The Lost Communion Tradition

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Over the years, tradition and culture has shaped the way we do things in our various religious organizations.  Christianity has many rituals that, over the years, lose great significance or take on new meaning.  Today, I want to talk to you about one such ritual that has lost a bit of significance over the years:  Communion.

Many Christian groups take communion.  There are varying ways and frequencies with which it is participated.  Some take it every Sunday, while others take it once a month or even once a quarter. Some even wait until Easter to take communion. Some take a small piece of cracker and tiny but of grape juice out of a mini-glass while other drink all from the same cup.

If you’re not familiar with the term “communion”, it is a symbolic supper where the unleavened bread eaten and the wine being drunk are symbolic of the body of Jesus and blood of Jesus respectively.  These symbols are key to Christians because of their reference to the cross of Christ where our sins were forgiven through His sacrifice.

So back to the Communion:

I’m not sure how you take communion, but I am pretty sure there is one part to this supper that you don’t do.

If you’ll look in Matthew, Luke, and John, you’ll find their narratives of how the Last Supper went down, and each one refers to Jesus dipping the bread with Judas.  In John’s gospel (chapter 13, verse 26) the King James Version refers to this time as when Jesus “dipped the sop”  It reads like this:

“Jesus answered, “He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it.” And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.”

So, when’s the last time you “dipped the sop” during your communion celebration?  I have been doing some research on this Last Supper.  It was the Passover feast, and many Messianic Jews still celebrate this feast each year, however they have changed much of the symbolism because of Jesus’ sacrifice.  As I have been studying, I’ve noticed that each version of this feast – known as a Seder dinner – has one element that intrigues me.  On this feast, there are usually 6 items.  Parsley, Unleavened bread (Matzoh), Bitter Herb (Horseradish), Roasted Egg, Lamb Shank, and the Charoset (A sweet mixture of pureed fruits and nuts with honey).  There is also wine served in a series of four cups (meaning you drank your glass-full four times)

All of this is interesting enough, but the part that gets me is what comes toward the end of the feast.  This part is called “Korech”.  During this symbolic time, the participants would make a sandwich of Matzoh and Horseradish, then they would dip it in the Charoset.  This may sound tasty to you, but horseradish is extremely potent.  When you eat it, your eyes begin to water almost immediately, and the more you eat, the hotter it is.  Some say it’s even more potent than a jabanero pepper.

During the supper, Jesus “dipped the sop” then gave it to Judas.  This is the man who would betray him with a kiss and send him to his execution.  Of course this was all done through God’s guidance, but the betrayal was no less painful to Jesus.  In the Garden of Gethsemane later that night, Jesus prayed for God to let this cup pass from him.

What I’ve learned in studying this Seder (or Haggadah), is that the sop, after it was dipped, was supposed to be given to someone you love for them to eat.

Jesus dipped the sop and gave it to Judas.

He loves us…even when we betray Him.

I’m glad to have a savior like that!  Who knows.  Maybe someday we’ll re-incorporate dipping the sop in our communion celebrations, but until then, when you think of Jesus, remember how much He loves you…even when you don’t treat Him right.  Then, treat others they way He treats you.

If you’d like to know more about Jesus and how to have a relationship with Him that will set you free, feel free to contact me at mrjdobbs@verizon.net.  Happy Easter!


Zombies for Jesus

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This is the time of year that I love to go shed hunting. If you’re not familiar with what that is, then I’ll explain. Every year elk and deer shed their antlers. No one really knows why, but they grow back even bigger the following year. The antlers they shed are beautiful pieces of creation, and hunting them means hiking – a lot.

I love to be in the wilderness hiking along looking for these unique finds. I’ll admit, I’m not very good at it, but I try anyway.

The other day I was hiking along. There was much on my mind, and I was going through the countryside at a normal pace. I wasn’t tripping over rocks or branches. I avoided all obstacles, but after a while I realized I couldn’t recall any of the terrain I had just covered. I knew enough to retrace my steps, but I couldn’t remember what I had “looked at”. I was using my eyes, but I wasn’t seeing. There could have been 100 antlers in that area, but I couldn’t have seen them even if I had been staring at them because my mind was elsewhere. I was so distracted by my thoughts that I couldn’t see what was right in front of me.

