FIRST Thoughts

Something that is discussed, debated and often disagreed upon in church circles is centered on doing church instead of serving the Lord. The focus for many people of faith is centered more on checking the box of going to church rather than preparing myself to meet with and minister in the name of Christ.

Going to church will require a personal investment of time. Coming to Christ requires a personal encounter with truth. After all, He is and remains the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). The truth, as God defines it can be unsettling in the heart that is settled on a different interpretation of truth, namely their own. Example being, those who attend church have been conditioned to go to church weekly to 'get' something. Many attend to 'get' information on what is going on or gain instruction on how to live a better life. In the process of going to church, most fail to meet God through the person of Christ on a personal basis.

The Christian life is not defined by going to church and 'getting' something. That is what the world would have a person to believe. This is how it often sounds to the ears of people, 'go do your 'church thing' and then get back to doing your own thing as soon as you can!'

As an alternative to the ruinous routine of religious exercise, imagine assembling with others on Sunday after having taken the time necessary to focus your emotions, intellect, and will upon the Lord Jesus. To this, no doubt some will respond, 'who has the time to do that?' Truth is, you and I will WHEN God matters more than anything/anyone else. So long as He doesn't, we won't..

Stay with me on this, upon arrival, the preparation for your personal encounter with Christ in worship continues with setting aside wild emotions, unruly thoughts, and distracting desires. As you calm yourself in the power of the Holy Spirit, you internalize the mercy of God and focus on the ministry of Lord Jesus Christ. You begin to concentrate on what He has done in your life over the past few days and yield yourself to His leading concerning His plans for your life in coming days. With this approach, you are not going to 'get' something that is offered by men or women. Rather, you have come to 'give' something to God of great value, yourself. By first releasing your will to His will, His purpose gains clarity. This kind of worship encounter is not dependent on what people say or don't say, do or don't do.

You don't have to imagine doing this? This kind of personal encounter with Christ in worship can happen anywhere. It can happen at home, at a local assembly of the church or on while on the way. As a person offers themselves fully to God with faith, what proceeds from their soul is genuine. It's not theater. It is an offering of praise and thanksgiving for His grace, His mercy, His forgiveness, and His long-suffering. With this approach, it is less about the song selection and more about the melody God has placed in my soul. How could any genuine child of God not worship after first offering themselves to the One who offered Himself for them in paying the penalty for sin, which is death (Romans 6:23).

I want to encourage each of you to start doing something radically different this Sunday. Before you arrive, permit the Lord to break down the barriers that have been built in your heart over time about what going to church should look like. Let God dismantle and discard certain preferences, even the personal prejudice that separates/ isolates people from one another. Be willing to release what has you bound to the past and in its place embrace the gift of grace that comes with fully offering yourselves to God in the present.

If such challenges make you uncomfortable, that is a good thing, not a bad thing! May the Lord Jesus often disturb those who have grown comfortable in going to church to 'get' something and may He provide courage in those who seek Him through offering themselves as living sacrifices to God (Romans 12:1-2)

Christian consumers go to church to 'get' something. More often than not, they come away with an empty sack spiritually because what was offered was perceived as 'outdated.' This mindset desires what is best for the flesh and discards the rest. The priority of a personal encounter with Christ will always direct the worshipper to 'give' something of value to the One who values the worshipper, personally. It is not centered on money or the material. It is centered on the motive behind the decision made concerning the personal ministry of Jesus. This makes the trip much more rewarding. Along the way, others will see a BIG difference in how you and I look at life and live it!

The next time you consider going to church, don't forget the preparation necessary to come to Christ, lest you miss the point altogether.

Don't settle for a full life when you can have a fulfilled life!

Pstr k

Psalm 27:1