Church – the Connecting Point

There is a vertical aspect to worship that we are well aware of – Worship of God and His Son Jesus. That is not only the most important purpose of the church, but worship is the duty of all mankind. The more people who get saved the more people who worship almighty God. But there is also a horizontal aspect of worship – fellowship and serving alongside other believers. Most people believe the first aspect is important. I hear people often make excuses for not being in church.  “I pray every night.” “I watch preachers on television.” “I read my Bible.” Great. But these are only the vertical aspect of worship. Scripture tells us in Hebrews 10, “let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,  not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” In Acts 2 we see the church this way, “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”

You can worship God anywhere and even by yourself. But you cannot be the church by yourself. You won’t be able to encourage one another, share bread, disciple each other, give to one another in need, and many more things… if you are not connected to a body of believers. Your worship will be incomplete. The word church itself mean “the called out ones”. The Great Commission tells us to “make disciples”. You won’t be able to make disciples or be discipled if you are  trying to live the Christian life apart from other believers.

This little poem I found a long time ago says it this way

I will do more than belong — I will participate

I will do more than care — I will help

I will do more than believe — I will practice

I will do more than be fair — I will be kind

I will do more than forgive — I will work

I will do more than earn — I will enrich

I will do more than teach — I will inspire

I will do more than give — I will serve

I will do more than live — I will grow

I will do more than be friendly — I will be a friend

Don’t miss assembling yourselves together as some do. Truly worship God in both vertical and horizontal directions. Connect with the Body of Christ. God made us relational creatures and we need other people all along our spiritual journey. Find a group of believers to connect with today. Remember the scripture that assures us, “Iron sharpens Iron.” Sharpen someone and be sharpened as you worship God.

Calling Down Fire

There is an interesting story in Luke 9. Jesus and his disciples were refused entrance to a Samaritan Village. Two of the disciples, the sons of thunder, got real angry.  “And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, will you that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elijah did?”(9:54)

Now that’s not an unusual response. That is normal today. I reckon I have not witnessed so much hatred in my lifetime as today. Our nation is divided. We call each other names. If you do not agree with someone today you have some options. (1) You destroy them on social media. (2) You call them prejudiced, discriminatory, bigots, or some other awful name. That becomes the basis of your argument. (3) You call for a boycott.

Is this how people handle disagreements today? Yes. Even though they may feel justified. James and John felt justified. Calling someone prejudice today is like the boy who cried wolf. It is so overused any time we want to add weight to our argument. That’s truth on both sides of the issue. Christians are boycotting Target stores because of their bathroom policy. Now, I’m sure Target is not prejudice against Christians. They do not hate people and do not want them to be hurt. But that is the argument. The NCAA is boycotting North Carolina over the same issue, but in the reverse. Now I am sure the people who oppose transgender bathrooms do not hate transgender people or gays, but that is the argument. People want to make the other side look bad and will say anything or do anything to prove their point. Even calling fire down from Heaven.

Who gets hurt? Not the people calling for the boycotts. Not even the people at the top who make the decisions. The people, like you and me. The employees of Target who depend on a paycheck. The people of North Carolina, even people who agree with the NCAA. They are punished. They suffer. It’s like we delight in making people suffer when we don’t get our way. We turn against our own flesh and blood, our fellow citizens. We are always right and everyone else is always wrong – on any issue. No longer can we discuss, disagree, vote differently, or even express an opinion on an issue without being called names or having fire called down on us. And In the extreme, we label people, riot, burn cities and cars. Did you hear that? Burn cities and cars. Hurt people with fire. Sounds just like James and John.

What was Jesus’ response to the sons of thunder? In Luke 9:55-56, “But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, You know not what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.” I don’t think people realize what spirit they are of. If they could only realize that they are just caught up in the popular movement of the day and could truly see their spirit, they would be shocked. Some people would rather destroy lives. Isn’t that sad? They want to inflict damage on others. Of course, they always justify it. They are right. Others are wrong. I have good motives. Others are evil and prejudiced. Even sadder. We want to label people and put them in a box. Yes, some people may be inherently evil and nothing you say or do will change them. There are people at both extremes who may be filled with hate. Life will always have people like that. But most of us are in the middle somewhere. We follow our values and convictions. We don’t hate people. We simply disagree on an issue. Even if we are wrong sometimes, that does not mean we deserve fire to be called down on us.

