Our group of teens desperately wanted to do something special for the adults of our church, to show appreciation for all they had done to make our summer program memorable.Through their sacrifice and hospitality they encouraged and loved us toward the best summer youth program we had experienced in a long while.But it wasn’t done with money.It came from their hearts.
We decided that we would put on a talent show at summer’s end.Mind you, there wasn’t a lot of talent in our group but that didn’t matter to anyone.Our do-it-yourself summer would end on just the right note.We scurried around building sets out of cardboard, and spotlights made from tin cans we got for free at the cannery were hung precariously from the ceiling with much worn extension cords.Every one of the kids got involved but few had any real gift of performance to offer.There was “singing” and poetry-reading; one group did a pantomime, and another lip-synced a favorite hymn.
The audience clapped and cheered each number as though it came straight from the Lawrence Welk Show.We couldn’t have been more pleased at the turn-out and the reception.Those wonderful church leaders didn’t show up because we were the most talented, they came because we belonged together.What an evening to remember!
Right after moving to Tennessee Sherry and I spent the better part of a year visiting different churches in preparation for a project I am still working on.We were particularly interested in discovering as much as we could about congregational worship.One thing we noticed was how little participation there is in the public presentation of the service.Seldom do churches allow the laity to become involved in activities such as public prayer, reading of scripture, or even making key announcements.It’s all done by paid staff in most places.
And the music is mostly presented by paid performers or super-talented individuals.Usually there is a group of three or four gifted vocalists who “perform” while the words are splashed on screens above what we once called a choir loft.You will seldom hear anyone with an average voice lift their vocal praise in church anymore.
What about all of us who are marginal in talent?Have all the average poets, artists and singers been handily excluded from sharing what we have to offer in celebration and praise?
Mark Pierson, a Baptist Pastor, writing on the subject of excellence of performance versus increased congregational participation, has this to say, “If excellence is a primary goal (rather than participation), then the weak, the timid, the depressed, the disabled, the unskilled, the sick, the introverted, the overweight, the less attractive, the poor and the untalented aren’t going to get a look in. They’ll be relegated to being spectators for someone else’s worship performance… It’s only in being open to as much participation as possible that community can be built.”
The church should be a place where everyone fits in.No wonder so many average church members who have been faithful stewards (in life AND finances) through the years are now looking for someplace to belong.Let us be careful that the rules of membership and worship do not become so exclusive that the majority feels left out because they are simply too average.
GospeLines Prayer:Heavenly Father, What an awesome experience to have the freedom to worship You in spirit and in truth.Thank You for the gifts You have so lavishly showered on your children; may we serve You with all that is within us and not be accused of compromising You or Your Word.Amen and amen
For our present troubles are quite small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! So we don't look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.
So we don't look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18
As believers, we are all called to transform the little world around us. Hope means continually looking forward to the eternal world; it does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is.
If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next…It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this world. “Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’; aim at earth and you will get neither.”
Being heavenly minded is not natural. It happens when we focus and meditate on the reality and wonderful hope of the world to come. When we do, we can bring a taste of heaven to this world. So let’s not become complacent — but stay focused there, so we can be effective here… and soon enough we will hear the Lord saying, “Well, done thou good and faithful servant!”
“See that you don’t look down on one of these little ones, because I tell you that in heaven their angels continually view the face of My Father in heaven.For the Son of Man has come to save the lost.What do you think?If a man has 100 sheep, and one of them goes astray, won’t he leave the 99 on the hillside and go and search for the stray?And if he finds it, I assure you: He rejoices over that sheep more than over the 99 that did not go astray.In the same way, it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones perish.”
Matthew 18: 10-14
We know that Jesus taught in parables during His ministry on earth.In this parable, Jesus talks of one sheep straying from the multitude, which relates to one person who was once saved straying from the faith.He also mentions that the shepherd would leave the 99 to go searching for the 1.
What a glorious thing to know that when we stray, Christ leaves the multitude to seek us and return us to the fellowship of our brothers!Not only this, but He rejoices more that we have returned, than the fact that the 99 remained!
This great passage of the living Word shows us that, when we feel ashamed that we have strayed from the Father, and humiliated when we return, that He rejoices for our return!What a compassionate Savior we have to embrace us upon our return rather than wagging His finger at us in disappointment!
GospeLines Prayer: “Father, we thank you for your ever-abundant love and compassion.We thank you that when we feel ashamed of ourselves and humiliated from You, that You rejoice in our decision.More than this, Father, we thank you for the gift of sacrifice that You gave to provide the way for us in the first place. Amen.”
Amen and Amen!
