Archive for January, 2012

What Excites You?

Well…I must tell you that I don’t want to always bore you with my posts about such serious topics all the time. So, I’ll mix some things up in this post. I ask the question in the title, “What Excites You?” Can I tell you something “non-spiritual?” Is that allowed? I hope so!

What Excites Me? Basketball!

I love it!

My entire family loves it! If you didn’t know it, we are all Carolina Tar Heel fans. Here’s Pam and Andrew at a Carolina game in the Dean Dome…

Talk about exciting! Watching a Carolina game in the Dean Dome! Now that’s exciting! Isn’t it neat how the Lord has geared us for different things that we like and don’t like. For instance, I don’t like “doing nothing.” If I’m going to “rest,” then I’m going to go to sleep. I find it hard just sitting and doing nothing. But, basketball. Man…if I’m not careful, I could watch it all the time. It’s why I got rid of cable TV.

But now there is this thing called ESPN3 and you can watch a game on the computer. YIKES! What a temptation and can I tell you…I indulge from time to time. I am right now! That’s right, I’m typing this blog at the half of the Carolina vs. Wake Forest game. Sshh!! Don’t tell anybody! 😉

I’ve loved basketball since I was one year old and my dad put a ball in my hands between my little legs. I still love the way a basketball feels in my hands. I love the way a basketball smells, a gymnasium smells on game nights (with the smell of popcorn wafting up the rafters). It’s a blast.

Let me show you somebody scoring their 1,000th point…

That’s my niece Leah Church. She’s 13 and has already scored her 1,000th point for the Surry County Running Patriots. This is a homeschool team that plays all over the state and into Virginia. She hit a 3-pointer for her 1,000th point by the way. Leah is playing against players that are 15, 16 and 17 years-old. Amazing. She’s averaging over 20 points per game.

Here she is with her coach, who presented her the game ball after nailing that 3 pointer for her 1,000th point…

Sure am proud of that young lady! I think she takes after her Uncle’s and Grandpa’s love for basketball. Dad and I often say, “We taught her everything she knows.” But, I’m sure her father, Craig Church would have something to say about that (all the hours of practice and running and training he’s done with Leah).

What else excites me? Well, there is truly no great thrill than to hear my girls sing and play their instruments. Last week, we were working doing some cleaning at a business (offices) we clean each week and I heard them singing. Katy was singing melody and Kandace singing harmony. I was sweeping in another area of the large office and I just stopped and listened. I “teared-up” to be honest. I thought, “Man, that’s beautiful!”

I love to hear them sing…Katy’s singing here with our church Praise Team…She’s in the middle in the dress…

I love to watch Katy act…

I love watching Kandace playing the violin…

What about you? What do you love? What excites you? God wired you that way. Some like gardening, working on cars, hunting, shopping, reading, sleeping :), you name it. I’m glad that He made me the way He did… How ’bout you?

Rejoice in your DNA. Really. Rejoice in how the Lord made you. Oh…I’m pretty excited right now. The Heels are still winning!

One last thing…I mentioned in the last post about the Greek model of education versus the Hebraic model. I want to honor what I said that I’d do…mentioning these two models. So, briefly… The Greek model is having a teacher give facts, information and data to students that the students then “learn” and give back to the teacher. This is the stuff you “learned” in school that you have now mostly forgotten…like the Quadratic Equation and how to diagram a cell. 🙂

The Hebraic form of education is all about mentoring and apprenticeship. This was the model of education for centuries prior to about 250 years ago. Which is more effective. I’ll let you decide. Jesus was apprenticed by His father. So, you know what I’m partial too.

Oh…a score update…the Heels are up 20! I’m excited!

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Educational Choices

You know I’m grateful that I live in America and I can choose how to educate my children. Pam and I have chosen to homeschool. It’s been a blessing to say the least. And it’s hard. Hard? Yes…it’s hard going against the grain of the culture and homeschooling. Believe it or not my kids catch a lot more “heat” from being homeschooled than they do for being the children of Pastor. That’s interesting in and of itself.

