Labor Day—YAY!

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Monday is Labor Day, so naturally we try not to labor. Labor Day is celebrated annually on the first Monday of September, by millions of workers across the United States. It is meant to show appreciation for their contributions to the prosperity, strength and health of our nation. It is a way of saying thank you to those who help make our nation strong through their labor and productivity.

In the United States, Labor Day originated in the labor union movement during the latter 1800’s. Thirty states already celebrated it by the time it became a federal holiday in 1894. Violent clashes between workers and owners occurred as the labor movement grew. In Chicago, during 1886, there were massive protests against 18-hour workdays and unfair labor practices. Thousands of workers demonstrated and walked off their jobs. What followed was a crackdown that resulted in the deaths of 6 workers on May 6, and more than a dozen a few days later. The strengthening labor union movement forced municipalities and businesses across America to recognize that workers had rights and needed to be treated fairly.

Some of the benefits of the labor movement in America are the 8-hour workday; weekends off work; paid vacations; lunch breaks; better wages; and paid holidays. Here is what the United States Department of Labor adopted to pay tribute to American Workers on Labor Day:

The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known, and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pays tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.”

It may surprise you to know the Bible has much to say about labor, the benefit of work, and the value of industry and wholesome employment. Even God worked for six days and rested on the seventh. As He looked at the result of His work—all of creation—“God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Since we are created in His image, He designed us to experience similar fulfillment through hard work.

What does God expect of His people, in their work?

FIRST—God created humans with a desire to work and accomplish things. “God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed” (Genesis 2:8). Later Scripture reveals, “the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it” (verse 15). For the Christian, work offers an opportunity to serve God, earn a living, and with perseverance and patience, meet the needs of others with a Christ-like attitude. Working enables Christian people to support their church, help the truly needy, and enable missionaries to go around the world with the saving gospel of Christ.

SECOND—Work is to be done with a positive attitude, because you are actually working for the Lord on your job: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Colossians 3:23).

THIRD—Christians are to work to provide for their own needs—Paul the missionary, supported himself and his team by manual labor to set the example for others. He said, “You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:34-35).

FOURTH—God commands Christians to work and provide for the needs of others. “He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need” (Ephesians 4:28).

FIFTH—God blesses the lives of those who labor and honor Him—“Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward. Furthermore, as for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 5:18-19).

SIXTH—Jesus is our perfect example of diligent work. He worked hard to honor His Father. His work was essential. Jesus said: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work” (John 4:34).

SEVENTH—Diligent work brings great reward—“Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, But the hand of the diligent makes rich” (Proverbs 10:4). “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men” (Proverbs 22:29).

I hope you enjoy your work—and your time off on Labor Day. Most of all, I pray your work will benefit you, bless others, and honor God!

The Persecuted Church

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During the height of the Cold War, it was largely illegal for anyone behind the Iron Curtain to own a Bible. A Dutchman named Andrew van der Bijl, or Brother Andrew, became burdened for people in communist nations who had no access to Scripture, so he decided to do something about it.

Andrew had come to trust Christ during rehabilitation from a war injury during World War II. With time on his hands, he began to read the Bible, and could not put it down. Eventually his reading of Scripture led him to trust the Savior, and later into the ministry.

After training in a Bible school, he began traveling from Holland to visit underground churches in communist countries. He was especially drawn to those nations where religious belief was actively persecuted and Bibles were illegal.

Brother Andrew was at an underground church in Czechoslovakia when he noticed that only the pastor and a couple of other people had Bibles. He thought it odd that those who had Bibles would hold them up very high with both hands. Then it struck him that they held the Bible up, so that others in pews behind and around them could read the Scriptures!

With godly commitment and determination, in 1957, Brother Andrew drove his Volkswagen Beetle, packed with Scripture and Christian literature, to Moscow. With God’s blessing, he distributed Scriptures in communist countries all over Europe for decades.

Once as he approached the border of Romania, his VW packed with illegal Bibles, he prayed: “Lord, in my luggage I have Scripture that I want to take to Your children across this border. When You were on earth, You made blind eyes see. Now, I pray, make seeing eyes blind. Do not let the guards see those things You do not want them to see.” So, armed with this prayer, he drove to the guard post. The guard asked, “Do you have anything to declare?” Brother Andrew said, “Just a few small things” (the tracts and Bibles were small). As the guard looked into a suitcase full of Bibles, tracts and clothes, he said, “We won’t bother with them” and waved him through. This happened time after time, in country after country, year after year.