Last week I was gathered with Christians from the four corners region to sing praise to God. I enjoy singing, but as we sang I began to look at the words to the songs. There were songs about those who were condemned that we sang joyfully. Shouldn’t we be sad about that? Shouldn’t that motivate us to get out there and witness more? There were songs about mansions, robes, and crowns that we want and expect to receive when we get to heaven. Isn’t that selfish? I don’t want that. I want to be in the presence of God forever. Everything else is of no consequence if I just get to be in His presence. We were singing songs that have been sung for ages, but so many times I’ve said the words without paying attention to their meaning.

Many people attend Sunday morning services. They even read their bibles, but they are missing the main messages for the tradition of going through the motions. It’s easy to keep doing what we’ve been doing. It’s easy to sing the songs that we’ve always sung. It’s even easy to find the lists of dos and don’ts in scripture because they are more obvious to a people who think in more concrete terms.

What we do when this becomes our habit is dangerous. We sing songs, but the songs are lip service. We like the tunes. We know the way to say the words, but we don’t know or even sense the heart of the songs. We know the Ten Commandments and many of the other lists of sins and laws in the bible, but we miss the greater meanings behind the laws.

Some concepts hold greater weight in the bible than others. Grace is a message found throughout the story even though it is not always maintained directly. Unity is stressed even more than doctrinal correctness. Faith is the bedrock of all we practice. Love is the greatest concept given to Christians. Each of these concepts can be practiced practically, but so many practice the acts without realizing the heart behind the acts.

We love to get grace, but so many who profess Jesus as Lord don’t give grace as much as they like receiving it – me included. We love the concept of unity – as long as you agree with me in order to create unity. That’s not unity. That’s uniformity. They are not the same. We love the concept of love, but we are so selfish that we have a hard time living in that. In fact, it is easier for us to do the “rules” than to love unconditionally. This is why Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 13. They were going through the motions without love or unity or grace.

It’s time to repent. It’s time to begin again. Let us not be zombies for Jesus – just going through the motions. May we be generous with our grace. May we be diverse in our unity. And may we love unconditionally. The world isn’t attracted to what we do ritualistically unless it comes from a well of who we are, and who we are needs to reflect Christ.


Noah: a review

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Ok, so I need to confess a couple of things. First of all, I’m not unbiased. I believe in the bible, so when things are advertised as being associated with the bible I have a certain expectation. Second of all I made a mistake – I took my children to see this movie. So I sat through the whole movie being affected by how the movie is effecting my children.

If I had gone to see this movie without my family I would probably have a different feeling about the movie. If I didn’t have knowledge of the bible story I would think of this movie differently as well. In either of those cases I would probably have a bit more to say to the positive for this movie.

I will talk about the overall review of the movie, then it will give a warning and I will talk about some of the specifics of the movie and give some spoilers.

General Observations
The story of the movie is actually really well told. If this had been touted as a telling of the flood narrative that is found in many cultures without reference to the bible then this would actually have succeeded. As a guy who likes action I can say that this movie was packed through with intensity and suspense. It was actually my style of movie.

The CGI was not as good as many other movies I’ve seen. There was more claymation type motion in some of the CGI than I would like to have seen. There was also video clips of animals and their babies that was not the same quality as the rest of the movie – an obvious break in consistent videography.

The story was well told from the memory of the beginning and the separation of the line of Noah back to Seth. The story line was so different from the bible narrative that there were multiple times I was on the edge of my seat wondering just what was about to happen. I would say that was a successful part of the movie.

As for some of the more obvious story lines in the movie, the ark was great. I loved how they designed it. I loved how the animals came into it and there’s a way that they managed the animals that was really cool. It looked real.

The other thing that I thought was well done was the portrayal of the evil of mankind. In fact, they did this so well that I was sorry I took my kids to see it. When the only inclination of all the people was only evil all the time you have to portray some pretty violent and evil people. They did this well. Because of this there was much gore involved. The body count is astronomical as could be expected of a worldwide catastrophe. However the battles before were filled with some serious blood and guts. There is even a battle scene on the ark that is intense.

Would I recommend this movie to anyone? Yes. If you’re into intense movies that you can’t really predict the outcome. Also if you’ve never read the biblical account then you will enjoy this movie. Go see this movie as just a movie. Separate it from the bible and it is a well done movie that does what it intends to do.

