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Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.
The psalmist wrote “ For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness.” We seem to not believe the psalmist in our culture today, though. We seem to shy away from God’s house and believe any place is as good as another.
I can remember not so many years ago that the church was the center of most people’s lives in this country. When things went wrong or you needed help, the church was the first place you thought of for help. But no longer. Growing up, I remember being in church every Sunday for Sunday School at 9:15, now replaced with small groups, then worship service that might last until 12:30 or 1:00, then back to an evening service at 6:00 that would often dismiss at 9:00 or 10:00. Most of those Sunday night services are gone from most churches today. Wednesday evening midweek prayer meeting started at 7:00 and again lasted until 9:00 or later. Those, too, have disappeared.
Some churches have small group sessions in homes or coffee shops or even at the church one or two times a week with total attendance at 15 to 20 percent of the worship attendance. But for some reason we don’t see the church with the importance we once did. I think there are several reasons, none of which bode well for the state of the world we live in.
We need to stop and take inventory of some of those causes every once in a while and see if they apply to us as individuals. If and when they do, we need to stop and examine our lives and figure out how to get back on track before we find ourselves following the way of the world and end up on that broad way Jesus talks about that leads to destruction. So here are some reasons I see we have lost the desire to spend time together in God’s house.
First, we allow ourselves to become too busy with less important things. Don’t misunderstand me as I say that. We find our schedules filled to the brim with stuff and a lot of it looks important and is. We need to spend time with family and friends. We need to make a good living to support those we love. We need to do a lot of the things that we see on our calendar that is not in God’s house. But if we examine our calendars carefully, we would see a lot of things that have taken God’s place and disrupted our lives in ways he would not be pleased.
Let me share some examples. Would God prefer you spend time together as a family worshiping him in his house, or on a soccer field? That doesn’t mean sports is not important, but is it important to the exclusion of worship? Would God prefer you watch four hours of mindless television shows together, or learning about his incarnation and sacrifice? Lots of other examples can show where our priorities in the use of our time put God way down on our list of priorities and so we abandon his house and fail to understand the psalmist’s love of God’s house.
Second, the church fails to identify God, even in his own house. Now that is a terrible thing to say, but I’m afraid it is true in too many churches I’ve visited. We get caught up more often in our ritual and program and the entertainment value of our services than in seeing the God who wants to meet with us as we worship together. We have too often lost the ability to worship.
Too many of our churches have grown cold and wouldn’t recognize God if he were to walk in the door. We have pushed him out with our version of what worship should be instead of letting God determine what our worship should be. Am I trying to dictate some form of worship over another? No. Am I trying to say that one denomination has it right and others do not? No. Am I saying some churches get it right and others do not. Yes. Some churches have lost the spirit by the individual and collective actions of those who attend.
Paul talks about the behavior of those whom we will not see in heaven. The list includes prostitutes and thieves and murderers and we say amen to all of those. But Paul’s list didn’t stop there. He also listed those who gossip, lie, or cause dissension. Unfortunately, I’ve been to too many churches in my travels, and know we have those in every church I’ve visited. The world knows it, too. So if I’m an unbeliever, why would I want to go to a church filled with liars, gossips, and people who stir up dirt when the church is supposed to be a place where I can find hope and forgiveness.
So, if I’m an unbeliever, why would I want to go to a place that no only acts and feels just like the places I frequent outside the church, but does so while proclaiming it is just the opposite. As you can imagine, the hypocrisy would keep many from ever wanting to enter the doors. We in the church, are guilty of displaying some of the most devilish behavior as when we fail to provide the love for all people that Jesus tells us we should show.
Third, we in the church are probably guilty of doing what most families do to each other. I’m seldom as harsh with words directed to complete strangers as I am with those I love the most. We wonder why we do that after the fact, because we know how cutting and hurtful words can be if we are not careful with them. James tells us our tongue is one of the most dangerous weapons we have, much sharper than a sword. Yet we still aim hurtful words at those we love the most.
Maybe it’s because we know they love us too and will forgive our wrongs because they love us. Maybe it’s because when those we love do something that hurts us, it cuts so deep and we want to reciprocate with equally damaging words. Maybe we just don’t care because of the culture we built within our society that says my feelings take precedence over yours. Whatever the reason, I’ve found through the years the most hurt comes from our blood relatives and from our spiritual relatives. The words from both of those groups cause more angst than from any other sector of society. And so rather than stopping to find out what caused the dissension and gossip in the first place. Instead of confronting the source of the information that damaged the relationship, we just let things fester and fume until anger flares, sides are drawn, and the church divides.
As an outsider looking in, why would I want to be a part of that? What would draw me to that kind of place? I can get that from my neighborhood. I can find that around the watercooler at work. What good is church if that’s the way people behave? It certainly doesn’t describe the dwelling place of God that David describes, does it?
The good news is that most churches I’ve visited have a few of those saints that know the psalmist was right. Those who have had a genuine heart to heart encounter with God know what it means to be in his presence. Those who truly love him with their whole heart, soul, mind, and strength know that it really is better to be in his house than anywhere else. Those who discover God as creator and giver of all things and master of the universe and savior of those who believe in him for forgiveness of sin, would rather be in his presence than in the finest palace in the world. To those few saints in those churches, God isn’t defined by doctrine. He doesn’t look like the Renaissance paintings. He doesn’t care about riches and fame. He doesn’t care about who we know or what we do. He cares about each one of us as individuals. He cares about our individual relationship with him.
The few in those many churches I’ve visited that really know God. That have a deep intimate relationship with him, don’t even have to wait to go to church to worship, but they do gather together in places of worship because he instructs us to do so. They go to those churches to help others find their God. They desire more than anything to make it to God’s eternal dwelling place with other who have heard the story of Jesus, God incarnate, and believe. They desire to meet often with their spiritual brothers and sisters.
How about you? Have you met that God? Have you fallen in love with the one who cares nothing of doctrine, but everything about relationship? Have you become intimately involved with the one who gave everything so we might live to worship him? Have you discovered the God who longs to be with you so that you can know him and trust him with everything you have and everything you are?
If not, it’s about time you met him. Time is running out. It’s one day closer to Jesus’ return! And no one knows when that will be. It could be another thousand years...but it could also be tomorrow. Be ready!
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.