So at church Pastor Steve has taken his leadership crew and started a new Sunday Night Bible study based on the materials titled, "Right Now: The Mission of the Church Matters." In it, for the first Sunday, was refreshing materials and sermons that I am going to enjoy reading through all through out this week in my personal time.
For one thing, the pastor preaching today (Francis Chan) was refreshingly honest and sincere, one of those preachers that I would enjoy if he was on the pulpit or across from the table in my dining room. He wrote a book called, "Crazy Love", which was highly recommended to me so I gave it to Vanessa for Christmas (And she really, REALLY liked it!).
And basically the whole point of the study was to focus on the fact that TODAY the church matters. Sadly "church" has been beaten around, messed with, and distorted but the world needs the church - as is outlined by Scripture, a living and breathing body of Christ that takes something as grand and inconceivable as GOD and gives it arms and feet to heal, restore, and love. You can disagree with me if you like, and I know a lot of people that do. But the big picture of what God designed church to be is soooooooo much greater than what other people consider an excuse not to attend one.
Church as a duty, as a Sunday Morning tradition or obligation... well it sucks. And if that's all there is to it, then I'd rather sleep in. Church as a way to find perfect people is setting yourself up for DISASTER. Church as a social group is entirely ineffective.
But church as a family, united - a group of individuals that love and support each other and share that love with their community.... wow! That's church that you couldn't pay me to miss! A church that experiences the tangible touch of the Holy Spirit as His glory descends and dwells in our praise and worship... You don't have to beg me to come... you may have to beg me to leave! Church as the time of support when life kicks you in the groin, to find people who are not going to condemn you but to pray for you and be there for you anyway they can... that's so refreshing!
I love my church. It's very different from the one I got saved at. It's very different from the one I last attended in Florida. It's very different from the church most people attend. But please let me keep hanging out with those dear ol' saints! We are working towards becoming the kind of body that Jesus can use to point to Himself.
So in the bible study, we were encouraged to become "traders": People who trade in the self-centered (and now entirely distorted) ambition of the "American Dream" for a self-sacrificing lifestyle where we tangibly care enough about others to DO something about it.
And the pastor told a good illustration to prove this: He asked his daughter to clean her room. And then he pointed out, "My daughter knows better than to come back to me and say, 'Daddy, I've memorized your instructions.... I've studied it in the Greek and Hebrew language, and I am inviting my friends over so we can have studies on how we're supposed to clean our rooms.' If she does all this, and doesn't clean her room, she is still being disobedient!"
"Or how somehow we forget the age-old game of following the leader, because when it comes to following Christ, we just tell Him 'Oh, we're following you deep in our heart' - but we're not doing as He did or as He asked us to do!"
May I clarify that the "American Dream" was originally freedom of worship (worship being the operative word here!), life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Now it's about having a bigger and better house/car/dog/job than the Jones', and we will justify anything and sacrifice everything just to please ourselves with more ... stuff! We credit the American Dream to neglecting our children to work 80 hr jobs to pay for $50,000 credit card debt that we spent on a boat and plasma tv and liposuction we really didn't NEED.
That's the American Dream we are talking about trading in -because Jesus lived a life entirely on serving and sacrificing for others and He said, "You are not greater than your MASTER, so go and do likewise!" (Paraphrase mines.) He also said that we need to lose our lives in order to find true life. It's a hard pill to swallow. Too many of us are deeply attached to our wants, our dreams, and our goals to let them go for anything - not even the Lord Himself.
But the reward of that fellowship with Him is so worth it!
So the Bible study tonight brought a lot of questions for me. I realized I've been doing everything to be as comfortable as possible so that I live with the minimal amount of faith. And in everything I wanted and focused on, not any of it involved my church, my friends, or the people that need me. I told God I wanted Him to be a greater desire and I wanted to know what was in His heart, and He's had to make some drastic changes in my life in order to open my eyes. I guess I can blog more through out the week as I better formulate these thoughts.
And also, I'm just sharing out loud what's going on in my heart. If it encourages you, great! But I don't want you to ever feel that it was written to condemn you. Because it wasn't. This is NOT me turning my nose up at other people who may be "less spiritual" than I. It's actually a public confession of my faith so that I'm held accountable; so that my walk may match my talk! I process things better when I write, and I have more consistent of a behavior when others know what I intend to do or how I intend to live.