Famous Last Words

“The death of Jesus Christ is the fulfillment in history of the very mind and intent of God. There is no place for seeing Jesus Christ as a martyr. His death was not something that happened to Him— something that might have been prevented. His death was the very reason He came.”          

Oswald Chambers

Some people have a fascination for the final words uttered right before a person dies.

In some cases, last words are profound. In others they are nonsensical. Other times a person’s final words can be a bit profane.

A few examples of the last utterances of a few well-known people:

  • Leonardo da Vinci, painter of the “Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper” revealed himself to be a bit of a perfectionist when he declared, “I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.”
  • Drummer Buddy Rich died after surgery in 1987. His last words revealed a comedic side. As he was being prepped for surgery, a nurse asked him, “Is there anything you can’t take?” Rich replied, “Yeah, country music.”
  • John Wayne died at age 72 in L.A. He turned to his wife and said, “Of course I know who you are. You’re my girl. I love you.”
  • Our last words can reveal what’s going on in our heart spiritually. Actress Joan Crawford yelled at her housekeeper, who was praying as Crawford died. Crawford said, “Don’t you dare ask God to help me!”
  • In contrast to Joan Crawford’s refusal for help from God, Basketball great and committed Christian “Pistol” Pete Maravich collapsed during a pickup game. His last words: “I feel great.”

But of all the last words ever uttered on this earth, the most important declaration preceding death came from the mouth of Jesus Christ.

The very last thing Jesus said was, “It is finished.”

Jesus wasn’t simply announcing that His life was coming to an end.

He was declaring that all the work that God had sent Him to accomplish was now fully complete.

He had lived a sinless life which was required for Him to pay for our sins.

As Ephesians 2:14 says, Jesus broke down the wall of hostility that existed between men and made it possible for God and man to live in peace.

And, as evidenced by the torn curtain in the Holy of Holies, God was now accessible to man, where before he was alienated (Colossians 1:21-22).

Regarding Jesus’ proclamation about the finality of His work, William MacDonald wrote;

The work his Father had given Him to do! The pouring out of His soul as an offering for sin! The work of redemption and atonement! It is true that He had not yet died, but His death, burial and ascension were as certain as if already accomplished. So the Lord Jesus could announce that the way had been provided whereby sinners could be saved. Thank God today for the finished work of the Lord Jesus on the cross at Calvary!

Here’s what is so significant about Jesus’ final words: every other religion or cult bases it’s teaching on what a person must do.

Only Christianity bases itself on the fact that the work required for justification, reconciliation, propitiation and regeneration has already been accomplished.

We can’t do anything to get right with God or get closer to Him other than to acknowledge the work for our salvation has already been completed by Jesus.

Our part in the salvation process is to acknowledge our need for a Savior, believe in the work Jesus did on our behalf, and receive Him into our life as Lord and Savior.

Jesus did the job that we couldn’t do, and He is faithful to keep us.

He was never counting on us to make up for our failures and faults. He took care of those long before we ever realized it.

“It is finished.”

Consider your own relationship with God. Do you live like there is more work to be done to gain or enhance your relationship with God, or have you taken Jesus at His word that everything that was needed to be done for salvation was completed on the cross?

 

 

 

 

 

Why Am I Here?

Have you ever wondered about the reason for your existence?

Why is it that you and I and about 7.5 billion other people inhabit this planet?

Although these questions may seem highly lofty and deeply philosophical, having a proper understanding of our life purpose could change the trajectory of your life.

Some live life as if the purpose is simply to have a good time while we are here on earth.

The thinking is that if we get 70-80 relatively pain-free years, some enjoyable recreation while acquiring a decent amount of material possessions, plus add a few good friends to keep us company and, hey, we’ve done as well as anyone could hope.

These aren’t bad things. The only problem with them is that they aim so low.

Perhaps we need to set our sights a bit higher.

In a word, I would say the reason we are here is GOD.

I say this because the Bible makes it clear that He is our creator and sustainer.

And although He did wire us that we might experience pleasure in this life, He made us for purposes that are much greater.

First off, we were made to know God.

We were designed to be in relationship with Him.

Jesus prayed these words in John 17:3:

This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ who you have sent.”

God wants us to talk with Him, seek His counsel and share our burdens with Him.

