Category Archives: Life
So, what about church? What do you think about it? Seriously….
Is it a place you go on Sunday just to say you went?
Is it a place you go so you can have your weekly social hour?
Perhaps you go when it’s convenient – you know, the kids are up anyway, we have nothing better to do…
Or maybe you go “because we have always gone.”
A better question yet – WHY NOT CHURCH?
Have you been hurt or offended by a person/leader at church?
Maybe you didn’t like the music or the preacher went to long?
Maybe your friends don’t go, so why go?
Perhaps there is a sporting event that is taking place and you feel the need to go there?
It’s the only day you have as a family….let’s relax at home?
As a minister’s wife and before that as a deacon’s daughter….I have at least thought ALL of the above and at some point perhaps they have all been true. However, the older I get and the more I grow closer to Jesus…the more I realize that church is family. I am NOT talking about a building that you attend on Sunday morning….I am talking about the body, the people, that comprise what is the CHURCH.
Recently, I heard it said that the reason attendance is down is because people aren’t committed to their churches…I agree but I think there is more to it.
Let me ask you this…Why family?
Think about it…does your family EVER offend you? Do you get tired of listening to the same old thing? Has there ever been a time where you wanted to stay home from a family event and didn’t simply because it was FAMILY? For the most part, we are committed to family. We will fight HARD for a relationship just because they are our FAMILY.
I know this from my own experience as well as from others. I have a close friend who has gone through some REALLY tough extended family issues…to the point of sister-in-laws criticizing, siblings judging, etc…It would have been easy for her to say “Forget it…their loss.” Yet, I watched a truly amazing thing…she FOUGHT for a relationship, she worked to love in spite of disagreement, she reached out instead of pulling away. Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE FAMILY
Back to the church….What IF we saw a church as FAMILY? What if instead of comparing notes on what church is doing what programs and which church has the most to offer – we instead looked and said “Where can I contribute to this FAMILY?” Once in a church, what if instead of throwing our hands up and saying “I’m outta here” and walking away – we FOUGHT for relationships, we worked at it, we loved, we reached out…suddenly the stakes just got higher.
I am NOT talking about simple attendance on Sunday morning…although that is important. Anyone can get up and tolerate an hour or two at a church. What I am talking about is investing in a FAMILY. Putting their needs ahead of our own…reaching out to them no matter the cost, fighting for the relationship.
This issue has me up at this crazy hour of 4:30 in the morning…well actually since like 2:00. Anyway, as I lie in bed TRYING to go back to sleep I still wrestled with this whole – church attendance/commitment thing. As is typically the case, I knew that if I couldn’t sleep God must have something to show me. I got up and after taking our puppy out I began really seeking what God was wanting me to hear….
Acts 2: 42 “And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers.”
Acts 2:46 “EVERY day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude.”
As I read these verses, and then the commentary in my Bible – a few key points caught my attention.
First there were FOUR things that they DEVOTED (COMMITMENT) themselves to:
1.) Teaching of the Apostles – ie. Sunday morning church, Bible Studies, Small Groups.
2.) Fellowship – ie parties, socials, special events
3.) Breaking of Bread – they ATE together, they spent time around the dinner table, like EVERY family should.
4.) Prayer – They were COMMITTED to times of prayer.
Beyond these four things there was an amount of time and places that they met:
1.) EVERY DAY….church was a FIRST priority, before anything else. They didn’t “fit it in” they instead made it FIRST. It was a DAILY thing to be together as a church family…not a once or twice a week thing.
2.) FROM HOUSE TO HOUSE – Did you see that? They were in each others homes, daily. Like a FAMILY should be. They were JOYFUL with each other.
I have to say – some of these hit me HARD. As I was lying awake and thinking of our church family, I was quick to get frustrated and angry and start saying “Well they should…” and then I read these points…
Am I eating with my church family? Am I praying? Am I devoted to teaching – not just going since I am a minister’s wife? Am I a part of fellowships with a JOYFUL attitude? Am I inviting people to break bread in MY home? Am I putting my church family FIRST EVERY DAY?
