with it? Imagine if your diet, as a growing, maturing person, consisted solely of milk. You wouldn’t be growing much! Nor will our faith and our sanctification if we continue to bounce around between the “all-you-can-eat-spiritual-buffets”! 

So, what’s the heart of Crave? That our students and families may seek to draw closer to God through his word and Gospel, preparing their minds for action, living their lives in pursuit of the holiness brought about by the Spirit, with their hearts fixed upon the salvation paid for by the Son. This preparation, cultivation, and adoration can be found any time Crave comes together, especially on Sunday mornings and evenings as we seek to dig deeper in His word through small group studies and discussions.

However, let us not forget the “if.” This is so very important. “… if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” The very truth is not everyone who worships together in Crave has tasted that the Lord is good. As a matter of fact, I would dare say that there is a portion of those who will rebel against that very declaration. And we have been given the awesome honor of walking down this path and opening the word with them, all the while, praying that they are overcome by the grace that saves.

This is seen, more so than any other time, on Wednesday evenings. We have the pleasure of coming together to worship our Father with many students and parents from across the county and each school district in our area. The real truth of the matter is that there will be some in the group that have not surrendered to Christ’s lordship, and far be it for me to assume that much of any one particular person who gathers with us. Therefore, Wednesday evenings take on much more of an awesome outreach intent for our county and area! This can be seen in our fellowship, intentional focus on building relationships, student-led praise, and a significant emphasis on preaching the word.

Reflecting on the charge put forth in Colossians 3:16-17, Crave seeks to come together in praise and worship of our Father to His glory. In doing so, we pray that each student and parent grows in up in their salvation as they crave His word. For those that have tasted, our prayer is that they begin to teach His amazing truth in due time. For those that have not tasted, we pray for that day of celebration when repentance is made and salvation is experienced.

To those families beginning this transition- welcome, come on in and buckle up! I pray that this will be an exciting ride for all of us!

What’s your favorite verse?

What Is Your Favorite Verse?


“What is your favorite Bible verse”? is a common question in church circles. I’m sure most all of us have been asked to answer that question or have been given the opportunity to share a favorite scripture in a class or during a testimony time. How many of these special verses are underlined in our Bibles or have notes written beside them in the margin? The sincere Christian knows the value of the word of God, that it is our greatest weapon in confronting the flesh, the world, and Satan as well as our surest source of comfort, guidance, and strength. It is the “lamp to our feet and the light to our path” and I have, “hidden [it] in my heart that I may not sin against you.” I would venture to guess that the majority of us have scriptures gracing our homes in the form of doormats, mantel decorations, framed artwork, refrigerator magnets, embroidery pieces, couch throws, etc. We see the value of the word of God and we want these things to be a reminder to us and a testimony to others of the importance of scripture for our lives.

There can be a danger though in searching out verses for a particular need or pulling out a verse from a passage as a “stand-alone” scripture. Not knowing the greater context of a scripture can lead to poor interpretation or misapplication of a verse or it can keep us from reaping the full impact of that verse for our lives. As we study the Bible we should be careful to study a section as a whole in order to see how each verse fits in that context. As we look at what is being said we should ask ourselves some questions such as; who is writing this, to whom is it being written, what are the circumstances in which it is being written, what possible cultural elements are there that affect the writing, what is the overall purpose of the passage, what greater truths are being taught, what style of literature is it, is this directly or indirectly applicable to Christians today…? The answers to these and other questions can help us to have a fuller grasp of scripture. Most books of the Bible were meant to be read as a whole. There is a story line, so to speak, from beginning to end. To pull a verse out to stand on its own, apart from the larger context, can lead to inaccurate interpretation of that verse or cause us to miss the full intent of that section of scripture as a whole. Some verses do stand out and are key in that section of scripture, but just as every link in a chain is necessary for the chain to remain intact, that verse must be seen in its greater context for the fullness of meaning to be understood.

