Don’t you just love it when a new restaurant opens? Perhaps your favorite chain just moved to town. Maybe the type of food you love the best is now being served right down the street. My wife and I have been looking forward to trying out the new Puerto Rican restaurant two blocks from our home. Everyone has different tastes in food so a variety of restaurants is advantageous.
I have discovered that people have various tastes in churches as well. Some like them large, some like them small. Some prefer contemporary in worship, some prefer a more traditional service. Some want liturgical others prefer more informal. People choose a church for a variety of reasons according to their individual tastes. I suppose that this type of consumer, shop around mentality is part of our culture. However, instead of trying to create a church that pleases people why not work on having a church that pleases God?
The early church that was born on the day of Pentecost serves as a wonderful model. As we look at Acts 2:38-47 we notice some activities they were involved in that were pleasing to God. As they met they celebrated in heartfelt worship. Their gatherings included preaching, praying, and praising. They spent time exalting the person of Christ. The early church also cared about one another. When there was a need among the church family the others met that need. Whether it was for practical needs or for mutual encouragement the church was there caring for each other. I find they also provided ways for God’s people to cultivate their spiritual growth. Acts 2:42 tells us: “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship…” They grew by studying the teachings of the apostles, fellowshipping with one another and encouraging each other to have a holy walk with God. They also communicated Christ to a lost world. They continued to preach the gospel of Christ everywhere they went.
We may be offering people a smorgasbord of choices in satisfying their taste in a church. But I wonder if we are part of a church that is pleasing to God?
The rolling baritone of Bing Crosby brought comfort to thousands of American soldiers in 1943 when he recorded: “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”. The song is sung from the point of view of a soldier stationed overseas during World War II, writing a letter to his family. In the message, he tells the family he will be coming home so get everything ready. The song ends on a somber note, with the soldier saying, "I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams".
Have you ever had to spend Christmas away from home? Perhaps you were stuck in an airport terminal with a delayed flight or were snowed in at an interstate truck stop. If you have ever spent Christmas away from home you are in good company. On that first Christmas several Bible characters were also away from home.
Joseph and Mary were away from home. They lived in Nazareth and had to travel a great distance to get to Bethlehem in order to be registered in the Roman census. While they were there Mary gave birth to Jesus in a strange place so far away from family and friends. The angels were away from home on that first Christmas as well. They left their position of continuous glorification to carry out orders to proclaim the incarnation of the Son of God. They were away from home on a heavenly mission. The wise men were away from home at Christmas also. These magi were from Persia who embarked on a long journey of over a year to get to Israel. Their journey ended as they worshiped the young child and presented their gifts to Him. Finally, did you know that Jesus was away from home on Christmas? He left His glorious position with His Father in heaven to come to a lowly manger, live among us, and die for us.
The sad reality is that many people are spending Christmas away from home. God has created us for fellowship with Him. Our real home is found with God. Yet we choose to remain alienated from Him year after year. Don’t you think it is time to make sure you are home for Christmas?
Vance Havner tells the story that when he was a boy his father used to take him to an old-fashioned mill. The waters of the stream turned the big wheel that was connected to the other wheels which were used to grind the grain. Sometimes the water flow slowed down or was diverted because there was some sort of jam up the creek. The miller never tried to turn the wheels on his own strength, he simply went up the creek and removed whatever was clogging the stream. Within no time, the water once again flowed freely and the mill was back in operation.
Have you ever tried to make things happen in your service for the Lord when you knew there was something wrong in your heart? The work of ministry can get rather laborious if we are trying to turn the wheels ourselves. What we need to do is to go up the creek and see if there may be some sin in our lives that is clogging the flow of the Spirit’s ministry. The book of Acts is a testimony of what can happen when the flow of God’s Spirit is unhindered in His people and His church. Acts 4:31 testifies: “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness”.
Do you detect that your joy is being reduced to a trickle? Is your energy and excitement for serving the Lord waning? Does your love for others and your gracious spirit seem to be clogged? Perhaps there is some sin that is hindering the flow of God’s Spirit in your life. God tells us that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). We need to stop our grinding long enough to discover and remove the sin that is hindering us. Going up the creek is good for the soul.
Pastor Stultz has been writing this weekly devotional for many years. In 2009, he published a compilation of devotionals in book form, also called Moments of Meditation