Secondly, we were made to worship God.

God created the universe so that it would display the worth of his glory.

And he created us so that we would see this glory and reflect it by knowing and loving it – with all our heart and soul and mind and strength.

It could said that humanity is meant to be part of the grand symphony of creation that constantly declares the glory of God.

Third, we were made to serve God.

Most of these service opportunities show up in our relationships.

Our friends, families, neighbors, coworkers and classmates.

But, as the parable of the Good Samaritan indicates, service can also extend to the stranger.

(And the Sermon on the Mount shows us that we can even serve our enemies.)

Throughout the New Testament we find phrases known as the “one-anothers.” They describe the various we can serve God by taking care of each other.

Love one another. Bear the burdens of one another. Forgive one another. Defer to one another. Encourage one another. Pray for one another.

To those we encounter in need the Bible is very specific about our actions. We are to feed, clothe and house the poor.

By these actions of serving other people, we serve God (see Matthew 25:40).

Finally, we were made to share God.

If we know God, worship God and serve God, we must add to our list of life purposes the necessity of telling others about God.

In Matthew 5:13-16, Jesus talked about how His followers are called to be the salt and light of the world.

In Bible times, salt not only seasoned food but it acted as a preservative.

As for light, light has the ability to reveal our true surroundings.

When Jesus used the imagery of salt and light, He was issuing a challenge to His disciples to go forth and make a difference in a dark and decaying world.

In Christ, we have a message of reconciliation and redemption. Through Jesus, God offers hope, peace, security and purpose for life.

Why am I here?

To know God. To worship God. To serve God. And to share God.

How is your life being filled by these four purposes?

 

The Greatness of Grace

(Today’s blog post is the actual text from a memorial service I preached today. When people trust Jesus and seek to live God-honoring lives, the job of the pastor is made much easier. Such was the case today.)

Thanks to all those who shared for be willing to share a glimpse of your life experience with Bob. It is obvious that Bob  was well-loved and that he will be missed.

It seems that at times like this we learn a lot of new things about people. Perhaps the reading of Bob’s obituary opened your eyes to some things you never knew before.

In talking with family this week, I was able to discover some things about Bob I did not know:

  • Physical fitness very important
  • He took his life responsibilities of providing and parenting very serious
  • Spent a lot of time investing and teaching his kids all sorts of aspects of life
  •  Was willing to connect his kids according to their interests, not just his
  •  Thought of other often (even in his last days tried not to be a burden)

But of all the things I learned about Bob, the one that stood out to me was he was a man who loved the concept of grace.

So much so that He felt the need to communicate the importance of grace to his children, as well as others.

The understanding and application of grace in one’s life was really, really important to Bob.

So, for my memorial service message, I figured I would just continue sharing the message that Bob loved to share with his loved ones: the message of grace is the only way to go.

I guess in some ways, I’m going to try and share a message that, if Bob was sitting here with us, would come to a conclusion with Bob saying something like, “Now, that’s what I’m talking about!”

So, here’s my best shot.

First off, Bob appreciated the idea of grace from a theological aspect.

Quite often people have a view that the way to get right with God is to live a perfect life, or at least do a better job than the guy next to you.

The thinking here is that a relationship with God is achieved through religious activity or moral effort.

The picture I get of my mind is of people climbing, straining, reaching, hopefully to be able to gain God’s attention and approval. Kind of like hamsters spinning a relentless, unforgiving wheel.

But Bob knew better.

Because He looked into the contents of the Bible, he understood that peace and hope with God come by means of grace.

Two verses of scripture that solidly underscore this truth:

Ephesians 2:8-9

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

As if that verse didn’t make the point about the value of grace, consider the message of

Titus 3:4-7

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,  whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,  so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Bob wisely embraced this message that a connection with God wasn’t obtained through effort or earning, but solely by trusting Jesus Christ to be the savior of his soul.

But Bob didn’t stop at appreciating grace from a theological perspective.

No, Bob also sought to practically live out grace for the people around him. 

I was blessed to hear about a few cases where Bob showed life-giving grace to some people who might have expected him to be angry, disappointed or judgmental.

I like this, because it shows that Bob was not only glad to receive grace from God, he was willing to share it with others who needed it.

Grace is one of those concepts that is sometimes hard to understand, because we possess so little of it.