As we look to the Bible we know that, “all scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness…” It is the Christian’s single source for everything pertaining to time and eternity. It is the spiritual food that sustains us. “For it is no empty word for you, but your very life…” (Deut. 32:47). As such, we must be students of all of scripture. We must take all of God’s word and seek to apply it to our lives, not to limit it to just certain portions or types of scripture.

Finally, in considering our favorite verses, I would like to relate something from my own experience that has affected how I read the Bible and has reshaped my perspective. A few years ago I was challenged to consider the general focus of my favorite verses? Are they more man-centered or God-centered? I had to admit that they were more me-centered. The focus was on how I benefitted from God. That is not to say that those verses are any less God’s word and that I should not hold them dear, because I do, but if that is my primary perspective of scripture, there begins to be an imbalance. I will tend to see the Bible as all about me and not about God. The Bible is primarily about who God is and what He has done. That is the greatest significance of scripture. As I was challenged to seek after knowing God as the principal objective in my reading of scripture rather than primarily how I benefit from Him, I began to have a number of new verses added to my favorite’s list. I began to read the Bible for the purpose of knowing God and for what my response to him should be rather than primarily for what God’s response is to me. We are to be worshipers of God and if there is anything the Bible purposes to do, it is to lead us to that. He is the treasure then of scripture and the “pearl of great price,” to be sought. As God himself comes to be my objective, it reshapes how I see the entirety of the Bible and thus how I see all of life.

So I guess it boils down to perspective. All verses are “God-breathed” and have significance and are to be believed and applied. The point is to do our best to understand those verses as they fit into the whole of scripture and to always turn our eyes Godward first as we read, because this book is primarily about Him. The psalmist points us in that direction in Psalm 27:8 where we read, When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O LORD, I shall seek.” May God himself be our objective and may he, “Open [our] eyes that [we] may behold wondrous things out of [His] law.” (Psalm 119:18)


FullSizeRender-2This past week my family and I went on vacation to enjoy some rest and relaxation, because nothing says rest like spending 8 days visiting 6 states, and spending most of your time between a minivan and hotel rooms with 5 kids, ages 10 and under! 🙂 In all seriousness though, I am so thankful for the capable men and women that God has raised up at Central, so that I am able to sneak away for a few days and spend time with my family and rest. It is the topic of rest that I wanted to spend a few moments reflecting on with you. I want to say from the onset that my desire is to share some thoughts with you about rest. I do not desire to fully expound on the topic of rest. There is much more that could be said about rest then I will even attempt to cover. Instead, this is simply a few thoughts I have as I get back to the grind this morning that I hope might be edifying and thought provoking for us all.

Rest is an important component in the life of a believer. We are all people who need rest. All throughout scripture we see the theme of rest play an important part in the life of God’s people. That theme starts at the very beginning in the book of Genesis. In the very beginning we see that God Himself created the earth, and then the Bible tells us He rested (Gen. 1-2).  God knew that the land and the people He created would need rest in order to be all that God created them to be, so in creation He modeled that rest. When we rest we are honoring and glorifying God, because resting is doing what God created us and called us to do. When we do what we were created to do, we bring honor and glory to God. (That statement could be another post entirely.)

Oftentimes in our society we see rest as unproductive, and something to be avoided at all costs. You may have even heard the expression, “I’ll rest when I’m dead.” This expression is used in an attempt to say that a person doesn’t have time to rest, or that somehow rest is a bad thing that should not be done while there is work to do.  As I think about this I can’t help but ask the question, where have we gotten these ideas? I can tell you this, we did not get them from scripture. Not only do we see God model rest in Genesis, but in Leviticus 25:1-5, we see clearly that God commands that even the land is to have rest. The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the Lord. For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land.Rest is an important part of the creation order, and that is why in Genesis He modeled rest, in Leviticus He called the land to rest, and in Exodus He calls us to rest.

