This weekend, in many places around the world, is the end of day light savings time. Early Sunday morning the time will change, it goes back one hour. Ah, blessed sleep! Time zones can change but also the times change. We aren’t living in 1982 anymore, the world around is very different. The political issues of the day, the technology we use, and the economic powers in the world – these have all changed. Some of the changes have been for the better and others perhaps have been not so good. It can be hard to adapt to the changes going on around us. But people change as well; there is change going on inside of us. I’m not the same person I was in 1982. At least I hope not. I don’t want to be judged today based on the kind of person I was then. I have grown and matured. That’s the wonderful thing about our human nature, we can change. Change however isn’t easy. I think it gets harder the older we get and yet we tend to notice more things that need to be altered. Christian discipleship is about growth and change. God is changing us, transforming us, into the image or likeness of his son Jesus. This process won’t be complete until we reach heaven but we can still see incredible transformation here and now. The Holy Spirit is at work in us producing the character that is pleasing to God. I’m glad I’m being transformed but have to admit that many times it is painful. Growth, even good growth, can be excruciating. Some days I wonder if it’s worth it. But of course it is. Staying the same with all my sins and imperfection is worse. While I know that I have changed some days I feel like I’m right back at the beginning. There are days when I feel like I haven’t made any progress in this thing called the ‘Christian walk.’ There are days when I feel like I’m a child all over again full of selfishness and immaturity. That’s why it is important to remember that while we still fail and are slow to change God doesn’t give up on us. Paul says, “I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” That encourages me because it tells me that God is committed to my progress and that the work is his. Of course, I need to cooperate with him but ultimately I can’t change myself. I can only place myself before the presence of God and know that he is working in me. I know that he is also working in you. Let’s be encouraged by that thought today.

What to do When Church is Boring

“I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.” Psalm 122:1 Let’s face it, sometimes we aren’t all that excited when we go to church. The preacher is boring, the music is not to our liking, the greeters at the door didn’t notice us, the coffee is cold and the seats are hard. Some weeks we leave church and can’t remember why we went in the first place. It’s true that every now and then some things are off. There are times I didn’t enjoy listening to my own sermon. But what happens if you feel that way every week? What happens when you start resenting having to go to church? When worship gets boring? If you are consistently unhappy each week in church maybe the issue lies more within you than with the church. Each week the music team, preacher, Sunday School teachers and other volunteers prepare ahead for the time of worship. What does your preparation look like? If you just show up are you really ready to be there. How do you prepare to offer your worship to God? Here are a few thoughts on being ready for worship on Sunday morning. Be regular with your devotions throughout the week. Daily bible reading and prayer keeps you in touch with God and open to his Spirit. If you go from Sunday to Sunday without any thought about spiritual matters it may be harder to enter into the worship service. Saturday night, before going to bed, pray for yourself and others. Ask the Holy Spirit to be at work in the preaching, music and fellowship so that you are able to receive from God. Ask the Holy Spirit to prepare you to offer your sacrifice of praise and that you will be completely present in the service. Arrive on time, or even a little early. In our services we start with a ‘call to worship’; a prayer to settle our hearts. It’s an invitation to worship God and to receive from him. It sets the tone for our time together. If you wander in late you have missed an important part of our worship time together. It always takes time to greet people and get seated so allow for that time in your planning. Be engaged. Sing the words of the songs as your prayer to God. Close your eyes and free yourself from distraction when there is corporate prayer. Listen for the reading of God’s word. (If the preacher is bad at least you can mediate on Scripture.) Follow the sermon, take notes and listen for what God is saying. If that sounds like work, well, it is. We aren’t to be passive in worship. We aren’t there for our entertainment. We are called by the Living God to enter into his presence and worship him. Finally, if you have opportunity later on Sunday, talk with family or friends about what they found encouraging in the service. You might be surprised by how the service ministered to them. While not every week might ‘ring your bell’ others may leave church feeling very blessed. Of course, it is possible that the preacher is disorganized and the musicians are off key but I tend to believe that if God is present it is worth being there.

Have you seen a Christian movie lately?

This seems to be the year of the ‘Christian’ movie. Hollywood has found a new profitable market and is trying to cater to the tastes of believers but with limited success. Released so far this year has been Son of God, Noah, God’s Not Dead, Heaven is for Real, The Song, and Left Behind. Those films are based on biblical characters and themes that movie producers hope will attract a ‘Christian’ audience. There are also a number of other movies being promoted for their Christian viewpoint or positive, family friendly message. But can a movie be ‘Christian’? Did Jesus die for movies? No, he died for people. Yet we continue to speak of Christian movies, Christian books, Christian songs, Christian video games or anything else in the area of ‘Christian’ entertainment. What makes any of these things ‘Christian’? No doubt many books, songs and movies have biblical themes or seek to deal with the challenges of living a God centered life. These we find helpful and even encouraging. But I have also encountered movies and books that come from a ‘non-Christian’ perspective that deal with similar themes and challenge my thinking about certain topics. How do I know what is ‘Christian’? J.S. Bach used to write Soli Deo gloria on all his music. Is Bach’s music Christian music? The expression means Glory to God alone. It was used by musicians and writers to say that their work was produced for the sake of praising God. Their motivation was God’s glory and not self-glorification or pride. Christians are to be motivated and inspired by God’s glory and not their own. The Apostle Paul says, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col. 3:17) Each of us has a work to do, a calling or vocation. Whether as a movie maker, sales rep, lawyer, researcher, teacher, parent, nurse or taxi driver we are called to do it for the glory of God. God should be glorified by our work, by our devotion to serving him and not ourselves. We are the ones who are “Christian” and bring our perspective to bear on any work that presents itself before us. What we produce may not be Christian. The question is, “what is the work dedicated to, who is being glorified?” If we ask that question about our own work or about the creative work of others we might be surprised at the answer. Not every movie that asserts itself as ‘Christian’ has been produced for the glory of God. Not every ‘non-Christian’ song has been written for the self-promotion of the writer. We don’t always do our daily jobs for the glory of God even though we call ourselves Christians. I am not the judge of what is or isn’t a Christian work of art. I need to examine my own calling and ask myself, “As a believer in Jesus, is everything I do for the glory of God?”

Big Tippers

Last week, after being seated in a restaurant Mackenzie and Steve waited almost 20 minutes for water. They waited 40 minutes for their appetizers to arrive. It was more than an hour after they ordered before their main course arrived. The service was terrible. So the couple decided to tip their waiter $100 for the evening. How crazy is that? Mackenzie and Steve used to work in the restaurant business. They understood the challenges their server faced that night. He was looking after 12 tables and handling the bar. He was run off his feet. Most people were not likely to give much of a tip. But Mackenzie said she remembered what it was like and wanted to ‘pay it forward.’ She wanted to encourage her server who was having a rough evening. That’s a great picture of grace. I’m sure that in that situation I would have complained and been cheap on the tip. It helps when we can put ourselves in someone else’s situation and understand what they are going through. But Mackenzie and Steve did more than that; they acted with grace and kindness. This is what we are encouraged to do for one another: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12) I must confess that many days I forget to do this. I love it when others act this way but sometimes I am slow to act first. Often, we think that to get what we want we must be pushy and loud; don’t let the world walk on you. But our faith calls us to a different path. It’s quieter and less noticed but one that makes a huge difference. Who needs some compassion and grace in your life today?