Parents’ Warning
There has been some rumor that there is a lot of foul language in this movie. That is not so. There are a handful of damns but they are used in the condemning sense. The language is somewhat true to the biblical era before the invention of most modern-day cuss words.

There is one scene where Shem and his girl have sex, but they don’t show anything. They kiss passionately and then drop to the ground off screen.

There is also a scene where Noah is naked. He is laying on his face on the sand and his entire backside is shown. Nothing sexual is implied or projected in this scene.

The violence is gratuitous. There are many dead bodies. There is much hatred-driven violence. You see severed limbs and much blood. There is even some scenes of cannibalism where screaming women are being dragged off to be eaten.

I took my five year old and seven year old to see it. They will probably have nightmares. My son was asking to leave toward the end. We usually have great conversations from biblical movies, but this one convinced my son that he didn’t even want us to buy to rent this later. He didn’t want this movie in our house. Having them at the movie made me more sensitive to the ungodliness portrayed therein.

Spoilers
This is the part when I talk about the things that were different from the bible. If you haven’t seen the movie and plan to then you might want to skip this part. Otherwise read at your own risk.

First things first. They tell the story of creation and then after Cain killed Abel there were angels who wanted to help the humans so they came to earth against God’s will and he cursed them. As soon as they hit the earth they became covered with the earth only to become – wait for it…ROCK MONSTERS!

They are throughout the whole movie. The story is that they are helping the seed of Adam and Methuselah defeats the sons of Cain to save these rock monsters. By the time of Noah there are only about 20 left. They are present throughout the movie and help Noah build the ark. They even help fend off the sons of Cain as they try to take the ark from Noah.

I actually thought they were pretty cool, and you even empathize with them. I actually really like them in this movie.

Tubal-Cain is the king of all the earth in this movie and he killed Noah’s dad. He’s very evil and actually makes it on the ark and is on it until it hits the mountainside.

Speaking of being on the ark…there are seven on the ark. Noah and his wife. Shem and his woman (notice the wording), Ham, Japeth, and Tubal-Cain. While on the ark Shem’s woman ends up pregnant and asks for Noah’s blessing. She ends up having twin girls, but the pre-marital relation is pretty obvious in this movie.

Noah is the biggest disappointment. He never hears directly from God but only in dreams. Then he is convinced that mankind will end with them. They are there to help the animals survive then they will die after they land with the ark. He is so set on this that he is going to murder the baby if it is female so that the bloodline of the race of men cannot be perpetuated. He understands the corruption of men and can’t bear to see it continue and feels called by God to do what is necessary to make sure it doesn’t – including killing his granddaughter or granddaughters.

He is so upset after the ark lands that he finds some grapes and gets drunk. This is the scene from the biblical account where he is drunk, but it’s not in a tent. It is in a cave on the beach where he has retreated from his family due to his remorse. Ham doesn’t make fun of him but there has been strife throughout the movie that causes him to not do anything to help. Shem and Japeth help like the bible tells. However, this scene doesn’t end with Noah blessing Shem and Japeth and cursing Ham. In fact this scene happens before the “rainbow” and is disconnected from the main storyline.

Oh, and there is no real rainbow as you picture it. There is no sacrifice to God. There is a shining light and an aurora borealis-like rainbow-colored aura. Again, there is no direct voice of God.

Overall I could like this movie if it weren’t for how they portrayed Noah. He was shown to be so crazy that even his family hated him. He was not the humble, righteous man that is portrayed in the bible.

Ok, so there’s the spoilers. I could probably say more, but that’s enough. I want to support biblical movies. However, if someone doesn’t know the bible and assumes that this is an accurate portrayal of what Jews and Christians believe then they will think we are nuts for believing in the bible. I think we should spend our money on things we want to see more of.

Ultimately you should make your own decision. These are my thoughts. Hope it helps.


The Secret to all Relationships is no Secret

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I want you to think of someone you know. This is a person you really love deeply. It may be a spouse or child or long-time friend. Why do you love them? You share so much with one another. Sure, they make mistakes, but you overlook those because of all the positive you see in that person. You love them because they continually live up to your expectations, or even better, you have no expectations of them at all – you just love them for who they are.