But, what I’ve been thinking about is what goes beyond “classroom” education. I know many homeschool parents that drive their kids as hard at the “kitchen table” as any public school teacher running a classroom with academically gifted students. Is there anything wrong with this? Not necessarily. I worked hard and excelled in school. But, if we teach children all the “knowledge” of this world and never teach them character, integrity and responsibility they will be nothing more than “educated fools.”

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?…25For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written,“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Can I ask you, “Do you know any ‘educated fools?'” They’re “adults” now. They are “smart as a whip,” but have a hard time getting to work on time. They are lazy and have little or no work ethic. They might have “aced” the SAT are ACT, but if they are undependable and have no drive or motivation, then they’ll fail in life…I don’t care how smart they are or what kind of grades they made or where they graduated.

Character development is seldom taught in school…and I believe that’s true of even some homeschools. Again, if we are teaching all the “book” stuff but don’t get our kids in the THE BOOK (the Bible), then what are we really accomplishing?

At the end of our kids’ lives, what’s going to matter? If you are Christian, your answer should be: “Where they spend eternity.” If you aren’t a Christian you might answer: “I hope they live a comfortable life and make a valuable contribution to society.” That second answer seems kind of lame to me. Sorry if that offends.

Can I tell you what I believe might be the problem in our “educational choices” in how we choose to raise our children? I believe it goes back to the indoctrination in our lives that we must all pursue the “American Dream.” Can I remind us all of what that is? Well…let me describe it…

The American Dream:

Graduate high school, go to college, graduate, get a job, make money, get married, have a family, go on vacations, particularly Disney (at least once), buy stuff, do stuff, put stuff in storage, save for college, save for retirement, retire, buy a Winnebago, go to the Grand Canyon, play golf, eat out more meals than you cook, die.

That somehow doesn’t seem too great to me. Actually it seems kind of empty and, well…to be honest…kind of selfish. But, if that’s what we teach our kids, (no matter what kind of school they attend), and it’s all about grades, and college, then this is what we’re saying: Live for yourself!

I’m speaking at a Homeschool Winter Conference tomorrow and these thoughts are bouncing through my brain, so I’m trying them out on you. 🙂 Yes, we all have educational choices for our children. But, isn’t there more than just “book” learning? Shouldn’t our children learn that they must submit to instruction and authority (particularly their parents, Eph. 6:1)? Assuming you are a believer in Christ, shouldn’t they learn to honor God and the Bible? Shouldn’t they learn to control their emotions and exhibit self-control? Shouldn’t they learn sacrifice and the value of a hard day’s work? Is this being taught to your child? Who’s teaching it?

We all understand that public schools are not allowed to teach “Christian values,” but I’ve found that if I’m not careful (and this is one of the main reasons Pam and I homeschool), that we’ll miss teaching our kids the things that really matter in life. I mean give me a break…how many of you remember the quadratic equation? How about the “Periodic Chart of Elements” and their symbols? How about how to diagram a cell and it’s parts? Do you remember what the mitochondria does? Does it really matter?

Now please hear me…I’m not seeking to diminish the value of “education.” But, if all we teach is what is found in books written by “men” and we don’t teach what has been breathed into the heart of man and was inspired right out of the mind of God (the Bible) then, I believe we are not truly educating our children in what matters. You might disagree…but, that’s ok….we can agree to disagree. But, the point is that if my kids grow up and can “outsmart” your kids and ace the SAT, but they can’t get to work on time because they’ve never learned how to get out of bed and they’ve never developed a character of integrity and selfless living of sacrifice and work hard, then what have they really gained in all their “education?” I’m like the Apostle John. I want to be able to say, “I have NO GREATER JOY than to hear that my children are walking in the truth,” not graduated from college or they’re making $60,000 and are miserable.

