Tag Archives: christianity

Is Church Worth It?


Is church worth the time and effort?

No.

If you only attend once a week just to make sure you’ve done your Christianly duty, then it has no true benefit to you.  If you hear the sermon but never put what you heard into practice, then what’s the point of showing up? If, during communion, your mind is everywhere except on the sacrifice and grace of Christ and the family with which you are communing, then why participate?

So many people wonder why they don’t get anything out of their church experience.  They complain that the messages are boring.  They complain that the church members never visit when they’re in need, yet they aren’t around enough for people to get to know them and their needs.  They complain that there aren’t enough programs for their kids.  They jump from church to church never planting roots, and they wonder why church doesn’t bring any true benefit to their life.

Does this sound familiar?

Is the church worth the time and effort?

If you come to the assemblies to give (not just to get), then you find that you are blessed beyond measure, and your life will be changed.

If you spend more time than simply during the worship assembly once a week with your brothers and sisters in the church, then you will build relationships that allow for many great benefits in life – not the least of which is real family. So many people are questioning the necessity of Sunday and Wednesday evening gatherings.  I, too, have wondered about their relevance.  However, when people overlook those assemblies, they miss out on a much more intimate time of fellowship and discussion that brings relationship growth in the body of Christ.  Those who attend the peripheral gatherings (Sunday morning class, Sunday evening assembly, Wednesday evening classes and others) find much more fulfillment in their church membership. This is due to the relationships that are fostered in these gatherings and the discussion that happens which brings spiritual growth.

If you come to experience the presence of God through worship and a message from the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, you will find God, and He will bring healing to you.

If you come to commune with your savior and your family in Christ, you will find renewed salvation and unity with your brothers and sisters in Christ.

If you come to offer love to those you encounter, you will leave feeling loved by others and by your Father in Heaven.

If you come to fellowship, you will find relationships that help drive out loneliness and can even help heal depression. You will find connection to something bigger than yourself.

If you come to volunteer, you will find that there are ample opportunities to serve, and those programs you wished were there could be manned by your involvement.

If you come looking for ways to connect – not ways to simply exist – you will find that church is well worth the time and effort.

Are you finding fulfillment and spiritual growth through your involvement in a church gathering? If not, I would like to suggest you try two things in this order:

  1. Get involved.  The more involved you get, the more you will find yourself in the middle of the relationships in the church.  This will bring community and connection that will help foster purpose and fulfillment in your calling to be a disciple of Jesus. This will allow you to experience the love of the body of Christ.
  2. If you’ve gotten involved, or tried to get involved, but the church is obviously lacking in its ability to love, then talk to the leadership of the church about your experience.  Don’t be shy.  They need to know.  If they listen and change things, GREAT! If not, it may be time to find another gathering where you can attempt number 1 again.

Church shopping shouldn’t be a trend, yet it seems to be. Instead of jumping from place to place looking for the coolest worship or the hippest preachers or the most energetic children’s ministries, get involved where you are, and see if you can help the church where you’ve been planted grow into the church it should be.

One last thought: A church that isn’t loving is not a church that is of Jesus.  If the church doesn’t follow the greatest commands (love God and your neighbor), then finding a church that does love seems to be the only viable option.

I know a great church in Aztec, NM that loves one another and seeks to invite others into that love.  If that’s what you’re looking for, then come be a part of our family at Aztec church of Christ.  God bless you all.


Arrogance Perpetuates Ignorance

When I first became passionate about sharing my faith with others, I had a prepared presentation I would give anyone who would listen. If you were with me for more than a couple minutes, I was asking you questions to try and spark an opportunity to share the good news of Jesu with you. 

This zeal was fun, but it wasn’t balanced with humility. 

I had God’s plan of salvation, and I was certain it was the only way. I had it figured out, and there was nothing more to know concerning salvation. Because of this attitude I often became harsh, judgmental, and sometimes even angry when people challenged my ideals. 

Boy, did I have a lot to learn!