Now I want you to think of someone you can’t stand and you don’t love. Why don’t you love them? Do they not share the same vision for life as you? Do they continually make mistakes that you think are so simple to avoid? Do they not live up to your expectations? Do they offend you or do things that hurt you? Do they hurt the ones you love?

Both kinds of people are very real in your life. Each of us have friends, children, relatives, coworkers, and even spouses that fit into one of the two categories. Either we love them unconditionally, or we don’t.

Our world paints such a skewed vision of love. It is destroying our relationships every day. This kind of love is based on self-gratification. If you love someone just because they are good to you, or you hate someone because they are bad to you, both reactions are selfish in nature and therefore neither will lead to love. 1 Corinthians 13, when defining love, says it is not self-seeking.

Not every relationship will be awesome. You will have coworkers you will have to put up with, but you are called to love them anyway. Your children may reject you, but for most parents there is not even a question as to whether or not you love them. You have acquaintances you can’t avoid because they are friends of your friends, but not avoiding them is not edge same as loving them.

Marriages today are the most susceptible to demise based on this non-love that is being taught. We are constantly shown images of fairy-tale like relationships where both parties are blissfully happy forever. Not all marriages will be like this, and you need to know that it is ok. Your marriage doesn’t have to have all the movie-like bliss, but it does have to have love.

Love overlooks the bad. Love doesn’t get angry easily. Love doesn’t hold a grudge. Love doesn’t seek self first. (See 1 Corinthians 13 again)

How are you treating those you don’t like? Are you thinking about those definitions of love? Are you loving them unconditionally?

Jesus loves us in just that way. The bible says that while we were still enemies of God Jesus loved us so much that he died for us (Romans 5:6-11). Did you get that? We were the people who were unloveable, and for the most part we still are! We still sin and do what is against God’s will for us daily. We still don’t love those who are God’s children.

We don’t deserve the love God gives to us, but He loves us anyway. He asks us to love one another in that same way.

Imagine what it would be like to love like that. Imagine loving your coworker despite his annoying and offending personality. Imagine loving that homeless person even before you get to know them. Imagine loving your spouse despite all their countless flaws.

Oh, and loving them doesn’t mean just putting up with them. Loving them is serving them and doing what’s best for them and speaking health and beauty into their lives.

When we love like this then the world will know that we are disciples of Jesus (John 13:35). Then the world will want to know more about the love we’ve been shown. As long as we pick and choose who we love and let our emotions drive our decision (or indecision) to love, then we have no witness in this world for that is not how God treats us daily. He always loves us no matter who we are or what we’ve done, and He proved it by the cross.

Who do you need to love? Is it a spouse or coworker or neighbor? Will you join with me in choosing to love them in spite of them? That’s what God wants – love for love’s sake – not for our sake.


Believers, Demons, and Christians. Oh my!

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Are you a Christian? What does that mean?

There are all kinds of Christians in the world. Some are republican and some are democrat. Some are one kind of denomination and some are another. Some Christians go to war and some don’t. Some Christians use hate and fear-mongering to persuade people to Christ, and some don’t.

People who go by the term “Christian” have done all sorts of things in the name of their religion. They have killed and enslaved and rationalized and warred and devalued all in the name of Jesus.

But are they really Christians?

Some people say they are Christians, but they’ve never been baptized. They claim to believe in Jesus. They may even have said some prayer, but does that make them a Christian?

The bible says that even the demons believe. Does that mean demons are Christians?

Jesus said whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. Where’s the sinners prayer there? By the way, some people use a different verse that talks about the confession of Jesus as Lord and say that means that baptism isn’t necessary. As best I can tell I have to look at all of the bible and not just one or two verses. When Jesus defined salvation he talks about belief (the first step) and baptism (the marriage ceremony).

If you’re reading this and you haven’t begun your walk with Jesus by being united with Him in baptism, then what are you waiting on? I’d love to talk with you more about that. It’s not magical or hard, but when you realize what’s going on there, you will see that it is beautiful.

Ok. Ok. Ok. So some of you have been baptized. Does that make you a Christian?

Jesus calls us to follow him. Does your life reflect his? I’m not talking about looking at his rules and regulations; I’m talking about his life. What characterized Jesus? Does that characterize you?

