The River

by Matt Tullos

The longing of our hearts,
the thirst of our soul,
When we are forsaken,
Our joy is taken.
We feel lost in the desert of dashed dreams.

There is a river.

Our peace is so fleeting amidst wars and struggles.
The heat hangs in the air like a curtain of despair.
Even then let me remind you,

There is a river.

When we look in the mirror and we see an aging soul
And life seems so brief
And knowing death comes like a thief,
We stare at gravestones and unscalable walls,
And in our despair we lose sight of our dreams.

We are tired, thirsty, and fearing the Enemy’s schemes.
Our song is silenced. And we reach the end of our rope—
No vision, no laughter, no hand and no hope.

We hear the voice of life-giving Savior
Who leads us to this river;
He is the everlasting giver.
We look on the horizon of our hopelessness

And we see the river,

And we hear a Savior say, “Come.
Come take rest, come and be among the blest.
With all you are.
Your emptiness, your filth, you doubts, your despair
all things that have caught you unaware.”

He says, “Come,” remembering you are a child of God at play.
Be free, celebrate, reunite with the one who invites you and says, “Come.”

 

 

A Five Fold Strategy

destroyed-church-bw

The following article is a shortened version of Joel Rainey’s original article “A Five Fold Strategy Guaranteed to Kill Your Church.”  Read the complete article here. 

In his article he guarantees that by implementing these five strategies  you can accelerate the demise of any congregation. Do you agree?

1. Perpetually send an unclear sound. Make sure that key leaders remain clueless, and divided, when it comes to the identity, purpose, vision, and direction of the church. Speak in terms of, “We just want to follow the Bible.” “We just want to love Jesus and each other.” Just sound biblical without being biblical.

2. Invest More Time in Needy People than in Leaders. “The squeaky wheel gets the most grease.” And the grand mistake of church leaders is to give inordinate attention to the loudest and most needy people in the congregation, rather than invest in those God has gifted to lead the church.

3. Try to Please Everybody. Inevitably, good decisions are always sabotaged by someone suggesting that “doing this might really upset . . .[fill in the name of your preferred group.]” Guess what? THERE IS NO SIGNIFICANT DECISION THAT WILL EVER BE MADE IN A CHURCH THAT MAKES EVERYBODY HAPPY!

4. Refuse to Confront Troublemakers. Principled dissent is one thing. Saboteurs are an entirely different matter and in too many churches, they are allowed to run free and do what they please, no matter the negative impact they have on the rest of the body. Some “hold back” financially. Others pull the brake on what they disagree with. And still others, use  the technology of the day as a means to gossip and undermine the forward movement of the church.

Strong leadership is needed in these situations.. Without strong leaders to confront such nonsense, troublemakers will be free to throw additional anchors over the side of their drifting ship to ensure that it goes precisely nowhere.

5. Seek to Live in the Past. Churches actually do this in a number of ways, the most obvious of which is to be highly suspicious of any sort of change. Music styles, architecture, structural paradigms, and cultural engagement in general are all evolving concepts, and if the church does not reflect the culture in which it finds itself in all these areas, the result is far worse than simply an unclear Gospel. In the end, the church may lose the Gospel altogether, because they have identified its delivery with certain cultural accessories rather than a bloody cross and an empty tomb.

Roughly 3500 churches in North America close their doors for good each and every year. The vast majority of those that  I’ve seen close with my own eyes, did so by following the strategy outlined above. Many of them were not even aware of what they were doing, and when their subconscious path was pointed out, they simply chose to deny it . . .and keep dying!

Dear Parents with Young Children in Church

I didn’t write this article, BUT I should have!

Click here for the original post from “I am Totally *That* Mom”

You are doing something really, really important. I know it’s not easy. I see you with your arms overflowing, and I know you came to church already tired. Parenting is tiring. Really tiring.

I watch you bounce and sway trying to keep the baby quiet, juggling the infant carseat and the diaper bag as you find a seat. I see you wince as your child cries. I see you anxiously pull things out of your bag of tricks to try to quiet them.

And I see you with your toddler and your preschooler. I watch you cringe when your little girl asks an innocent question in a voice that might not be an inside voice let alone a church whisper.  I hear the exasperation in your voice as you beg your child to just sit, to be quiet as you feel everyone’s eyes on you. Not everyone is looking, but I know it feels that way.