I still agree with much of what I tried to cram down people’s throats back then, but now I have a much more full view of the gospel message. The significance of Jesus is deeper than I knew in my early 20s. Baptism is so much more than a momentary ritual. Salvation means so much more than forgiveness of sins.

I now realize that to claim that I have full knowledge regarding Jesus and religion is arrogance that blinds me to further truth. 

I believe many of the things I did when I started into ministry, but if I had stopped my studies then, I wouldn’t understand grace and live the way I do now. I would have more experience, but I would be just as ignorant.

To know Jesus, and to walk in Him is to live a life of growth, learning more every day of the goodness that comes from life in Him. We should be ever striving to better ourselves through a more intimate relationship with the Father. We should be hungry for His words to help us know Him more and help us change to become more like Jesus. 

When I settle in my arrogance to think I know it all, I put myself above my brother. Pride brings about destruction. Many places in the scripture speak of this. The word is living and active. As I grow as a man, it shows me new things concerning my life and ministry. 

I hope to continually grow in my knowledge of the goodness of God, His grace and love. I pray you hunger for the same kind of growth. May we never become conceited, thinking we know all we need. May we never become arrogant, looking down on a brother who understands differently than us. May we choose love and grace over division based on understanding. 

May we be defined by our oneness in Christ as we seek to be more like Him every day. 


On Christians and Halloween

About two thousand years ago, the Celts in Ireland celebrated the beginning of the new year on November 1. This was typically the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the cold months usually associated with death. The eve of this day was called Samhain.

On Samhain, the Celts believed that the veil between the physical and spiritual world was thin enough that ghosts and ghouls could travel across the veil and devour crops and make all sorts of mischief. On this night, everyone would put out the fire in their fireplaces, and they would light large bonfires in the villages to help ward off these spirits. They would also put on animal skins and animal heads to create costumes so that the spirits would be tricked into leaving them alone.

As the Roman Empire made its way into Ireland, some of the superstition regarding Roman deities became part of the Samhain celebration. They would sacrifice crops and other items in these bonfires to seek good fortune from these spirits.

By the 700s, the Catholic Church held high power and sought to change the focus of Samhain and give it a more Christian tone. So they came up with a day to honor all those martyred for the sake of Christ. This day would also serve to honor the saints who had gone before (their definition of Saint was much more complex than the biblical definition). They called November 1 All Saint’s Day or All Hallows’ Day. That would make October 31 All Hallows’ Eve. This would later get shortened to Halloween.

Even though they had changed the names, much of the superstition of the holiday still retained its practice.

By the 1800s, Halloween finally made a surge for acceptance in the US. The puritans had rejected the day as evil, so it took a while for this holiday to catch on here in our nation. As it began in the US, the practice was to “Trick or Treat” on Halloween in lieu of the bonfires and sacrifices. Most of the time there were more tricks than treats due to the lack of prosperity in much of the culture.

By the 1950s, Halloween had transformed into the holiday we see today where children dress up in costumes and go door to door receiving candy and trinkets. Today, Halloween is the second most profitable holiday for retail in the US; only Christmas sees more spending for decorations and food and periphery.

So, should Christians celebrate Halloween?

Well, there’s a difference between holding to the customs of the spiritual side of the holiday’s origin (which I’m not sure there are many who still do) and dressing up in costumes for a night of make-believe and diabetes.

If you cannot separate the current practice of this children’s holiday from the pagan, mystical origins, then I would say you should sit this one out. If you don’t want your kids to be exposed to frightening images and experiences, then you should find an alternative to walking streets filled with teens who get their kicks by scaring young children. If you’re a health nut, and the idea of a night of cavity-creating, diabetes-inducing indulgence make you more afraid than a teenager dressed as a clown, then you should  probably abstain.

Is this a matter of salvation or getting kicked out of the church-club? No.

Nowadays, Halloween holds to little of its roots and can even teach kids to not worry about the monster under their bed or as an inflatable in someone’s yard.