So many people pay attention to all the rules of Christianity. They obey them well, but they’ve missed out on two key attributes of the first people who were ever called Christians.

1. They were super excited and everyone around them knew it. Who could blame them? They had just been saved from themselves. All of their junk and baggage and mess-ups and hang-ups had been forgiven by the Messiah. Even better – they were considered children of God! They could have relationship with God! They weren’t treated like prisoners waiting to mess up so that they could receive the chopping block. They were free – totally free – from all that hinders them: traditions, illness, legalism, oppression, worry, selfishness, sin! Sure, they still dealt with those things reflected in others, but they were no longer hindered. They were set free, and they lived free.

2. In their excitement they loved intensely. They loved those in their towns. They loved the slaves and women and children in a time where those groups were ostracized. They loved the tax collectors who were considered by their fellow citizens as traitors. They loved the people who ruled over them even though it was an oppressive regime. They loved in ways that made them stand out from the world, and the world responded.

Sometimes their love and excitement would create conviction in the hearts of those around them. These Christians weren’t standing on street corners yelling “Turn or burn!” They were loving everyone – even the unloveable. Their love showed up in stark contrast to the selfish lives of all those around them. So this love and excitement brought harsh persecution, and you know what? The Christians rejoiced even in their persecution! Nothing could get them down.

Other times, though, their love and excitement stirred up a desire in others to have the same results in their lives. People came to Jesus left and right because his followers actually lived like Jesus. Sure they messed up. Sure they sinned, but they weren’t burdened with the constant chastisement from their brothers and sisters in the faith. They were encouraged to move on – to stop sinning – and continue to love.

You see, many people think they are Christians, but they are not. A Christian is a person who has chosen to live as best as they can in the light and example of Jesus – an example of perfect love. When that person falls short of perfection (which happens a lot) they live in the grace and forgiveness that Jesus continually gives through his death and resurrection.

Christians are more than believers. Christians are more than rule-followers. Christians are people who live like Jesus. Don’t ignore how Jesus has commissioned you to begin your relationship with Him. And when you do begin, don’t be the kind of Christian that the world expects – harsh, grumpy, judgmental, spiteful, hate-filled, rule-driven people. Be the kind of Christian that your life speaks louder than your words. Love will do that. Live in love.


Real Men Don’t Go to Church…or Do They?

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Real men don’t do church.

This sentiment seems to resonate throughout the hearts of men throughout time. History shows that women have always been the main attendees when it comes to the Christian faith. Why is that? Why do men not want to come?

First, you have to realize that men do come. If you’re reading this, and you are a faithful man of God, then way to go! You will know firsthand some of the things I’m talking about.

So, regarding the men that don’t come…why not? All I can do is tell you things that have gone through my mind or I’ve heard from others. Maybe this clicks with you too. If you know a man on the fence about coming to Jesus, please share this with him.

Church is Boring
Ok. Maybe it is. Or maybe you think it is. I’ve been a part of churches that were boring, but mostly it was because I wasn’t involved or even engaged in the service. Get involved. Participate in the work of the church – not just on Sunday mornings. Watch how your perception changes as you take part in what is going on there.

I’d rather be fishing
Me too. I worship God when I’m fishing, but I also need time when I’m encouraged by my brothers and sisters in Christ. They are my family. They encourage me to stay connected to God. They pray for me and rejoice with me. This family bond is very real. I can’t neglect them for fishing any more than a dad can neglect his wife and kids for the same reason.

Churches are full of hypocrites.
Yep. They sure are. Well, kind of. Hear me out.
If I claim to be perfect and yet live a sinful life then I am a hypocrite. If I go to church and claim to be a Christian yet never tell anyone about my supposed faith then I’m a hypocrite. Yes, there are people like that in the church. Guess what. They’re human. I understand that. They’re forgiven just like I am and you can be.
There are also people like me. I’m a sinner. Don’t expect me to be perfect. I try daily, but my effort to do good pales in comparison to the grace and forgiveness I need to be righteous before God. So, does that make me a hypocrite? If I claim to be a person who is going to mess up even though I’m trying not to, then I’ve taken away your ability to call me a hypocrite. I’m not shy about my need for Jesus to make me whole.

