How Do You Go to Church?
There is a proper way "let all things be done decently and in order" Paul said. The Psalms tell us to "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise." There is a right way to come to church!
A friend of mine commented, “The only thing as bad as getting out of the habit of coming to church, is only coming to church because it is a habit…” What a poignant observation!
Have you ever thought that everybody is just like you? Probably not consciously, just subconsciously.
Everyone likes what you like… Crawfish. Hunting. Sports. Cooking. Vacations! White Water Rafting! Swimming!
Everyone hates what you hate… NASCAR. Shopping. Amusement parks (rides). Facebook. Commercials. Talking on the phone. Carrying a cell phone. Whiny people. Inconsistent people.
Everyone’s motive is the same as yours…
Everyone see’s things exactly like you see them…
Everyone’s perspective, opinion, and ideas… are what yours’s are…
Sometimes people tell me that I should: Preach on prayer… tithing… worship… winning souls… why? Everyone knows how to do that, because I know how to do it… Right?
We too often take for granted that everyone knows what we know, feels like we feel, has our motives and intentions and ambitions… We even think that everyone’s definition of success is the same as ours! But in truth, we know that people are as different as snowflakes!! So why do we make these assumptions? Because we’re people and that’s what people do!! LOL!
Let’s talk tonight about a very important subject… But first a few questions…
Have you ever been to a movie? Do you like it? How do you go? Here’s what I do… Which is probably how everyone does it, because it only makes sense that everyone would do it like I do it…
I like to first wait for the movie to have been out for a while, right? That way, the lines aren’t as long and the theater isn’t as crowded… And the earlier in the week, and the earlier in the day you can go, the better!
Of course, you have to plan to be there in plenty of time… which includes time for concession, bathroom, and finding a seat (nice now that you can pick your seat!) So, plan about 15 minutes for the concession, 5 for the bathroom, 10 for traffic, and you’ll be there 30 to 40 minutes early…
Now, you have to get a large tub of popcorn, an extra container of salt, and a large tap water with lots of ice… But you don’t eat any of the popcorn during the commercials or whatever it’s called, or the previews… you take that first kernel, when the movie is about to start… after the last preview, the screen goes black, and then the music begins and you know it’s your movie… now! The popcorn, the relaxation, and the enjoyment… That’s how you go to a movie. You don’t just jump up and run to the theater and hope for something good to be playing…
Ever go shopping… Hunting… How do you prepare for what you are doing?
How to Get the Most Out of Church
A friend of mine (from PenTab) shared an article with me, “How to Get the Most Out of Your Pastor’s Preaching.” They thought it was good enough to share with me, so I’ll share some of it with you! (I’m writing it into the PC’s!) It got me to thinking about people and how they come to church…
If we’re not getting anything out of the service: Like my daddy told me, “When you see a broken clock, the problem isn’t in the hands, it’s much deeper than that…” Maybe the problem is a little deeper than the style of music, the color of the carpet or the one in the pulpit…
Most of us give some thought to the idea of going to church.
We prioritize church attendance. We show up. We bring our families. It’s what we do.
But how many of us prioritize the worship experience? How many of us prepare our hearts to encounter God during the service?
We need to move beyond just- religious observance and into the arena of willing passion.
Someone once wrote: I have found that the more “professional” I become the harder it is to worship. I become more concerned about how the band is doing or how relevant the service is or how good the coffee tastes. I’ve become a consumer and a critic of worship services.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Pastor's Preaching
Do you ever find yourself . . .?
Waking up on Sunday morning and wishing you didn’t have to go to church?
Having a hard time staying awake in church?
Daydreaming during the message or making a mental to-do list while the pastor is preaching?
Picking apart the message or the preacher in your mind or not getting anything out of the sermon?
Wishing your pastor would be more ___________?
Forgetting what the message was about before you get home?
If we’re not benefitting from the ministry of the Word- as it is preached, the fault may not lie in the one proclaiming the Word. It may lie in our readiness to hear, receive, and respond to the Word. (My friend, after lamenting to me about their church experience, maybe before finding this said- “I know it’s hard to believe, but sometimes I might be the problem.”)
The article asks, “How can we prepare our hearts to get the most out of our pastor’s preaching?”
I’m making it broader: “How do you go to church?”
Before the Service: Before Sunday ever comes, we should prepare and expect God to speak to us and to work in our lives. Pray for your pastor as he prepares for Sunday. Pray that his schedule would be free from unnecessary distractions. Pray that God will give him understanding into the meaning of the Word. Pray that God will speak to him personally through the Word and that he will respond in humility and obedience. Pray that God will help him to communicate the truth with clarity, freedom, passion, and power.
