Gain What?

I could be the only one, but for some reason, I seriously doubt I am. It just seems like I am overwhelmed at the incredibly intense, never relenting, marketing-machines in our world today. All to get your attention, first; then, move in to “tell” you why you must buy this product; get on this plan; do this in the new year; or sign-up for this program.

Along with that, there is more “self-help” stuff available than anyone would have resources to purchase and enough time to sift through. It has even infiltrated the church in some levels, as unfortunate as it is. Some is referred to as the “Prosperity Gospel,” and there is no shortage of people (and many who claim to be Christians) who have bought into it completely.

It would seem our goals and objectives, in these types of systems, are magnified over the purposes of God. We can get more. We can have financial security. We can take elaborate vacations. We can retire early. We can reduce stress. We can eliminate anxiety. We can have better kids. We can build our own empire. 

But then I hear the resounding words of Jesus – breaking into the very heart of it, asking with clarity: “What does it profit anyone, if they gain the whole world but lose their soul? Or, what would a person exchange for their soul?”

It’s as if He took it to task Himself, settled it, and gave us the answer at the front end. Here it is: Nothing! There is no profit in achieving or acquiring or gaining anything, if it will result in losing your soul in the process. To be sure: It is heart-wrenching that we would even consider it, or that we would miss it in the pursuit of profiting. But the reality is, we do, when we drift, fall away, and resist the Lord and His guide. It’s almost like we sell Him out for what is before us.

How much is enough?
How many goals must we attain?
Then what?

My experience and history tells me that this is about heart and pursuit more than anything. It’s about what we idolize and what we go after in priority, often, with great urgency. Are we pursuing physical things? Material things? Selfish things that really don’t matter in eternity? Or, do we yield to God and allow Him to guide us in what we should seek? Are we abandoned to Him with everything, or are we holding on to our own preferences and delights?

The Apostle Paul writes in Romans what our response ought to be, right at the beginning of chapter 12. It is a reinforcement of Jesus’ teaching that nothing is worth losing our soul. Paul puts it this way: “I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to present yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and well pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”

Like me, you’ve probably heard, read, and studied that passage a million times. But the question is: Has it sunk in? And if so, how is it manifesting itself? We surely need more of God in our everyday life – and we need to ensure nothing comes before Him.

I’d like to encourage and invite you to join us here at Bridgeway Church. We are in a series that comes alongside of this, and it’s titled: “The Will of God.” You know, He has a will. And His will includes you. So if you are seeking more, wanting more, desiring more in your spiritual life – I believe this is the place for you and yours. Sunday @ 10 am, and we will have a special gift for coming and being our guest.

Blessings for the day…and ponder it over the weekend: What would it profit you to gain everything…everything you can imagine, yet, lose your soul?

Porter

A Sincere Thanks

About this time every year, we pause for a break in the regular routine to “give thanks.” A proclamation was issued years ago, a holiday was forged, and before we embark on the Advent/Christmas Season, we “give thanks” for what we have. For many, they pause long enough to give the impression and  observance that they are participating in doing this, but the question remains: What (or Who) are we giving thanks to?

Needless to say, this time of year all of the focus, articles, blogs, resources, cards, and notes begin to be disbursed. The influx is almost uncanny and can seemingly be overwhelming. The terms: “give thanks” “be grateful” “show gratitude” and “happy thanksgiving” echo on every platform and are captured in so many visual ways. For the Christian, the passages begin to float to the surface as certain words from Scripture are recounted and remembered. Some even memorized and turned into a message or teaching series.

Don’t think I am against all of it. I am just against it when the words and the actual gratitude is superficial or non-existent. You see, when we go through it because it’s part of the season or we are expected to, it doesn’t really mean anything at all. At that point, you’re just along for the ride, just saying all the things you feel you ought to say.

That doesn’t glorify God in any way. In fact, I kind of see that as a direct slap to His face.  [Maybe that’s just me – but perhaps there are some others too.]

