Why Go to Church…

Well, how did you make out yesterday: Sunday? Did you make it to church, Sunday School, PM service? Life is full of choices, and those choices shape who we are and what we believe about ourselves, others, and God.

Choices:

  • I went to church vs. I did not go to church

That decision may have been made for you: the kids were sick, you were traveling, you had to work.  Or, you made a choice: a child had a music practice or ball practice, you needed to do laundry, shop, you stayed up too late Saturday night and were too tired, you just didn’t feel like going.

I am a pastor’s wife, so I probably see things from a slightly different perspective!  Church is what we do.  It is our lives; however, I can honestly say that before we were in the ministry, that was also true, AND that’s probably why God called us into the ministry. Duh!  That is a fairly recent revelation for me! I realize not everyone thinks that way.

  • Why is going to church so hard?

The world makes it hard because the god of this world knows how important it is.  The world sees Sunday as just another day to fill up with activities.  They even fail to recognize it as the first day of the week, placing it at the end of the calendar week.As Americans, especially if you’re old enough to remember the Blue Laws, we have this Christian attitude woven into the very fiber of our culture which colors our thinking; however, the rest of the world scratches their head and looks incredulous, saying, “Really? What’s the big deal?”

Our flesh makes it difficult, especially if we are prone to allow our flesh to have its way! We stay up too late on Saturday night, we grumble about having to put on more than our sweats or jeans, and we find that Sundays become a battleground for everyone in the family as sleepy teens grumble and younger siblings join the bandwagon!

Our adversary, the Devil pulls out all the stops on Sunday.  (By the way, did you know that’s an organ term: pulling out all the stops?  If you’ve ever seen a pipe organ, those white knobs are called stops, and when you pull one out, it opens another set of pipes, adding to the sound.  Pull them all out, and you’ve got a really BIG sound! 🙂 )Satan can only do what we allow, but when we make foolish choices about Sunday, he’s right there cheering us on!

Is it worth all the effort?  Quite frankly, I don’t understand how a born-again believer can live without going to church.Did you know that when you are NOT in church, you are missed? Imagine the church as a body.  We’ll call him George.  This week, George is missing an eye, next week a leg, and then one week, he has no arms and only one leg! Sounds funny, but that’s exactly what it feels like, especially to those who have prayed for you to come, and you didn’t show up.

Why come to church? There are lots of reasons.  I’ll just list a few:

  1. God commands it:  Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
  2. We need to worship our God to keep life in the right perspective!
  3. We need to be fed and challenged by the Word.
  4. We need each other:  Hebrew 10:24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
  5. We are giving our children an example to follow which will either encourage them or destroy them!

SNathan's anniversary breakfast.jpgometimes, we throw the baby out with the bathwater! We don’t come to church because there are too many hypocrites, or we know we have a wrong spirit, or the preacher is too long winded, they don’t sing the songs I like, the seats aren’t comfortable, or… But if we would just take a moment and think about the Keeper of the House and His heart, all the problems and excuses seem fairly human.

God gives us 365 days every year, and 366 once and a while! Can’t we give Him 52?
One of my favorite TV shows is “Blue Blood,” and one of the most amazing parts of the series is that the family gets together every Sunday for dinner. Wow!  How many extended familes do that?  Yes, this probably means more to me because the move to South Dakota is now a reality. There were several years when all my children, their spouses, and all my grandchildren worshiped together every week!  I remember looking across the pew and telling myself that it wouldn’t always be true.  I can honestly say that I truly enjoyed every Sunday we had together; but that’s done now, and I’ve come to realize that every Sunday is special.  Each gathering is special, and I don’t want to miss even one!  Will you take the challenge?

Ask not what your church can do for you … OR … Lessons from the Church Refrigerator

I first encountered a church refrigerator while teach Kindergarten with a wonderful group of people known as Emmanuel  Baptist Church of West Shore.  I remember one of the teachers getting frustrated about all the “stuff” which was left in the fridge.