I’ll share more in my next post concerning this and I’ll share some thoughts I have about the “Greek versus the Hebraic Model of Education.” Stay tuned…and thanks for letting me use you as a sounding board. I think I’m close to be ready for the conference in the morning. 🙂 Thanks!

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When I say, “Dunked.” Were you thinking of this?

Well, I like that picture…no question about that. But, it’s not what I had in mind. I like this one better!

This is Madilyn Dowell.

And the end result…

Guess what? I had the privilege of doing this 14 times this past Sunday! Yep…I said, 14 times! Isn’t that amazing? Take a look…

Over and over again, for one solid hour, we baptized! You say, “Are you only baptizing once per year or something?” Nope. We baptize when we need to. We baptized 29 last year over a period of six baptisms and this is our first this year.

Take a look at our “Prayer Chapel,” which was our sanctuary for about 131 of our 137 year existence. Can you say, “Packed out?”

The excitement beforehand was amazing! Here’s me with Carson Edmiston…

What a joy!

Check out the smiles on the faces of the folks watching…

We had ’em sitting in the old choir lofts. To put this in perspective. We had 421 folks in the service on Sunday and about 250 came over to the Prayer Chapel and didn’t get out until after 1 pm just to support and encourage these folks being baptized… Awesome!!

Here’s a great shot of me and Erick Langseth (the father), with his son, Elijah. You know there is no place in Scripture that says a “pastor” must baptize someone.

Did you notice in the picture of the entire group (above) that there were several teenagers and adults? Yep. 8 of the 14 were over the age of 15. Do you know why? Because a lot of folks simply have “Hell insurance.” Now there is nothing wrong with this…especially as children. This is all they know. They simply don’t want to go to Hell.

So, before the baptism, I pointed out to the children to look at the teenagers (who had all made professions of faith as children themselves, and had all been baptized before)… I said, “Children, as you grow…remember that you must determine and decide to follow Jesus every day. You must make up your mind that when middle school and high school comes, that you are still going to follow Jesus.”

I believe the “rubber really doesn’t hit the road” in the life of someone spiritually until they are tested to see if their conversion was true. I’ve written about it in my book, as well, that we don’t have a 90% failure rate with our children leaving the faith by their 20th birthday. The problem is that the majority of those that “leave the faith” were never truly saved, regenerated, born again in the first place. Is that you?

Do you truly know Jesus Christ, personally…or do you simply know a bunch of facts about him? It’s been said that many people will miss heaven by 18 inches. Why 18 inches? That’s the distance from a person’s head to their heart. You must know more than just facts about Jesus to go to heaven. You must know Him personally and that only happens in the heart.

You see, it’s the facts, the knowledge, the information, which the Holy Spirit of God uses to drive us to the understanding of our lost condition and the need of confession and repentance of our sin and our desperate need for someone to save us from ourselves. That someone is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came to this earth to do what you and I can’t do…which is live a perfect life, die, rise again and conquer death, hell and the grave.

Do you know Him? I mean really know Him? I’m not asking if you are a fine of His or if you saw a picture of Him on Facebook, that you’d click, “like.” I’m asking does He have control of your life? Is He in the driver’s seat or are you? Who’s the boss of your life? If He’s not driving…then, chances are you might be living on a false promise. Make certain of your salvation. The Scriptures teach that we are to work out our salvation in fear and trembling. What does this mean? Be scared? Be frightened? Work your way into heaven? No. That’s what all the other “religions” teach. No. All we have to do is trust in Christ. And as we grow in Him, we will grow in the process of being made holy (that’s called sanctification).

I’m really convinced that’s what happened to most of those “adults and young adults” who were baptized Sunday. They may have genuinely been saved at a younger age, but the truth is…each and every one of them told me: “We weren’t living it!” That pretty much sums it up!

Jesus said, “Why do you say that you love me, if you don’t keep my commands?” These young adults are ready to be “salt and light” and live it! Now that’s what I call a “slam dunk!”

