It Makes For Good TV

Something sensational, extreme, or bizarre happens and it takes no time at all for it to be plastered on TV.  It boosts ratings and people pay attention.  In today’s terms it is just like when something on the internet goes viral.  Everyone wants to see it or be a part of it.  Things like the “cinnamon challenge”, the “ice bucket challenge”, or maybe “Lady Gaga Carpool Karaoke”.  Don’t ask…  The bottom line is that people want to be a part of what is “trending”.  People want to be relevant.  And for better or worse, the church isn’t so different.

So if those kinds of things “make for good TV”, what “makes for good church”?

Is it singing the latest song from the winner of the Dove Awards?  Is it having a pastor that dresses in jeans and a t-shirt?  Is it having a great light show?  Is it having the most elaborate Living Christmas Tree program?  Are these the things that “make for good church”?

Don’t get me wrong, these things in and of themselves are not bad and in fact can be wonderful additions to our times in worship, outreach, and fellowship.  However, if you were to take the things that we in the western evangelical world consider to be “relevant” and perhaps deemed “necessary” for the making of “Good Church” and dropped them in the middle of South Sudan or central India, it would likely do more harm to the sharing of the Gospel message rather than further the mission and ministry of Christ.

The things that “Make For Good Church” are the things that bring glory and honor to the Lord; things that are truly worshipful and that fulfill the great commission.  The other stuff is interesting and perhaps adds something to the “experience” but good church is found in the true worship of God in all that we do and say.  John 4:23 reads “a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”  In Romans 12:1-2 Paul writes “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

The things that make for “good church” are not the things that are patterned after the things of this world, but rather it is people whose hearts, souls, and minds are yielded to God, abiding in Christ, and being renewed by God’s Word to the mind of Christ daily.  It is people praying together, for each other and for the ministries of the church.  It is humble servants reaching out and impacting the world for Christ.  It is helping the orphans and widows.

The things that make for good church are people, who in light of the love, mercy and grace shown to them, are offering themselves as living sacrifices to God each and every day.

In the eyes of God that is what makes for good church – regardless of what country, time, or culture they may exist.

 

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Seal of Approval

I was reading a passage today in Galatians and it reminded me of the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval”.  Perhaps you have heard of it or even considered it when purchasing something.  The company has a long history dating back to the late 19th century.  On their web page it talks about the history and mission of the Seal.  Part of that article reads:

On May 2, 1885, Clark W. Bryan published the first edition of Good Housekeeping, setting forth the purpose of the magazine as “a family journal conducted in the interests of the higher life of the household.” He said the publication had a “mission to fulfill compounded of about equal portions of public duty and private enterprise…to produce and perpetuate perfection as may be obtained in the household.

That is a pretty lofty goal…”to produce and perpetuate perfection as may be obtained in the household“.  Good Housekeeping has gone through many changes through the years, but the seal was, and still is, a significant achievement for any product to receive.

In Galatians 1 Paul, writing starts his letter to the church talking about the issue of a product and manufacturer that did not have the seal of approval.  He was talking about those folks that were teaching a perverted Gospel.  He goes on to write about how those individuals and their product were causing confusion and deception in the church.  The motives of those folks were not to please God in their preaching, but to please man.

In Galatians 1:10 Paul says: “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.A true servant of Christ seeks to please God in all things.  The care and attention that a pastor or teacher gives to the presentation of the Gospel gives evidence or proof to the One that they are ultimately seeking to get approval from. 

As believers we too should be concerned about the approval of God.  In his letter to the church in Colossi, Paul writes “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Colossians 3:23-24).

As we live our lives for Christ, let us love, serve, and share the truth of Christ with others seeking God’s seal of approval.  That is a seal of approval that is worth pursuing at any price!

Time Out On The Field…

In February of 2016 I experienced a pretty severe back injury that turned my life upside down.  It took two trips to the ER, a round of cortisone steroids in the spine, two MRIs, and nearly four weeks of heavy duty medications before I was able to have the surgery for my back.  In the midst of all of that I had withdrawals from the medications which resulted in my having symptoms similar to a heart attack which of course led to an EKG, a chest CT, a stomach CT, and the real fun…a chemically induced stress test.  What a trip.  I could end the story there but it you wouldn’t have heard the half of it and it most certainly would not be enough to give full testimony to the glory of God, declare his loving provision, and it most certainly would not begin to help you understand why I am so thankful for the manifold grace and mercy of God.

The injury happened on February 22nd, but what was coming down the pike for me and my family was anything but a quite mid-winter season of relaxation.  Here’s why…

  • On 5/7 one of our two sons was graduating from college in Pennsylvania.
  • On 5/14 our other son was graduating from college in Virginia.
  • On 5/21 the first graduate was getting married in western NY.
  • On 6/7 the other son was getting married on Long Island.
  • I was just beginning to teach a new series at church on the book of First Corinthians.
  • I was serving on a search committee at our church and we were in the throes of an 18 month long search for a new Senior Pastor; in fact we were in the home stretch of final interviews with a candidate that we believed the Lord was providing for our church.  We actually Skype’d from my family room after my surgery!

Now I could go on and on about all the different things that the Lord has taught me through this experience.  How he got me to spend more time in prayer and study.  How He reminded me of the need to constantly be vigilant to make sure I am serving in His power and seeking His will in all that I do.  Of the need to be fully trusting in the Lord.  The list goes on and on.  But what I want to share is actually not about me…it is about you.  It is about how God uses people in perfect harmony and in His perfect time, to encourage, care for, and love each other.  It is about how in the most difficult of times you can serve in the simplest and smallest of ways but that bring joy and healing to others, and that bring glory and blessings to God.  So what did you do that meant so much to me and that brought glory to God?

It was in the cards that came in the mail every day.

It was in the hot meals that were delivered to the house by folks that have no idea what we like to eat, but that were prepared with love and thoughtfulness.

It was in the prayers in the hospital when you came to me when I was most vulnerable, I was weak, and I was despairing.

It was in the times when you, my sister in the Lord that is a nurse in the wing where I was be treated, got to encourage me and the added blessing of seeing the toilet back up the hospital room and laughing about it for days.

It was in the flowers that showed up at the door unexpectedly.

It was in the encouraging words from a brother that had been through this kind of thing himself and that knew just how hard it is to have your whole life seemingly put on hold.

It was in the simple text from a friend that said “praying for you today”. 

It was the gentle hugs from those that didn’t quite know what to say but that wanted to just be there to encourage and care.

It was in the handshake and precious smile of a friend that couldn’t share in words but that wanted to express just how much he cared.

It was in the heartfelt prayers and words of the family who was going through something far worse than I was when they assured me that they were on their knees praying for me – even while they were suffering beyond compare themselves.

I cannot begin to express my thankfulness.  I cannot begin to tell you how precious your actions, words, and prayers are to me.

First Peter 4:8-11 says:

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

God called time out in my life for a whole host of reasons that I am still learning from. But perhaps the gift that is the most precious to me was to learn just how much you love me, how much I need you all, and how much we need each other to be that loving, caring, stewards of God’s grace in all of your amazing forms.

To God be the glory, praise, and power through Jesus Christ for all that you have done.  Thank you all.