I find it funny that while we who are in Christ believe in the truth of God, we often deny the truth we say we believe. We know the right answers, but practically played out we ignore the truth we say we affirm. That is seen clearly in the fact that too often we only affirm 9 of the 10 commandments. You see, we acknowledge that all of the commandments are important and are to still be followed, but when we get to Sabbath rest we begin to try and justify why it is no longer needed. The honest believer however, is confronted with the fact that Sabbath rest is not an option, but instead it is a command from God. In light of all this, I want to ask you the question, how are you fulfilling the law of God by resting?

Now, to clarify when I ask this question, I do not mean how are you being self idolatrous? Oftentimes the people of God use the idea of rest as an excuse to be self-idolatrous. The kind of rest I am speaking of is the kind that honors and glorifies God. It is that kind of rest that we are called to, and it is that kind of rest we should not neglect.We as the people of God should rest in God, and be refreshed in Him. That is one of the reasons I love corporate worship. Corporate worship is a time to take a break from the world and focus completely upon God and His people. When we focus completely upon Him, then we truly are able to find rest. I pray that as the people of God we would not neglect the command to rest, and as we rest I pray we would rest in Him.

A Purpose-Driven Worship Service

The popular title has shamefully sucked you in.  Your heart is already stirred with emotions both positive and negative towards a well-known pastor and author whose church has redefined the words “purpose-driven” in modern culture.  Rest assured, this article is completely unrelated to their subject matter.  Now that I have your attention, keep reading…

In any church service, the primary focus should be the preaching of God’s Word.  Wouldn’t you agree?  There are many important elements in a church gathering; scripture reading, prayer, music, the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  Above all of these, the message is the pinnacle of any church gathering.  Our church leadership has a paramount responsibility to ensure that what God has to say speaks loud and clear.  That’s the “purpose” we are “driving” towards.

It only makes sense that all of the elements of the worship service would come together in support of the pastor’s sermon scripture.  The music, the prayers, the scripture reading, even the children’s message all stand in harmony with and in support of the sermon.  This is what we seek to achieve each and every week as we gather together for corporate worship. Here’s an example:

Recently, our pastor’s sermon text was Luke 22:39-46 the Mount of Olives.  The sermon focus was prayer.  Jesus prayed.  He asked the disciples to pray lest they fall into temptation.  We are called to pray.  The congregational singing for this service included What a Friend We Have in Jesus and Lord I Need You.  One song speaks directly about prayer while the other is a prayer sung to the Lord.  There was an attempt to make an unmistakable connection between the music and the message.  The hope was that by the end of our musical worship, our hearts were focused and unified to receive God’s Word.

As a further help in achieving this goal, our service orders are sent out in a  midweek study guide email to staff, musicians, and media team.  Included in the service orders are scripture references and explanations for every song, describing the “purpose” that is “driving” our song choices.

To sum it all up, everything that is planned in a worship service should have a purpose, and that is what we strive for.  That purpose is to point us back to our Holy God, the object of our worship.  His Holy Word should clearly penetrate hearts and drive us to preach, teach, and live the the gospel for the glory of God.

Perhaps the better title would have been:  A Scripture-Driven Worship Service.cropped-blog-logo-final-1280-x-426-pixels.png

What are you serving for?

cropped-blog-logo-final-1280-x-426-pixels.pngI’ve been on this diet for two weeks now, and it’s been the worst two, grilled cheeseless (except for one, because of my lack of discipline) weeks of my life. I started a diet, because I thought I may be able to magically lose 15 pounds by this week since I’m going to the beach. I’m not dieting to be healthy. In all honesty, I couldn’t care less about that right now. I’m dieting so I can lose weight and have that instant self-gratification.  That’s a good motive, right? No wonder I cannot stick to a diet, when it is all about the results for me.

I look at that and can relate all too well in my spiritual life. How can I relate dieting with my spiritual life and the way I serve God? That seems like a stretch. I know. But, I have to look at the why’s behind the things I’m doing in my spiritual walk. Because if I don’t and I’m not careful, my motives, just like my dieting motives, may be to have that same self-gratification. It seems, that if not kept in check, all of my motives, all of my desires turn back to focus on myself.