I know many pastors who visit hospitals, nursing homes, jails, and anywhere there is a need. They do not care if the person is gay or straight, black or white. They do not ask an inmate why they are in prison. They simply love people and care about people. They want to save lives, not destroy them. If a person of any sexual orientation was lying in a hospital, who would most likely be there to minister to them? Certainly not the people calling for the boycotts. But a pastor who loves people, who knows about them because he frequently visits those places looking for an opportunity to “save lives”. They do not look for credit or payment. Often they do not receive any. They go, not for reward, but because they care about people. They don’t boycott them or call them names. They love and serve all people. These pastors may be on different sides of political issues. But they don’t spend their time bashing people on social media. I know because I see them. I know their spirit. They would rather save lives than seek to destroy them. How about today, we all stop calling fire down from heaven on our friends, coworkers, and fellow citizens – even those who disagree with us. I like Jesus’ response. Don’t you think that’s the best choice? You can disagree with people without labeling and name calling and punishing them. You can do like Jesus did. He rebuked that spirit and then just went to another village.

 

Master Sargent Cato was my close friend for about a year. We were both stationed at a remote site in eastern Turkey. I never learned his first name, as we seldom used them. We were nothing alike. He was tall, burley, brown skinned, married, and older than me. I was a young, single airman at the time. But we had one thing in common – our love for the Lord. Cato was what I observed as a strong, seasoned Christian who knew more about life than I did. We attended many Bible studies together. One day he and I ran into each other while on temporary duty at the nearby “big base”. He asked me, “What are you doing tonight?” I told him that I was free. He followed by saying, “I used to be stationed here and they had Bible studies in guys homes. If there is one for tonight, would you like to go?” I said “sure.” That night we met and he told me there was one scheduled. It was at a home off base. So, we caught a taxi and exited through the main gate. A few moments later we arrived at the house. We knocked. Who answered the door, but a few little children carrying trays of cookies. We were welcomed in. What a great night we had eating cookies and drinking punch and enjoying the Bible study, singing, and fellowship. But one thing impressed me more than anything else. I was the only Caucasian person there. Middle easterners… African Americans… and the host family was Hispanic. That night we were all one. What a mighty God to be able to bring men and women and children from different backgrounds together and unite them through His Holy Spirit! I have never forgotten that Bible study. I can’t remember what it was about, but I will never forget the sweet, Christian fellowship we enjoyed. When I recall that special time, I think of the Bible studies and times of fellowship right here in my church and community. I have held them in restaurants, library, fire department, and in church. We had people from all different denominational backgrounds and yet we enjoyed the same sweet fellowship as I did in Turkey. That’s why I like Sunday school so much. People come together to pray, study, fellowship, and reach out to those in need. Sunday school is a cluster of many different groups of people who come together united by their love for God and each other. When life gets hard and knocks you down, you have this small family of believers who love you and will care for you. When you are sick or your resources run low, they are there for you to help you and encourage you. My prayer is to see more Sunday school classes and home groups springing up all over the place. This is what comes to my mind when I read Acts 2:42-47, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers… And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Ask God to plant you in a good Bible study group and GROW!

I am Pastor Tony Brown, serving the wonderful folks who make up the family of believers of the Whitesburg First Baptist Church in Whitesburg, Kentucky. They are among the most loving, caring, and giving people I have ever served. This church is a praying church too. One of my life verses is Isaiah 50:4,”The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary”. This verse pretty well states the purpose of my blog. I want to be an encourager to those who may be going through challenging seasons of their lives by sharing the words the Lord has given to me. By nature I am an encourager. Pastoral care seems to be my primary spiritual gift. I love people and I love to listen to their stories. So, from time to time I will be passing along some uplifting stories that I have heard or experienced myself while journeying through my life. In our world today, it seems like we hear very little good news. That is unfortunate since I believe the good in people I meet far exceeds the bad I hear about on news. It is my strong conviction that there is so much more good about life than we are ever told. The good things about Christianity and the church are more often ignored or forgotten than talked about. While the world insists on criticizing Christianity and bringing up those people and events that give it a bad name, I choose to focus on the loving and self-sacrificing Christians that I know. In my ministry of serving in local churches for about forty years now, the overwhelming majority of believers I have met are kind, compassionate, and committed to the values that Jesus taught and demonstrated during His earthly life. Don’t you think it’s about time we hear the truth about real Christians and stop wallowing in the negative of the minority who fail to live like the Christ they profess to follow? I hope you will become a regular follower of “a seasoned word” and read the stories I share about real Christ like believers. I am sure that if you do you will fall in love with Christ and His people we call the church.