Ask God to speak to your heart before you even hear the message.
Prepare for public worship the night before.
Turn off the TV, limit social activities, and instead do things that will cultivate your appetite for God’s Word. Ask God for a powerful move the next morning!
Or- wake up a little earlier on Sunday morning to prepare yourself for what God is going to do.
Beat the Rush! Get up early enough to avoid the Sunday morning rush. This way you can prevent arriving at church frustrated or emotionally drained, which definitely hinders the ability to concentrate on the Lord and His goodness! Also, get enough rest the night before so your mind will be fresh and alert for the service.
Ask God to prepare your heart for the preaching of the Word.
Repent of any sin God reveals to you, and get rid of the things that are standing in the way of the Word of God in your life.
Ask God to give you a sense of anticipation.
Come to church asking God to meet with you. Expect to hear from Him and to be different when you leave.
What if rather than just showing up, you showed up ready? Instead of waiting for a couple songs to warm you up, what if your heart was already in a position of worship?
Get to church early enough to spend a few minutes before the service quietly preparing your heart for worship. Pray for God to move —in the pastor, in your heart, in others’ hearts—and surrender your heart to whatever God will say.
During the Service
We shouldn’t come as spectators the way we go to a ball game or a movie, expecting to be entertained. Instead, church is something that should actively engage all of our being. Here are a few ways we can do that.
Attend. You need to be there. You’re not going to get a lot out of church if you don’t go.
Participate. Don’t be a spectator. Participate fully in every part of the service. That means when it’s time to sing—sing. When it’s time to pray—pray. When it’s time to give—give.
While the sermon is being preached, follow along…
Singing- When worship begins, sing. I know it can be awkward. But just get over yourself. Even if you’re not a singer, there’s something about lifting your voice and singing that connects you to God in a special way.
It’s disarming, it’s vulnerable, it’s emotional. Singing helps to connect your heart to God in a way that mere speaking can’t attain.
Don’t just watch or criticize. Sing and sing loud. I love hearing the raised voice of a multi-generational congregation. It’s not always pitch precise, but it’s a beautiful testament to the greatness of God.
Move beyond just singing, though. Engage your entire being in worship. I’m of the belief that you should be exhausted after a worship service. You should have so engaged yourself physically and emotionally that you’re tired.
Close your eyes, lift your hands, dance, sing, shout, kneel. Realize that God is in the room and deserves your focused, rapt attention.
Pray: Pray that God will reveal His glory to others. This often moves me to tears as I intercede for others. True worship will always be marked with a sense of reaching out – moving beyond your personal experience to crying out for others. Try it.
Lead yourself: I know there’s a “worship leader” on stage. Forget about that. Lead yourself. Make up your mind beforehand that you are going to lead yourself in worship.
This is a habit you need to build. Don’t wait for your favorite song or epic keyboard pad or perfect lighting. Lead yourself. Go for it. Cry out to God.
Listen. Listen attentively to the reading and the preaching of the Word. Try to make eye contact with the pastor. Not only does that help the pastor know that people are listening, it helps you stay alert and focused.
Listen humbly to the preaching of the Word. Ask the Lord to make it fresh. If your heart is humble, you won’t evaluate the message or how it’s delivered; you will let the message evaluate you.
Take notes. Jot down things the Lord speaks to you about; highlight points the Spirit applies to your heart and life. Take those notes home, and work through them later.
Be realistic. Don’t make your pastor a prisoner of unrealistic expectations. Your pastor doesn’t have to be mesmerizing, entertaining, dramatic, or tell a lot of stories to be effective. He should just be a man of God who is humble, who loves the Word, who will open the Word, and will make its meaning plain. The power is in the truth, not the messenger.
After the Service
One important part of listening to a sermon is what you do after it’s over—how you respond to the Word you have heard proclaimed. Even the most incredibly delivered sermon is useless if you don’t do something about what you just heard.
Ask God to give you at least one takeaway from the message--a key concept, phrase, or verse that you can review throughout the week. Jot it down so you don’t forget.
While it’s still fresh on your mind (before you leave church, on the way home from church, over the meal following the service, etc.), discuss the message with others. Share how God spoke to you.
Be a doer of the Word and not just a hearer (James 1:22). Apply what you heard Sunday morning to real-life, everyday circumstances and situations throughout the week.
Making It Personal
When it comes to listening to the Word of God, you have a choice. You can hear the Word of God Sunday after Sunday, day after day, but it will be of no value if you don’t respond to it with faith and obedience.
The following questions are intended to help personalize and apply the already-discussed principles. I would encourage you not to skim through these questions, but to set aside some time for thoughtful, prayerful reflection and response.