We can be harsh. We can be impatient. We can be exacting. We can be vengeful. We can be condemning. And sometimes we project our own struggles in these areas upon to God.

The result is we get a skewed perspective of our creator.

But of God’s gracious character, the Bible says in Psalm 145:

“The LORD is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works.”

Grace can be defined as  the love of God shown to the unlovely; the peace of God given to the restless; and the unmerited favor of God.

When asked to describe biblical grace, several theologians provided these thoughts.

 BB Warfield: “Grace is free sovereign favor to the ill-deserving.”

 John Stott: “Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues.”

 Jerry Bridges: “Grace is God willingly reaching downward to people who are in rebellion against Him.”

 Paul Zahl: “Grace is unconditional love toward a person who does not deserve it.”

The truth is we all need grace, don’t we?

None of us are perfect, and if the standard for knowing God is perfection, well then, we are all in a heap of trouble.

We live in a world defined by earning, deserving, and merit. But these result in judgment.

And judgment kills.

Only grace can make things alive.

Here’s an extremely short, but power-packed definition of grace:

“Mercy, not merit.”

Grace is the opposite of karma, which is all about getting what you deserve.

Grace is getting what you don’t deserve, and not getting what you do deserve.

No wonder Bob loved the message of grace, and as a result, he felt compelled to share the beauty of God’s grace with those around him.

Because Bob knew that the only way to live was by grace.

And he knew that the only way to die was resting in God’s grace.

And it was his hope that we would understand that as well.

Thank you Bob for being such a strong proponent of such a amazing, concept.

And thanks be to God for His wonderful, glorious and as the well-known song declares, his AMAZING GRACE. 

Father’s Day

Here’s my wish for Father’s Day, 2106: that dads really knew how important their role is.

We live in a day and age where, much because of media and entertainment, dads are often depicted as unnecessary and foolish.

Too often fathers are employed as the butt of jokes when in comes to the function of the family.

Sadly, I believe much of this is done on purpose, the result of social engineering that likes to define and redefine the key components of the family, trying to telling us how their latest amalgamation is completely functional.

Yet the same culture that likes to take pot shots at dads also keeps reminding us that our prisons are full of fatherless men who have become weakened and disillusioned without the love, guidance and discipline of a engaged father.

Dads matter. A lot. No matter what anyone may say.

Stay involved dad.

Be present.

Stay engaged.

Bring hope and humor to your home.

Pursue the Father as you pursue being a father.

May your imprint run deep, your words be warm and your touch be gentle.

 

 

 

 

Without Submission, There will be No Transformation

“Let God have your life; He can do more with it than you can.” ~ D.L. Moody

To truly mature as a Christian means we must put ourselves under the authority of God.

Period.

We need to find ourselves living responsively and obediently to both God’s Word and God’s Spirit.

Typically, though, the human heart and mind is resistant to idea of submission. It seems that resistance to authority is hard-wired into the fabric of humanity. One of the most basic human traits is the desire to run our own lives. And our minds like to tell us that submission leads to bondage and slavery.

Yet in God’s economy, trying to run our own lives severely limits our potential. And often places us in a variety of shackles.

Jesus said, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Easy to understand. Much harder to apply.

Jesus himself saw the great value of submission. He knew that by submitting to the Father, salvation could become a reality for those who would embrace it.

Paul wrote of Jesus’s submissive attitude:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.(Philippians 2:5-11)

From our viewpoint, submission can often look unappealing. We give up power. We forfeit control. We relinquish relevancy. We starve our ego. Everything the unredeemed mind says to embrace with gusto.

Yet, the call to submission is unmistakable.

We are called to take up our cross and die to self.

To pursue Jesus and His life-transforming discipleship means that we take our eyes off of ourselves and place them firmly upon Him.

It is only in a spirit of humble submission that we will be able to hear God’s voice. Or experience His power.

Bill Hull, in his book Choose the Life, writes that to try and pursue a life of independence and individualism as a Christian can only lead to frustration for three reasons:

  1. We won’t get our deepest needs met. We will live as needy people trying to fill the holes of our lives by ourselves. Holes only God can fill.
  2. We will lack humility. How can we be humble if we are exalting ourselves? As a result, God cannot bless us.
  3. We will shut others out from loving us. Independence often results in isolation. The result is we will lack intimacy. And we will miss out on our much needed “iron-sharpens-iron” interactions.