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Is it going to snow this winter?

Is it going to snow this winter?

That may not be an important question to you, but it’s a serious question being asked by my two six-year-olds. They keep asking, “Daddy is it ever going to snow?” They were spoiled from last year when we got almost 30 inches of snow. My sister, Kim snapped this shot of Katy, Kandace, Taylor and Leah from a big snow last year…

This year…

Well, that’s it. A dusting a couple of weeks ago.

You know we are in a La Nina year. That simply means that the conditions in the Pacific Ocean are not favorable for our weather patterns to be “snowy.” Last year we had a blocking high pressure off the coast of Nova Scotia. Not so this year. You might have heard that Seattle is being hammered by snow this week. This is very unusual. Interestingly, Mt. Rainier, in Washington state…

has a summit of 14,411 feet is expected to get over 100 inches of snow over the next five days. Wow!

So, the weather patterns are just not syncing up for us this winter. And you know, that’s ok. Because you can’t have a snowy year every winter. My power bill has certainly been easier to handle versus last year. But, back to the question at hand from Clara and Andrew. “Will it snow?” Well, let’s see what the almanac has to say.

See those highlighted circles? That indicates a chance of rain or snow on each of those dates in February. Now does that mean it will snow? Maybe…maybe not. But, it’s interesting to look at and contemplate. Can we trust almanacs to give us accurate weather forecasts? Not day-to-day, certainly, but if they hit the pattern right, they can get within a week or a few days of these events. So, we’ll see.

As an aside, I asked one very good and accurate weather forecaster from a Winston-Salem, NC TV station if he thought we’d get any this year and he thinks we “might have a shot at one good one.” I hope for Clara and Andrew’s sake, he’s right. But, the neat thing is that “man” can do nothing about this. God controls the weather patterns 100% of the time. Isn’t that great? Ever thought about what it would be like if man controlled the weather patterns. You talk about big-time arguments. Wow!

I wanted to show you a picture of something I saw at church last night. Take a look…

That’s Aaron Hudler washing dishes with his father, Jerry Hudler looking on. Way to go Aaron! He jumped in there and is washing those pots like a man! I hear ya! And I love it! I love the fact that Jerry expects his son to work. He expects him to have a work ethic. So do I! Here’s Andrew working in a blur vacuuming the rug at the office building we clean each week…

Here’s Andrew and Clara sweeping in the warehouse bathroom where we clean each week.

Is hard work going to kill them? No way! Will it make them better? You better believe it will. So, why is it that so few parents expect their kids to do anything?

Can I ask you a couple of questions? How many times should you have to ask for something to be done? When should you expect obedience?

Let me give you some answers right from Scripture (many Proverbs and Ephesians 6:1)

  • Immediately (not later or in a few minutes)
  • Completely (not partially)
  • Dutifully (with a good attitude)

It has been said: “It is right that children should obey their parents and no further question need be asked, no further reason for obeying need be sought.”

I believe the following:

  • Do not do for your children what they should do for themselves
  • If they dirty something, they should clean it
  • If they’re old enough to “get it out,” they are old enough to “put it up”
  • If they leave a door open, they should go back and close it
  • If they turn something on, they should turn it off
  • Don’t bail them out when they’ve acted irresponsibly
  • Don’t state for them time after time the established guidelines for chores and standards of behavior…consequences must follow quickly
  • Don’t wake them daily when they are old enough to set an alarm clock or you will create dependence on you and they will blame you for not getting them up
  • Don’t do homework assignments for them
  • Don’t pay for their mistakes…if they “break it,” they pay for it

This is tough stuff though. Are you willing to do it? Am I? You know there are basically three types of parents.

#1 Permissive-Doing everything for the child.  You want to be their friend.  But what you’ve become is the child’s slave and they run the house.  You are constantly snow plowing your child’s road for them.  You do everything for them and you are afraid to tell them no.  You are running a Holiday Inn instead of a home.  In essence, “the inmates are running the asylum.”