Sometimes, I find myself serving for good reasons, or what the world would see as good reasons. I’ll serve because I know that someone is depending on me, and I don’t want to let them down. Or I’ll serve because I love the kids. And don’t get me wrong, you should love the kids or the youth or singing in the choir or whatever area you’re serving in, but our motive behind it all should be to serve the living God, because He is God. Because He deserves it. Our motive should always be to glorify Him in what we are doing. Even if our motive seems “good”, is it really?

Last week, I listened to a sermon called “Ten Shekels and a Shirt” by Paris Reidhead. In it, he asked a tough question. “Is God a mean or an end for you?” Sometimes, I have found myself serving God for his benefits. I know if I do what I’m supposed to do, read my bible, pray, serve Him, he will bless me. And by saying God will bless me, I haven’t always been thinking about monetary blessing or blessing of more possessions or more friends or more status or whatever else. Sometimes what I have had in mind would be considered noble. For instance, God will bless me with His peace, His wisdom, His love for people, self-control, patience, etc. — which are all Godly gifts of the spirit and unattainable without God, but in those times, I have found that I am serving God for those things, rather than serving God to glorify Him and serving Him because He’s God and He deserves it. In those times, God is simply a means to my end. He is my avenue of gaining all of those considerably noble qualities, when in reality He should ALWAYS be my END. I should do everything in pursuit of Him, not in pursuit of His gifts, benefits, or qualities. Now, God is a good God. And yes, the closer to Him I get, the more I will desire to be like him and exude those qualities above. “You will recognize them by their fruits…” – Matthew 7:16.  But should that be WHY I serve and pursue God?

I’ve even, as silly as it seems, done something to “serve” God because in my head I thought “well if I don’t, I don’t know who else will.” Just a big FYI, God does not need me to fulfill His plans. He also does not have to use me, but He chooses to. He chooses to allow me to be a part of His good and perfect plan. “Nor is He served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” – Acts 17:25.

And please don’t get me wrong, your service is SO important. The church would not be able to run if it was not for the people who give their time, energy, and efforts. And I firmly believe that God will use all service for His good. But in saying all of this, I simply want to encourage you to be aware of or even reevaluate the motives behind your service.

“…whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ…” – 1 Peter 4:11

Therefore, let us serve and pursue God that in all things He may be glorified. Think about the motives behind the things you do, and be honest with yourself. Are you serving for self gratification? Are you serving for God’s benefits? Are you serving to be with your friends or because you think it’s fun? Are you serving and pursuing Him simply because that’s what your parents did or how you were raised? Or are you serving Him in order that He would be glorified?

Lets Stop The Hop

I love going to a good movie with my family. My boys get excited when a new superhero movie comes out! So I, being the good father that I am, make it a point to indulge my fascination…I mean THEIR fascination with a great adventure story. Imagine with me, if you will, how a day at the movies might look if something like the following were to take place.

The boys are excited about seeing the new movie, and I am obviously giddy about the same, all the while Stef is grinning and bearing it. We all load up in the vehicle, each donned with our superhero attire, not mom of course, she’s the adult in the group after all. We travel to the theater, reminiscing our favorite scenes from the previous comic book-movie installment and the post credit scene that left everyone anxiously awaiting the next leg of the story. Finally we’ve arrived and we make our way to the theater. Tickets are purchased, we enter the magical land of big screens and spend our savings on buttery popcorn and the obligatory sour, mint, and cinnamon candies. At last comes the time that we enter into the sanctuary of the silver screen and we each depart from our family group, going on our own way into theaters number 2, number 6, number 9 and number 14.

Where did I lose you? Why on earth would we, with so much anticipation, investment, and excitement traverse such a detailed course only to enjoy the pleasures of the movie apart from each other? Great question! But families do something of this nature very often albeit not necessarily with movies, but with corporate worship, and quite frankly it’s time that we take a closer look at this routine and examine a possible need for change.

