First Things @ First

Pastoral Perspectives,

The evidence continues to build with every passing year. The only things falling away more quickly than kingdom involvement in our culture are the leaves in November. The evidence reveals that for many who are associated with church, seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33) is becoming less a priority as we go along. And for a growing number within that group, it's no longer considered worthwhile. Why then should we wonder why the things that we truly need are not being added to our lives? We should not deceive ourselves as to why the blessings of God are often denied. Gal. 6:7

We are seeing the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 4:1-2 and

2 Timothy 4:3-4 literally revealed before our eyes. The thing is, faithlessness didn't begin in the middle of the 20th century. Faithlessness began piling up late in the first century and has been on the increase ever since. Consequently, both America and Oklahoma are in what I'll call the decline of The Divine. We are in many ways experiencing the same patterns of Israel during those dreadful days of the Judges when everyone was doing what was right in their own eyes. As a nation, we have sown to the wind for many years and are now reaping the whirlwind.

(Hosea 8:7) The patterns of sowing wild oats through the week and then coming to church on Sunday and praying for crop failure have not worked out well. And the consequences are costly, indeed!

In looking over some recent information concerning the spiritual viewpoints of people in the great state of Oklahoma, I was a little surprised that the biggest reason for not attending church was that most were too busy. It wasn't denominational differences or location or even worship styles. While being too busy was the general and possibly the easiest way to escape those conducting the survey, when examined more closely, it may well be more likely that those responding didn't feel that the time required to 'do' church was worth the net return. Simply not worthwhile to them personally. And that trend tends to grow when The Divine is considered one small segment of a multi-sliced 'pie' of life. Attending church, reading God's word, spending quality time in conversation with God, sharing the love of Jesus and serving others tends to all be squeezed into one small slice of 'doing' church. And within that small slice of life, each opportunity within that category can be conveniently alternated to fit the feeling of the day and still get credit for checking the box. And in the process, we fail to recognize that we further sear our own conscience in the flawed attempt to soothe it.

There's no way around it, when we place ourselves at the center-point of life, Jesus is replaced as Lord. Consequently, the rest and often best of the day or week will be sliced up according to what we're most interested in or what is most pressing upon our minds. Some segments or slices, such as work, and entertainment soon become much larger by comparison because the net result is considered more worthwhile. And as time passes, what we take the most pleasure in or from grows in proportion and what pleases us less, trends smaller.

The external evidence of the decline of The Divine reveals the internal problem of the heart.

In looking at the seven churches named in Revelation 2-3, we soon discover that Jesus commended the church at Ephesus for her works, labor and endurance. What could be wrong with receiving a certificate to frame and hang on the wall that commends believers for their works, labor and endurance? As we read on, we soon discover a lot was wrong with it. In their deliberate activity, Ephesus had settled for 'doing' church instead of loving Christ. And they were soundly rebuked for it by Jesus, the Head of the body.

I know that doesn't set well for those who bristle at correction of conduct unbecoming a believer. Initially it's like pouring soda into vinegar. It has the immediate reaction of boiling over. But after the soda settles, the truth remains. If I choose to love anything more in life and for life than God and His divine design for my life, I change course and begin the descent of 'doing' church instead of loving and living for Jesus. Others don't change course for me. I must own the fact that I changed the course of my life with my choices. And in so 'doing', because I am accountable to God, I forfeit the one thing in life that is most worthwhile. That's simply the blessing of 'being' in harmony with Him. Because at the end of the day and at the end of life here, it's in the overflow of His life in me, that I discover what is truly worthwhile.

May we desire in our hearts and design in our heads to invest a bigger slice of life in 'being' with Christ and not just 'doing' church. In that disciplined practice we'll see the evidence of being more like Christ. And the world around us will as well!

With His best in mind,

Pstr K

Hebrews 10:35-36