God is glorified when our level of gratitude, our thanksgiving to Him, is real, deep, and sincere. It happens when Jesus is the Lord of our life and when nothing will rob, steal, or strip us of praising God and rendering our true thanks unto Him. God is great, and God is good, and His mercy endures forever (see Psalm 136).  Paul writes in 1st Thessalonians: In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (5, v.18).

Those words aren’t up for debate. They aren’t based on where we are in our journey today. And they should not be correlated to our current situation. They are timeless truths that extend far beyond anything earthly, anything seasonal, or any emotions I may feel. It is living and proclaiming Jesus Christ as the Lord of my life and giving Him thanks for all He has done for me. At the very least, I can live a life of gratitude for that!

This is what Thanksgiving really means to me. Yes, I am grateful for many other things too. But as we begin our journey to Advent and to the precious Christmas Season, slowing down and coming back to adopting and having a grateful heart is what I sense this next week is all about. Seize it. Find time and opportunity to connect with God and with His others. Trust Him. Know that He has given all that is needed for real hope, for real life, and for real joy.

Let me leave you, this day, with the opening of Psalm 34 (from TLB): “I will praise the Lord no matter what happens. I will constantly speak of His glories and grace. I will boast of His kindness to me. Let all who are discouraged take heart. Let us praise the Lord together and praise His Name” (vv.1-3).

Blessings as you give thanks!

Porter

Worship Matters

Worship Matters. It sure does. It always has and it always will. There are times when I wish I could take people back, back some 2,000 years to the early NT Church as it was launched into a cold, dark, sinful world. The entire record we have in the Book of Acts indicates that despite what was going on in the horizontal – Worship mattered and it was effective. In fact, it even seems that the deeper and more intense the persecution and punishment was (for worshiping), that worship mattered even more to those who believed.

I think the Church, and Christians at large, would learn so much by doing some digging and really allowing God to work on their hearts as they view worship. But here is a fact:

Worship matters to God.
And worship must matter to us.

More often than any of us could count or track: we allow just about every distraction to get in the way. We have distractions on top of distractions, and sooner or later – we find that we just aren’t worshiping God. This can be in the context of personal/private worship encounters, and it will certainly drain over into our corporate encounters of worship (both of which are essential).

Let me add this: Sometimes people do go to church…but they don’t worship. Sometimes people sing songs…but they don’t worship. Sometimes people give, listen, and even serve, but they don’t worship. It almost seems impossible that any of this could happen, but let me assure you in case you are wondering: it does. It absolutely does.

Worship involves more, far more, than we often realize and understand. How so? – Here are 5 Reasons, among scores, of why Worship Matters:

  1. Worship Matters because We Surrender. All you have to do here is read Romans 12, vv.1-2. In this framework, the Apostle Paul tells the Church it is our “spiritual act of worship.” What is that?Surrendering to God! 
  2. Worship Matters because We Focus on God. So much contends for our time, attention, and money. The volume of reasons collected of why people “can’t” or “won’t” worship is the greatest volume of books in the history of the world. I argue, it is 1,000 times longer than the current IRS Code. But sincere worship is based on the premise that above all, we want to honor God. Worship is not based on my preferences or priorities – it is not based on my likes/dislikes – it is based on God first. That is focus on God! 
  3. Worship Matters because God Increases, and I Decrease. Often in life itself, we have to get out of the way so God can come in. I know – we are taught to be “problem-solvers” to be “fixers” and to “get things in order.” I am here to tell you, sometimes the thing we must do is get out of God’s way and allow Him access to be God! Don’t get in the way of your own experience: allow God to be God! (see John 3, v.30).
  4. Worship Matters because We Grow in God’s Grace. There is little argument that praising God is easier when things are well, fall into place, and go the way we want them to. Yes, when we get that “victory” we come praising and shouting to God. But in the many seasons and times of life, when things aren’t so good – God will use those to grow us in His infinite grace. Worshiping God in the valleys, and on the mountaintops, is equally necessary. He deserves and wants all of our worship! 
  5. Worship is Celebration. We celebrate the greatness of God, and as we worship Him – we celebrate all He has done! As a matter of fact, we celebrate no matter what has occurred because we know “He has our best interests at heart!” He always does. Psalm 100, vv.1-5 (read). It will bless your heart and it will stir you up.

