Smoldering churches

img_0685The haunting images of the burning Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris dominated the headlines this week.  This church had stood the test of time, as construction started in 1163 and took over 100 years to build.  But in a matter of minutes, the blaze took down a historic spire and engulfed much of the facade, stained glass windows and roof.

We’ve got our own destructive fires in churches closer to home. Fires of indifference and apathy.

Results from a Gallup Poll released last Thursday show that adults who belong to a church or other religious institution has dropped by 20% over the past two decades. Church membership is at an all-time national low, dropping to 50% (church membership was at 70% in 1999).

We are encouraged to gather together.

Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:25

Indifference and apathy grow in spaces that are void of genuine relationships.  Churches can thrive when we create a loving, warm environment.  That can’t be done by our ministers, counselors, elders and deacons alone.  The membership has to help.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. I John 4:11

Talk with the church leaders about lapsed members. Volunteer to write letters or call these folks. Ask and listen about their needs.

Create opportunities to serve with others: Visit the sick or the elderly. Get a small group together to serve at the homeless shelter.

Fellowship is a contact sport.  Assembling for worship. Praying together. Singing together. Studying God’s word together. Attending to each other’s needs.

And if you find yourself in a spiritual funk- pray about it. And then tell someone about it. Your brothers and sisters in Christ want to help you…they just need to know how.

My prayer this week is to be more aware of ways to encourage old friends and engage new ones in their spiritual walk. And in doing so, I know that I will be uplifted as well.

And please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

 

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Turkey, travel and turmoil…a Thanksgiving tale

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Last year’s Thanksgiving holiday was one of our most memorable ever.  We had planned to leave Knoxville late Wednesday afternoon in order to join our extended family in Memphis.  Hollianne and I had signed up to run in the Turkey Day 5k in Germantown.  We were all ready for three days of relaxed family time.  Then life happened.

Carson, our daughter, woke up at 2 am with a stomach virus.  After getting her back into bed and resting (somewhat) comfortably, the virus hit me.  Like a hammer.  Carson and I were both in bad shape…and certainly in no condition to travel over to West Tennessee.  The decision was made that we would all stay home.

Hollianne had made an adjustment, however.  After we cancelled our trip she made an unplanned run to the supermarket and bought a small turkey.  She cobbled together some side items and created a small, intimate Thanksgiving celebration for just the five of us.  Carson and I had sufficiently recovered enough to eat a (light) Thanksgiving meal.  While we missed the larger celebration, we did have a family gathering after all.  Hollianne made the best of a bad situation.

While last’ years experience wasn’t ideal, the illness did give me ample time to reflect on my blessings.  I have many reasons to smile, but I’ve come to the conclusion that every gift in my life can be narrowed down to one simple act.  And that’s the redemption, forgiveness and hope that Jesus gave all of us on the cross.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. — 2 Corinthians 5:21

Who deserves such a gift?  Not me.  Jesus came to earth to die for all of our sins.  He bore all our guilt, transgressions and shame on Calvary’s cross that day.  And while I don’t deserve it, I appreciate it.

Be sure to take some time tomorrow to reflect on your many blessings.  I just hope it doesn’t take a stomach bug to force you to do it…

God bless- and let me know if I can pray for you.

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Worry like the Philippians?

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. I Peter 5:7 (NIV)

Giving up our anxiety is easier said than done, isn’t it? We face an enormous amount of pressure each
day, whether it’s from work, home or society.

Stress can cause us to turn inward for answers…a reliance on self to
“fix” whatever situation we find ourselves facing. The Bible gives us great assurance that God
cares- and wants us to present Him with our worries. What a comfort to know that the same God that
created the heavens and the earth is also interested in our worries and
concerns!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with
thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

The next time you go to God in prayer- thank Him for the blessings you
have received in this earthly life. Also present your concerns to Him. Give your
worries over to God and ask for His wisdom and guidance in assisting you
through life’s valleys. We’ve been promised comfort and help. What a blessing!

God bless.

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