Churches are communal property; therefore, rights and responsibilities are sometimes nebulous.  For example, who does throw out the leftovers from a fellowship?  Who does throw out old paint cans, or straighten up the craft closet, or discard old Sunday school material?  Whose job is it?

I love the folks at Steam Valley Bible Church!  They are awesome!  When we first came here, the very first Sunday that we candidated, they asked me to play the piano: a very nice Baldwin Studio piano.  However, as an organist, my ear went to the instrument across the room.  It sounded like an Allen organ!  And it was. Later, when we were given a tour of the buildings, I noticed a beautiful Yamaha Professional piano (Studio is slightly smaller than the Professional).  Why was this piano downstairs and the Baldwin upstairs? After some time and some questioning, we discovered that the upstairs piano was given in memory of someone, but the sweet woman, who was mainly responsible for its purchase, was fine with the idea of switching the pianos. Now, we’ve been in the pastorate long enough to know that such a move, in some church, would cause hard feelings and probably a church split!

So, what’s my point.  The next time you are on your church property, look around, especially if you attend a smaller church which does not have a host of paid employees.  How is the landscaping?  Are there any flowers?  Are there weeds?  Is there any mulch?  What about the signboard?  Has it been changed recently?  Does anything need a fresh coat of paint?  New windows? New chairs? New bulletin boards? Who does cut the grass or rake the leaves or clean out the gutters?  And what is your part in making a good show of presenting your representation of God’s house in your community?

John F. Kennedy coined the phrase: Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country! (Wow! Could we retread that one today!) But let’s apply it to church: Ask not what a church can do for you.  Ask what you can do for your church!

Many hands make the load light. That’s one of my favorite sayings.

Our church ladies just enjoyed a wonderful retreat.  It was such a success because of all the help. One lady VOLUNTEERED to head up the food.  Another lady VOLUNTEERED to do a devotion on prayer and then gather the materials to make a 3×5 prayer notebook.  Someone offered pedicures, and another brought chocolate and molds so we could make candy for our loved ones, since it took place on Valentine’s Day weekend.  There are so many jobs that could be done “in the name of Jesus.”  How do we show that we love Jesus?  So often, folks say, “Well, I put God first in my life, but that doesn’t mean that church has to come first.” There may be some truth in that statement; however, my question is this:

How do you show God that He is first in your life?

Does working at His house show that you love Him?  Does coming to His house show that you love Him?

Just some food for thought! 🙂 Take a look around, and take the plunge. If you don’t know what needs to be done, as the pastor! Just don’t give him a heart attack!  🙂

Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste?Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. Haggai 1:4,5

Don’t Question God’s Calling

textI have to admit, there are times while I’m subbing for music teachers, that an old ache fills my heart.  I love teaching music, and I would have enjoyed making that my career.  I believe I would have been successful.

I just finished a very hectic day for an awesome teacher.  She’s great and has wonderful plans, visuals, and equipment.  It’s so fun to put it all together–adding a steady tempo on the Orff instruments to the accompanying omnichord (for you “oldies” that’s the electronic version of an autoharp!) while the students sing. I LOVE IT!  You may ask, “Then why aren’t you teaching music?”  Because God called me elsewhere.

Back in 1983, just a year and a half after we were married, I interviewed for what I would have called the perfect job: high school choir and elementary music.  I got the job, but that same week I was asked to teach kindergarten in our Christian school.  I chose the kindergarten class, having a desire to get into Christian education.  I still remember the first morning we had devotions together as teachers.  I nearly cried.  It was such a joy to my heart to be able to teach biblical truths straight from the Bible while teaching the standard curriculum.  In fact, after leaving Christian education and subbing in the public schools, I nearly started class with prayer several times! Wouldn’t that have raised a ruckus!

When God calls, don’t look back!  Yes, it would have been more lucrative; yes, there were lots of perks, but that wasn’t what God made me to do.  I’m supposed to be a pastor’s wife, and I’m supposed to teach about God and care for His people, and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE IT!!

