CHURCH GoNoGO 2017-22

CHURCH – GO/NO GO  2017-22

This blog is related to my previous one where I expounded on Death of Religion.

They both touch on the same premise that whereas religion is perhaps dying, so is going to church, which goes hand in hand to a degree. If you go to church, then you may disagree, but if church is not on your list of things to do, then you might know what I mean.

I travel to church regularly, and on Sunday A.M. it appears I am the only one traveling up the road to where I attend church.  I pass two golf courses and many are busy with golfers taking advantage of the early tee time, I would presume.  Is it a typical sign of the Go/No Go People of the world; don’t know.

It is a fact that church is NOT on the list of things to do on Sunday for many people. Many people are engrossed in whatever they pursue in life, be it going to a soccer game, baseball game or other sports related endeavors.  Such is life.  OR, it may be a chance to just sleep in and enjoy a day before going back to work on Monday.

Many things about how church turns people off and that is why they stay away, has been stated as the reason for the No Church crowd. The church is too judgmental! It is hypocritical where they say one thing and do it themselves. They, being the people that go to church.

I cannot say that the church I go to is either, but perhaps I am prejudiced about the members of my church in being decent members of the community that do not do those things. I would think we DO have some that think that way, but they are not obvious if they do.  Or is it that this is an excuse to not being a part of the community of church people and they do not want to be held accountable in some way.

I would say to those that think this way, “We are ALL sinners, having foibles, and we are all imperfect and again, most of all we are ALL sinners, so join the crowd.” I would think that Jesus Christ would want us in the church, mingling, talking, questioning, asking, challenging, and finding out about Him through education of the Scriptures.

If you do go, and find it unwelcoming or unfriendly in any nature, maybe you went to the wrong church or denomination of faith.  Granted, some churches could stand to be better in inviting people to attend or to come back for a second time or so. Not ALL churches are the same, that is a fact. Some have different beliefs, different leaders, different members and I say, they do not represent the whole, just that church itself.

Someone I know stated they do NOT go to church or involve themselves in “community” like a church because they feel they do not NEED this type of activity.  I find that the church that I attend does have a feeling of “community” and we do things that are important in life, being involved!  This community activities help us and help others in many ways.  We have a lady in the church, named Dorothy that started a project called Dorothy’s Porch that GIVES away clothes and household items to those that need or wants them. We have a project each month that is a food bank giveaway, which helps those again NEED some help in daily living by getting food from the Food Bank of Cleveland, OH.  THIS IS COMMUNITY and it is a part, just a part of going to church.  We are NOT judgmental or hypocritical about what we do, we just do it.

These are just two of the areas that we have found that help the community around us and any that say this is not a good thing are wrong; period.  Being involved means getting involved, simple as that. There are other things that transpire over the year I could expound on, but you see what I mean.

I say, don’t go to church if you feel it is a wasted effort, but do come if you want to find out about Jesus Christ and what He did that means so much to any and all today.  He, God and the Holy Spirit, as the Triune God, ARE there as well as elsewhere around us, and they ARE Active, they ARE Alive, they ARE Present in our lives regardless of what some think.

Peace be with you

Den Betts

CONFESSION – Discipline 2014-18

Confession – Discipline 2014-18

“We aren’t sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners; it is our nature” Do you agree with this statement or understand it?

What is Confession and why is this “Corporate” Discipline?

The simple explanation for the word Confession is “the acknowledgment or disclosure of sin or sinfulness” as it relates to religious undertakings. You can “confess” many things outside of religion though, such as confessing to your spouse that you forgot to do something.

We confess openly at church as a group, which would be with others as one body. We also can confess to another person, such as a Pastor, or even to one another.  It is not just a private matter, but is the act of confessing to others, openly. The act of confessing just to God directly also makes us understand that “there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).

Is Confession difficult to do in an open way?

Well, it can be a difficult Discipline, if we look at each other as saints instead of as a fellowship of sinners. We cannot hide from one another with veiled lies and hypocrisy and to be honest and admit our doing something contrary to God’s love is not easy. It is much easier to think we are the only ones who have not messed up and we sometimes cannot bear to reveal our failings to others, including God.  But, He already knows your sins.

What about private confession to another?  We can, but usually do not do so in our church, other than to our Pastor, perhaps. The followers of Jesus Christ have been given the authority to receive the confession of sin and to forgive it in his name. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20: 23). Luther believed in private confession, but that was in his day.