If there is little or no submission to God in our life, then the level of our spiritual maturity will correspond in kind. It’s an equation that can’t be avoided.

Discipleship is a call to follow and imitate Jesus. And Jesus core character trait was humility.

The truth about submission is this: submission is the door to true spiritual freedom and the most empowering act of the human will.

Submitting to God is often talked about. But rarely tested.

“The will of God for your life is simply that you submit yourself to Him each day and say, “Father, Your will for today is mine. Your pleasure for today is mine. Your work for today is mine. I trust You to be God. You lead me today and I will follow.””– Kay Arthur

 

 

What Christians are Supposed to be Known for

Here’s a challenge: spend some time in the grocery story, or in your neighborhood, or maybe among non-believing members of your family and ask them to describe the one singular trait that describes Christians.

Sound fun?

Maybe not.

Knowing the tenor of our current culture, I think many of us might get responses like “angry,” “judgmental” and “uncaring.”

Of course, such descriptions do not describe all Christians.

In fact, the vast majority of Christians I know aren’t worthy of such labels

You and I know of plenty  of believers who are patient, fair and compassionate.

May their tribe increase!

But, thanks (or no thanks) to the antics of some, Christians may have a real PR problem.

In other words, a clamorous minority is making it challenging for a faithful majority.

My goal in writing this post is not to get everyone to like us.

Jesus made it clear that by identifying with Him we too can expect a degree of persecution.

Standing on truth (let alone seeking to live it out) can earn a person some enemies rather quickly.

But there is a difference between a person experiencing true persecution for living for Christ and someone who flippantly chooses harshness and strife instead of gentleness and respect.

To a degree, I understand what’s going on.

Our culture scares us. Our leaders fail us. Our world is changing at a breakneck pace.

And the speed at which we get information is blinding. It seems we learn about a new crisis every hour.

Jesse Carey, in an article entitled When Did Christianity Turn into a Contest of Who Can Be the Most Angry?  describes just a few of the typical sources of our angst:

People are upset over laws. They’re upset over things politicians say. The are mad that a gorilla got killed; they are mad that people are mad about the gorilla. They are mad that some pastors are saying things they don’t agree with. They are mad at the government. Mad at Facebook. Mad at the media. Mad at how other people parent. Mad at what some people see as acceptable forms of entertainment.

Sound familiar?

There’s a lot going on out there, producing a lot of anxiety.

As a result, it appears that some have decided to a pour a lot of energy into waging a vitriolic, never-ending war on everything that is viewed as unrighteousness.

Hence the (often unfair) reputation that Christians are an angry lot.

Yet, when Jesus was speaking to His disciples just prior to His crucifixion, He offered them a picture of what he hoped they were known for:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

And, as if the words of Jesus aren’t enough, we find throughout the New Testament that the people of God are challenged to live lives of grace and love before an unbelieving world.

Maybe we all could use a refresher on the fruit of the Holy Spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

This doesn’t mean we sweep away sin. Jesus didn’t and therefore neither should we.

It just means that we learn to prioritize according to Jesus’ desires.

Peter wrote this about the engagement we have with those who don’t understand Christianity:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that,when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. ( 1 Peter 3:15-17)

It’s good to remember that Jesus is in the redemption business, not the demolition business.

Let’s be honest. It’s fairly easy (and in a sick way, a bit entertaining) to sit behind a keyboard and lambaste someone in a war of words.

But it’s much more difficult to actually leave our home and do something loving for someone we dislike or disagree with.

For some sorry reason, it seems that a small segment of Christian culture has embraced the former.

But the words of Jesus, along with pages of Scripture, appear to endorse the latter.

We are to be known for our love.

Sacrificial love.

Just like Jesus.

 

 

God’s Perfect Balance of Mercy and Justice

“To the cross, I look, and to the cross, I cling
Of it’s suffering, I do drink, of its work, I do sing
On it, my Savior, both bruised and crushed
Showed that God is love and God is just” – The first verse of Sweetly Broken by Jeremy Riddle

Need another reason to worship God? How about this: God knows how to perfectly balance both love and justice.