Can’t it get dark and evil? Yes. That is the part we should refrain from participating in. We are called to be children of the light. God is light. There are many scriptures about Christians not participating in deeds of darkness.

So, dress up in fun, silly costumes of favorite superheroes or Disney movie characters and find places that are kid friendly. There are many of these where you live. And let us have fun on this imaginative night without having to give in to the darkness.


Modern Day Sanhedrin

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Have you ever heard of Passion Play Ministries International? It is an organization that tells the message of the death and resurrection of Jesus to thousands of people in many nations and cities in the US and around the world through a live-action drama. The play is a large production with hundreds of people in the cast and part of the crew. The headquarters for this ministry is in Farmington, NM of all places. Yet, with such a humble headquarters location they are doing great ministry in spreading the gospel of Jesus around the world.

I was privileged to get involved with the Passion Play of the Four Corners last year for the first time. My wife saw an ad somewhere stating that they needed singers, and that is something I love to do, so I decided to join. I was part of the choir last year and sang in the opening song as a trio with a couple other ladies. I was also the host pastor for a night where I got to lead the opening prayer and then invite people to respond to the gospel message at the end.

It was an amazing experience, and I can truly say they are changing lives – not only lives in the audience, but even lives within the cast and crew itself.

This year I went back to audition, and I was told that the choir was going to be practicing on Tuesday evenings. Well, I am solidly booked on Tuesdays with my position as den leader for the local cub scout pack, so I decided to do some reading and see if God wanted to use me for a speaking part this year. Apparently He does. I was told that night I was to report to the Sanhedrin block when rehearsals began.

The Sanhedrin? I was to be one of the bad guys who connived to have Jesus crucified. These were the legalists that had missed the heart of the message of the Messiah and therefore missed Him when He came to them.

Oh well, if that was where God wanted me to be then so be it. I began to read, and after a few nights the director of the Sanhedrin block of the cast informed me that he wanted me to play the part of Caiaphas. Really? Not only was I going to be a bad guy, but I was to be the worst one – the High Priest!!

As I have been learning my lines and preparing for my role it has really weighed on my heart the severity of the role I must play. I have to be angry at Him. I have to accuse Him. I have to reject Him. I have to be all the things I preach against each week as I minister. Sure, this is only a play, but the weight of the things, I must sa,y hang no less heavily on my heart.

The one idea that keeps coming back to me, though, is this: The religious leaders of the day – the Sanhedrin – rejected Jesus and everything He stood for because they didn’t understand Him, and they were threatened by His doctrine as they saw it required a change in their way of life and livelihood.

Don’t we do the same thing?

Don’t we reject Jesus as we decide day after day to give in to our selfishness instead of allowing Jesus to reign in our lives and call the shots? Don’t we ignore Jesus as we get caught up in our lives or even worse, our religion? Don’t we reject Him as we feel that following Him would require a change of lifestyle that will threaten our comfort on every level, even fincially? Are we not just as guilty as the Sanhedrin?

When Peter preached the first sermon about Jesus in Acts 2, he finished by saying, “You, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross…God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:23,36)

That verse is for us too. We crucify Jesus when we put our selfish desires above His. What does Jesus require in response? Repentance and Baptism (Acts 2:38). When you understand what you’ve done and keep on doing to Jesus it should bring about remorse that leads to repentance. When you see what He has done for you by willingly dying for you in spite of your rejection it should inspire a desire for allegiance to Him that leads you to baptism.

Don’t stay like the Sanhedrin. News is that even Caiapha, after the resurrection, became a follower of Jesus. It’s not too late for you to follow Him either.

If you would like to know more about Passion Play Ministries International you can find them on the web at www.passion-play.org.


The Chaos of Influence

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My kids have been introduced this year to basketball. We signed them up at a church in the next town for Upward Sports.

Having never done basketball before, there is a pretty sharp learning curve when someone is thrown in with other kids who have played for the last two years. Each practice and game is filled with input from both coaches as the kids try to learn the skills needed to win.