Thankfully, the Iron Curtain came down, and believers across Eastern Europe began to enjoy true religious freedom. Now, in those same countries, it is legal to own Bibles and meet openly in church buildings with other believers.

Though the persecution of Christians under communism has lessened, other terrorist states and governments intolerant to Christ, Christians, Bibles and the gospel, have risen to take their place. We now have brothers and sisters in Christ all across the globe, who every day make the dangerous choice to believe in, trust and follow Jesus.

Open Doors (www.opendoorsusa.org) reports that during 2018 a total of 245 million Christians experienced high levels of persecution for their choice to follow Christ. That means 1 in 9 Christians worldwide are suffering greatly for the cause of Christ. During that year there was an amazing 14% rise in the persecution of Christians from the previous year. Over 4,000 Christians were killed for their faith, over 2,000 were arrested and imprisoned without trial, and 1,266 church buildings were attacked. That means—every day during 2018, 11 Christians were killed for their faith—and every month 105 churches were attacked, burned or vandalized.

What can we do for these, our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ? Hebrews 13:3 commands: “Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.” Don’t forget them! Pray for them as if you were in the same family, because—in Christ You are!

Here is what we can do:

ONE—Pray for God’s boldness for them that they may wisely share the gospel, despite threats. Paul asked the Ephesians to “Pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:19-20). Only the gospel can make a difference because “it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

TWO—Pray they have access to Scripture. God’s Word can touch and change lives. The promises of Scripture can strengthen purpose, and direct action. “This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your word has revived me” (Psalm 119:50). “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).

THREE—Pray that God would surround them with a loving church family. This is especially important if they have sacrificed their literal family and been rejected by their friends because of their devotion to Christ.

FOUR—Pray for God to increase their faith and trust in Him. Pray their faith in Him holds strong. To the persecuted, Peter wrote, “if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:14-15).

To learn more about how you can help persecuted Christians worldwide, check out persecution.com – the Voice of the Martyrs. Meanwhile, the best thing to do is REMEMBER them and PRAY for them!

Darkest Just Before Dawn

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The phrase, “It is always darkest just before dawn” means that things always seem worse right before they improve. The phrase, written by Thomas Fuller, an English theologian and historian, first appeared in 1650.

So, is that true? Is it always darkest just before dawn? It may not be true literally. During the two weeks following the full moon, when it appears after sunset, and not before sunrise, it may seem to be darkest before the dawn, but it most often is not the darkest part of the night. And it may not be true figuratively either. Sometimes, in life, just when it seems it cannot get worse—it does.

However, it is true biblically. The Bible teaches that end time events will become tragically worse before the Lord’s second coming. In Bible prophecy, the darkest hour for humanity is just before the dawn of Christ’s return in dazzling light.

When you look around today, it can be very depressing. I won’t sour your day with disturbing facts of failures, like the lack of spiritual direction in our country, the ineptitude of our political leaders, our deep national division, chemical dependencies with all kinds of addictions, regular mass shootings, or evidence of declining morals across the land. Every day the news media documents the dark times we are in. Most begin their report with some story illustrating how far we have gone in the wrong direction as a nation.

But this is also a very exciting time to be alive, because the Bible teaches this is exactly the way it will be in the last days before Christ returns. Remember these words? “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come” (2 Timothy 3:1).

Paul follows this announcement with a list of 17 characteristics of people who will be living in the “last days.” He writes: “For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (verses 2-4). Every day events reveal the presence of these kind of people.

He goes on to write that people will also be “holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power” (verse 5). It is not uncommon that supposedly religious people live this way, but their religion is man-made and not God-empowered. In this day, even religious leaders may be hypocrites, appearing as saints, but living ungodly. Only God, through faith in Jesus Christ, has the power to make a person godly.

The “perilous times” Paul wrote about is another way of saying things will be very difficult in the last days. While Christians look forward to the rapture and the return of Christ in glory, they also realize that tough times must come first. According to Scripture, there will be terrible degeneration and degradation in this world. It must happen.