Shaking head in shame…no, not like the church in Acts and not like the Bible commands. Oh sure, I am frustrated with attendance, I get more than a little discouraged to hear of a family going to another church for whatever reason, I am looking for the right “program” to attract families….but am I DOING IT GOD’S way?
Being on staff, Joel and I have an inside close up look at how churches are struggling both in growth and financially. We are more than aware of the stark budget cuts and having to trim ministry things here and there and to be honest it DOES get discouraging…but then I come to Acts chapter 2 and I realize it’s not about the amount of money our church has – PLEASE DON’T MISUNDERSTAND _ YOU NEED TO TITHE (that’s a whole different topic) but money doesn’t make the church grow. Yes, money helps expand the ways a church can do missions and reach out but that isn’t the key to a growing church.
At the end of Acts 2 it says “They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude, praising God and having favor with all the people. And EVERY day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.” vs 46b -47.
I have this hunch, okay more than a hunch, belief – that IF we were to do what the church in Acts did – our churches would be overflowing. Instead, we have allowed work, sports, relaxation, entertainment, etc to become first and put the FAMILY last…both biologically speaking and the church family.
Here’s the challenge to myself and to you:
1.) Find a church family that you can be COMMITTED to – in the good, the bad, the ugly. Will you disagree? Yep! Will you get angry and frustrated? Yep! Will you be blessed beyond measure? ABSOLUTELY! Be committed – don’t give up on your church family when things are down or hard. STAY IN AND FIGHT…be like my friend and WORK toward a relationship and unity.
2.) Open your HOME on a regular basis. This is a tough one for me…I have four kids and my home is often not clean (okay pretty much NEVER clean). I have a REALLY small house – it’s crowded with 6 of us! I don’t like to cook…the excuses go on and on…but I can’t ignore Acts 2 when it says THEY MET IN HOMES….I want my home to be a place we can break bread together and be a part of each others daily lives.
3.) EVERY day connect with someone within your church family. A phone call. A cup of coffee. A text message. A facebook post. A lunch date. Somehow, someway, connect EVERY DAY!
4.) Make your church your FIRST commitment – not an “if it fits in”. When your church is having an event make sure that you and your family are there! Make Sunday a CHURCH with NO exceptions type commitment…that means YES you tell the coach your daughter can’t play in the softball tournament if it is on Sunday. That means that YES you are there on Wednesday nights even if you are missing an athletic event or some other thing. When you look at the calendar for the month – the church events are the FIRST things written in – not the last!
As the social/event/calendar coordinator of the Arrington Family – this is my challenge as well. Yes, we are on staff so in a sense we or at minimum Joel – is usually at all church events but I want more. I want a FAMILY relationship, a committed attitude. I want to be reaching out through my home, to be praying with and eating with church family. I want to CONNECT EVERY DAY!
I have never really been much for resolutions. I have tried, and failed. Tried…and failed. Year after year it seems to be the same routine. Yet, I can’t escape the urge to set some goals for the new year. So, I am not resolving or committing for 2013. I am just simply desiring more.
- I desire more of God’s Word. Not just read the Bible all the way through once, but several times.
- I desire to read more. There is so many great, God inspired books out there. I want to read more of them than I did last year.
- I desire to write more. I am really beginning to enjoy my blog and the art of writing. I still need lots of practice.
- I desire to give away more money. Finances have always been a struggle for our family. The money has been there, we just have not always made wise decisions with it. This year we will control our spending so we can give more money away in the future.
- I desire more holes in my belt. I like having to add notches in my belt to make it fit tighter. They call that a “Non Scale Victory”. More empty space on my plate will help with that.
- I desire to learn more. College studies will certainly contribute, but I want to learn more about the world around me and the people I share it with.
- I desire to serve more. There will be many needs this year. I want to help more than I ever have.