Game times are extremely chaotic. There are usually two basketball games going on simultaneously with only a double-row of chairs separating the two games. Kids on one court hesitate when the referee on at the other game blows a whistle. Parents are stacked on top of one another to watch their kids. There is yelling from parents and coaches alike as they all try to encourage their kids to take this shot or pass the ball or block that person.

In the midst of the chaos it is difficult for the kids to hear the voices that are speaking to them and trying to help them excel at what they are doing.

Isn’t this so true in each of our lives as well?

We have voices coming at us from all sides daily. There are voices on the television and radio. There are voices from our bosses and coworkers. There are voices from our friends and neighbors. There are voices from our families. There are voices from the books we read and the internet. There are even voices within our own heads.

Each voice is trying to earn the right to influence your actions.

Once, Jesus was talking about his followers, and he called them his sheep. He referred to himself as the shepherd. He said that others would come and try to lead the sheep away, but the sheep would not follow because they didn’t recognize the voice of the shepherd. Then he said this about his sheep:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.

if you consider Jesus your shepherd, then his voice should be the one that rings out through the chaos of noise in your life. You will come to recognize that voice more easily as you spend time with she shepherd in his word, through prayer, and as you spend time with others who are listening to and following the shepherd. It will also be easier to recognize the shepherd when we whittle away the other voices in our lives that stand in stark opposition to our shepherd’s voice. We may not be able to get away from the voices, but we don’t have to give those voices any rights within our lives to dictate feelings, choices or actions.

We each have a choice as to which voices we allow to have authority in our lives. Jesus wants us to make his voice the priority, and his voice is saying “Come, follow me. I love you.”


Ignoring science in the name of science.

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This week there was a lot of buzz about the debate between Bill Nye (the science guy) and Ken Ham (founder of Answers in Genesis and the Creation museum in Kentucky). I watched the debate, and I learned a few things.

The most important thing I took away from this debate is that if you aren’t answering the questions you’ve been given with straightforward answers then you seem like you don’t know what you are talking about.

One other thought I left with is that science and the bible are not mutually exclusive of one another. They go together. The bible is not a science textbook. In fact, the first few chapters of Genesis are written in poetry form – not as a scientific treatise on the creation of all things. But that doesn’t negate the fact that there are many ideas that have been discovered by science that the bible mentioned thousands of years before their discovery.

Let me give you some examples of things mentioned in the bible hundreds and thousands of years before they became known facts proven by science. These predictions are the very thing that Ken, in my opinion, should have been using to answer Bill during the debate.

1. The earth is round. Isaiah 40:22 This wasn’t proven or even accepted as anything other than heresy until the 1500s.
2. The earth isn’t held up by some mythological creature. Rather it is suspended in space by seemingly nothing. Job 26:7 Job is the oldest book in the bible.
3. The universe is expanding. Isaiah 45:12. Edwin Hubble discovered this in 1929.
4. There are deep canyons in the ocean floors. 2 Samuel 22:16. This was discovered in the 1900s.
5. There are springs on the ocean floor. Job 38:16. This was discovered in 1977 (the year I was born) yet written about in the earliest book of the bible.
6. There are currents in the oceans. Psalm 8:8. This was discovered in the 1800s.
7. Water evaporates from bodies of water and turns to clouds then condenses to form rain and eventually goes back to its sources. This is known as the hydrologic cycle. Job 36:27-28. Bernard Palissy is credited with this discovery after he wrote his explanation of it in the 1500s.
8. The law of entropy. This is part of the second law of thermodynamics. Psalm 102:22-26. This was explained in the 1800s.
9. Some constellations are held together by gravity and move as a unit. Others wander in the sky with a unique “pattern” unlike other constellations. Job 38:31-32. Scientists now say that the stars in Orion’s Belt are all moving in different directions – thus the loosing. The Pleiades contain 250 stars that travel together in grouping held together by gravity. Arcturus is in a class of stars unique in the universe. They don’t travel like other stars. The sun travels at about 12.5 miles per second. Arcturus travels at a whopping speed of 257 miles per second. Who will guide him? Can you even catch him?
10. We are made up of atoms and molecules which can’t be seen with the naked eye. Hebrews 11:3. The light microscope which allows us to see at the cellular level wasn’t invented until 1590.
11. The sun isn’t stationary. Rather it moves at a high rate of speed. Psalm 19:4-6. People used to think this was talking about the sun revolving around the earth when in fact it was talking about the sun warming all things it is near as it moves through the galaxy. This movement of the sun was discovered around 1800. It is interesting to note that many people still didn’t consider the sun a star at this point in history.
12. The earth once had a main land mass that we call Pangea. Genesis 1:9; 10:25. It is thought that the continents began to drift during the flood, but continental drift wasn’t seriously suggested until the 1800s.