Think about Paul’s description of society in the “last days.” In these verses, each one typifies the age in which we live. People will be self-centered, money-hungry, abusive, loveless, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, treacherous, rash and conceited. They will love pleasure more than anything else and their “godliness” will only be in appearance—not in reality.

Now you may say, “How is that exciting?” Well, because we are seeing Scripture fulfilled before our very eyes. Biblically, it is darkest just before the dawn. Warren Wiersbe was referring to this when he said, “In the life of Christ, as in the life of the Christian, it is always—first the cross—then the crown.” It seems, in our day, we are seeing signs of the end, according to God’s clock.

Five centuries before Christ was born, the prophet Daniel wrote about the coming Kingdom of God that will take place in this world. These are encouraging words and we need to think about the tremendous promise the future holds for all who know Christ:

Daniel 2:44, “And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.”

Daniel 7:27, “Then the sovereignty, the dominion, and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.”

Because of this great biblical truth, we can take heart, rejoice and share the gospel with people, no matter what is happening around us. David Crowder used a quote from Thomas Moore to write and sing:

“Come out of sadness, From wherever you’ve been,

Come broken hearted, Let rescue begin

Come find your mercy, Oh sinner come kneel

Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal

So lay down your burdens, Lay down your pain

All who are broken, Lift up your face

Oh wanderer come home, You’re not too far

So lay down your hurt, lay down your heart, come as you are.

There’s hope for the hopeless, And all those who’ve strayed

Come sit at the table, Come taste of His grace

There’s rest for the weary, A Rest that endures

Earth has no sorrow, That heaven can’t cure.”

 

 

 

Technology and Jesus

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William M. Clements and Lee C. Harrison lived well into their 70’s and passed away during the 1960’s. Both were born in the South during the 1890’s and both were my grandfathers. Neither of them ever flew in an airplane, owned an automobile, drove a car or possessed a driver’s license. By occupation, one was a blacksmith and the other was a farmer and Baptist preacher. Great changes took place in their lifetimes, but for the most part, they were untouched by technology.

No doubt my grandfathers would be speechless if they saw a cell phone. They probably could not imagine a device that could be carried in their pockets that would allow them to communicate with people around the world. The cell phone enables people to speak, text, e-mail, take pictures, see images and share them with others. With a cell phone we can do our banking, pay our bills, do our shopping, find a restaurant, watch weather patterns, get highway directions, read the news, make videos and send them to others, listen to music, check our calendars, take notes, play games, watch TV, record our exercise activities and calories on our diet, read our Bible, set our alarm clock, monitor our security system, check gas prices, calculate our expenses and make a grocery list. And that is only a partial list.

The astronomical growth of Internet technology is mind-boggling. The international use of smart phones and smart pads is on a dramatic rise. During 2010, 73% of total mobile cellular subscriptions were from countries outside the United States, with China and India leading at 30%. Out of 7.7 billion people on earth, 5.1 billion of them own cell phones (67%). Only 4.2 billion people own toothbrushes! There are more mobile phones on earth than TV sets. Now there are 3.4 billion mobile web users worldwide. Of the 5.1 billion cell phones in the world, a little over 2.5 billion are smartphones with web-surfing capability. In America, 9 in 10 people have mobile phones and average over 4 hours per day using them. That is one/fourth of their average waking hours. And 60% of the web searches done are via mobile devices, not computers.

I read George Orwell’s classic book “1984” around 1964, and was awed and a little frightened by his glimpse of the future. However, we zoomed past many of Orwell’s predictions of “1984” long before the year 1984. And today, in one way or another, technology affects our lives from the time we wake up to the moment we go to sleep. As with any advancement, technology has upsides and downsides.

So, How can Christians benefit from technology without falling into the snares of it? How can we make it our servant and not let it become our master? Is God in favor of Christians using technology to further His kingdom? Here are a few ideas to consider.

First, Technology is simply the invention of useful things to solve problems or make life easier. Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the moveable-type printing press around 1450 impacted the world by making books available and affordable, thus enhancing literacy and increasing learning, worldwide. The printing press was technology. The first book Gutenberg printed was the Bible. Until the invention of printing, common people could not afford to own a copy of the Bible. Even Gutenberg’s Bible cost the equivalent of three years wages for a clerk. At 1,286 pages long and 14 pounds heavy, it was not a pocket edition. But this technology changed the world.