- I desire to share more. Time is short and there are still people who need to know Christ as their Savior. No time for slacking.
- I desire to parent more. The kids are growing up. I must be more involved.
- I desire to love more. My God, my wife, my children, my family, my friends, my church, my community, my world – all would benefit from me loving more this year than last.
I am very supportive of definitive, specific goals and these listed desires are certainly not void of such ends. However, if one year from now I look back and I have done little more than I did last year, I can be content and grateful to a great year and a great God.
My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Psalm 84:2
What is it about squirrels that are so distracting? I mean, really. Are they that cute that they demand our immediate attention? Does the sudden appearance of them startle us? Can the fun way they hop through the grass or scurry around the base of a tree just mesmerize us? I don’t know the answers, but I do know that every time I see one it steals my attention for a brief time, or longer. I know that my dog can’t seem to bark enough at them. I know that people will drive their cars dangerously around one to spare its life.
As I was growing up, I remember my mother asking me frequently to go “pick up” my room. What she wanted me to do was to pick up all the toys, clothes, and other miscellaneous items I used during the course of the day and put them back where they belonged. What really happened was that I would pick up a toy, put it away. Pick up my socks, put them with the dirty clothes. Pick up another toy, and promptly sit down to play with it. A half hour later, my mom would ask , “Are you picking up your room, Joel?” Quickly putting that toy away, I would respond, “Yeeeessss.” A few more items later, I found myself engrossed in another toy. This is how I feel much of this past year has been like. I mean, just a year ago I sat down with pen and paper in hand to set my goals for the year. As I look back at what I did not accomplish, it begs the question – Why? It wasn’t that I didn’t accomplish anything. I just didn’t accomplish enough. I blame being distracted.
Distractions are not always bad. There can be good and even great distractions. Like, the ball you see bouncing out of the corner of your eye while driving, indicating that children are potentially in the road or soon will be. Or, maybe you are at the store and you see your old neighbor John who is visiting from out of town. Regardless, you take a brief change of direction or break from your current action…you are distracted. I have been distracted by good, bad, and just downright ugly distractions this past year. I would venture to guess that you may have had your share of distractions, too.
Good distractions – Distractions that add value or joy to your life or the lives of others. They may even promote your goal in the long run or present more opportunities for success.
Bad distractions – Distractions which divert you away from your goal, making it more difficult to accomplish. These distractions can happen only once, but are generally more frequent.
This new year I would like to avoid or overcome as many bad distractions as possible. I find that the prophet Nehemiah was a boss when it came to overcoming distractions. So, here are a few principals I will utilize this year as I set and accomplish goals:
- Prayer! (Neh. 1:4-11) Before Nehemiah even began rebuilding Jerusalem, he spent time in prayer. He renewed his relationship and the relationship of Israel, a re-commitment of sorts. Part of God’s plans for us is a growing relationship with Him. Without that, we have failed before we even begin.
- Asses the goal. (Neh. 2:11-18) Is it attainable with God’s help? Nehemiah had to understand the extent of his desire. He knew that with God’s power it would be accomplished. Sometimes, we do not rely enough on God’s power, so we get distracted early. Other times, our goals are so large and out of God’s Will that we just won’t accomplish it.
- Gather the right resources. (Neh. 2:4-8) Nehemiah knew he could not provide all the material needed alone, he had to get help. Some of our goals for the new year include personal finances, so, we have acquired Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University to help keep us on track. Find someone who has accomplished the same goals and utilize them as a resource.
- Expect distractions and prepare. (Neh. 6) As word got out, that the enemy kingdoms tried to stop the work. Nehemiah prepared the builders by placing a tool in one hand and a weapon in their other. What squirrels are going to distract us this year? Will they be the same or different? We must distraction proof our plans as much as possible and rely upon God to help us prepare.
