Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What kind of church would my church be if everyone were like me?

Over the years I have heard all sorts of little sayings which seek to capture some aspect of religious thought. The one which keeps coming back to me is one I heard long ago. "What kind of church would my church be, if everyone were just like me?" It's an intriguing thought. It's also very humbling if we really think it through.
Ask your self a few questions like these. How many Sunday worship services would have to be canceled if everyone attended church as regularly as I do? How many Bible classes would the church have if everyone attended them just like me? Would the members of the church have a good understanding of the Bible or would they have trouble finding the book of Psalms?
Would there be an ample supply of Sunday School teachers if everyone were just like me? Would there be plenty of people to serve on committees, to make calls on prospects or shut-ins? Would the church lawn be cut regularly, the church cleaned weekly, and the nursery be amply staffed? Would the church budget be met and the bills paid? Would there be strong support for missions if everyone supported the church just like me?
By now you can see how intriguing this question is. If we were able to clone ourselves over and over again, what impact would it have on a congregation if each member was exactly like us? Would our hypothetical church be a friendly church which welcomed others into its midst or would we keep to ourselves? Would we embrace all who came through the door with the same love and enthusiasm? Would we treat the affluent in the same way as those who were poor? Would we welcome only those whose children were well behaved, who were nicely dressed and caused no disturbance? Would we show love and forgiveness to all when they did something to offend us? Would we be there to support the pastor in his ministry or only be there to criticize?
"What kind of church would my church be, if everyone were just like me?" I try to ask myself  this question regularly. It helps me keep things in perspective. If everyone were just like me, there would be some areas where we would shine. But I also know there would be many areas where the church would be wanting.  
Thank God that each member of the church is not exactly the same. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Thank God that there are people who make up for those areas in which we fall short. Let us each ask God to forgive us for our sins and short-comings and ask for help to do better in the future. Let us strive to be more and more like Jesus for what a church it would be if every member where just like him.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

“O Lord it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way.”

One of the more interesting persons from our nation’s history is Benjamin Franklin. Among other things, he was an author, inventor, scientist, politician, and diplomat. His list of accomplishments is a lengthy one to be sure.
From what I have read, Ben had also invented his own religion. He had read the Bible and found it to be of some value. But, if I recall correctly, he had little use for Jesus as a Savior and considered the miracles recorded in Scripture as merely myths. He believed in God and thought religion was useful for society but that was about as far as it went.
In his autobiography, he revealed that he chose to focus his efforts on leading a moral life. To accomplish this, he came up with a list of several virtues. Each month he would focus on a particular virtue and make efforts to perfect himself in this regard. When he failed to exhibit that virtue, he would check it off. His goal, over time was to get to the point where he was able to live a virtuous life without blame. 
As Franklin writes, he showed his list of virtues to a good friend who was a Quaker. Among the virtues listed were temperance, frugality, justice, moderation, silence, and cleanliness. After looking over the list, the Quaker informed Mr. Franklin that he had missed an important virtue. The virtue that was omitted was humility. Franklin agreed and added it to his list and then sought to live his life in a more humble fashion.
I think that Mac Davis might have had someone like Benjamin Franklin in mind when he wrote the song, “O Lord, it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way.” When we look around, it is not hard to find people who are short on humility. In fact, pride in one’s self and one’s accomplishments are often seen as a virtue.
Why does the Lord say “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”? The Scriptures make it clear that before God we have nothing to boast about. It says that we are all sinners (Rm 5:12), void of righteousness (Is 64:6), and deserve only God’s wrath and can nothing to save our selves or earn God’s favor. So of what can we boast? God made us. He gives us all we have? Our abilities come from him. We could accomplish nothing without his blessings. We have no reason to boast.
Only when the Lord has brought us to see our need for God’s help, to see our sins and confess them, to look to Jesus for forgiveness and salvation, only then do we know what means to be truly humble in God’s eyes. When we understand that it doesn’t matter if we are a professional athlete, a member of Congress, an accomplished business person, as rich as Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, we are all the same before God. We are sinners who need a Savior. 
When we see ourselves that way, as God sees us, there is no place for sinful pride. When we look at others, who they are and what they have done will not be important. What only matters is that they are someone whom the Lord loves, someone whose sins were paid for by Jesus on the cross, someone who is just like you and me. 
When God looks at us, he doesn’t see the color of our skin, our place in the social ladder, male or female, rich or poor. He sees someone he loves. May God help us to see everyone in the same way. That’s the key to true humility.

Monday, July 2, 2012


During our Independence Day celebration, our attention is drawn to the constitution of our great nation. This document, while drawn up over two-hundred years ago, still serves our nation well. It is a credit to those who crafted and adopted this fine document. Added to the constitution were the first ten amendments which are now commonly called the "Bill of Rights." The constitution, along with the Bill of Rights, guarantees to each one of us the many freedoms which we have come to treasure and are very proud of. 
It is easy for us to take these freedoms for granted. While we were attacked on 9/11, no enemy army has invaded our land. We can go to the voting both without fear of being shot. We can openly disagree with the political views of those in office without fear of recrimination. We don't have to hide our Bibles for fear they will be taken away. We have the freedom to worship God at the church of our choice.
Yet there is one kind of freedom which our nation cannot give us. It is freedom from guilt of sin. Even if we feel  we lead a pretty good life, we still have to admit we are not perfect, i.e. we sin.  Of that the Bible says, "Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." (James 2:10)  So we realize that we have a serious problem. 
The constitution of our nation guarantees many different freedoms to us. In a much greater way, Jesus offers each of us a spiritual freedom. It is a freedom which gives us true rest. This is the rest Jesus speaks of when he bids us: "Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest - rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:28) Rest for our souls is nothing less than the complete forgiveness of all our sins - with no strings attached. Jesus guarantees us this freedom as a free gift which we receive through faith. And this freedom is to be prized much more than the freedom which our constitution grants us.
Each year we celebrate with vigor the birth of our nation and our freedom as a country. Well we should.  These are tremendous blessings from God, blessings not every nation enjoys.  A quick review of the items on the evening news reminds us of this.  
As children of God, as we celebrate the constitution and birth of our nation, may we also remember the spiritual freedom which Christ gives to us through faith.  This is the most precious freedom of all and one which no one can take from us.  It is ours for all eternity.