January 2018

I’ve not been called narrow-minded to my face, but I suspect that some of my friends and acquaintances see me as such. Several years ago, my sister shared with me about a conference she had attended for her work as a teacher. She signed up for a session with an expert in teaching math thinking she might get some good pointers for her own math students. The expert began his presentation by writing “2 + 2” on his presentation screen and asking if anyone could solve the equation. The room filled with a chorus of “4.” To which the presenter kindly said that they were doing good. Then he proceeded to tell the audience that if they had a student who came up with a different answer, they should not count the answer wrong. Instead (to preserve the child’s feelings) they should inform the student that while most people would not arrive at the answer of “7” for the problem, he should feel good about his answer.

I must be narrow-minded because not only would I mark the student incorrect, I would also work on helping him see that 2 + 2 = 4. It always has and it always will equal 4 regardles of our feelings on any certain day.

Truth is the truth whether we accept, believe, or feel it. We live in a world created by God and must follow His guidelines for life. His natural law of gravity says that if I drop an item with mass it will fall to the ground. His call for salvation says that I must believe on Jesus (God’s only Son). There is no other way. I must be narrow-minded.

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.—Acts 4:12


An old favorite chorus written by Bill  and Gloria Gaither in the late 1960s says this:

I will serve Thee because I love Thee; You have given life to me. I was nothing before You found me; You have given life to me.

The sentiment is nice and it reminds us that we have been given eternal life for the purpose of serving God. We serve Him here in this life by serving others—by being hands and feet for Jesus—and by sharing His message and the life that it brings with others. It’s what we were originally created for—serving and honoring God.

If you’ll allow me to get nit-picky for just a moment though, I will admit that as much as I like the chorus, it’s not entirely accurate for the Christian. We don’t serve Him because we love Him—we just serve Him. Granted, I do love God, and that love inspires me to be more diligent in my service to Him and to others in His name. Even so, even when I’m not so loving toward God, I serve Him. Not out of duty, or out of coercion. Not out of a sense of self-righteous pride or the need to earn more goodness points on my scorecard to heaven. I serve God because He is God and my service is due Him. I serve my fellow man, not because they deserve it, but by doing so I serve Him.

Perhaps we can change the words to the old chorus—not to take away anything from the Gaithers, but to say what we as Christ-followers should truly say:

“I will serve Thee because You are Thee; You have given life to me. I was nothing before You found me; You have given life to me.”

 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” —Joshua 24:14-15

I sometimes get inspiration from the most unusual places. In 1961, Earl Hamner, Jr. wrote and published Spencer’s Mountain, the inspiration for the popular television show The Waltons. I am reading this cozy little story again and came across a note that hit home for me as a church leader. Here’s what Hamner relates in the voice of Clay Spencer:

“I had this little baby duck. . . . I used to think that little web-toed quacker was the prettiest thing I ever laid eyes on. Just hated the day to come for that duck to grow kup. One day I got the fool idea that if I’d squeeze that duck hard enough every day I could keep him from growen, so every mornen I’d nearly squeeze the tar out of him. One mornen I squeezed him too hard I reckon, because he up and died, but it taught me somethen. You try to keep a thing from growen and it’ll die on you.”

I was struck by the application to the church today. “You try to keep a thing from growen and it’ll die on you.” So many of us are so satisfied with how church is (or how it used to be) that we hate to see any change. We want to squeeze the tar out of our local congregation. In theory we want to see our church advance, but we also realize that if there is too much growth, the church we love will have to change. And if there is too much change, it won’t be the church that we know.

I am convinced that God intends for His church to grow and mature. He doesn’t want to see us remain faith-babies. With that growth and maturity comes change. Not change for the sake of change, but change that indicates that we understand better, that we are developing, and that we are becoming more of what the Master wants us to be. With growth comes some pain, some sorrow, but with growth also comes the usefulness to God’s kingdom that He intends for each believer and for each local church.

Perhaps we should stop squeezing the life out of church by demanding that change all be avoided, but begin to encourage growth. God doesn’t intend for the duck to die, but to thrive–to swim and fly and produce more ducks. God doesn’t intend for the church to stagnate and die, but to thrive–to grow and mature and produce more local churches. I challenge us all to encourage growth instead of hinder it . . . to stop squeezing and start feeding the church.

Like newborn infants, desire the pure milk of the word, so that you may grow up into your salvation, if you have tasted that the Lord is good.” –1 Peter 2:2-3

A popular personality profile that is used in a variety of ways (from psychological profile to business leadership development) is called the Myers-Briggs personality assessment. From a series of questions, if answered honestly, the evaluation tool can categorize a person in a variety of types. One of the strong indicators for a person is whether they get their “energy” from being with people or being alone (extraverts vs. introverts). What the assessment often makes us think is that “if I am an introvert, I don’t like people;” and “if I am an extravert, I love people.” The truth is that introverts can love (and even want to be with) people just as much as extraverts. Crowds just wear them out, and they need some alone time to recharge. Extraverts, on the other hand, get a charge out of being with big groups, but they also discover that they need some time to be alone.

Regardless of whether you prefer your people in small doses or like to be part of a herd, the truth is that we all need other people. And in the church, we need to have time with other believers because that is how we grow. When we gather together with other believers for the purpose of worship, we begin to sense the presence of God (who insists on being with gatherings of even the smallest number of Christians), and we glean encouragement from the group as attention is drawn away from self and personality and focused on God our Savior.

Togetherness is also an opportunity for each of us to grow in our faith as we study God’s Word together to gain insight, pray together to make connection, and fellowship together for encouragement. Let’s stop trying to do life in isolation and help each other (regardless of personality type) to grow in our faith.

 “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  —Hebrews 10:24

The song is an old one that was a favorite during revival times when I was growing up. It was especially endearing because it spoke into the heart of both the young and the young at heart. It spoke of the attitude that accompanied living the Christian life and being part of the work of God known as the local church. Perhaps you remember some of the words from your younger years:

Every day with Jesus

Is sweeter than the day before.

Every day with Jesus

I love Him more and more.

Jesus saves and keeps me

And He’s the One I’m living for.

Every day with Jesus

Is sweeter than the day before.

The little chorus is a reminder to those who are followers of Jesus that it is a happy privilege to be part of God’s family. Why, then, do we spend so much time whining and complaining about our lot in life? I think that it is because our attitude has soured, and perhaps it is time to have our attitude re-stored by the One who makes it “sweeter than the day before.”

In thinking about my church—the local congregation of which I am a part—it becomes even more evident that I (we) begin trusting Him to create newness of heart on a daily basis so that we can be better representatives of His kingdom.

“By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  —Jesus, John 13:35