 

“And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us.”       (Matthew   6: 9-13) Is this a confession to God asking for forgiveness and does He welcome this way of confessing?

I can remember in the past, praying the Lord’s Prayer, by rote. It was stated, usually with others, as part of the religious service. It was somewhat my confessing to God and asking for forgiveness of sins known and unknown at the time.

God loves to forgive and forget the sin at the same time and delights in forgiving us our sins. When a person asks for forgiveness His unconditional love for us shines and radiates to us. BUT, confession should NOT be by rote as I did in the past, but do not do so now. I now confess my sins, known and unknown, in a different way.

In any confession, what are the things that should be considered when doing so, including the Lord’s Prayer?

First of all, is “An examination of conscience.” This is a time, as Douglas Steere, a Quaker  ecumenist (1901-1995), wrote, “where a soul comes under the gaze of God and where in His silent and loving Presence this soul is pierced to the quick and becomes conscious of the things that must be forgiven and put right before it can continue to love One whose care has been so constant.” We invite God to move upon the heart and show us areas that need his forgiving and healing touch.

It is far too easy to avoid our real guilt in a general confession. In our confession we bring concrete sins. This means not just the easy general confession sins, but definite sins, the sins of the heart— pride, avarice, anger, fear— as well as the sins of the flesh— sloth, gluttony, adultery, murder, the real and nasty ones we commit.

Second, let us bring “Sorrow” into our confession with God or with others. This is necessary and is not just an emotion, but abhorrence that we have committed the sin, regretful as having offended the heart of our Father. In fact, being sorrowful in the emotions without a godly sorrow in the will destroys the confession. If we have sorrow as part of our confession we are taking the confession seriously.

The third essential for a good confession is “A determination to avoid sin”.  In the Discipline of confession we ask God to give us a yearning for holy living, a hatred for unholy living. It is the will to be delivered from sin that we seek from God as we prepare to make confession. We must desire to be conquered and ruled by God, or if we do not desire it, to desire to desire it. Such a desire is a gracious gift from God. The seeking of this gift is one of the preliminaries for confessing

I heard one time that “Confession is good for the soul”, or words something like that. Well, it may be true, but it amounts to the fact that confessing does not hurt anything and has much for a person to gain from this practice or discipline. What can it hurt? How much can it help? Try it and find out.

WORSHIP- Discipline 2014-17

Worship– Discipline   2014-17

Why do you it is good to go to church and Worship?

It is a chance to break into the “glory of God’s presence” or even better, to be invaded by the Shekinah of God.  God actively seeks worshipers. Jesus declares, “The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him” (John 4: 23). It is God who seeks, draws, persuades. Worship is the human response to the divine initiative. God is the initiator and wants to restore and maintain fellowship with His children.

Therefore, Worship is OUR response to the overtures of love from the heart of the Father, and we can have the entire best liturgy, but we have not worshiped the Lord until the Spirit touches spirit. Until God touches and frees our spirit we cannot enter this realm. Singing, praying, praising all may lead to worship, but worship is more than any of them. Our spirit must be ignited by the divine fire.

Is there a special or correct way to Worship?

We need not be overly concerned with the question of a correct form for worship. The issue of high liturgy or low liturgy, this form or that form is peripheral rather than central. We are encouraged in this perception when we realize that nowhere does the New Testament prescribe a particular form for worship. So, when a Pastor  worships  during the service it is NOT the form, but the spirit that is important, for when Spirit touches spirit the issue of forms is wholly secondary.

The forms are not the worship; they only lead us into the worship. We are free in Christ to use whatever forms will enhance our worship, and if any form hinders us from experiencing the living Christ— too bad for the form.

The Priority of Worship

The divine priority is worship first, service second. Our lives are to be punctuated with praise, thanksgiving, and adoration. Service flows out of worship. Service as a substitute for worship is idolatry. Activity is the enemy of adoration, therefore we worship. Simple!? If we long to go where God is going and do what God is doing, we will move into deeper, more authentic worship.

Preparation for Worship

A striking feature of worship in the Bible is that people gathered in what we could only call a “holy expectancy.” They believed they would actually hear the Kol Yahweh, the voice of God.  When more than one or two come into public worship with a holy expectancy, it can change the atmosphere of a room. People who enter harried and distracted are drawn quickly into a sense of the silent Presence. Hearts and minds are lifted upward. The air becomes charged with expectancy.

