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Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.
Here we are in the middle of Lent. In just a couple of weeks we will gather together to celebrate Easter. The day we set aside on the Christian calendar marking the day Jesus burst out of his grave to show us his power over death. During this season, I’ve been drawing my devotions from a book titled “For God So Loved”. The scripture I read today happens to come from Hebrews chapter 10. The author of that book writes to the Hebrew people of his day to explain in scholarly terms the proofs that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah and in the last several chapters, including chapter 10, how we should live in community with each other as his followers.
Now in this tenth chapter, beginning in verse 19 we find this admonition:
19 So, my friends, Jesus by His blood gives us courage to enter the most holy place. 20 He has created for us a new and living way through the curtain, that is, through His flesh. 21 Since we have a great High Priest who presides over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with true hearts full of faith, with hearts rinsed clean of any evil conscience, and with bodies cleansed with pure water. 23 Let us hold strong to the confession of our hope, never wavering, since the One who promised it to us is faithful. 24 Let us consider how to inspire each other to greater love and to righteous deeds, 25 not forgetting to gather as a community, as some have forgotten, but encouraging each other, especially as the day of His return approaches.
The author of the devotional I read today, Tara Beth Leach, gives some thoughts about the verses that could be summed up with an opening statement, “Don’t attend church, if…” She then fills in the blanks with several reasons why we should not go to church using a bit of sarcasm in her writing, such as, don’t attend church if you expect everyone to be just like you. Or don’t attend church if you expect easy answers. Or don’t attend church if you don’t want to be stretched and pushed.
So why should we go to church? Isn’t it supposed to be a safe haven for us so we can feel good about ourselves and find joy and peace and happiness? Isn’t church the place to find friendship and a common bond with those around you? Isn’t church the place to find that legacy of peace Jesus leaves us?
Church is all of that and more, but joy and peace and happiness and friendship and togetherness doesn’t mean it is easy or that everyone is or should be just like me. It doesn’t mean everything should be all soft and cushy and rosey. It doesn’t even mean I really want to be there sometimes. But I know I need to be there. Hebrews tells us we need to meet together. We need to support and learn from each other. We know that God doesn’t change, but I have to be honest, there is much about the Bible I just do not understand.
I believe the Bible is true and I believe is spans generations and gives light and life to us as we follow its teachings. I also believe there are some things written in it that apply to the particular culture in which it was written. For instance, Paul speaks out about women speaking in the church, yet he praises Lydia an obvious leader in the church. Jesus had no problem breaking the cultural rules as he spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well. Yet his actions were strictly forbidden and he never told anyone those forbidden rules were wrong. He just reached out to people.
So, I believe there are some things in the Bible that must be interpreted in the light of the culture of Biblical times. Often the principle of what was spoken can be picked out of the words and apply equally to us, but some things are just different in our culture. My wife only walks behind me when my pace gets faster than hers, not because I mean for her to be anywhere other than beside me. But not in some other culture even today and certainly not in Jesus’ day when cattle were more valuable than women.
So how best do we learn what scripture means? How can we interpret the words? We get together and we discuss what we read and how God’s spirit speaks to us individually and collectively and we begin to discern what God is trying to tell us. We should not depend on the pastor to do all of our study or all of our thinking for us. We should be an active part in that gathering to learn.
We should go to church to worship together. There is something about worship in community with other believers that elevates our spirit as we do so. God created us to be in community with him and with others. Yes, we can and should worship alone, but we should also worship with other believers. We can learn from them as they also learn from us in our prayers, our singing, our devotion, our approach to a holy God.
We should go to church to share each others burdens. I know you’ve seen those boxes that recommend a two man lift. Often one person can pick them up, but the movement of the load is so much easier and safer when two people work together to lift it. It’s the same with many of the difficulties we face in life. When we share each others burdens and support each other in times of trial, it just makes life easier. Not necessarily easy, but easier. That 100 pound box still weighs 100 pounds, but when two people lift it, you are less likely to break your back in the process.
We should go to church to share with other believers what we have learned through our own life experiences. I can seldom pass by someone who comments “I just wasn’t fed by the service today.” I can’t help remark, “It’s because you didn’t bring a spoon!” We don’t gather to be fed. We come to share. We come to worship. We come to experience God’s spirit in community. If you want to be fed every time you walk through the door, there are a lot of restaurants in the world that will be happy to feed you. And they supply the utensils. When we come expecting God to touch us because we have reached out to him all week long and worshipped all week long, that gathering in the church is just another opportunity to share that same worship with others who are doing the same.
So when you think about gathering together for worship, don’t think about what you get, but what you give. Do you want your spirit touched? Then reach out and touch someone’s heart with your love. Do you want peace? Then exude peace to those who enter the door and need it. Do you want fellowship? Then be a friend to those who look lonely. Do you need to feel joy? Then surround yourself with those with smiles on their faces, wear a smile yourself and feel it move from your face to your heart.
If church were like the social clubs in the community, it would fail as a place to serve God. Those social clubs provide just what the world asks for. Sameness. Emptiness. Hopelessness. You can pay a healthy price to belong to one of those social clubs, but they won’t provide the eternal answers you long to find. I don’t want to go to a church like that.
I want to go to a church that steps on my toes. I want to hear sermons that challenge me and forces me to become more Christlike. I want to surround myself with people who are like me in that they want to follow in Jesus, but I also want the church to be filled with those who are not very Christlike. I want to see people there who are hungry to find something the world can’t offer. And I want to see them there because they have seen something in me and others in my church that they just can’t explain. I want them to question why we are like we are and want the same kind of peace and joy and contentment in life that we enjoy because of our fellowship with God and one another.
Does every church look like that? I’m afraid not. Does my church look like that? Not all the time. But sometimes. And why is it that churches today aren’t as inviting and create as much curiosity for outsiders as we would like? Well, to be honest, it’s my fault...and your fault. Unless we live that life that cause others to see Christ in us every day outside the church, we can’t expect them to want to see what is going on inside the church. Think about it. It wasn’t Jesus’ actions in the temple or the synagog that caused people to follow him. It was his life outside those institutions. People flocked to him because of his everyday actions that showed his love for others. So during this season of Lent, think about your life. Do your actions cause those around you to want to follow you? Do you generate curiosity among those that know you as they watch you live your life for God? Do you have to tell them you are a Christian for them to know it? Lent is the time for preparation. It’s time to examine ourselves and know we are right with him. Take some time this week and do just that.
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.