Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Ask Jonah

If we are WILLING & OBEDIENT, then we can eat the good of the land. If we refuse & rebel, we are devoured. (Isaiah 1:19-20)

Jonah refused to do what God had instructed him. He & the people whose boat he got on lost a lot in the process.

Not every storm we encounter is one that we cause. Sometimes God allows the storm. If you’re in one...check for any areas of disobedience. Rectify that & not only will the storm cease...your family & friends won’t lose everything they’ve worked hard for...trying to keep you afloat.

Victory is on the other side of our obedience.

“Take my heart and form it
Take my mind transform it
Take my will conform it
To Yours, to Yours, oh Lord”

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

"I Love Jesus, But I Don't Do Church"

“I love Jesus, but I don’t do church.”
This is the beginning of a conversation that I have had countless times with people of all different ages, backgrounds & experiences. As well as: “I’m a Christian, but I don’t have to go to church in order to love Jesus.”
It’s true. We definitely don’t have to do anything for God, nor is our salvation based on our works or church attendance. But it’s also true that when we surrender our lives to Him, we naturally desire to learn more about Him, to be a part of the body of Christ & to be held accountable & pointed toward sanctification. We are called to live out an active faith.
One of my favorite verses is 2 Corinthians 5:17,“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new.“
When we truly repent, surrender & choose to follow Jesus, we are given a new heart, one that desires godliness & holiness. We are given the opportunity to make the daily choice to leave our past lives behind us & move forward toward the righteous life that He has set out for us.
“If anyone claims to live in Christ, he must walk as He did.” 1 John 2:6.
I was saved at the age of 8 years old. I've been in church all of my life. I've seen the good, the bad & even the ugly side of ministry. I've seen people leave the church because of disappointment, hurt, affairs, divorce, hypocrisy, greed, pride, etc.  I've seen people refuse to repent, refuse to forgive & hold on to hurt that made them bitter, angry, suspicious & broken.
So, as I write to our BFWC Family today, I'm not sitting behind a computer screen, lacking empathy or compassion toward the hurt or the disappointments that anyone has ever experienced. It's real & I have felt it too.
I'm also not ignoring the fact that the church is full of sinful people nor that there is hard pain & baggage to come along with it.  I'm simply turning my eyes to Jesus, the author & perfecter of my faith & hope!
I have made the choice to not allow the sinful, broken people of the church (those who look just like me) to be a stumbling block that keeps me away from my sinless, perfect & loving Heavenly Father who simply wants to draw us to Himself.
The church isn’t primarily a building or a set of programs or events. It’s a family.  A broken family, yes.  But a family all-the-more, seeking God to love more, serve more & share light in a super, super dark world.
We see throughout the Bible that Christ Himself was part of the church. His apostles were as well.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25.
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.“
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” Ephesians 4:11-12
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:9“You were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
I fully understand that the ‘American Church’ with massive buildings, coffee shops & rockstar worship leaders with too-tight-skinny-jeans may not be what Christ had in mind. And we must be wise & discerning when choosing a church to ensure that it is bible-believing and bible-teaching.
But although some church buildings themselves may not be the same as the church in Jesus’ day, it is still made up of people who love the Lord (although imperfectly) & come together to hear His word.
While the context has changed, the mission remains the same – to glorify God & make disciples. Though the way we do things now may look a little different than first century Rome, it’s the same mission & strategy that propels us forward; assembling for worship, connecting in community, training up disciples.
I can almost hear some of the excuses as I type this:
  • The worship is too cheesy.
  • The pastor isn’t available enough.
  • I have too much going on in my life.
  • My husband/wife doesn’t want to go so I don’t go.
  • People aren’t welcoming.
  • It’s an awkward experience.
  • It’s not the church that Jesus designed it to be.
  • Having kids makes it too hard to get there.
  • And, of course, the most popular: Church is a corporate design created by man for the consumption of money; it is a place which promotes religion rather than faith and relationship.
I’ve heard it all. And, to be honest, many of these things I have thought myself until I came to a prayerful understanding by the Spirit of God.
Here are a few questions:
  • How will we fix what is broken in the church or help the people of the church if we refuse to be a part of it?
  • If you evaluate your life today, are you choosing busyness or bitterness over worship?
We can sit behind the scenes criticizing or we can live out an active faith – serving & getting involved – making real changes, loving on real people, living life alongside real pain.
The Enemy is strategic. He has come to steal, kill and destroy your faith, relationship with God & relationship with other believers.
If we constantly choose sleeping in on Sundays & breakfast with our family over church, if we choose a night out of entertainment over genuine community, sharing real life with one another & holy living, then we aren’t making a difference in the church that we may or may not see so many problems with.
We’re simply allowing the issues that we feel so strongly about to perpetuate as we carelessly look on.
I’ve witnessed church-hopping where people treat church like Goldilocks treated beds. People want that “just right” perfect church, but when they can’t find it, they simply walk away. All the Enemy had to do was distract them.
To that I say: Choose a place and stick with it. You’ll never find perfect. We should not be looking at what we can GET from the church, our hearts should be set on what we can GIVE the church.
As a reminder, the Enemy has the power to use both good & bad things to keep you from God things – but only if you let him. He uses distraction, bitterness, hard-heartedness, pride, awkwardness & even feel good/treat yourself days to his advantage.
C.S. Lewis said it perfectly“The perfect church service would be the one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God. But every novelty prevents this. It fixes our attention on the service itself; and thinking about worship is a different thing than worshipping. It is mad idolatry that makes the service greater than the god.”
My dear friends, God is the focus of the church. The service nor the people need to be perfect for you to hear His life-changing word. True life change happens in the church. We truly grow when we connect with every-day people, pour into them & allow them to pour into us.
The local church, led by Jesus, is the hope of the world & God’s means to disciple the nations & hasten his return. Matthew 16:18 says, “…On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
How can we despise or resent the church when Jesus not only said He was going to build it, but that He would use it to storm the gates of hell? That’s something I want to be a part of! Don’t you?
It’s true that there are churches out there which have fallen into the trap of trying to accumulate numbers rather than turning hearts toward God. But this isn’t the healthy church that God intended for it to be.
A bible-believing, bible-teaching church comes together as a reminder that we can only experience fruitful mission when we are fully abiding in & drawing strength from the true vine (John 15). His word is our daily bread.
And in a world offering countless different perspectives, there is one place that people can find truth (John 8:26). The church is a lighthouse in an ethical & immoral fog (Matthew 5:14–16).
If you claim to know & love God, yet do not have a desire to be a part of His church, I lovingly implore you to evaluate your relationship with Him. Get in His word & read what He has to say about His calling for us.
There are hundreds of things that we could do that would hinder us from sharing life with God’s people.
If you’re hesitant, I challenge you today to choose intentionality & join in worshiping God with a local church this week! I promise you that as many reasons as you might have not to go, there are even more reasons to trust God & pour your life & heart out for Him alongside His people.
Loving & Serving,
Pastor Hylton