- Know your enemy. (Neh. 6) Nehemiah’s enemies tried many times to discourage him and the workers. We all have the same adversary who will try to distract us, he has been doing since the Garden of Eden. But, what we will not expect is the other people in our lives who may serve as discouragers, whether inadvertently or purposely. We must be peaceful as a dove but wise as a serpent in determining whether these people are good distractions or bad, and then not let the bad get us down or of track.
- Stay on track. (Neh. 6:3) Nehemiah never lost sight of the goal to rebuild the wall. To do that would be a huge loss of time, resources, and the trust of a nation. Even if we the only ones counting on us to accomplish our goals, we must keep to it. To avoid distraction will build trust in ourselves and others around us.
- Celebrate each goal, no matter the size. (Neh. 8:13-17) The people celebrated when the wall was finished. We must celebrate our accomplishments, no matter how small. It builds momentum and strengthens our desire to see our other goals finished. I think I am even going to plan the celebrations as I plan my goals.
God purposes for us to succeed (Jer. 29:11). Not in everything, but in everything He puts our hand to. Satan purposes to distract us (1 Pet. 5:8). Not in everything, but in everything that would accomplish God’s will. This year I pray we will accomplish all God sets us to do and not be distracted by the squirrels that cross our paths.
I didn’t cover them all. What are some other ideas we should consider when “Squirrel Proofing” our goals for the new year?
I’m frustrated. I really am.
One of the hardest things I have found about ministering to families is the fact that they are so busy. Between school, work, sports, music practice, vacations, and other activities, they are rarely to be found. Never have we had so many opportunities to be involved in so much stuff. I can’t say that all this activity is bad thing. As a matter of fact, most people would consider this…normal.
Think about it, when was the last time asked, “So, are you staying busy?” How are you to answer that? You are always inclined to say yes. Why? Because it is expected. People expect themselves and other people to be “busy”. If you were to answer to the contrary, what kind of look would you get? What kind of smart remark would you receive? Would you be perceived as joking or being sarcastic? We certainly need to work hard and make good use of our time, but are we are really called to be busy? Is being busy a true sign of success, health, or normality?
My frustration lies where the hectic pace of life can negatively affect the spiritual growth of the family. Hopefully this doesn’t sound like your family: Me:”Hey, we have missed seeing you at church on Sundays.” Parent:”Oh, yeah, well…as busy as we are, Sundays are the only time we can spend together as a family.” Really? I often heard this and scratched my head. But, it makes sense to me, now. Monday through Friday is filled with school, work, practices, homework, and other valuable activities. Saturday is the day families spend playing all those sports they have practiced for all week, or spending all that money they have earned – which is rarely relaxing zipping through malls and grocery stores, driving in hectic amounts of traffic. Saturdays are project days at our home, while others work on the car, or do a little extra work for the office. Certainly nothing I have mentioned is a problem and is all useful. Then Sunday rolls around and our busy families need a day to recover from the previous week of busy and prepare for the coming week of busy, and it is just to difficult to make it to church.
I know that it sounds like I am complaining, but I am really concerned. Why? Because I have yet to hear people with grown up children say, “Wow, I wish our family had not spent so much time at church.” Or, “If only we had spent more Sundays at home, then our children would really love the Lord.” Nope, haven’t heard it. What I have heard is, “If only we had been more involved in church…” or “We made the mistake of not involving our kids in church, an now…” Do I sound like I am pushing the issue of church involvement? You better believe I am. Is church involvement more important than a relationship with Christ? Nope, but the admonishment to regularly meet in worship is still right here.
God’s word makes it very clear. “And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 HCSV) This is not a statement made to all families in general. It is directed at people who claim to love and fear God. Do you see my frustration? The families that I am struggling to see involved in church are Christian families, the ones that claim they want their children to love and fear God, too. If you know me even just a little, you know that church involvement does not take the place of spiritual leadership at home. As a matter of fact, just because your family attends church every time the doors are open does not guarantee that your family will successfully grow in their relationship with God. It takes both the family and church working together for there to be growth.