However, in some ways, it would have been easier to teach music:

  1. Your day has a start and finish.
  2. You can see when you are being successful: The concert is a success; the student progresses, etc.
  3. The year has a beginning and an end
  4. You have the summers off!
  5. You are guaranteed to have a crowd!

Do you see that the opposite is often true of the ministry?

  1. There is no clock.  A pastor and his family never clock out.
  2. At times, sometimes for years on end, you see no progress.  Lives do not change, truths are not applied or embraced, etc.
  3. Yes, there is a new start to every year, but it seems like there’s no beginning or ending.
  4. Summers mean VBS, summer camps, and often extra activities.
  5. We work with a volunteer army!  They may be here, but then again, they may not be!

All this said, the greatest difference is eternity.  Sadly, I cannot say much in the public school concerning Jesus Christ or the Bible.  Yes, I can be a good example.  I can “shine” for Jesus, but one of the most difficult things for me is to see this great mass of students and know I am not allowed to “preach” to them.  And I understand the reasoning–it’s just hard for this pastor’s wife to be silent!

What’s the point of this rambling?  Bloom where you are planted.  Do the job which God has called you to do.  Be faithful.  We are all in the Lord’s army, and God has given each of us a mandate to carry out His work.

And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water

only in the name of a disciple,

verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.

Matthew 10:42

And if you want to make your pastor, pastor’s wife, youth leader, Sunday school teacher, or any other church worker’s life easier–show up, volunteer, be an active part of your church–be faithful.   Your talents are invaluable, and what better way to use them than for our Lord and Savior? And besides all that, the benefits are out of this world!! A

What’s Missing?

I always loved these drawings that have subtle differences, and your task is to find them!  It reminds me of these two verses in Joshua, except the differences aren’t too subtle!

But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you,

  • to love the LORD your God,
  • and to walk in all his ways,
  • and to keep his commandments,
  • and to cleave unto him,
  • and to serve him

with all your heart and with all your soul.:

Joshua 22:5

And the people said unto Joshua, The LORD our God

  • will we serve,
  • and his voice will we obey.

Joshua 24: 24

Do you see what is missing and what is added?  In Joshua 23 and 24, Joshua is giving the Israelites his farewell speech. He’s old and he knows his time has ended.  We often quote Joshua 24:15 and hang on our walls:

…choose you this day whom ye will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

The question is not ARE we choosing to serve God, but HOW are we serving Him.  We want to be successful in our walk with the Lord.  We want to please Him, but so often, it just isn’t the case.  The world comes crashing in around us demanding our attention.  Good activities and programs seem impossible to ignore, even though we cringe and hate the fact that perfect attendance is required and their meetings push into Sunday and Wednesday night.

How can we do it?  How can we know that we are doing the right thing?  Well, I’m sharing this because it’s been so heavy on my heart, and the Lord has really been pounding me on it!

IT’S THE HEART! IT’S THE HEART! IT’S THE HEART!

Joshua is at the end of an incredible journey.  He knew slavery. He remembered the sting of the taskmaster’s whip! He SAW the Red Sea part and drank the sweetened waters of Marah.  He ate the manna and begged, cried, and wept when the other ten spies gave their evil report.  His heart ached for his leader as he watched him ascend Mt. Pisgah and gaze longingly into the Promised Land—a land he would never enter!

And now Joshua’s done.  Over and over, he urges the Israelites to do right, make right choices, have the right kind of heart.  And their response is this: We will serve. We will obey.  YIKES!  Something was missing!  Something very important: loving, walking, cleaving, and keeping!

Dear Christian, dear born-again believer, check your heart.  Without a whole-hearted love for God, service becomes drudgery and you may find yourself walking away from it.  Your walk becomes an uphill battle, and you don’t even understand cleaving.  Keeping the “law” becomes just that!  It turns into a bunch of “dos and don’ts” instead of a holy garment of praise.