≈ Devotional for Thursday, March 31, 2011
“Reality isn’t a little bird, chirping in the distance…”
Reality is not the stuff dreams are made of.Reality is the stuff staring us in the face every day.It’s there when we get up in the morning and it’s there when we go to bed at night.However, humans have the uncanny ability to ignore reality and pretend that it’s a little bird chirping in the distance… something that’s not real and not of immediate concern… like that little bird.
If our home is on fire, we forget about the little bird and react to that reality immediately.If we’re sick; or, if a loved one is sick, we react quickly and with focus and determination.However, if the threat isn’t “imminent”; or, if we’re not convinced that the danger is real, we go back to the little bird.
What about the threat to our soul?
Some people act like they have all the time in the world to address the fate of their soul.Maybe they aren’t convinced that God, Heaven and hell are real.Maybe they don’t really believe Christ’s words when He said, “I am the truth, the way and the life.No man comes to the Father except by Me.”Whatever their reason, they do not accept the reality that our time on this earth is limited and that tomorrow is not guaranteed.
The truth is that we will all spend eternity in one of two places – Heaven or hell.The choice is made by us and our willingness to accept that reality and follow Joshua, our Messiah.Those that believe will be saved… those that believe not will be lost.That’s the reality in which we live.
The sound you hear is our Lord Jesus standing at the door of your heart and knocking.Listen to Him and not the little bird.Jesus is the only reality that matters eternally…
Be made new in the attitude of your minds and have the same attitude, purpose and humble mind that was in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 4:22-24; Philippians 2:4-7)
Our faces stung with the cold night air as my dog, Benji, and I stood in the thick darkness, drinking in the beauty of the midnight hour.The hair moved on his neck and his nose lifted toward the top of the trees.A growl from deep within his throat warned that something unusual was going on in our backyard.I glanced upward in time to see a large owl gracefully lift itself from the branch and fly silently to a roost in the next tree.
Amazed at the size of the night predator, I was stunned by the grace and silence of its flight.After a few minutes he silently stretched his wings again and flew away to a place of safety, out of view of Benji and myself.“How does a creature that large maneuver through the trees without a sound?” I wondered to myself.
Silence is a blessing in this boom-box overcharged, amplified society of ours.But there is a time for silence and a time for action.
A few years ago a prominent pastor was invited to speak at a University on the East Coast.As he was being introduced the President of that school asked for a moment to say a word to the student body.It was the ninth day of November."For you," he said, "today is a day like any other day but it is an extremely important and painful day for me." Silence fell over the room and the students noticed that as the old gentleman spoke, tears were streaming down his face.
He said, “Today is the 50th anniversary of Kristal Knacht, the night of the broken glass.”On this day in 1938, Nazi thugs moved through the cities of Germany smashing the windows of German homes and shops, burning the synagogues. Innocent people, men, women and children were beaten and killed simply because they were Jews.
"I was there as a young man," he sobbed, "and I can still hear the sound of the shattering glass. There were many of us who were Christians then but we did nothing. We looked the other way and we did nothing. That was the beginning of the Holocaust because the Jew haters knew then that no one would stop them, no one would stand in their way." The old man went on to quote the words inscribed at the Auschwitz memorial in Poland, a place where so many died. "Never again," he pleaded, "Christian young people we must never let it happen again."*
But an atrocity of major consequences IS happening again.Look around you.Our world is moving headlong through the night, helplessly blinded to the moral and spiritual decay in our neighborhoods.Children are exposed to indecency; families are destroyed by a morality that is turned inside out.What was once considered wrong is now right.What we found intolerable in another day is now embraced by the pride of our non-sectarianism. The Bible has been assaulted as just another myth in the classrooms; prayer is an estranged discipline of a forgotten society.
In the face of this onslaught of evil the church has stood strangely silent; preachers have abandoned the Truth of God’s Word in favor of success and popularity.
Beloved, God has called us to stand firm on the wall of Zion and bravely call the Church to battle against the degradation which threatens to turn our nation into a wicked wasteland.We must not fly away silently in the night!We can no longer afford to vacate our mission to which Jesus Christ so valiantly implored us to follow: “GO and make disciples,” He said.
As in no other era, the common people find every religion to be true; philosophers find all religions to be false; and the politicians find all religions to be useful.Christians are the only people in the world who can bring an end to this mockery.But by our silence we have abdicated the authority which Christ has placed in us.TODAY, we must find it within our souls to stop the silence!We can no longer afford the luxury of cowardice while hiding silently in the night.Let us stand tall…and become the Nation of Saints for which we were born in Jesus Christ our Lord.Amen and amen.