Offense in the Church

On Sunday mornings we are studying Offense – The Bait of Satan. Last week’s session dealt with offense in the church and it is well worth summarizing.
We are very susceptible to offense in church, because we are most likely to be offended by those from whom we expect the most: those who are close to us for example or our leaders, pastors for example.
The biblical response to offense is to go to the person giving offense and talk it out. Satan’s response is to go to others and look for similar offense. An offended person becomes obsessed with the offense and the offender. It’s all they can think or talk about and, almost certainly, they will find others similarly offended and the sense of offense grows. The offended person thinks and talks obsessively in the first person: I I I its all about me. He finds others and changes the “I” to “We.”
God uses tough times to strengthen us. It’s when our root system should become stronger. When we feel drought, our roots should go deeper to find water. When offended, we should go deeper to find where our strength and foundation is. If we take Satan’s bait, we go horizontally to find others offended. Our foundations are weakened, not strengthened. 
The process of taking the bait ends with leaving the place of offense. Again the plant analogy is helpful. A transplanted tree suffers the loss of root ball. A tree that has been transplanted multiple times has little root ball left. It becomes a tumble weed. If we have once responded to offense by leaving, its that much easier to leave the next time. We don’t want to be alone, so we attempt to take others with us. 
Look around and see how many “christians” move from offense to offense, from church to church, never developing the roots necessary to survive tough times. 
If you find yourself caught up in the offense process, turn around. If you are at the point of seeking others who are offended, drop that and go to the person who has offended you. If you have already pulled up stakes, minimize the damage. There is a right and wrong way to be transplanted. Seek to find a new place to sink your roots. Stop obsessing with the former place of offense. Let those who are still planted, flourish. 

Your church family is your fort against these tough times. It’s a stronghold against adversity. Don’t be surprised when it’s the focus of the enemies attack. If he can’t separate  you from Jesus, he will try to pull you from your church family. Be vigilant and strong and be blessed.

Nick

Passion for the Word

I knew it was 3:10 in the morning after fumbling for the light button on my watch. I turned over and realized that there actually was light in the room. It came from two led lamps over my wife’s bible. They looked like stadium lights over a football field in the very dark room. 

I have no problem sleeping at night. My problem is I tend to fall asleep on movies and programs my wife finds for me to watch. Rosemary, on the other hand, struggles to sleep at night. But she doesn’t waste her sleepless evenings. She memorizes scripture, not just favorite verses but entire chapters. She is working on entire books. She can then sit down at the computer and type out the chapters she has memorized. She has a passion for scripture and a passion that others know scripture. 

I love scripture, but not like she does. I am familiar with it, but not like Rose. Sunday our pastor preached from Jeremiah 13, A Linen Belt. It was a story I was not familiar with. I should have been it’s a great illustration. We all could know more of our Bibles.

I think the problem is that when we say we spend time in scripture, we really mean we spend time in secondary sources that discuss or teach scripture. We spend time in our favorite devotionals or Christian books or blogs. We really need to spend some time one-on-one in the word, directly.

God can speak to us more clearly, personally and directly when we read His word directly. I’m lucky in that most days God speaks to me about what to write as I sleep or when I first awake. Some days, when I don’t write, it’s because He hasn’t given me anything to say. Yesterday I didn’t write until late, because I had nothing to say until Rose send me an intriguing email. When I am dry, I find that spending time directly in the word, solves the problem.

Resolve to spend more time in His word and pray for a passion for it. You can tell the people who do. Their light shines…even at 3:10 in the morning.

Be blessed.

Nick

Taking Jesus Seriously

If you love me, keep my commands. John 14:15

I have been taking careful notes on sermons and teachings at church. I like to look back and I am really pleased with what I see. I read notes and recall words that made me uncomfortable with where I am, desirous of being in a better place, and some ideas on how to get there. If we are to follow His commands, we need to know very specifically what they are. 


Kids, and adults, have plenty to keep them, us, occupied. I would not want to calculate how much time I spend “playing games” online as opposed to serious work. Look around you and take notice of how much folks are “playing” with their phones, or laptops or pads. Sometimes we confuse our online playtime with online work time. Seriously, we do know the difference.

Kids know the difference too. Just because we are an entertainment intensive society, doesn’t mean that in our walk and in our church life we need to be more entertaining. We can’t expect our kids, our youth or our congregations to take Jesus seriously if we don’t. We need to learn from the youth group members turned atheists who respected ministers “who took the Bible seriously.” 

We all get plenty of entertainment. What we really need is a serious response to the issues of life. Church life can provide that, if we’re not too busy entertaining.  Is our message too vague? Is our mission unclear? We can’t expect folks to sign up and dive in without clear purpose and specific direction. We need to complete each meeting, each service, each youth gathering having motivated our audience and provided a map for what to do next. 

Be aware, however, that folks don’t like being told what to do. We want out kids and youth kept on the straight and narrow, but stay out of our business. More than once I hear the complaint that they are being told “what to do” from the pulpit. What do folks expect? Better yet what should they expect? Folks come to church to get answers. If they want entertainment, they can get plenty of that at home.

Not entertainment, but conviction, motivation and direction. It can save our churches, old and young.

Be blessed.

Nick

SALT

Last night Rosemary and I attended the SALT meeting at our church. It’s the ministry for the over-fifty group. Although we have long qualified as far as age goes, we have not attended. This has been a mistake. We had a great time last night.