God chose to make Himself known to us through His Word. So, the Bible begins, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). He made the decision to communicate with us in ways anyone could understand. Thankfully, He did not use some mystical, elusive form of communication, but chose languages known to people, Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, primarily used to write the Bible. As of October, 2018 the full Bible has been translated into 683 languages, the New Testament into 2,217 languages, and portions of Scripture into 3,350 languages.

Though technology may be used for evil purposes, like the gas chambers during the Holocaust, it can be used for enormous good, like vaccines that stopped polio, medicines, antibiotics and surgical procedures that heal fatal diseases. Good technologies, like the desalination of water, save an estimated 1 million lives per year.

For the Christian, the principle that should guide his use of technology is given in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” This means that our Creator wants us to use technology for our good and His glory.

For the church, we should use technology at its best to communicate God’s message about Christ to the world. Amazingly, technology enables us to instantly learn of prayer needs, and intercede to God for others in real time. My wife, Pat, communicates with and prays daily for missionaries and people worldwide, using Facebook. We should always be ready to leverage technological advances to reach people with the gospel and minister to those in need. This is what Paul meant when he wrote, “I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:22-23).

So, what does it all mean? Simply this: If we are to communicate God’s message to the world, as Christ commands, we must take advantage of technology. God has placed us here in this time to serve Him with this technology for His glory. As Prof Howard Hendricks used to say: “Use  things and love people—Don’t love things and use people.” In all this, we must trust in Him…not in technology.

Steps to a Healthy Heart

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About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year—that is 1 in every 4 deaths are from heart related issues. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. More than ever before, people are interested in heart health. Everyone needs a healthy heart.

But there is another heart that is even more important. What I mean is—you need a healthy spiritual heart. We need to raise awareness about the condition of the core of our innermost being. Solomon wrote, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). In Scripture, the heart is the source of the emotions, intellect and will, or seat of the total personality.

If you want a healthy spiritual heart, you must think seriously about what you watch, hear, and see, as well as to what you devote your mind, thoughts and deeds. You cannot afford to pollute the wellspring of your life. Do not give yourself to the wrong, empty, immoral and vain things that are in this world.

Guarding one’s heart reminds me of roadside signs in various places in the country that read, “Wellhead Protection Area.” That warning means the surface and subsurface land area is regulated to prevent contamination of a well or well-field supplying a public water system. A little contamination or pollution there would have a widespread effect elsewhere. It is the same way with your heart.

Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

Treasures are highly prized. People will set their hearts, desires and values on their treasures, so make sure you value the eternal and not just the temporal. See that you have a biblically based value system. How can you have a healthy heart? Elevate what Scripture extolls; strive for the things that please God’s heart; and do the things Jesus would do.

God’s Word has much to say about the danger of ignoring or abusing your heart health. The Bible warns us to avoid a double heart (Psalm 12:2); not to harden our hearts (Proverbs 28:14; Psalm 95:8; Hebrews 3:8); not to sin by having a proud heart (Proverbs 21:4); to avoid an unbelieving heart (Hebrews 3:12); and to confess when we have an unclean heart (Psalm 51:10). We should follow the example of David who cried out, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139:23-24). We know that “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the hearts” (Prov. 21:2).

Another reason to guard your heart and feed your eyes, ears and mind the right things, is that whatever is in your heart will eventually be exposed. Jesus said, “For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush” (Luke 6:44). He then explained: “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart” (verse 45).

We live in an evil world. The pollution of sin is all around. Be careful to protect your heart from contamination, which would ruin your life and destroy your testimony. You cannot dabble in sin, follow perversion or partake in evil things without pollution flooding your heart, which then will surface in your life and lips. Guard your heart, “for from it flow the springs of life.”

So, how can you improve your heart health?

ONE: Fortify your heart by faithfully spending time in God’s house, studying God’s Word and singing praise with God’s people. We should “encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). Christians need to encourage one another DAILY. Everyone needs to hear words that hearten and inspire them to keep on living for Christ. Without encouragement we may become disheartened and quit.

