Stand Strong

The Man travels from city to city checking on His children. He sees a child playing in the park and the sound of her laughter fills the air.  He kneels down and gently cups her cheek. “You are so loved, little one,” He states and moves on.

In the next town He sees statues. One of a Civil War veteran that had called out to Him with his last dying breath. On down the street He sees a woman sitting on a bench eating her noon meal. She glances up at Him, smiles, and waves. He knows the pain she’s hiding.

Walking into the area known as the ghetto He sees poverty. Children playing stick ball in the trash strewn streets. Mothers peeking out the dirty window of an apartment filled with cock roaches. He shakes His head sadly.

Moving uptown with the tall buildings, traffic noise, and aroma’s of various street vendors, people are rushing, bumping into each other and curses are heard from passing taxi cabs. No one notices Him.

He travels to a rural area where a church is being built. It’s almost completed. He sees the pastor and approaches. “A beautiful church,” the Man states.

The Pastor turns and states, “Yeah and you wouldn’t believe the trouble we’ve had in building it.”

“What do you mean?” The Man asks, knowing full well the obstacles they have encountered.

“First the county said they didn’t want another church. Then a bunch of non-believers started picketing. We had to fight tooth and nail to finally get the permits. I was ready to give up!”

“But you didn’t. The Father heard your prayers. What are you going to call it?”

The Pastor rubs his chin and grins and then states, “You won’t believe this and we’re going to really have a fight on our hands when we put up the sign, but the Lord spoke to me in a dream and said to call it the ‘Christ’s True Gospel Church.'”

“Why do you think there will be a fight?” The Man asks.

“Are you kidding? We aren’t allowed to make any reference to Christianity or  make any reference to Jesus!” The Pastor exclaims.

The Man walks to the building and looking inside He sees a large cross on the front wall of the sanctuary. “That’s a beautiful cross.” The Man states, pleased.

“Yes, it is. One of the locals made that cross from one of his trees on his property. An atheist group saw it being carried into the building and filed a lawsuit stating its offensive and has to come down. We have one for the roof, too and they’re really having a fit over that one. But we just keep praying for God’s divine intervention.”

The Man turns to the Pastor and places His hand on his shoulder. Looking directly into the Pastor’s eyes the Man states, “I am the Great I Am and your prayers will be answered.”

(Sue’s version) 1Thes. 5:16-18

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The Praises of My People…

“The praises of My people reach the heavens and Me and My Father are pleased. We rejoice with the angels as thanksgiving is offered from those we cherish. There is much to be said for hearts filled with joy for there is so much sin and strife in the world.

Let not others rob you of the joy we give you. Stand fast on your faith for it shall carry you through the tough times. Much distention is in My church. False teachers are on the rise. Turn a deaf ear to those wolves in sheep’s clothing for they are not of Me.

Rejoice My children for your redemption is near. Your mansions are waiting and your loved ones await. Take heed of those who scoff. They are filled with lies. Their hearts are stone and eyes are blind.

Lift your voices in songs of praise and rejoice for your King is near.”

By the Holy Spirit 11-23-17

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How come Nobody’s Singing?

Why They Don’t Sing on Sunday Anymore

Looking around the church last Sunday I noticed that the majority weren’t singing. And most of those who were singing barely moved their lips. The only voices I actually heard were those on stage with microphones.

That’s been the case for years now–in churches large and small. What used to be congregational singing has become congregational staring.

Even when the chipper “worship leader” in contemporary churches bounds on stage and predictably beckons everyone to “stand and worship,” the people compliantly obey the stand command, but then they turn into mute mannequins.

What’s behind this phenomenon? What happened to the bygone sounds of sanctuaries overflowing with fervent, harmonizing voices from the pews, singing out with a passion that could be heard down the street? I suspect it’s a number of unfortunate factors.

Spectator set-up. Increasingly, the church has constructed the worship service as a spectator event. Everyone expects the people on stage to perform while the pew-sitters fulfill the expectation of any good audience–file in, be still, be quiet, don’t question, don’t contribute (except to the offering plate), and watch the spotlighted musicians deliver their well-rehearsed concerts.

Professionalism. It seems it’s paramount for church music to be more professional than participatory. The people in the pews know they pale in comparison to the loud voices at the microphones. Quality is worshipped. So the worshippers balk at defiling the quality with their crude crooning. It’s better to just fake it with a little lip syncing.