Here is a practical handle to put on this idea. Live throughout the week as an heir of the kingdom, listening for his voice, obeying his word. Since you have heard his voice throughout the week, you know that you will hear his voice as you gather for public worship. Enter the service ten minutes early. Lift your heart in adoration to the King of glory. Next, lift into the light of Christ the pastor and other worship leaders. Picture the Shekinah of God’s radiance surrounding them. Inwardly release them to speak the truth boldly in the power of the Lord.

Of course, a good place to worship is at church, so there is a commitment of going somewhere else, other than your house, or a place outside with nature. I highly suggest TRYING a church of your choice, with a religion of your choice to practice this Discipline of Worship.

 Avenues into Worship

One reason worship should be considered a Spiritual Discipline is because it is an ordered way of acting and living that sets us before God so he can transform us. Although we are only responding to the liberating touch of the Holy Spirit, there are divinely appointed avenues into this realm.

The first avenue into worship is to still all humanly initiated activity. The stilling of “creaturely activity,” as the patriarchs of the inner life called it, is not something to be confined to formal worship services, but is a life-style.

To still the activity of the flesh so that the activity of the Holy Spirit dominates the way we live will affect and inform public worship. Sometimes it will take the form of absolute silence.  Certainly it is more fitting to come in reverential silence and awe before the Holy One of eternity than to rush into his Presence with hearts and minds askew and tongues full of words.

Praise is another avenue into worship. The Psalms are the literature of worship and their most prominent feature is praise. “Praise the Lord!” is the shout that reverberates from one end of the Psalter to the other. Singing, shouting, dancing, rejoicing, adoring— all are the language of praise.

Let us consider some of the Steps into Worship

Worship is something we do. Studying the theology of worship and debating the forms of worship are all good, but by themselves they are inadequate. In the final analysis we learn to worship by worshiping.

First, learn to practice the presence of God daily. Really try to follow Paul’s words, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5: 17, KJV). Punctuate every moment with inward whisperings of adoration, praise, and thanksgiving.

 Second, have many different experiences of worship. Worship God when you are alone. Have home groups not just for Bible study, but for the very experience of worship itself. Gather little groups of two and three and learn to offer up a sacrifice of praise.

Third, find ways to really prepare for the gathered experience of worship. Prepare on Saturday night by going to bed early, by having an inward experience of examination and confession, by going over the hymns and Scripture passages that will be used on Sunday, by gathering early before the actual worship service and filling the room with the presence of God, by letting go of inner distractions so that you can really participate.

 Fourth, have a willingness to be gathered in the power of the Lord. That is, as an individual I must learn to let go of my agenda, of my concern, of my being blessed, of my hearing the word of God. The language of the gathered fellowship is not “I,” but “we.” There is a submission to the ways of God.

Fifth, cultivate holy dependency. Holy dependency means that you are utterly and completely dependent upon God for anything significant to happen. There is inward travail that the evil will weaken and that the good will rise up. You look forward to God acting and moving and teaching and wooing and winning. The work is God’s and not yours.

Sixth, absorb distractions with gratitude. If there is noise or distraction, rather than fussing and fuming about it, learn to take it in and conquer it. If little children are running about, bless them. Thank God that they are alive and that they have energy. Become willing to relax with distractions— they may be a message from the Lord.

Seventh, learn to offer a sacrifice of worship. Many times you will not “feel” like worship. Perhaps you have had so many disappointing experiences in the past that you think it is hardly worth it. There is such a low sense of the power of God. Few people are adequately prepared. But you need to go anyway. You need to offer a sacrifice of worship.

Willard Sperry declares, “Worship is a deliberate and disciplined adventure in reality.” 13 It is not for the timid or comfortable. It involves an opening of ourselves to the adventurous life of the Spirit. It makes all the religious paraphernalia of temples and priests and rites and ceremonies irrelevant. It involves a willingness to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as you teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3: 16).

I have taken from the book Celebration of Disciplines by Robert Foster for many of the ideas expressed in this blog. I recommend you’re getting the book and finding out the details of each of the Disciplines and learn…..  It is available at Amazon for a reasonable price, either as a hardback or Kindle version.