TWO: Another way to strengthen your heart is to control your spiritual diet. Carve out a special time every day to spend with God, reading His Word and praying to Him. The word of God bolsters our faith in Him as we learn how He has helped others. “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

THREE: One other way to a healthy heart is exercise—Paul told Timothy to “have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, exercise yourself for the purpose of godliness” (1Timothy 4:7). Practice doing what you know is good and right. Jesus said, His spiritual family is made of those who “hear the word of God, and do it” (Luke 8:21). Receiving the Word and encouragement while doing nothing with it, results in disobedience. A healthy heart needs exercise! We must be “doers of the Word and not hearers only” (James 1:22).

Let’s focus on gaining and maintaining a healthy heart!

The Silent Unseen

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“Built Strong to Last Long” was the slogan for Maytag appliances for 46 years. The highlight of their TV commercials for decades was the lonely Maytag repairman. His company’s products were supposed to be so dependable that he had nothing to do. According to the advertisement, “The Maytag Repairman is the loneliest guy in town!”

All the hype aside, a lot of positive things are connected with dependability, consistency, and unwavering commitment. Employees who are committed to doing their work—people who silently serve behind the scenes—believers who faithfully serve God by serving others—are the backbone of churches and the blessing of communities.

Most community service is a thankless task. Nobody gives much thought to the people who silently serve on committees that seek to improve our city—or on boards aimed at advancing our educational system—or to the police force that silently patrols our streets while we sleep—or those who work at improving our schools—or picking up our trash—or stocking our grocery shelves—or cleaning our buildings—or maintaining our utilities which enable us to live daily in comfort. Most often, we just take these things for granted.

A perfect illustration of this occurred at my house a few years ago. Our fourth child, Timothy, was still living at home while he attended the University of Arkansas at Monticello. His class schedule allowed him to be home during times he had not been previously. He silently watched his mom clean the house, wash clothes, mop, shop, vacuum, cook and dust. Finally, he asked if we were expecting company. Pat simply said “No” the first two times. The third time he asked the same question, Pat told him we were not expecting company but that she was just doing what she did every day. He acted shocked. Then, she asked him, “How do you think all this work gets done?” She kept house every day so we could have family time in the evenings and on weekends. Tim did not have a clue, nor did I, or most husbands and children. We all were guilty of taking her work for granted.

Many ministries in church are like that working housewife, or dependable Maytag! Uncounted people serve the Lord in silence, behind the scenes, unnoticed and unseen. Cary Marshall, is an audio/video volunteer at Pauline Baptist Church. For over three decades he has served the Lord with expertise and diligence. Once I thanked him for his service, and he told me, “When I do my best work, nobody knows it. But when I mess up, everybody knows what I do!”

Why not recognize and say thanks to those behind-the-scenes workers at your church? How long has it been since you publicly praised the janitors? When was the last time you thanked the sound guys? Have you said “thank you” lately to the chapel workers, the Sunday School teachers, the ushers, the choir or praise team, the camp sponsors, the greeters, the musicians, the cooks, the gardeners or the secretaries? Don’t let them think they are like a Maytag appliance—out of sight—out of mind! Find someone serving Christ in the shadows and thank him, for Jesus’ sake. But be ready, in case he faints dead away!

If you are serving in one of these overlooked ministries, and seem to be unappreciated, take heart! Thankfully, nothing escapes the attention of our great God. The Lord will reward all who honor and serve Him, even in the smallest of ways. Jesus said, “Whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42). Think about that! Just a cup of cold water given for Jesus will not go unrewarded!

To be the best servant, be sure your aim is to honor God and not to receive personal glory or man’s praise. Jesus warned about this in Matthew 6 when He said, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven” (verse 1). The Lord applied this principle to giving offerings, praying and fasting, when they are done for man’s approval, instead of for God’s glory (verses 1, 5, and 16).

So, keep up your good work and godly service, whether recognized or not. We are blessed to serve a God who is just in all His ways and doings, and who will always—without fail—honor those who honor Him. “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints” (Hebrews 6:10).