And, as Jeremy Riddle sings, it is at the cross where this is best expressed.

God sent Jesus to die because, as John 3:16 declares, He so loved the world.

Romans 5:8 reveals the reach of God’s love when it states that God loved us in even in our sinful state.

John wrote in his epistle these words that confirm the measure of God’s love toward us:

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:9-11)

Of God’s love Augustine wrote:

God loves each of us as if there were only one of us. 

But the cross was also the place where God dealt with our problem of sin.

He didn’t seek to sweep it under the rug.

That wouldn’t be just.

Someone had to pay to satisfy God’s wrath. So God decided to do it Himself.

Job 34:2 says:

“Surely, God will not act wickedly, And the Almighty will not pervert justice.”

Although God is rich in mercy, His compassion will never cause Him to act unjustly.

Every thought and act of God is grounded in utter righteousness.

We humans have a lot harder time finding a balance between mercy and justice.

Some of us who have a more tender, responsive heart will sometimes pursue compassion at the expense of justice.

Some of us who have a more black-and-white, right-or-wrong view of the world can be so justice oriented we will miss out on prime opportunities to dispense mercy.

I don’t know if I’ve come across a human being who doesn’t tend to lean to one side or the other.

As imperfect humans, we have a tendency to drop one while trying to hold on to other. Clinging to both love and justice at the same time is incredibly challenging.

But when it comes to the simultaneous expression of love and exercise of justice, God is perfect. He nails it every time. He is fully loving and fully just.

No wonder John described Jesus, the physical manifestation of God, like this:

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

There you go. Just another reason (among millions) to offer God the worship He deserves today.

 

Why I Still Subscribe to the Idea of Church

Many moons ago I was wounded deeply through a less-than-perfect church experience.

I went into it a bit naive. (okay, maybe more than a bit)

I thought all Christians were about the Gospel.

I thought a church that framed itself around the foundation of the Word and the practices of Acts 2:42-27 ought to be a safe place to grow, serve and connect.

But I learned otherwise.

This doesn’t mean that everyone in that church was bad. There were many people who loved the Lord and served Him with gladness.

But, there was enough leaven in the loaf to leave a lot of well-intentioned people feeling spiritually bruised and broken.

Through the years I’ve learned that injurious churches are not that uncommon.

Pride, greed, ego, lust and sloth have a way of taking God’s bride and sullying her reputation.

Let’s just say that, sadly, I’ve become less naive.

And yet, I am still plugged into church.

So why would I continue in on an institution that often reveals such glaring faults?

Why not pursue a “just me and God” approach to my Christianity?

Why not hang out with some other Christians time to time and call it church?

Here’s why: because God instituted the church.

And He calls her his bride.

“What God has put together, let no man separate.”

Divorcing the church isn’t an option.

Not that I haven’t been tempted.

But I know God has a passion for the collection of stumbling sinners He refers to as His church.

That’s why so much of the New Testament is devoted in trying to help Christians figure out how to live together in biblical community.

Have you noticed that almost every epistle is written to address problems taking place in the church?

In the case of the church at Corinth, the issues were so numerous that the congregation could be described as having more in common with a psychotic circus than a functional church.

And yet, when Paul sent off his exhortational missive to this troubled church, he didn’t encourage them to close their doors and disband their fellowship.

In fact, I’m always a bit amazed (and at the same time befuddled) by what he wrote in the opening verses of the letter:

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:4-9 ESV)

Paul looked at this bunch of spiritual knuckleheads and saw their potential.

Though their faults were many, the blameless One who serves as the head of the church would see them through.

They were worthy of many rebukes (which Paul would supply), but Jesus never took down their shingle.

In a nutshell, I can’t give up on church because Jesus refuses to.

The church is never perfect here on earth. But the church serves a perfect Savior who, if we allow, will bring us to a place of deeper maturity and greater effectiveness.

Because of my experiences, I believe I am a little bit wiser when it comes to church involvement.

But may the personal hurts I’ve incurred at the hands of my fellow sinners never disengage me from God’s primary tool for reaching the world for Jesus.

My job is to try to make the church better. Not bury it.

 

 

 

Discipleship Begins in the Mind

The very first thing we do as a believer is think differently.

At one moment we didn’t believe Jesus was Savior and Lord.

Then in another moment, we have embraced Him as such.