Do you highly esteem, respect, and reverence the Word of God (Neh. 8:5; Ps. 138:2)?
Do you prepare your heart to hear the Word of God (Ps. 119:18)?
Do you find delight in hearing the Word proclaimed?
Do you listen attentively when the Word is being read or preached (Neh. 8:3; Ps. 85:8)?
Do you expect God to speak to you every time you hear His Word proclaimed?
Do you have a teachable spirit (Ps. 25:9)?
Do you tremble at the Word of the Lord (Isa. 66:2; Ezra 9:4)?
Do you pray for those who proclaim the Word to you, that they might be pure, anointed vessels of God (1 Thess. 5:25)?
When the Word is preached, are you conscious that you are not listening to the words of men but to the Word of God (1 Thess. 2:13)?
Do you have a commitment to obey anything God shows you from His Word (Matt. 7:24; James 1:22–25)?
Do you respond in faith, that is, acting on the Word you have heard (Heb. 4:2)?
Is your heart good soil that receives the Word and produces fruit (Luke 8:15)?
Are you willing to let the message sit in judgment of you rather than you sitting in judgment of the message?
Do you take the message personally (James 1:22)? Or do you tend to think about how it applies to the people sitting near you?
Do you pass on to others what you’ve learned from the Word of God (2 Tim. 2:2)?
Do you express appreciation and gratitude for those who minister the Word of God to you (Gal. 6:6; 1 Thess. 5:12–13)?
Any time we have the opportunity to sit under the ministry of God’s Word, it is an incredible privilege. I pray we would not just sit as spectators but as participants, eagerly responding and saying, “Yes, Lord, I hear what You’re saying, and I’ve come here to obey.”
Every Christian wants to have a great church experience. But what we get out of our time in God's house depends to a great degree on what we put into it. So how can we get the most out of church?
From patriots to preachers, my mind races in different directions every time I hear the song…
One of my favorite singers is George Jones. He’s a country singer and I know his brand of country isn’t so popular today. But I like his voice and a lot of his songs. We had one of his songs in my wedding! My daddy listened to him, and I guess that’s where my liking him started.
He sang a song titled “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes” that I love. The song speaks of old country music performers that are dead and gone. Many of them exited this world too soon.
The lyrics speak of the greats… The Red-Headed Stranger, The Man in Black, The Okie from Muskogee, Hello Darling and even Elvis… It doesn’t matter if you don’t know who they are, it just means you don’t know great music!
The song goes on to say “imagine life without them… all your radio heroes…” It’s hard to imagine life without them, for me, because I grew up on them. And then the lyric that really grabbed me the first time I heard the song… “Who’s gonna give their heart and soul to get to me and you? Lord, I wonder, who’s gonna fill their shoes?” Did you catch that? Who’s gonna give their heart and soul… to get to me and you?
I have a confession to make… just hear me out before you pass judgment. I know it’s a risk to bare your soul in front of others, probably the mere word “confession” sends some hearts pounding in anticipation of- some juicy bit of gossip… some dark secret… some character flaw… a big “reveal”. Well, enough of the buildup, I’ll just come right out and say it… I’m a cheater. There you have it. Funny, I don’t feel any better than I did before I said it. I thought “confessionals” were supposed to make you feel better?
Wait, what are we running from?
The internet abounds with memes of lemmings. That's not lemmings in the photo, that's wildebeest, we'll talk about them in a moment. But back to "lemmings". It seems we know them for following each other over cliffs. Whenever we call someone a lemming, we are saying they are someone who “unthinkingly joins a mass movement, especially a headlong rush to destruction.”
To be fair to lemmings, they don’t commit mass suicides. Not intentionally. That’s proved “scientifically”. Suicide being limited to “voluntary deliberation”, they don’t intentionally commit suicide, it just happens because of their foolishness.
Everyone has a story... Arguably, some are better, or "more interesting" than others... but everybody has one...
My Uber driver showed up within seconds. I climbed into the front seat of the jet-black suburban, and settled in for a ride. I was in New York City! Apparently, making polite conversation- something we do in the south- hasn’t been invented in NYC yet. I asked, “Where you from?” He smiled and said, “Queens, New York.” I asked, “Where are your from originally? India? Nepal? Pakistan?” I was guessing. I admit it. I was judging the book by the proverbial cover. He smiled again and replied very concentratedly, “Queeeensa… New Yorktt”. He was obviously not originally from Queens. The word “originally” was much too much of an advanced English word for him to comprehend, to have been originally from “Queeeensa, New Yorktt”. “Alas,” I thought, “I’ll never get your story...”
As much as I despise restrictions, I’ve learned an ever-important fact: they’re unavoidable. Inescapable. – And vitally essential.