Church shopping, hopping, blending…call it what you will; however, I would offer to you that it is reckless and dangerous to the family. You may be thinking to yourself how bold and ostentatious this assertion may be; nevertheless, I make such a statement with great love and concern for the family and the church that we are called to be. Now, before you quit reading out of disdain for this bold statement, I ask that you hang with me just a bit longer. Please hear my heart as it is truly for our families to fully experience the greatness of God, together!

First, allow me to say to those that have a church home but continue to “hop” from one church to another- I get it, but…

I get that we need community. I get that our children go to school with congregants of many different churches and we may feel the need to have them worship alongside each other. However, I would remind us all of the course set for us in Deuteronomy 6:7 “You shall teach [my commandments] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Therefore, there’s really not a biblical emphasis placed on framing our worship around our friends, but there’s a blatant command for our families to worship together. How can this expectation be kept if we know very little of the worship, teaching, and preaching that our family members are participating in with a different church family or a variety of families from day to day?

I also get that we have needs that sometimes are not always met by one church family. Much like when my boys want Mexican food and I want a good bacon cheeseburger…which only means that we’re making multiple stops. Nonetheless, we see in scripture multiple exhortations for us to grow up into maturity and not see the church as a buffet. In Hebrews, which is a letter to believers, we find such an strong cry: Hebrews 5:12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food. Perhaps we need to step away from the tempting perspective of church being a time of feeding to the biblical perspective of  church being a time of encouraging and sharpening one another (Heb 10:25, Prov 27:17), and to be sure to not forget that our time together is to be spent worshiping the only one who truly deserves it and so much more.

Are we fed by scripture and time together? Absolutely; and I would suggest that we do just as much feeding as the person sitting next to us or the one in the pulpit. We feed into the lives of the people we greet in the foyer, the person we hold the door open for, the couple in our bible study class, and even into the life of our pastor! But, if we fail to forget this and only think about our own appetite while placing the blame of our perceived spiritual malnourishment on the shoulders of our pastor or ministers, only to move on to or mix in some other buffet, could it be possible that we’re negatively impacting the life of the church and its members? As a matter of fact, isn’t this what the letter to Hebrews stated again in 10:24-25? To consider how to stir up one another in love and  “encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  All the more…herein lies the passion and persistence needed to come together even more! Why? Because, praise God, Christ is returning and we get to be on the welcoming committee as Larry Osbourne writes in his book Thriving in Babylon.

But lets not forget, if we see an opportunity to serve alongside our church family in a way that God has laid on our hearts yet not made available, lets step up! The Hebrews passage in Chapter 5 reminds us that we ought to be teachers by now, so lets serve in biblical, creative ways under the leadership of our church family! What damage do we do in stepping away from our church family just to pursue a passion that He’s laid on our hearts? Perhaps that need is placed there for you to pursue and glorify Him through the family of believers that He’s already placed you in.

Finally, for those of us that may be found shopping, hopping, or blending- unity is desperately needed within your church family. Listen to David’s song in Psalm 133:1 “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” How can one church family be unified if they are not dwelling together or their time together is inconsistent? I then think upon the cry of Paul in his letter to the church of Ephesus:

Ephesians 4:1 “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

How can we walk alongside each other with any consistency if our worship together is spotty at best?

I am left with a fear that few reading my thoughts see a clear, vivid problem with my analogy of our family trip the the movies. As much as we love seeing great stories and colorful images come to life, our participation in corporate worship is not about our entertainment at all. My concern for those that shop, hop, or blend churches is ultimately that consumerism is at the heart of this behavior. How much have we cheapened grace that we may confuse the worship of our Creator and Savior with concert-style entertainment and simple take-home points? How far from God’s wrath being poured out on His Son do we have to go to consider church being all about us and our self-help? How dull of hearing and guilty of little doing do we have to be to place our preferences above the worship and adoration of our one, true God? What a scary place to be. I pray that we fix our eyes back on Him, take up the commandment to worship together as a family, unified in our dwelling, and walking together in corporate worship. Lets leave the buffet of shopping, hopping, and blending aimed at our own appetite to the world, and once again gather together to glorify our Lord.