And, following that resolution, every other faith decision (which is often followed by a faith action) finds its genesis in our minds.

In other words, how we think is how we will act.

We are often plagued by false beliefs. Which can often lead to destructive thoughts. Which can often lead to negative emotions. Which can often lead to damaging actions.

Too often, though, I believe we try to solve the problem of our ruinous actions by trying to change our actions.

That may work for a while, but if we don’t seek to transform how we think, we will likely end up repeating the same behaviors.

Romans 12:2 is such a key verse for every Christian to have memorized:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Because the mind serves as “the base of operations” for human beings, we can’t afford to establish our life on faulty foundations.

That’s why Paul sought to make it clear that the transformation of our life begins with the renewing of our mind.

Perhaps the reason you find yourself in bondage to the same destructive habits is because you haven’t looked to God and His Word to gain a new perspective. A God perspective!

Renewal of the mind is one of the primary purposes of scripture.

By hearing, reading, studying and memorizing it, we will begin to see life from a fresh, new vantage point.

Therefore, to leave the Bible out of our spiritual training is unthinkable.

The more we are flooded with God’s truth, the more we will be able to discern those things that have a negative and destructive effect on our lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Real about Church

Remember the refrain from this 80’s rock song? “Should I stay or should I go?”

That seems to be a question that many church goers are asking themselves these days.

Transitioning from church to church is on the rise.

I think it has something to do with our culture.

We are always looking for the next best thing.

We’re quick to change out our mobile carrier, our cable company or our pizza place.

People change jobs like they change their clothes.

We move from residence to residence at a rate that would shock our great-grandparents who might have lived in only one house from marriage to the grave.

And, yes, people are moving from church to church with startingly regularity.

And can we really blame anyone with all the different varieties of churches to choose from?

Perhaps we’ve even wondered, “Maybe the grass is a bit greener over at First Church…”

Sometimes a move is necessary.

Core doctrine has been jettisoned. Sin has overtaken the leadership. Or conflict has gone too deep.

But my fear is that the reason that a lot of people are playing “revolving church” is because many of us have never learned how to carry out a long-term church relationship.

Many of us have a tendency to idealize church.

But when we get in the midst of sinners (and all their accompanying faults), we become disappointed by reality.

Some people approach the church with the mindset of a consumer.

They don’t concern themselves with how they can serve, but primarily with how they can be served.

Which makes for a pretty shallow church life.

Make no mistake, there are no perfect churches.

They all have strengths. And they all have plenty of weaknesses.

There are all sorts of reasons to complain about the church in a world where we expect excellence, competence and results.

That’s why I like what Frederick Von Hugel said about church:

The institution of church is like the bark on a tree. There’s no life in the bark; it’s dead wood. But it protects the life of the tree within. The tree grows and grows, but if you take off the bark, the tree will die. All the authority structures we put in place in our churches – yes even the dreaded committees – can and do serve as protection for the life of the church.

The church is like no other institution.

It has a great leader (Jesus) and is made up with a whole bunch of fallible followers.

It’s not meant to be like a business or a corporation.

We aren’t driven to produce as much as we are called to be faithful.

Bill Hull, in the book Choose the Life reminds us how ordinary the church can be:

Golfers use the term “grinding” to describe their commitment to keep playing even when they aren’t shooting well. Some even call it “the glory of the grind.” Most church ministry is like a round of golf. You start the round with stars in your eyes, full of hope. You hit a couple good shots and you feel great. But then you hit a few freaky shots. You follow a birdie with a score so high a name doesn’t exist for it. 

To be a good golfer or a growing church, you must accept your mistakes and bad shots, put them behind you and live in the moment. You need qualities like patience and perseverance to enjoy the highs and endure the grinding lows. Church will test us because most of it is very ordinary, slow work, often without immediate rewards. The formation of disciples into being more like Jesus takes place gradually and often unnoticeably. The effect is neither rapid or magical.

So, disciples must learn to enjoy the journey – the entire experience – and keep it all in perspective.

We live in a time where we are told that bigger is better and flashier is favored.

But in the long run, these things have very little to do with the work of church and discipleship.

If God grants an overflow, great.

But any church that is being faithful to teach the Word, pray, fellowship, serve and share Christ is ringing the bell.