Permissive Parents allow “child-run” homes and will be heard saying things like:

  • I can’t make that for dinner at our house, the kids just won’t eat it.
  • I prepare meals in two batches—one for my husband and me and one for the kids.
  • We can’t have that family over to the house, their children are so much younger than ours that ours wouldn’t enjoy them.
  • We can’t go there, the kids would get bored.
  • We can’t take our kids into the church service, they’d never last.
  • We won’t be able to go, our little Princess just doesn’t do well in those situations.
  • We’ll probably be changing teachers or possibly schools because our little Bobby doesn’t enjoy Mrs. So & So.
  • Junior refuses to…
  • Susie just won’t put up with…
  • I don’t want her to hate me…
  • You bribe with treats and TV…

Remember, whatever we allow in moderation our children will take to excess!

#2 Authoritarian—You as a parent are always right and you “Lord” over the child with an iron fist and run the home like a dictator.  There is fear and worry as the parent barks out orders.  The child never feels secure in this environment and internalizes fear and doubt.  Children in this environment stay in the cocoon and some can even become bitter, angry and violent in later years.

#3 Authoritative and Responsive—this is the parent that finds that middle ground and has realistic expectations based on the child’s age, temperament and maturity.  This is the parent that loves the child unconditionally, but has expectations of them nonetheless.  They are responsive to disobedience without reacting in anger and hostility.  There are consequences for disobedience that are fair and expressed ahead of time.  The discipline is consistent and loving.  There are no entitlements in the home and there are no Holiday Inns.  This parent knows the secret about what all children want and it’s this:  All children, by and large, want is to please their parents and they want their parent’s respect.  Short and sweet, they “want” us and want us to be proud of them.

Perhaps you are a combination of these three. I find myself in that category, if I’m honest. Truth is, I really do want to follow the Lord in all His precepts and all His ways in raising my children. With much prayer, self-discipline and hard work…it can be done.

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$20,000, Shoes, Tim Tebow and homeschooling. ??? Wondering, “What in the world could this post be about?”

Well wonder no more!

We’ve been raising funds at our church to purchase a mission house in Texas to plant a church in an area where there are no churches reaching people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As of Sunday, we were $20,000 short of our $80,000 goal that we must meet by 2/14/12. Well, not anymore!

I had a man call me yesterday morning and say, “Pastor, I sent you an email earlier, but it bounced back to me and didn’t go through. My wife and I were going to give $5,000 for the work of the Mission House. So, my wife said to me, ‘Must be the Lord, honey. Why don’t you just do the whole thing and be done with.’ So, pastor, that’s what we’re doing. You don’t have to think any more about the Mission House funds. It’s done!”

Can you say: “Hallelujah!” I can! Oh my! God has provided again! Isn’t it so true that it seems the answers come when almost all hope is lost? I know Mary and Martha felt this way about the death of their brother Lazarus. But, Jesus is always right on time! Thank you Jesus!

Ok…now for the shoes. Katy, and Kandace (my 17 and 13-year-old daughters) and my wife, Pam just got back from New York.

(You might remember this “blessing” from my last post.) Well, Katy had a marvelous revelation while at Carnegie Hall. She wrote a blog post yesterday called, “The Shoes in Carnegie Hall.” Here’s an excerpt:

While I was sitting on the Carnegie Hall stage during rehearsal. I looked down at my feet while I was waiting for my turn to sing and something hit my like a ton of bricks as I looked at my shoes. They were one of my favorite pair of shoes. They are just plain black shoes with a strap. I love to wear them. I wear them a lot, because they work for comfort and look nice too. But it hit me that I had worn them in Ethiopia. In fact, I wore them to the most rural village we went to… Mount Geleye. They had walked on the ground of some of the most extreme poverty in the world.