I make this statement all the time to my children, “Don’t stop at the problem, tell me the solution.” So, what is the solution? I believe it begins with:
- Make Christ the priority in our families. We spend the most time doing what we love the most. If we love our kids the most, we spend all our time doing things centered around them. If we love our job, we spend extra time doing things for our job. Christ is to be our first love. All other loves before Him is idolatry.
- Be less busy. God has given us all the time we need to accomplish all we need to accomplish. If we run out of time, it is our own fault for misusing it. If busy is normal, than we need to be okay being different, or Craig Groeschel would call it Weird.
- Attend church regularly, more often than Christmas and Easter. Most churches have several services throughout the week. Try to join one consistently. If not church service, at least a church small group who consistently studies God’s Word and offers opportunities to worship and encourage one another.
- Be aware that time is short. You only have a few years with your family together. Time in general is waning. Every moment counts. How will you spend the little amount of time we have been given to grow you and your family closer to God?
Agree or disagree? What some other things families can do to make Christ and regular church involvement priorities? Blessings.
Election 2012 has come and gone. Unless things change between now and the time you read this, we will have the same president. I will admit that I am among the discouraged. I respect the position of President very much, and I understand he has a very difficult job to do. I, however, find it very difficult to trust and respect the man. He does not fear God and does not respect His Word. Those two alone are enough to get my “spidey sense” all tingly. All that aside, the people have voted and he will continue to represent our country to the world.
So, what do we do now?
- We continue to acknowledge God’s power and sovereingty. God has a plan for our country, and we must trust in Him as our only hope. The hearts of men and rulers are of no challenge to the One who parts the sea. If God wills, President Obama could become a man who fears God.
- We continue to pray just as fervently as we did before the election.
- We continue to stay politically alert. With the other issues we face on a daily basis, it is easy to show apathy towards politics. Apathy leads to bondage.
- We must acknowledge that we are no longer a country that stands for Biblical values. In fact, Biblical Christians will increasingly become the minority as we face a world who hates our unwavering values and morals.
- We will continue to fight for the sanctity of life – unborn, aged, and everything in between.
- We will continue to fight for the family as God designed it, understanding it is our responsibility to raise our chldren – not the job of our government or our schools.
- We will continue to share the Gospel to every man, woman, and child in our city, state, nation, and the world. This mandate will continue on till our Lord Jesus Christ returns.
Today is the day that the Lord has made. Rejoice because we have a God who loves and cares for us. We can not understand his hand, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD (Isaiah 55:8).
It is very difficult to believe that I am 14 days away from serving God in Africa. So very humbling and exciting. Yet, in the midst of my excitement, I must not neglect my family.
Yesterday, I was able to spend time with them as we celebrated the First Day of School, purchased extra school supplies, and picked up many of the items I will need for my expedition. Over dinner, the kids asked a few questions about Africa and we had an opportunity to discuss some of the details about the trip. They are very excited about the project, and I can’t help but think they each have aspirations of serving God oversees themselves one day.
I am so blessed to have a wife and kids who are so supportive and committed to our ministry, wherever it takes us. Full time ministry is a team effort, which many times means team sacrifice. In the case of this mission project, Ronnie will have to parent solo, plus fill in for me in many of my ministry duties at the church. The kids will have extra responsibilities, as well, which will encroach on the little bit of free time they have to begin with. Our family will suffer emotional tolls as contact between myself and them will be very limited for a portion of the project. Our home will a much different place for awhile
These make up the greatest of all the sacrifices, but personal finances are not immune, either. God provides graciously for all our needs through one salary, and we are very blessed. However, special events, camps, and mission trips often cause strains on our budget. Thankfully, He has provided everything I needed for participation in this mission project through our church and many people like you who were sensitive to His calling. Even a portion of my personal expenses have been covered, and for this I am so grateful.
So, as we get closer to the departure day, I ask that you join me in praying for:
- My family
- That God will continue to bless my family, even more so while I am away.