No matter what your experience has been – you are worshiping something today. There is an endless list of “things” you can worship, and God will pretty much allow you to. However, the only worship that matters is the worship where He is the focus, the center, and the audience. May we worship Him in truth and in spirit, for He alone is worthy!

Porter

 

Hope, in Seemingly Hopeless Times

Have you watched world events in the past month? Have you seen what’s going on? Are you at times left virtually perplexed? It’s like every day, there is a new story, a new narrative, a new twist. Then, there are the acts that make us stand still in our tracks, like what occurred last night in Las Vegas, Nevada. At the present moment, there are 59 casualties and over 500 injured in what is now the most violent, horrific act conducted in modern U.S. history. Families are devastated. People’s lives will never be the same again.

This comes on the heels of catastrophic hurricanes that have ravaged Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, parts of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Texas, Florida, and Louisiana. We see the pictures and hear the reports daily, in real time.

In the NT, Jesus is recorded as stating: “In the world, you will have trouble…”  It’s very much open ended and doesn’t identify a particular “kind” or “type” of trouble. Jesus is just clear it’s going to happen. It will happen to people, to communities, to regions, and to nations. He doesn’t say you “might” or “could” have trouble – He states “you will.” There is not anyone who is spared – not even His own followers. All of this goes back to the Garden of Eden and what happened there. The decision to disobey God brought forth a world that is simply consumed with rebellion, sin, and wickedness. Yes, there is trouble all around.

The Good News…The Great News…is that Jesus didn’t end the statement there. Praise God He went on: “In the world, you will have trouble…but be cheerful, for I have overcome the world.” [John 16, v.33] He has overcome all the evils, all the ugliness, all the wrongs that this world has within it. In short, He is victorious over all of it.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of the authentic Christian is that our hope is not found in this world. Our hope is in the next one. It doesn’t mean we have given up or that we don’t follow His command to go “into all the world,” (see Matthew 28) – it just means that our hope goes beyond this place to the next. For the Christ-follower, our hope is not temporary; it is eternal. 

So I ask you: What, or Who, have you placed your hope in? Mine resides within Jesus Christ Himself…the Hope of the world. To those who believe in Him, who have received Him, and who have made Him Lord, He states: “Come to Me, all who are burdened and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11, v.28). It is a passage we have great hope in, and in times like these, we find comfort in this promise. The reality is: We can do little to prevent disaster from striking, but we can be certain of the One Who we can turn to. His grace is sufficient, always.

In deep, steadfast prayer,

Porter

Not That.

As you follow the life, message, and ministry of Jesus, it doesn’t take long to really learn a few things. In fact, it’s kind of right there in your face (over and over and over again).

Let’s broach this in the form of a question. Here it is: How often did Jesus call out the religious people in the NT? I’m not looking for a numerical guess here, so you don’t have to worry about thinking of a # in your mind. Rather, it is best to answer it this way: Jesus called them out ALL…THE…TIME.

And in a clear majority of the time, it was for 2 predominate issues:

  1. Selfishness, and
  2. Self righteousness.

Go ahead and look. Read. Study. Dig deep into the Gospel records. Google it. He takes the leaders of the law and the Pharisees to task. He points out their motives, but most critically, he dissects their hearts. You see, Jesus makes the point that no one has to point out their “faithful acts” or do things “where everyone can see.” Some of that is unavoidable, at times, in our modern culture and day – but He goes on to establish that “God knows!” 

The 2 items mentioned above: selfishness | self righteousness are the current trend in our day, and they have unfortunately infiltrated the church. It is our responsibility to ensure that we adhere to the heart of our Lord. If we “need” other people knowing about what we do, or how we pray, or what we give, in order to fill validated, then we need to re-evaluate. Jesus makes it clear: “God knows!” and that’s all that matters.

Let’s not fall into the trap the leaders of the law and the Pharisees did. Let’s allow God to elevate us to newer heights, where the Spirit of God can lead us into all truth. This is what truly matters.