I looked up and saw where I was then. Carnegie Hall’s golden glow almost became a blur as I looked back down. Those shoes had gone from the two most opposite places. From the depths of Africa to the most famous and beautiful Hall in the world. God spoke to me the simple words, “And so you go. You have shared Me with the Ethiopians and you will share Me with those here tonight. And, you are to share Me with everyone in between.” Just as my shoes had seen the two extremes, so had I. God told me that He sees them both and all between. Even my little town of Wilkesboro. He told me to be used wherever I am. Everywhere.

Beautiful are the feet of those that bring the good news, says Romans 10:15. I choked up as I remembered the persecuted in Africa and then as I thought of the many confused city people who rush through the bright streets of NYC and then of everyone in between.

It may sound crazy but, my shoes reminded me to go. Go. Go. Go to my church and use my gift there. Go to Mexico and serve there. Go to Africa and serve there. Go to NYC and serve there. Go where Jesus says. For now I’m at home and I’m determined not to get down because the excitement is over. It has only begun. God has stamped my heart with a mission. I am to make Him known through my actions, words I write, music I play and sing and the smile on my face. I won’t let Him down. Will you? Will you? He has so much planned and it starts with a, “Yes, Lord. Use me.” Click here for the entire post…

Here’s another awesome thought. Tim Tebow. Rick Reilly, a writer for ESPN brought me to tears. Here’s an excerpt from his article, “I Believe in Tim Tebow”:

This whole thing makes no football sense, of course. Most NFL players hardly talk to teammates before a game, much less visit with the sick and dying.

Isn’t that a huge distraction?

Tim Tebow with Zac

Stephanie Taylor Not everything Tim Tebow does on one knee is controversial. Ask Zac Taylor.

“Just the opposite,” Tebow says. “It’s by far the best thing I do to get myself ready. Here you are, about to play a game that the world says is the most important thing in the world. Win and they praise you. Lose and they crush you. And here I have a chance to talk to the coolest, most courageous people. It puts it all into perspective. The game doesn’t really matter. I mean, I’ll give 100 percent of my heart to win it, but in the end, the thing I most want to do is not win championships or make a lot of money, it’s to invest in people’s lives, to make a difference.”

So that’s it. I’ve given up giving up on him. I’m a 100 percent believer. Not in his arm. Not in his skills. I believe in his heart, his there-will-definitely-be-a-pony-under-the-tree optimism, the way his love pours into people, right up to their eyeballs, until they believe they can master the hopeless comeback, too.

Remember the QB who lost his leg, Jacob Rainey? He got his prosthetic leg a few weeks ago, and he wants to play high school football next season. Yes, tackle football. He’d be the first to do that on an above-the-knee amputation.

Hmmm. Wonder where he got that crazy idea? “Tim told me to keep fighting, no matter what,” Rainey says. “I am.” Click here for the inspiring article. Have a tissue ready.

Want a hero for your kid? There ya go!

By the way, Tim Tebow was homeschooled all the way through High School until entering college at the University of Florida, where he won the Heisman his Sophomore year. (Not bad for a homeschooler, huh?)

Speaking of homeschooling. If you want to see an absolutely hilarious look at the “7 Lies About Homeschooling,” take a look at this short video. You’ll need tissues again, but this time in hysterical laughter. This is a must watch, especially for homeschoolers.

“7 Lies Video…”

Well, there you have it. $20,000, Shoes, Tim Tebow and homeschooling…all wrapped together! Hope you enjoyed! 🙂

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Man, am I blessed! I really am! I was thinking about just how good the Lord is to me and it’s overwhelming to consider. How about you? Remember the old song, “Count Your Blessings?” The lyrics of the chorus are: “Count your blessings, name them one by one, Count your blessings, see what God hath done!”

Well, I’m going to take a moment to do that. First off…right now my family (three of them) are in New York City. Take a look…

They left on Tuesday night and we’ll be coming back on Sunday. The girls were invited to sing with the Annie Moses Band at Carnegie Hall as a part of a 200-member choir.