Cleave – to cling closely, steadfastly, or faithfully to somebody or something.  If you have ever been a nursery worker, you understand cleaving, as you try to pry that child out of his mother’s arms!  He has a death grip on her clothing, and he’s not letting go—at least, not without a lot of kicking and crying!

How is my cleaving?  Am I holding on to God for dear life? It started with faith (Forsaking All I Trust Him). I may not have seen the yawning abyss at the edge of my cliff of pride or self-righteousness—the edge which dropped off into an eternal hell, but if I had, I would have clung or cleaved? or clove? or clave? to my precious Savior!

And am I still cleaving?  Is He so precious that I want Him more than anything else in this world?

Today, I offer you A Moment in Time for free.  What does that have to do with cleaving?  Well, I often shake my head in wonder and ask my daughter this question: Why did you and your brothers turn out?  Why do you love the Lord when so many pastors are losing their kids to the world?  She always says the same thing.  “Mom, you and Dad were genuine in your love for God and your service to Him.  It wasn’t just a show, but what Dad preached, you both lived at home.” Please know, it is not any credit to us, but all to the Lord!

The side-by-side drawings look so much alike, just like so many Christians.  They sit together in church, perhaps in the same class at the Christian school, but there’s something drastically different!  You may not be able to see the heart, but God does.

If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, check out A Moment in Time is all about “What’s Missing.” In it, you’ll find an all too realistic side-by-side-drawing:  One pastor’s daughter, Carrie Spangler, who looked the part, and another, Esther Fleming, who lived it.

That Good Part

But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part,

which shall not be taken away from her. Luke 10:42

That good part always involves people, not things. That good part stops to talk with the elderly church member who lives alone and craves fellowship more than you are craving food because the preacher went longer than usual.

That good part calls the stay-at-home mom who is overwhelmed with those active little tykes, instead of spending more time on facebook.

That good part stops to talk with the cashier and show concern for her day even, though your day is out-of-control crazy, running way behind schedule.

That good part takes a meal to a shut-in, joins the choir, cleans the church, sends a note a fellow follower, offers a hand at the next church gathering, takes a turn in the nursery.

And what is it that we are so busy about?  I am such an expert at this because I am guilty of all of the above!  Our lives are so jam-packed with activity!  Why do we even put porches on our houses anymore? Certainly not to sit out there and relax!

Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  This Monday morning, I have purposed to STOP after a wonderful, wild, weekend full of great, memory making activities, and read the Bible for ME!  As a pastor’s wife, it’s easy to fall into the trap of reading the Bible for others: preparing for the children’s church, or the Ladies’ Sunday school class, or the Wednesday evening Master Club class, or a blog! But this morning was for ME!  It wasn’t much because I need to get busy :), but my time in God’s Word was just enough to keep my perspective on this coming holiday season. I need that good part more than the others who may benefit from it.  My heart is filled with joy for serving my Master, and once again I revel at my spot at His feet.

It isn’t by accident that Chapter Ten of Luke begins with Jesus sending out the seventy, and includes the words: Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.(20)  How our hearts should, first of all, rejoice in that fact that we are God’s blood-washed children!

Scene Two in the chapter is the story of the Good Samaritan.  What a wonderful follow-up to the previous account of the seventy, lest we get too proud in thinking that we have the corner on the market of serving! the seventy did amazing things–the Samaritan chose that good part.

And then God, the Heavenly Author of this Wonderful Book, concludes the chapter with the story of Mary and Martha!  I love these two women! I always find myself coming to Martha’s defense; however, Jesus’ final words in the chapter are certainly the capstones of the entire chapter:

But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

May you fill this entire holiday season with all those needful things, choosing that good part, and you will find that the joy, and understanding, and personal relationship with the God of the Universe and His Precious Son, shall not be taken away from YOU! Blessing to you all, and may your home and heart be filled with thankfulness!