I was visiting with a friend recently and our conversation steered into our position on “the God thing”. I wanted to know. I listened while he patiently answered my questions about his journey toward God. When he came to talking about his church going, he pointed it out to me as something he’d discovered kept him away from vices he’d broken up with for good. At that i asked him if he was aware of other things he was doing that were also keeping him on the straight and narrow. And now i ask you. Certain things i keep in my life on purpose have been sign posts in my life pointing me to God and away from vices, i share them here.
Church was God’s idea. Like a Father he wants his children to gather in one place and be fed like children in a family gathering at the dining table at meal times. Everything set on the table is meant to be enjoyed from the opening prayer, the offering of praise and worship through singing, the sharing from the bible, the offering of money as a representation of our surrender of the material things God has allowed us to have e.t.c.
Regardless of what i find in a service, whether it be poor sound quality or a boring message (yep, that happens!), i try to enjoy being in my Father’s house savouring the varied flavours of his presence.
God also wants us to grow in fellowship not in isolation. Think of it like a pack of animals in the forest. They graze together, drink together and travel together. Why do you think they do that? They are safe from predators when they are together! Like the predator, the devil is always hanging around the pack looking for the one that leaves the group or lags behind. The predator can chase the solitary and the prodigal but he can’t chase the entire pack. So remain planted in church. Go when you feel like it and when you don’t feel like it. God will know you are making an effort and bless you for it.
3 reasons not to quit going to church
1. Don’t quit because you are still slipping into sin
The best place for a child of God to be is in the presence of God, that’s the only place where when he falls down trying to stand he will be picked up. That’s the only place where we are promised we will receive grace and find mercy when we need it. God will sometimes use another sensitive person in church to show you His mercy or he will let you feel His mercy. Hang in there and keep hearing the word of God and those stubborn sins will die and drop like bad fruit falling off a healthy tree.
2. The politics
There is politics in church. Live with it. Church folks can hurt you like no unbelieving folks can but remember when you come to meet with God, God comes to meet with you and he can go around those people to get around to you.
3. Hypocritical and critical people
There’s probably someone in the choir, someone in the pastorate and someone in church who has buried a black wolfish fur under white wool. They make you feel like everyone in church is a hypocrite (this may be true in some cases but find out if the pastor is sincere, if s/he walks the talk and if the majority is sincere, but don’t let the black sheep get in your way). Believe me, sometimes this people are planted by the Devil in church to detract from the testimony of that church (the bible relates in the book of Job a situation where when the children of God appeared before Him the devil came as well).
Finally, if the church has issues and you are not growing, find another pastor and find another church. When i was moving to a new city a few years ago i prayed about where to go to church and i believe several years later that God ordered my steps to the right environment for me to grow.
I have always been involved in a department in church and what i have learnt is that it holds you accountable. When you know that you are representing Christ and people see you doing stuff in church, it’s hard to step out during the week and just do what your flesh tells you to. It’s also an environment where you are constantly reminded to be holy, to take the high road and live above sin so it preserves your very soul. Besides you’re too busy doing ministry to find time to get into trouble.
Like a real member of the household, try to get out of the crowd and come into the core; don’t just be a stranger in your father’s house watching askance not participating in what your father is doing. Some churches are not as open as others in this area, but if yours is and you can, then get involved. CAVEAT- if you are struggling with an area in your life that is a dishonour to a ministry you want to serve in within the church, it helps to get it sorted first by getting counselling and help in that area and when you have victory over that sin you can be an even better witness as a church worker or leader.
READING THE BIBLE
The word of God puts the fear of God in you and the fear of God provides the restraint to keep you pure. What happens is, whenever a thought to do wrong rises up in your mind, the word of God will counter that thought with a thought that prompts you to honour God. When you don’t know what the bible says, either from reading it yourself or from hearing it said in church or among your friends, then there is no defence in you to protect you from doing what you don’t want to do. There is no power to overcome temptation. There is no fear of God to restrain you. There is no inner power to exercise the muscle of self control.
Two Sundays ago the pastor reiterated a phrase which the choir had put to song, “More prayer, more power, less prayer, less power”. It reminded me to pray more. Prayer is talking to God. Anyone can talk to Him; there are no qualifications or requirement. God says in Jeremiah 33: 3- “Call to me and i will answer...” A simple way to see prayer is having a conversation with God where you can talk about everything. You can talk about how you feel and what you need; you can ask God for help and for more of his presence in your life. I pray when i am missing a set of keys, i confide in God when i intend to do something wrong, i pray in the bathroom, in the car on the way to work and in my head. You can pray about anything when you really believe God when he says in his word that he is concerned about every detail of your life. He is!
Fasting has been missing in my life for a few years now. I intend to jump start that by getting this book on fasting. But i can tell you that God can deliver you out of the grip of sin, the hassles of life and the power of oppression when you fast.
LIKE- MINDED FRIENDS
Oh whats that over used maxim about friends? “Birds of the same feather flock together”? The bible puts it this way- “bad companions ruin good morals”. Good morals are not to be found in friends who lack them in the first place.
EYES AND EARS- WHAT YOU SEE, WHAT YOU HEAR
What we see and what we hear are windows into our hearts. They are the ways we feed things in our minds that live there. If we want certain things in our lives to die we need to starve ‘em by not seeing or hearing ‘em but if we want other things to grow, we need to feed ‘em by seeing and hearing more of ‘em.
YOUR HANDS AND FEET- WHAT YOU TOUCH, WHERE YOU GO
Jesus taught that if a part of your body like your hand is causing you to sin, chop it off. I don’t think he means for us to harm ourselves, what he was saying figuratively was to cut off from things we shouldn’t put our hands into or places we shouldn’t go to. Better to do without them than to go to hell with them.
The problem with sin is it can be a one stubborn, life- long stain on our conscience- its high maintenance. I don’t want to continually pay with my innocence and my conscience just to keep up with a sinful habit. God’s power is at work in us through the Holy Spirit and in combination with one or more of the eight signposts i shared above to give us a wise and blessed life. Live it today!