Annie Moses Band @ Carnegie Hall 2012

Here’s the blessing of it. The cost of the trip was impossible for my family to meet. We’ve tried to faithfully give to the purchase of a Mission House our church is buying in Weslaco, TX so that we can plant a church there and also to continue the work that we’ve begun in Progreso, Mexico where we’ve built a church. Incidentally, there were 13 people who made a profession of faith in Christ last Sunday at the church in Progreso! They’ll be baptizing them next Sunday and at Mt. Pleasant we’ll be baptizing 14! That’s 27 souls added to the kingdom! What a blessing!

The point is, there was no way to do both. My children swallowed hard and said, “No problem, Dad.” Their desire to put the kingdom of God was and is a blessing to me.

But, God had plans to bless…because He blesses beyond measure! I’m convinced this family (shown with ours) had something to do with an anonymous “blessing” that allowed not only Katy and Kandace to go, but Pam as well.

Thank you Hall family! God used you to bless our family! Thanks David and Kathy for looking after my girls up there in the big city! We love you!

So the girls are soaking the sites in between a ton of practices and rehearsals. They went to Broadway play last night and will be going to see the Empire State Building this afternoon. What a blessing.

Man, am I blessed! I just can’t get over God’s goodness…like with this lady…

Pam is the most amazing woman! Wow! After 21 years of marriage, I still can’t believe I’m married to her! Oh…and these guys…

What a blessing, indeed! My parents, Pam’s parents, the MPBC church family, Iron Men, mission work in Ethiopia, Mexico, good health, my book, and most of all…

The Savior! Jesus Christ! Oh what an indescribable gift! The price he paid! He suffered my Hell for me. Darkness…separation from the Father…all for me. Amazing!

I return to the song, “Count Your Blessings.”

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed, When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings, name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Refrain: Count your blessings, name them one by one, Count your blessings, see what God hath done! Count your blessings, name them one by one, *Count your many blessings, see what God hath done. [*And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.]

Are you ever burdened with a load of care? Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear? Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly, And you will keep singing as the days go by.

When you look at others with their lands and gold, Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold; Count your many blessings—wealth can never buy Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small, Do not be discouraged, God is over all; Count your many blessings, angels will attend, Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Man am I blessed!

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Sometimes I hear believers having conversations about church and I’ll hear one Christian ask another, “Are you gettin’ anything out of church?” Seems like a simple question doesn’t it? But, there is a lot to consider.

What is church?

In Living Color by eye2eye

Why do we go to church? What is our responsiblity as a believer to our church? These are questions that come to mind as I consider the first question: “…gettin’ anything out of church?”

In a recent Barna Research study, (can be found here), I noticed some interesting statistics. It was found that most people (66%) feel they have had “a real and personal connection” with God while attending church. Of course that means one-third of those who have attended a church in the past have never felt God’s presence while in a congregational setting. Also, when asked about frequency, most of those who have attended church describe these “real and personal” encounters as rare. One-third of all adults in the country report connecting with God at least monthly (35%) while in church. Among those who attend church every week, 44% said they experience God’s presence every week and 18% do so on a monthly basis.

But, is that the point of church? Are we simply to attend church to get a “feeling?” That seems kind of self-serving. Does it seem that way to you? Seems a little selfish to me. Aren’t we supposed to forsake not the assembling of ourselves together so that we may stir up one another to righteousness?

24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 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

Are we to be in the entertainment business as churches? Are we supposed to be worried if people who come to our houses of worship “get anything out of it?” Well…I don’t want to be too quick to give an answer here. Why? Because I don’t think it’s a “cut and dried, yes or no” answer. If we are looking for goose bumps and hair standing on end each week, then I believe we are short-sited to what the “assembling together” is supposed to be. Yet, I do believe we should “get something out of coming” together as believers. Let me explain.

The Bible teaches (and this is always where we should look for answers, right?) in Acts 2 that the believers would meet together and do four things.

