Spiritual Homes

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why you go to church? Or why you go to small groups? I used to. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. We need to understand why we do things, especially as important as church. And we need the answers.

I used to be among those who didn’t always see the value of going to church. I’ve said my fair share of statements like, “you don’t need to go to church to be a Christian”. I never experienced church how it was meant to be experienced. I never found a place that felt like home. They were all so distant, methodical, cold, monotonous, and the like. Relationships were hard to come by and getting connected was not easy to do. It didn’t fee all that different from going most places. Most of the time it was far less rewarding. That’s sad to say.

The other problem I had, besides the churches that I went to, was a lack of knowing why God wants us in “church” in the first place. A huge gap in many people’s lives, who give up on church, or go “church hopping” is that they don’t know why they’re there in the first place. I fully admit that some churches are just hard to be in. Jesus addressed seven churches in the book of Revelation, which can also be seen as types of churches in all eras, most of which did not receive good marks. With the exception of those churches that are not good environments to be in, we can all do ourselves a huge service by understanding why we’re there.

Now, I still believe that a person does not need to be a member of a church to be a Christian. At least not the way that the western mindset thinks of church. But we are commanded to not neglect meeting together and encouraging one another. However that may look for you. Whether it’s a home church, a Bible study small group, you and a friend or two getting together, or an organized church gathering, it’s important. That’s because God knows that we need each other. We need a spiritual home to unpack our lives and establish our spiritual roots. We need a safe place. We need relationships that are healthy and can help keep us moving forward towards Christ.

A 2 hour trip to a building once a week just can’t cut it. Especially when the other 166 hours of the week are spent out in the harsh environment of the world. Also, if those 2 hours are spent singing a handful of songs, listening to a sermon, making some small talk, and then going about our day, then we aren’t getting the meaning of church. Perhaps that’s why so many lose heart and lose focus. Or maybe didn’t ever gain the right focus in the first place.

Church is, and always has been, a place for relationship. The primary relationship that needs to be fed is between us and the God we worship. Heartfelt worship is certainly one way to do that. Hearing from Him through His word and teachings can also help tremendously. But those are all things we can do on our own. And we should be doing those things every day on our own. But corporate worship is powerful. Whether it’s you and a friend or a congregation of thousands, multiple voices lifted to heaven is amazing. We need to be helping one another to understand the word of God and holding one another accountable in our pursuit of Christ. That, we cannot do on our own.

The other relationship that is important about church is the one we find in a friend. We have so many people at our church who we consider more than a friend. We consider them our family. They aren’t by blood. In fact, one a few are related to us. But they are closer than most of our family members. They know us more deeply. They’ve been there for us, and us for them. We pray together, serve together, sing together, and simply do life together. That is what church should look like. That is what is missing for so many, and what was missing for me for most of my life.

Church is a place where we should be pouring ourselves out every bit as much as we’re getting filled up. Church is not a department store where we go to find what we are in the market for. Yet that’s how so many treat it. We can’t go into church asking what we can get out of it. If we do, we’re lost before we ever walk through the doors. It’s not about our entertainment or satisfaction. It’s about relationships. And those only thrive when they are a two way street. Why should you be gathering with other believers? Because we need one another. Desperately. And our relationship with Yahweh only suffers when we decide to go it alone. Let’s worship together, learn together, and grow together. If that is truly what you want in life, God will open the door. Because that is what God wants for you.

God bless brothers and sisters. And may you find deep and meaningful relationships with other believers. And may your relationship with your Savior be more fruitful than ever! Shalom.

Prayer Warriors

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“Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.”And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Matthew 26:36-41 (ESV)

When my wife and I started dating we used to stay up all hours of the night watching movies or just talking. There were several occasions I can recall driving her home and knowing that I only had a few hours before I had to be ready to head to work that morning. But it was worth it. The sleep was not that important compared to spending the time with her. From the day we had started talking to one another, we never wanted to spend much time apart. From that point on, we’ve been pretty much inseparable. When I have had to be gone we would text all day long and talk for well over an hour when possible. Even after all these years and multiple children, the bond is every bit as strong.  I’m not telling you my sappy love story to try to impress or brag but because this is what love can look like. That’s what our love for Jesus is supposed to look like.

For our seven-plus years of being together, my wife and I have been the best of friends. Our relationship with Jesus is really meant to be the same way. I mean, think about it. In the Bible, Jesus is referred to as both our friend and as being married to His church. Followers of Christ have several names: child of God, co-heir, saint, disciple, and much more. This chapter is more about the labels of friend and bride (which I know may sound weird to some guys, but it’s actually awesome). As a bride and friend, the followers of Jesus should want, perhaps more than anything, to be connected to Him. That’s what prayer life is all about.  It’s not morning or evening prayers, it’s daylong prayer. It’s not simply seeking God for help in times of trouble, it’s speaking with Him in the good and hard times. It’s not putting Him on the shelf until you need Him, it’s wanting to be in His presence constantly. That’s what the story of the Bible has been about since the very beginning. God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden in Genesis, He tabernacled with the Nation of Israel, He embodied humanity in Jesus, and one day the new heaven and new earth will exist in the glory of His eternal presence.

The question of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane can be a striking conviction for most people. But it doesn’t have to be. I’m not talking about setting aside prayer time, I’m talking about living a prayer life. Remember, Jesus didn’t need His disciple in the garden, He invited them because He wanted to be with them. It’s no different for you and me. We’re invited into prayer, with the God of all creation, because He wants to be with us. He wants us to enjoy His presence because we need it to make it through life. We all suffer loss and difficulty that wages war on our hearts. So do those we love. A praying life is the only way to effectively wage war on the things that seek our downfall.

Prayer is the greatest weapon we have to fight for our families, friends, and even strangers. Prayer is so powerful that it can help set people free from addictions, oppression, depression, pride, and in some cases, disease and death. Prayer redirects lives. Chapter nine explores more of the spiritual realities around us and why it’s so important to live a life Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…”

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (ESV)