These are only a sampling of scientific facts mentioned in the bible. It’s more than just a moral folk tale. It is the Word of the Creator who systematically patterned everything. That’s why it says in Romans 1,
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

Don’t ignore science in the name of “science”.


a-Moral Dilemma

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I have been a part of churches all my life. I have worshipped all over this country with various denominations and even experienced worship times with various faiths. In the Christian realms, however, there is a trend that isn’t catching on…it’s running full steam ahead through our church cultures.

This trend is to claim belief in God but live any way we want to live. It is a claim of faith but coupled with a self-indulgent lifestyle devoid of church attendance.

As a minister I cannot sit idly by and not say anything about this disease. If this is what we expect Christianity to be then Satan has won! We cannot claim belief in God and ignore what His word says. If you believe that God doesn’t care about how you live, then you believe in a God that you created. It is NOT the God of the bible. It is a human-invented creation. It will NOT save you.

I continually have conversations with people who profess deep belief in God yet are not a part of His church in any way. I meet people who are “Christians” yet live with their significant others in a very NOT-marriage relationship. I know Christians all over who publicly, through Facebook and Twitter and other social network sites, profess to have no issue with and even support those living lifestyles that are blatantly against the moral standard that God has set in His word. God’s word, the bible, clearly speaks against each of these things.

Friends, if you are a Christian but don’t even attempt to conform to God’s expectations for your life, then you are not a Christian.

A Christian is a Christ-Follower. A Christian values the words of God and seeks to live them the way Jesus lived them. Christians aren’t proud drunkards. Christians aren’t openly living with their boyfriend or girlfriend. Christians don’t actively encourage others to continue in their ungodly lifestyles. Christians aren’t disconnected from the church.

Christians are sinners who are trying to sin less. Sin is something they want to be rid of, not brag about. Sin is a very real thing in the life of a sinner. Sin is the reason they need Jesus. Sin is the reason I need Jesus. I cannot be a Christian apart from the church any more than a finger can live severed from the rest of a body.

I am not perfect, and I am sure you aren’t either. I receive the forgiveness of God through the death and resurrection of Jesus as the Holy Spirit guides my life, but if I’m continuing to openly, unashamedly live a sinful lifestyle then I’m not following after the Holy Spirit. I’m following after my flesh, and that is easily influenced by the evil one. It’s even easier for the evil one to be in control when I’m not strengthened by the encouragement of my brothers and sisters in Christ.

If you’ve been living this kind of lifestyle then the good news is that Jesus offers new life today! Repent! Turn away from your sin and turn to God. Get involved in church. You won’t be perfect, but your heart turned toward Him is reflected by your actions. You’ll see change in your life, and others will too. And God honors that.

Jesus didn’t die so that we could continue to sin. He died so that He could show us the way out of this sin-led life, and He gave us his church to help us live the life He called us to through encouragement and fellowship. If you’d like to come back to Jesus in a real way, then I’d love to visit with you. You are invited and welcome to be a part of His family – it is not full of shame regarding the way you used to live – it is full of celebration that you left that life to live the life He intended for you to live all along.


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