I know you’re wondering, is this worth it? Why do I bother? I know you often leave church more exhausted than fulfilled. But what you are doing is so important.
When you are here, the church is filled with a joyful noise. When you are here, the Body of Christ is more fully present. When you are here, we are reminded that this worship thing we do isn’t about Bible Study or personal, quiet contemplation but coming together to worship as a community where all are welcome, where we share in the Word and Sacrament together.When you are here, I have hope that these pews won’t be empty in ten years when your kids are old enough to sit quietly and behave in worship. I know that they are learning how and why we worship now, before it’s too late. They are learning that worship is important.

I see them learning. In the midst of the cries, whines, and giggles, in the midst of the crinkling of pretzel bags and the growing pile of crumbs I see a little girl who insists on going two pews up to share peace with someone she’s never met. I hear a little boy slurping (quite loudly) every last drop of his communion wine out of the cup determined not to miss a drop of Jesus. I watch a child excitedly color a cross and point to the one in the front of the sanctuary.  I hear the echos of Amens just a few seconds after the rest of the community says it together. I watch a boy just learning to read try to sound out the words in the worship book or count his way to Hymn 672. Even on weeks when I can’t see my own children learning because, well, it’s one of those mornings, I can see your children learning.

I know how hard it is to do what you’re doing, but I want you to know, it matters. It matters to me. It matters to my children to not be alone in the pew. It matters to the congregation to know that families care about faith, to see young people… and even on those weeks when you can’t see the little moments, it matters to your children.

It matters that they learn that worship is what we do as a community of faith, that everyone is welcome, that their worship matters. When we teach children that their worship matters, we teach them that they are enough right here and right now as members of the church community. They don’t need to wait until they can believe, pray or worship a certain way to be welcome here, and I know adults who are still looking to be shown that. It matters that children learn that they are an integral part of this church, that their prayers, their songs, and even their badly (or perfectly timed depending on who you ask) cries and whines are a joyful noise because it means they are present.

I know it’s hard, but thank you for what you do when you bring your children to church. Please know that your family – with all of its noise, struggle, commotion, and joy – are not simply tolerated, you are a vital part of the community gathered in worship.

God WILL Allow More Than You Can Bear (Alone)

Ron Edmondson writes,

I occasionally like to correct a myth I have heard all my life. How many times has someone said to you, “God will never put more trials on you than you can bear”? I challenge you to show me that in the Bible.  The problem I have with this myth is that it keeps so many believers wondering why they can’t handle their problems, falsely believing they should be able to, because someone once told them the lie that God would not put more on them than they could.

Yes, we do have the promise that we will not be “tempted beyond what you can bear” (1 Corinthians 10:13), but we need to understand what that verse is saying. It says that God will not allow Satan to bring temptation, or enticement to sin, into our life that is too much for us to say no to it. When we are tempted to sin, God will make a way for us to resist it. That is because He wants us to live holy, just as Christ who calls us is holy.

Consistently, throughout the Bible, I read where at times God allowed more trials, more pressure, than His children could bear. Elijah, the powerful prophet of God who held back the rain had a time when the trial must have been bigger than his ability to handle it.  Consider this verse: “The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” (1 Kings 19:7)  Once when Paul wrote to the people at Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:8), he told them that he and his followers faced trials “far beyond our ability to endure”. David, the great war hero and man after God’s own heart, told the Lord that “troubles without number surround me” and “and I cannot see”. He couldn’t see clearly, because he was overwhelmed with the storms of life! Another time David said “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.”( Oh how I identify with David there!)  Jehoshaphat prayed, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”  (2 Chronicles 20:12)  It sounds like he was facing more than he could handle on his own.

Are there times when God allows more troubles in your life than you can bear? Absolutely! Positively! If you can accept my testimony as an example, let me tell you that sometimes life throws more at me than I can handle, at least more than I can handle alone. The reason God allows you and I to experience times when we are consumed by trials, when they are bigger than our own strength can handle, is so that we have no where else to turn, except towards Him. We are faced with one solution, and that we realize Christ is our only hope!

After Paul wrote that his trial was bigger than his ability to endure, he offers an explanation. “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:9) He recognized that this overwhelming time of trouble, that he couldn’t handle alone, had caused him to focus more on the power of God, and allow God to work His perfect will.

Are you being challenged beyond your ability to endure? Don’t believe that you can do it alone! You can’t! Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing!” Did you get that point? Nothing! Don’t try anything today without relying on the power of God! He knows you’re weak, but He is available to help, if you will call upon Him! When we are at our weakest, He is strong!