The format is pretty simple. A pot luck meal and an activity. The food was great and we sat at tables set up in the sanctuary. At our table were three folks we really didn’t know. It was a great pleasure getting to know these people a bit better.
The activity was watching The Letter Writer, the kind of great award winning movie that doesn’t seem to make it to the theatre or the general population. One of the main characters lives in a nursing home and spends his time writing letters of encouragement to folks he doesn’t know. He teaches a young girl the importance of finding a purpose in life by discovering a talent and sharing it with others. 
All in all it was an inspiring evening, with a great lesson. I could write letters to folks I don’t know and most of them could be people I go to church with. We talk about being the Body of Christ, but most of us aren’t even familiar with all the other parts. How many folks at your church can you name? Of those, how many could you write a single paragraph about?
We need to connect, grow and serve. We can’t skip step one: getting to know those whom God has placed in our lives. Last night was a great first step for us. What are your plans?
Maybe you could have lunch after church on Sunday with someone you barely know? Just one idea of many possibilities.
Be blessed.
Nick

Pure Joy

Some things are completely enjoyable.  There is no aspect to them which detracts from them. They are not “guilty pleasures.” They are not something that is fun, but that you know you really should be doing something else.  They don’t make you fat. They don’t add to  your pleasure at the expense of someone else. It seems that you were created to do that thing. You look forward to it and remember it fondly. It’s pure joy.

Last night I got to fill in for my pastor for our Wednesday night teaching. He has been teaching from Ephesians. I got to cover the second half of chapter 2. I enjoyed the research and every moment that went into the preparation. I enjoyed the nervous tension that comes in the moments before I began. I enjoyed the teaching. I enjoyed the reaction. I enjoy now remembering the experience and thinking that maybe someone got something out of it.

Find something that gives you pure joy. Let me suggest that it will probably be something that advances the kingdom if only a tiny bit. It will probably be something that you aren’t perfect at and that can only be accomplished with God’s help. It will likely be something that makes you forget every negative thing in your life. It will probably be the reason God didn’t take you home the moment you became His child.

Find Pure Joy and be blessed.

Nick

Bloom Where You’re Planted

I have a friend who is spending some time this summer ministering in Cambodia. He is conducting Bible Schools, visiting prisoners, just being Jesus. Earlier a friend went to Mexico, and spent a week helping children in a desperately small village. I was getting the feeling that I was really wasting my summer.  I haven’t been any place that you could call exotic. I haven’t really done anything that you could call extraordinary.
It takes some planning to do a trip to Cambodia or even Mexico. I’m not much of a planner these days. I seem to just move from day to day. That doesn’t mean I can’t grow where I’m planted or make a difference in the very non-exotic place where I live.
The summer is half way over. I really haven’t done very much. But it’s better to be a half full guy than a half empty guy. There is half a summer left and there is plenty left that needs to be done.
Be blessed.
Nick

The Next Chapter

I have a morning routine. I wake up and lay in bed for a while. This seems to be the time when the Lord speaks to me. Sometimes He tells me what I should blog about that day. Sometimes we focus on what needs to be done. It’s a special time. I enjoy it because spending 11 years in the Navy after a year and a half in seminary, I grew up thinking that you had to jump out of bed as soon as your eyes open. I now, in my older age, find lingering in bed is really cool.
When I do get up I check my email, Facebook, Twitter, then write my blog. I admit it doesn’t sound like a very spiritual routine, but I’m trying to be honest this morning and not spiritual. I do all that electronic checking up on folks because it reminds me, after spending time with the Lord in bed, that others are very important. In fact, while doing my Facebook review this morning I noticed the above quote, “We need to give others hope. We need to give others a second-chance. We need to forgive others.” That may involve different groups of “others.”
I really need to hear that this morning, because I spent much  of the evening last night thinking about some others that I’m not very happy with. Some folks that I know that have done some things that I don’t understand and that seem totally out of the character I thought they had. I can tell you that the time I spend thinking about these folks was not time well spent. It did not take me to a good place.
I realize that I don’t need to spend time thinking about these folks. My focus needs to be in giving some different others hope. For the ones I spent the evening thinking about…they need a second chance and forgiveness. I realize that my thoughts and feelings about them are probably not affecting them in any way. They are just affecting me. 
I have too much to do to waste time. There are too many others that matter. I came across another thing on Facebook this morning.
It really is time to move on. Time to stop reading the last chapter and turn the page to the next exciting thing Jesus has for us.
It’s good to know that Facebook is good for something beside having too much information about others and playing Candy Crush.
See you in the Next Chapter and
Be blessed.
Nick

Be a Source of Peace in Storms

John 14:27

New International Version (NIV)
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.B)’> and do not be afraid.

At one point in my life, I thought I wanted to be a weatherman when I grew up. I’m glad I didn’t follow that path, but I am still fascinated by weather. 

Storm centers are areas of low pressure. Because the pressure in such centers is low, air tends to flow toward them. The lower the pressure the more intense the flow. This is the reason why hurricanes are so powerful. Their centers have very low pressure.

Did you ever notice that some people are like that. Their lives seem to be a perpetual storm and the lowness of their existence tends to suck everything and everyone around them into their storm. 

I guess that the natural tendency is to avoid such folks and thus avoid getting “sucked in.” But Jesus has another solution. In fact, I guess our ministry as Christians to to be sources of high pressure. One thing that will kill a storm, is a high pressure center. It pumps pressure into the storm area and evens out the pressure. 

It’s what Jesus did. He was so full of the Spirit that he not only wished peace to those He met, but He actually brought it. Our ministry is to bring the peace of Jesus to those whose lives are a perpetual storm. We are to bring the source of calming peace into their lives. Be high on Jesus and bring peace to those who are low.

Maybe I ended up being a weatherman after all.

Bring peace and be blessed.

Nick