Ever drive by one of those old country churches and think, “What was life like for these people back then?” I was on a motorcycle ride through the Ozarks. As we drove through the twisty back roads on our 2 lane adventure, we came over a hill and there in the next valley was this beautiful old church. It was in need of a good paint job, and it had been quite some time since anyone had mowed the tiny lawn. It was surrounded on three sides by a well manicured soybean field. Much like the church in this photo, the occupants of that tiny country church had long since moved on.

Looking back on that image in my mind, it seemed as if the church was in the way. If the church hadn’t been there, that soybean field would have been complete, and perfect! The old church was more of an eye sore than anything in that pristine rural community. So why was it still there? Why hadn’t someone torn it down or converted it to a farm house and fixed it up? It was a picture of our culture today.

I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together! Remember that old song from when you were a kid? If not, see me when you get home and I’ll teach it to you! 🙂 That childhood song taught us that the really important part of “The Church” was us. 2 Samuel 7: 1-17 tells the story of Nathan coming to speak to David…. not the Bathsheba story … this is the “ you want to build a house for me” story. In a nutshell, God tells David that he has always been with his people. Before there was ever a mention of building a permanent temple, God was dwelling with his people. But God said something interesting in vs. 10. He said that he would plant the people of Israel so that they could live in their own homes and no longer would they be forced to wander. God allowed Solomon to build him a temple to demonstrate to the people of Israel that he wasn’t going anywhere. He would be planted there with the people he had chosen.

Not so long ago, that old country church was a symbol to the rural community that God was in their midst. God wasn’t going anywhere. Not during the good days, or the bad ones. He would be as firmly planted as the building they created for him. sn’t it true today as well? God has not left his people to fend for themselves. But what about all the trouble these days? With ISIS rolling through the middle East, and trouble happening all over the earth, you might wonder if the message of the Bible is out of sync with the 21st century. Do all those old words really work in our sophisticated, intellectual era? Umm, all I can say is, “Pride goes before the fall….”

In vs. 14 of 2 Samuel, chapter 7, God addresses David once more to tell him he would take care of his son Solomon. He tells David, “I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he sins, I will use other people to punish him, they will be my whips.”

I think sometimes we forget that God sees it all! He’s not caught off guard when we sin against him. See Romans 6:23. (by the way, isn’t that what our sins are? a rebelling against God himself??) We WILL sin and he WILL punish us when we do. Now wait a minute…. where’s the grace here? See 1 John 1:8 – 9.

My little friends, 🙂 would your parents allow you to do something that could potentially destroy you without intervention? Not if they really cared about you. It’s safe to say that no one cares about you more than your heavenly father, so if you’re wandering around in places you shouldn’t be….. it’s time to recalculate. God disciplines those He loves, according to the book of Hebrews 12: 4-8. He loves us enough to make life a little messy while we are away…… Then, through His grace, He calls us home again.

Coming Home

Back to the old song from Sunday School –

I am the church! You are the church!
We are the church together!
All who follow Jesus,
all around the world!
Yes, we’re the church together!

1. The church is not a building;
The church is not a steeple;
The church is not a resting place;
The church is a people.

Hopefully, most of you will be home for Thanksgiving. It’s great to come home after being gone for a while. Seems like it helps us appreciate “home” the more we are away from it. Home cooked meals, old friends, the feeling of your own bed and the comfort of your own room…..yeah, Home Sweet Home IS pretty awesome!

Maybe it’s been a little while since you’ve felt that way about your faith, or maybe your church. It’s easy to grow away from those relationships as well. No one’s pressing you to go to church at college. And to be honest…. no one’s really keeping track of you at school. But that doesn’t mean that your heavenly father doesn’t long to spend time with you! I think of my own kids while they are away at school. I miss them and seem to spend a little time each day praying for them and looking forward to calls, texts, and visits. I love my kids! Just think how much more God loves you and me.

You belong in church. It matters that you are there. You are the key to the faithfulness of the next generation. They are watching you and learning from your example.

Deuteronomy Chapter 6 lays out the task before each of us. It’s directed to parents but it applies to us all because we each have a sphere of influence. You have friends and peers you are “parenting”, and this is our instruction from the Lord:

Deut. 6:1-3a – These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you…

And then we hear these words from verses 5-9

5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

This task wasn’t given to the pastor, youth directors, teachers or staff members. This directive was given to the people because God knows if the people do not own their faith, then it will be a short matter of time before it is lost!

Pastor Robert Jeffress, in a Bible study series entitled, “Living Without Spiritual Regrets,” said this:

What we do in the few short years we have on this earth, intensely affects the type of eternity we will experience….. He went on to lay out some real strategies for living a successful Christian life in 2015. Life is more about consistency than intensity.

1. Remember God’s justification – you are never more forgiven than you are right now in God’s eyes. Because of Christ’s perfect sacrifice for you and me, we can live free from the guilt of, and bondage to sin.

2. Create a consistent devotional time – Robert Foster’s little book – “7 minutes with God” says if you will commit to a consistent 7 minutes with God each day, it will revolutionize your life! Here’s how you can break down that 7 minutes with God:

a. Spend the first 30 seconds thanking God for your good night’s sleep, or for just bringing you through the previous day.

b. Next, spent the next 4 minutes reading a Psalm or Bible passage asking God to give you insight into how this message from his word can apply to your life that day.

c. Finally, spend the last 2 ½ minutes praying.
You might follow this little acrostic in these 2 ½ minutes: ACTS Adoration (praising God)
Confession (laying out our sins before God asking for forgiveness)
Thanksgiving (thanking Him for what he has already done in your life)
Supplication (bringing your requests to the Lord)

Robert Foster says that if you make this a sacred commitment, one you will not allow yourself to violate, you will begin to see an amazing transformation in your life and your circumstances.

3. Don’t wait to share your faith with your friends. I went to high school with a group of guys who all sort of hung out together. I was friends with a couple of the guys but not so close to some of the others. My friend Kelly decided to go to a school to study auto body repair and had the hope to own his own shop someday creating custom hotrods. Kelly was struggling in his faith and I wasn’t the best example myself during those days of high school. We tend to be a little self-focused when we’re young adults and I was no exception.

Anyway, Kelly went off to school in one direction and I chose a different one. In late November of that year, I got a call from my parents telling me that my friend Kelly and his 4 roommates had died. They were renting a place from an elderly man above a garage and the homeowner went out and started his car one cold morning and forgot to open the garage door. They all died from carbon monoxide poisoning. I had planned to visit Kelly earlier that month and I think the Spirit was convicting me to talk to him about his faith. I let something else get in the way of that visit and I never got the chance to talk to him.

Who knows if God has placed you in your group of friends and peers to witness to them. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is live in such a way as to demonstrate that God is working a change in us. But whether we feel “ready” to share our faith or not, you might be the one person God has positioned to deliver the message of His forgiveness and grace to that friend or acquaintance. I’ve heard sharing our faith compared to – one beggar showing another beggar where to find bread. We aren’t better than anyone else, we just already know the source of real hope!

Pass the Baton

In a relay race the hand off is crucial. It’s the same way in life. Use these 4 steps to avoid spiritual regret, and make a positive impact in your world. We can’t do this without you and God never intended for you to sit back and watch the show…. so what are you waiting for? It’s time to get in the game! Church as you knew it is fading fast – but that doesn’t mean it’s out, it’s just starting a new chapter. And it’s your turn to lead!