Blare. The musicians’ volume is cranked up so high that congregants can’t hear their own voices, or the voices of those around them, even if they would sing. So they don’t sing. What would it add? The overwhelming, amplified sound blares from big speakers, obliterating any chance for the sound of robust congregational singing.

Music choice. Sometimes people refrain from singing because the songs are unfamiliar, hard to sing, or just cheesy. Sometimes worship leaders choose a song that may thematically tie into the day’s sermon topic, but it’s unsingable. Sometimes worship leaders choose lame songs written by their favorite songwriters–themselves.

I admit. I’ve joined the majority. I’ve stopped singing. I’m not happy about it. I know I should overcome these barriers and just praise the Lord with my very unprofessional vocalizations. But I long for an environment that evokes my real heartfelt vocal participation.

(See Thom’s follow-up post here: Confessions of a Worship Wars Mercenary.)

(Thom Schultz is the co-author of Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore, and the director of the film When God Left the Building.)

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Blessings to you.

What are you Looking for?

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Over the years many have watched, listened, and prayed within the sanctuaries of our churches. Many have visited just about every denomination of church in the Christian religion. Many have sat in the pews with people surrounding them and listened to pastor’s give the Word of God and yet felt as though the words came across hollow, empty, and dead.

Many joined a church to hear God’s truth, to be accepted, loved, and to be a part of God’s family only to be left in silence as the “click’s” gathered in their groups around the room talking and laughing. Standing to the side our heart hurts because we’re not a part of their elite little group.

Some of us have walked toward the front and seen the pastor smile but noticed his eyes don’t show the love of Christ. Some of us have experienced a counselor that sat in front of us asking his/her questions that leave us dull and numb. The words that are to encourage and lift us out of the depths of hell that we feel we’re in are more condemning than uplifting. The scriptures quoted are used as bats against our fragile psych.

It’s confusing because we thought the Lord said this was the church He wanted us to be in but the rejection, the false teachings, or the compromising of God’s Word to suit the needs of the pastor are going against the grain of what some of us was taught. So we leave only to visit yet another church and another and another only to find much the same.

Todays teaching of the gospel isn’t what we remembered from our growing up years. That is if we grew up in church. We’ve watched and witnessed people who shun the poor and those people that shout “praise God” and turn to add to the whispers of  gossip while they quickly wipe the smile off their face. We’ve had some who walk away when we smile and our “hello” sticks in our throat. Noses are turned up because our clothes don’t come up to their standard. Some of us have found ourselves swallowed up in a sea of humanity in the mega churches only to have warm fuzzies tickle our ears, sin is forgotten or excused.  We finally move on, another church, another congregation and each time we leave feeling dirtier than when we walked in or disillusuioned about what all this Christianity is about. Some never return.

Thankfully there are still a few that have found that church family that is loving, caring, and accept us, with a pastor who preaches God’s Word in love, who isn’t afraid to address the issues of our time and bring forth the truth from scriptures. Thankfully we can know that God, through Christ, is faithful and will lead us to what we need.

“What are you looking for?” the Lord asks.  In Our heart we want to be accepted, we want to feel the love of other believers who love God and His Son, who will listen and pray and be there as an encouragement. We want to hear God’s truth and to do God’s will. We want to feel as though we are a part of the family of God.

When the Lord asked me that my reply was, “Todays church is lacking.” “I know” the Lord whispers with tears misty in His eyes. “But what do I do?” I asked. The Lord ran His hand across His beard and stood looking at me for a long silent moment. I thought He might not answer.

“You go to worship Me,” He says gently. “No matter what the people do or do not do, no matter what reception you receive, You go to worship Me.”  Taking a step closer He adds, “There is no perfect church My child. Just people who are lost and looking but not finding.” “But…” He stopped me.

“If My Word is not being taught in truth you leave! If My Word is being taught in truth, you stay. The clicks you encounter are of no significance, it is My presence that is important.”  I nodded my head.  A slight smile tweeked Jesus face as He looked down at me. Placing His hand on my shoulder He gave my shoulder a slight squeeze. “You’ll be fine My child. Church is there for hearing My Word, for worship, and for fellowship. If the fellowship is absent, remember, I am there with you for it is My presence that counts. I sent you there for a purpose.” Then I awoke.

There are times when the Lord sends us to a church to be a witness, an example, to bring encouragment, or a warning to that body. We go in obedience.

“Whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.” 1John 2:6

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Blessings to you.