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47

Do you see what they were doing? It’s listed in verse 42. They #1 Devoted themselves to the Apostle’s teaching (they studied about Jesus) #2 Fellowship #3 Broke bread (ate together) #4 Prayed.

Now where do the goose bumps show up in that? Well, they can, interestingly enough. You see I get goose bumps (no joke) just being around other believers. I thoroughly enjoy being around my brothers and sisters in Christ! I’m absolutely enamored to hear stories of how Jesus is impacting their lives. It’s fantastic! It really is!

Yet, in our entertainment-saturated culture, many church leaders believe they have to conjure up some sort of “emotional experience” each week during the “worship service.” Why do we think this? Because we think we have to somehow keep up with the world, I’m afraid. We think we have to compete with concerts and great speakers/orators and the like. Yet, we don’t.

Church is simply the assembling together of the believers to study the Scriptures, fellowship, eat and pray. Are our churches focusing on these things or are we trying to conjure up some sort of “experience” each week for the believer.

Now don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with goose bumps. I like them! But, that’s not why I come to church, nor should it be. I get goose bumps when I’m singing with other believers the words to Chris Tomlin’s song, “I Will Rise.” I love the words:

There’s a peace I’ve come to know

Though my heart and flesh may fail

There’s an anchor for my soul I can say “It is well”

Jesus has overcome And the grave is overwhelmed

The victory is won He is risen from the dead 

And I will rise when He calls my name

No more sorrow, no more pain

I will rise on eagles’ wings

Before my God fall on my knees

And rise I will rise

Aren’t those powerful words? You bet! So, when you couple those words with music! Wow! You might get some goose bumps! Wonderful! But, it’s the words, it’s the fellowship with other believers and the edification of the saints as we sing those words together that brings the greatest satisfaction if you ask me. But, coming to church just to “feel something” seems very selfish to me. It kind of seems that it’s “all about me” if I think that way.

Let me share a couple of more things. The Barna study probed the degree to which people say their lives had been changed by attending church. Overall, one-quarter of Americans (26%) who had been to a church before said that their life had been changed or affected “greatly” by attending church. Another one-fourth (25%) described it as “somewhat” influential. Nearly half said their life had not changed at all as a result of churchgoing (46%). Let’s see. Is it “coming to church” that is to change our lives or is it Jesus Christ? A building of block and mortar has never changed a single life that I know of, but certainly Jesus Christ can. In fact, “church” is not even about a building. The believers worshipped without buildings for over two centuries in one another’s homes.

Finally, Barna and his folks found that most people cannot recall gaining any new spiritual insights the last time they attended church. Asked to think about their last church visit, three out of five church attenders (61%) said they could not remember a significant or important new insight or understanding related to faith. Even among those who attended church in the last week, half admitted they could not recall a significant insight they had gained. You know this is sad. As a pastor, I think about what I just typed and I say to myself, “Kevin, surely you can study, pray and prepare, seek the anointing and guidance of the Holy Spirit to impart at least one ‘important insight’ to people when you speak.” Again, it’s not that I have to “put on a show” when I preach. But, surely there is enough passion and unction in me (brought by the Spirit) that I can share at least one thing that causes people to say, “Yeah…I learned something today…I’m glad I came.”

One last thing. Church size doesn’t seem to matter.

Church on a New England Green by slack12

Barna says:

Many heated discussions occur about the optimal size for a church, but this data suggests that church experiences do not differ all that much based on the size of the church. For the most part, attenders of small, medium and larger churches described similar outcomes from their church engagement. Looking at moderate differences, attenders of mid-sized churches (defined as those with 100-299 adult attenders) were slightly less likely to report positive outcomes from church than were those attending larger and smaller congregations. Also, those attending larger churches (300+ attenders) were more likely than average to say they had gained new spiritual insight and understanding and that their church clearly prioritizes serving the poor.

Interesting stuff. So, are you “gettin’ anything out of church?” Maybe the question should be: “What are you putting in?”

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