- That God will provide the extra finances we need to recover the rest of my personal expenses and help ease some of financial concerns.
- That my wife will be strengthened through her reliance on God while I am away.
- Our kids will have a constant peace as to my safety and the work God will do.
- Our Team
- We will all be leaving someone at home. Pray for and praise God for the sacrifices their families will make, as well.
- Our Suppporters
- Our supporters have and will continue to make sacrifices to help our team spread the Gospel. Our prayer is that their families be blessed, too.
You start by finding the corners. Next the sides. Then, all the pieces in between. It is strictly trial and error as you search diligently through a multitude of fragmented images looking for the one that fits, then the next. Piece by piece the image is completed, celebrating every successful placement. Then finally the picture is complete. The frustrations, the struggles, the failures, it all passes away as you revel in the victory of the great accomplishment.
My mind was occupied with this illustration while praying in the sanctuary of our church recently. The names and faces of many people were weighing heavy on my heart as I prayed for those I knew were struggling with issues at home, work, church, health, and life in general. To be honest, my own family was included in the list of names as moving to a new community always presents it’s share of challenges. I walked from row to row, chair to chair, balcony to main floor, spending time with my Lord. I ended my walking tour of the worship center at the steps leading up to the podium. While sitting there on the steps looking out towards the empty seats, my gaze was snatched by a glimpse of something I had never seen before.
Our sanctuary has beautiful stained glass windows arrayed on three sides. The most spectacular of which is on the east side, rising several feet above the balcony. Stunning as it is, the morning light impedes the impact of the visual aspects of our worship service. Therefore, long, dark curtains hang over the windows to block the light. Yet, while sitting on the steps of the stage, outside the sun began to rise to full strength. Towards the apex of these great curtains, there is a small seam where the drapes do not flush together. It was through this break that the sun charged in and produced a light greater than any in the night sky. I sat in wonder as the light intensified and then began to wane. For just a moment, I was given a glimpse of the presence and beauty of that stained glass window.
I can’t help but be reminded of times in the Bible where people were shown glimpses of Heaven and of God’s Glory. Old Testament greats like Moses, Isaiah, and Ezekiel to name a few. Those in the New Testament who walked with Jesus, witnessed His glory, recorded His words, even viewed the Heavenly realms. All of these were given but a small piece of the great big picture of God and His Kingdom. Like a jigsaw puzzle, the piece alone provided limited information about the big picture. Yet, it served a great purpose by offering tangible evidence of the big picture.
We all will face struggles. You are probably faced with them right now. Difficulties at work, financial strains, church conflict, and family issues can all act like a long, dark curtain, attempting to hide God’s plan for your life. After a while, our negativity and feelings of doubt and hopelessness can lead to frustration and grief. However, John 16:33 says to “Take heart!” God has overcome the world! The puzzle really will produce a complete picture. There really is a beautiful, sun lit window behind that dark curtain. You can have peace in knowing that God is in control and has plans that will only prosper you, not harm you.(Jer. 29:11)
Let me share something that I have learned and relied upon for several years. My family and I have been blessed to serve with people who are real encouragers. They always provided a kind word or note of thanks in the times of struggle and in peace. Although I was very appreciative of their words, I would soon forget what they had said or misplaced the note or card they had given me. On one occasion when I was feeling very depressed and frustrated, I stumbled across a wonderful note given to me several months earlier. After reading the note, God lifted my spirits and my attitude changed immediately. The note provided a glimpse of God’s plan and purpose for me. I kept that note, and several more after it. Anytime I began to dwell on the darkness of the situation around me, I would go back to my thank you cards and notes. Each one would expose a hole in that dark drape and give me hope for God’s power and provision.
We should not get so focused on the bad in life that we forget to catch glimpses of the good. God provides for us daily, in big and small ways. All the glimpses will add together to point to the fact that He already has the victory, we need to rest and trust in Him.