In the book, Zombies, Football and the Gospel, Reggie Joiner talks of how Sundays are now a day to watch football, be with family, and do just about anything else but church. I know that this varies from one city to another, but the reality is that most just don’t feel the need to be at church every week.
Have you imagined all that happens before someone even arrives at your church for the first time?
“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God” (Eph. 3:18-19, NLT).
The width of God’s love extends across the entire world and includes everyone he has created: “The Lord is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made” (Ps. 145:17, NIV).
God never made a person that he didn’t love. He made you and he loves you—and God doesn’t make junk! He loves you unconditionally. He loves you very, very much.
Everybody matters to God; in fact, we see in the life of Jesus that he even loves the unlovely and those who may feel unlovable. Do you want to know the secret of self-esteem? Here it is: If you want confidence, then understand how much you matter to God. If God loves you, who cares what anybody else thinks?
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36, NIV)
The world defines freedom as a life without any restraint: “I can do anything I want to do and say anything I want to say without anybody telling me what to do.” Everybody else may get burned by you, but you get to do it your own way. The world says you can have your freedom but only by being totally selfish.
Yet, the Bible says the only way to true freedom is through Jesus: “If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free” (John 8:36, GNT).
Real freedom is freedom from fear, where you’re truly free from guilt, from worry, from bitterness and from death. You’re free to quit pretending because you’re free to be yourself.
How do you get rid of those kinds of fears? By letting God love you! The apostle John teaches that “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear...” (1 John 4:18, NIV).
Ever since God called me to preach, I’ve battled with deep insecurity about my delivery style. I can’t electrify a crowd like T.D. Jakes, pack an arena like Reinhard Bonnke or get audiences to turn sermons into trending topics on Twitter like Craig Groeschel or Steven Furtick. Those guys hit home runs when they preach. I get base hits—or strikes.
For years I felt like the reluctant Moses, who complained to God by saying, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent” (Ex. 4:10). For years the Lord kept pushing me out of my comfort zone, urging me to surrender my fears so that I would take the microphone willingly. Once He told me: “I didn’t call you to be T.D. Jakes. I called you to be you.”
On many occasions after speaking in a church or conference, I would sulk. I battled constant discouragement and wondered if my words had hit the mark. Did I preach OK? Did the message sink in? Finally I asked an older pastor if he had ever struggled with disappointment in his pulpit performance. He smiled and told me: “Son, I feel that way every Monday of my life.”
I’m learning an uncomfortable secret about preaching: Those who dare to allow God to speak through them will always squirm in holy agony. Preaching the gospel is both a glorious and a horrifying responsibility. When we speak under the anointing of the Holy Spirit and impart the very truths of Christ, we get so dangerously close to Him that our pride is challenged.
In the aftermath of recent tragic killings, such as those that have taken place in New Mexico, Connecticut and Colorado, our nation has focused on ways to curb gun violence.
But gun control proposals now circulating in Washington and in many state capitals don’t address a more important issue—the constant stream of violence put forth by the entertainment industry. Every year brings a flood of movies, not to mention cable and television programs, that are filled with violence. Whole segments of America’s music industry make their profits from song lyrics that glorify gratuitous violence, and there is seemingly an endless number of video games that are nothing more than murder simulators.
The result of this constant inundation is that our culture has been effectively desensitized to murder and mayhem. Blood-lusty Romans gathered in the Coliseum 2,000 years ago to watch people slaughtered by lions for the purpose of entertainment, and our society is no different. We gather around computers, televisions, and movie screens to watch scene after scene of more graphic violence than anything the Romans could have imagined.
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” (1 Tim. 6:17 NIV)
You may be under a lot of stress right now because of the economy, but God still wants you to enjoy life.
As a Christian, you can enjoy life because your conscience is clear. You can enjoy life because you are secure within God’s love. You can have fun and laugh in church. You can enjoy friends who don’t manipulate you because they are learning to be like Jesus, and that means they are learning to look out for the interests of others.