Three words

A few days ago I participated in a reflective prayer exercise. One part of the exercise involved reflecting on Colossians 1:9-12.

Many phrases and words in this passage caught my eye and fueled prayer.

But there were three words in particular that just stopped me momentarily before they redirected my prayer in another direction.

Those three words: “giving joyful thanks.”

Annoying Christians

A recent survey has findings that provide a much-needed slap in the face to me and other Christians. I read of the survey, which was conducted by LifeWay, the research department of the Southern Baptist Church in an article in USA Today.

The survey was conducted among U.S. adults who are “unchurched,” a term they define as someone who has not been to a church, synagogue, or mosque in the last six months.

Check this out —

72% say “God, a higher or supreme being, actually exists.” But just as many (72%) also say the church is “full of hypocrites.”

Indeed, 44% agree with the statement “Christians get on my nerves.”

You might be surprised to know that one these negative reactions to the church doesn’t bother me so much. I have no problem with people saying the church is full of hypocrites, because one, that’s true (realizing that most people confuse imperfection with hypocrisy) and two, I can’t think of a better place for hypocrites to be than in church.

The statement that slaps me is that which indicates that a whole lot of people find Christians annoying. More than ever I want to be focused on what Jesus said was most important — loving God and loving people.

May God forgive me for the times when I have made church into a organized religion machine rather than as a refuge for the hurting, a healing center for sinners, a safe place for open and honest fellowship, a hub of vibrant worship, and an outpost of loving interaction with the community. May God help me learn from those who find me and my Christian family annoying.

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:5-6).

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

Affluenza


Affluenza (1997) is an hour long documentary about the dangers of greedy consumerism. One scene features the Potomac Mills Mall in Northern Virginia (near Washington D.C.).

First, let me confess I have been there, more than once. The place is huge, it actually is divided into neighborhoods to help shoppers keep from getting lost. In a state with Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg, a number of key Civil War battle sites, the Eastern Shore, and Virginia Beach; Potomac Mills Mall is noted as the top tourist attraction in Virginia.

Second, I want to share two quotes from the documentary caught my attention:

The narrator says, “Seventy percent of us visit malls each week—more than attend churches or synagogues. On average we shop 6 hours a week and spend only 40 minutes playing with our children.”

A Potomac Mills TV commercial is referenced where an announcer says, “Shopping is therapy. Listen to that little voice in your head. Shop. Shop. Shop. Shop. You can buy happiness. Just don’t pay retail for it.”

I close my thoughts today with three passages of scripture that came to mind as I was reading about this documentary in an Preaching Connection email I received yesterday.

“Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions'” (Luke 12:15).

“Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need”
(Acts 2:45).

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).

Affluenza can be deadly. I pray God will purify my heart from whatever greed may be lurking.

Making Allowances

I got a chuckle out of a bumper sticker I saw the other day – “I’m tired of stupid people.” Truth is, I laughed a little too hard as I drove along.

Once again, I am reminded of the need to allow God’s word to shape me, especially passages like Colossians 3:13 –

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” NIV

“You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” NLT

A Heart Overflowing

“Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts” (Colossians 3:16-17).

If you know me at all you know that I am passionate about blended worship. I am not a fan of the philosophy of some churches to target a specific group and cater to their every whim. A few weeks ago I attended an assembly at Skyline that just filled my heart to overflowing with thanksgiving and praise to God.

It was a Sunday night. The teens were presenting a special program about their experiences at Camp Barnabas so I was not participating in an upfront way in this assembly. I got to sit back with my family, which was especially exciting in that Laura was home for a couple of weeks.

Lourene, Laura and I ended up sitting about three rows behind a couple of our dear octogenarian sisters.

For the assembly Jeff selected a couple of songs from our Hungry for God song book, songs really popular with our young people and songs that really captured the essence of the ministry that was the evening’s theme. I was lost in the worship until in the middle of one of these upbeat, contemporary songs of praise my attention was momentarily diverted to the older sisters sitting in front of us.

Both of them were on their feet with their heads back and were singing their hearts out!

You know, they could have been sitting there with their arms crossed, fuming that we were singing new songs that “nobody knows.” Instead, they were singing their hearts out in praise to God. And in so doing, they filled my heart to overflowing with thanksgiving to God.

I still can close my eyes right now and see the image of them singing. I am so thankful for the sweet, sweet Spirit I can see living within these dear sisters. I have a heart overflowing.