Church is for sissy men
Churches are full of men who sing sappy love songs to a god they’ve never seen. They pray in ways that show their vulnerability. They don’t seem like the strong, manly type of men you want to be like – some even wear pastel colors!
This is probably the most important thing in this article
Church is NOT for sissies. It doesn’t take any effort to lose control and fly off the handle. It takes no self control to give in to any of the myriads of sins that will cripple your life. In fact, by its definition, it takes no effort to be selfish at all.
It takes a TON of strength to have self control. It takes courage to reveal your heart in prayer. It takes gratitude to praise God in song. It takes strength and a willing heart to stand before others and bear witness to what God is doing or has done through you. A fearful man cannot walk in the way of Jesus for he has called us to be willing to die for him. It is not a weak man who loves his wife and children and even his church family. It is no weak man who leads his family in following Christ. It is not weakness to do right.
These things are super hard, and all of us will fail at these some of the time. If you’re looking for the easy way through life, then don’t come to Jesus. Don’t give your life to Jesus. He will wreck you. Then He will show you just how great He has made you to be.

Church is not for weaklings. It is not for sissies. It is for the strong. It is for the dedicated. It is for the selfless people willing to lay down their lives for others. Which of these things are not manly?

Why do men not come to Jesus? I think it’s because they don’t realize the awesome adventure that a life following Him truly is.

Why do you think men don’t come to Jesus? How is being a follower of Jesus very manly? Let me know what you think!


A Fisherman Who Never Fishes

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I wasn’t always a minister. I’ve been in ministry of some sort for about 13 years, but this is not what I thought I’d be doing when I “grew up”.

When I went to college I wanted to be an engineer. I started at Harding as a pre-engineering student. It was when I got to organic chemistry that I realized that chemical engineering was out for me, so I switched to mechanical engineering. When I got to heat transfer I decided I wanted to do something with fewer moving parts so I switched to civil engineering.

Things went well for me in engineering. I was working 40 hours per week at Walmart. I had a new family complete with baby girl. I was running a paper route (400 papers per night), and I was still maintaining a C average in my classes.

When I realized I didn’t want to sit in an office crunching measurement numbers and calculations I switched majors again. I wanted human interaction. If you know any engineers you know they don’t think like a lot of people do, and many are very awkward socially. This is because their work is VERY intellectual, and they have to be extremely logically oriented, so their jokes are different and they don’t function well with the emotional sort (I say this as a recovering engineer student). So sitting in an office and working on a project with few other people suits them. I, on the other hand, crave social interaction.

So I switched once again to education. I wanted to use my math skills to teach others. I knew there would be much social interaction in that field, and I could influence someone’s life for good at the same time. This switch added another three years to my schooling for a total of six years in college.

What if I had decided to study about teaching or engineering all my life? Would I be a teacher?

What do you like to do? If you spent all your time studying about fishing and tying flies and gathering equipment, would that make you a fisherman? If you watched all the football games and knew every play; if you studied all the rules to football would that make you a professional football player?

Maybe you like knitting, so you study all the knots and needles and patterns. You even gather all the appropriate material. Would that make you a knitter?

I love rock climbing. I read about it and have all the gear. I know the knots and the great places to climb, but until I put my hand on a rock and pick myself off the ground I am not a climber.

We can study deeply in the word of God. We can attend church week after week. We memorize all the scriptures and even live good moral lives, but that doesn’t make us a Christian.

Christianity isn’t a moral religion. Christianity is an evangelistic lifestyle. To be a Christian is to be a disciple of Christ. Jesus said “follow me.” It’s hard to do that if you never move from your comfortable position.

Many people have gone to church all their lives and know all the right biblical answers, but they aren’t helping anyone else come into the Kingdom. They aren’t disciples. They are merely consumers of information.

Don’t do church. Don’t be a perpetual student. Be a worker. Be a disciple. What made me a teacher is when I began to teach. What makes me a preacher is that I tell others about Jesus. Guess what. You don’t have to have a degree to be a preacher. Just tell your friends about the One who gives you life and hope and forgiveness. Follow Jesus, and he said “make disciples”. When I’m actively making disciples I find that I am still constantly learning.

So don’t just attend church. Be the church. Shine your light. Tell others. And watch yourself grow in faith as you share it with others.


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