If you seek to honor God with your service from the heart—sometime in the future, God will honor you by revealing your selfless sacrifice, and you will receive praise. Paul encouraged the Corinthians to serve and wait—“Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God” (1 Corinthians 4:5). NOTE: Those honored will “have praise of God!”

As you faithfully serve God unnoticed, below anyone’s radar, remember that the only One who counts will never forget your service! “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Remember: SFSJ! Stay Faithful Serving Jesus! Even if nobody sees it!

Why Go to Church?

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My pastor went to church with a man who faithfully attended every week, though he was completely deaf. When someone asked why he attended church, though he could not hear a word of sermon or song, he signed back: “I want people to know whose side I’m on!”

However, among many, church attendance is not as valuable as it used to be. A 2017 Gallup poll revealed that regular church attendance in America dropped 15% in 25 years. In 1992, 70% of American’s claimed to be regular attenders of a house of worship. In 2017 the number dropped to 55%. Another find was that in 2016, 79% of Americans claimed to have some religious affiliation, but only 55% were members of a church or synagogue—a difference of 24%.

Sharing his thoughts on these statistics, Jayson Bradley wrote “It probably isn’t necessary (or helpful) to continue to pick on the people who don’t see regular church attendance as important to them. The problem here isn’t really an intellectual one; it’s a spiritual one. Instead, the church should continue to focus on reaching those who have not yet made a religious commitment” (October 23, 2017, Relevant Magazine). In other words, churches should keep the main thing—proclaiming the gospel—the main thing.

CNN Religion Editor, Daniel Burke, reported on a Pew Research Center survey of 4,729 Americans. When asked why they do not attend church, they gave these reasons: They practice their faith in “other ways” (37%). They are not believers (28%). They do not think it is very important (26%). They haven’t found a house of worship they like (23%). They don’t like the sermons (18%). They don’t feel welcome in the services (14%). They don’t have the time (12%). They have poor health or lack mobility (9%). They have no house of worship in their area (7%).

Burke pointed out that more than 60% said they have poor health and difficulty getting around, and that 54% said they didn’t attend because they had not felt welcomed by the congregation. So he summarized, this means there is a sizeable group who would attend services if someone helped get them there, and welcomed them when they arrived.

Far more important than statistics and cultural trends, we need to know why God expects us to attend church, and to worship with other believers. Here are five biblical reasons:

ONE: We should attend church and worship so we can, in a corporate way, enjoy the presence of Christ. Jesus said, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 18:20). In Scripture, the “church” never refers to a single, individual, lone ranger Christian who does not gather with other believers. By its very nature, the church is the gathering of believers in the name of Christ.

TWO: We should attend church so we can learn God’s Word, fellowship with God’s people, and grow spiritually. On the day of Pentecost, 3,000 new believers in Christ were baptized and added to the original 120-member church (Acts 1:15; 2:41). Those who were saved, baptized and added that day “were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). After they were saved, they committed themselves to following Jesus, in the company of and fellowship with, the church Jesus had established. These church members grew spiritually and began to reach thousands in their city with the saving gospel (Acts 4:4; 5:14; 6:7).

THREE: We should attend church to obey God’s command of “not forsaking our own assembling 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). Assembling together as a body of born-again, baptized believers, should be of paramount importance to followers of Christ. And “all the more” as the days grow difficult and the coming of Christ draws near.

FOUR: We should attend church for the blessing of other believers. Church is the place where believers can love one another – “if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12). It is the place where members get encouragement from one another – “Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). Church is where members spur one another on – “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). It is where members assist each other – “through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). Church is also the place where members give counsel and advice to each other – “You yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another” (Romans 15:14).

FIVE: We should attend church for the benefit of our community. As a church loves the Lord, each other and people around them, as they live holy lives for Jesus, they flesh out the love of Christ – “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Every church—composed of saved, Christ-following people—will improve the quality of their community and clearly proclaim the gospel to unsaved people both at home and abroad.

There’s a popular saying: “You don’t go to church—you are the church.” While I get the idea, there should be no conflict between “being the church” and “going to church.” In reality we cannot fully “be” the church if we don’t actually “go” to church. If you know Christ, take the next step—get involved and serve with His people in His church—so that He will get the glory—“To Him be the glory in the church” (Ephesians 3:21).