I can remember as a small boy, sitting near the fire place in a tiny, crowded, dusty old living room, staring fixated at a huge Zenith T.V. Its clothes-hanger-antennae, wrapped in aluminum foil, forking toward the ceiling like the rabbit ears they took their name from. I watched in rapt wonder as the black and white screen displayed the cowboy, as he sat lazily atop his gorgeous, golden palomino stallion, strumming his guitar, white hat cocked gleefully to the side, singing…
Oh, give me land, lots of land, under starry skies above
Don’t fence me in
Let me ride through the wide-open country that I love
Don’t fence me in
Let me be by myself in the evenin’ breeze
Listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees
Send me off forever… But I ask you please!
Don’t fence me in!
Spiritual Declination- the angular deviation of the direction your emotions or “feelings” pull you from the Word of God.
When I was a little boy, my daddy gave me a very fascinating gift. It didn’t look like much. Just a small, metallic, circular tube about ¼ inch thick and perhaps the circumference of a half dollar. It looked at first glance like a plain pocket watch, with a stringy leather strap attached. You could see inside the tube, through its tiny glass face that it had a painted bottom, with the letters N, E, S, W proudly displayed in a clockwise fashion, and atop that face was little floating arrow. The pointy end was painted red, and no matter which direction you turned the tube, the little arrow with the red point, kept pointing in the same direction. I was fascinated! It was the first compass I had ever seen. My dad explained briefly how to use it, and told me to always trust the compass, (regardless of my instincts) and I’d never get lost.
Very simply stated, like all magnets that are attracted to opposite poles, the tiny needle of a compass is a magnet that is attracted to the magnetic pull from the north pole. The fascinating thing is how sensitive it must be, and depending on how you look at it, how strong the pull from the north pole has to be! It seems like if it were such a strong pull, it would tug at everything attracted to a magnet… and if the needle of the compass is so sensitive, it would be disrupted by every refrigerator magnet or pocket magnet in the world!
Why are all our heroes fighting each other… Batman vs Superman. Captain America: Civil War, Suicide Squad, Daredevil vs Punisher, X Men: Apocalypse, Democrats vs Republicans, Blacks vs Whites… Are we losing our minds?
It seems that we are in another “Civil War” even though the sides are blurred, the uniforms haven’t been selected and the boundaries are overlapping between the states. We haven’t quite deteriorated to taking up arms, but I wonder sometimes with the level of rage I see in protests and rallies just how far we are from that. Are we losing our minds?
It’s Father’s Day… I appreciate my father, a real man, raising me to have the courage to stand up in the face of opposition, be it from school yard bullies, modern societal pressures, politicians or a politically correct agenda imposed by our government. He taught me to stand up and speak out for what I sincerely believe to be right. Before it was clichéd by movies, books and social media, I was taught about the sheep in the world, the dangers of the wolves and the sheepdogs that keep the wolves at bay. Granted, my dad never used those exact expressions, but his message was clear, nonetheless. There are the innocents, the bullies, and the people who stand up to them no matter the difference in size or number. Thanks dad, for raising me like a real man.
What kind of idiots are declaring this as a righteous cause?"
People will sacrifice anything for a righteous cause. We are a great nation today because of such sacrifices laid upon the altar of freedom by our forefathers. However, the danger lies in the fact that every cause deemed by some as righteous could be deemed by others as atrocious or unrighteous. Real men today are facing a seemingly insurmountable problem of being… Well, real men. The very fabric of our being American is challenged daily. Attacks against our first and second amendment rights, by people who claim to know what’s best for all of us, and who dare us to defend our own property or stand up to bullying, or who claim that all of our virtues are antiquated, threaten us daily on some form of media.
"I believe there is a hunger in our nation among masculine men, to maintain their masculinity, and still love Jesus Christ, be Christian, and be accepted by others."
I have a son who’s 12. He wants to grow up to be a man. A real man. He also wants to be a real Christian. However, when he juxtaposes mainstream society’s ideas of Christianity and masculinity, it would seem that one has no place for the other. Thus, the conundrum. Not to mention that today’s society has drastically changed the definition of “masculinity” in general. The dictionary says it means “having qualities or appearance traditionally associated with men, especially strength and aggressiveness.” Aggressiveness??? Holy cow! It actually used the word “aggressiveness”. It also says “effeminate” is “having or showing characteristics regarded as typical of a woman; unmanly.” Unmanly… (I’m glad they used that word.) And since he wants to avoid being “unmanly” and wants to be “manly” and “Christian”, according to a lot of what I’ve read
Marine. Husband. Christian. Father. Pastor. A Real Man helping masculine men find their place in God’s Kingdom, without sacrificing masculinity to do it.