But they can’t.
No matter how much they believe they can.
When one’s belief doesn’t jive with reality, it’s not belief but a delusion.
One can believe with all their being that they love Jesus. But when our life choices and behaviors are not consistent with our belief, it’s not faith. It’s a delusion.
I am pastor. I’ve studied theology. I have a Masters Degree in Divinity. I’ve preached hundreds, if not thousands, of sermons. I have read hundreds of books about God. I can tell you quite a bit about God. And I really do believe I love God.
It’s just that my life choices and behaviors and thoughts don’t always reflect that reality.
Jesus says, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and do not do what I command you?” Luke 6:46.
Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commands” John 14:15.
It’s not that working really, really hard to obey and keep Christ’s commands is the pathway to loving God.
It’s that when we love God and love Jesus, obeying and keeping his commands are the natural result of love.
It’s so much easier to make my faith about working harder and doing the right thing. But what God truly desires from me is my heart and my love.
I wish there was a twelve step plan to make me love God more. I would do it. Because I love God.
But that’s just the thing. You can’t force love.
Loving God comes from being in love. While I love God, I am not sure if I’m in love with God as I once was.
I want to recapture my first love that I had for my Savior. I long to be in love with God again. I want to recapture that passion and zeal for God.
This is remarkable given the public ire the Catholic Church has had to deal with in recent history regarding their very public cases of sexual abuse by her priests.
Pope Francis seems to have turned all that around.
What is it about Pope Francis that people are drawn to? Why are people so intrigued by Pope Francis? How come he has become the beloved Pope of, not only the Catholic Church, but the world?
One word: integrity.
In carrying his own bags, living in a simple apartment, turning down the life of luxury, making his own phone calls, answering his own emails, being around and serving people, taking the metro, etc. the world sees what faith in God ought to look like.
The world understands that faith looks more like strength in humility, grandeur in service, power in simplicity, and the miraculous in the everyday life than strength in power, grandeur and opulence, and influence through power.
Pope Francis is beloved and has influence because his life matches his faith.
And friends, that’s where our influence lies too: when our behavior matches our beliefs.
As base a thing money often is, it yet can be transmuted into everlasting treasure. It can be converted into food for the hungry and clothing for the poor; it can keep a missionary actively winning lost souls to the light of the gospel and thus transmute itself into heavenly values. Any temporal possession can be turned into everlasting wealth. Whatever is given to Christ is immediately touched with immortality.
A. W. Tozer
There was a man named John who walked into a bank to finalize a business transaction dressed in his blue jeans. The teller told him that the officer he needed to see wasn’t in and he would have to come back the next day. John said that would be fine and asked the teller to validate his parking ticket.
The teller then informed him that according to bank policy, she couldn’t validate his parking ticket because he had not technically completed a financial transaction.
John asked for an exception, since he had come to the bank intending to do business, but wasn’t able to because the appropriate officer wasn’t in.
The teller didn’t budge. She said, “I’m sorry; that’s our policy. Rules are rules.”
So John decided to make a business transaction. He decided to close his account.
The account he closed had a balance of over $1.5 million.
This qualified as a business transaction, and the teller was able to validate the parking ticket.
Rules are necessary.
Life would be chaos without rules.
However, legalistic adherence to rules without using common sense and judgment is not only dumb but it’s deadly. It will kill relationships. It will destroy organizations.
Legalism. It really does stink!
The Little Church on the Prairie…
Seriously? That’s the name of the church?
If you’ve lived in Lakewood, this name is no big deal. It’s a part of your reality. People around Lakewood know this name because the church is kind of a historic place. It’s been around as long as Lakewood has been around, and the church has done some pretty significant ministry around here. So when locals hear the name, they think of the history and the legacy of the ministry of the Little Church on the Prairie.
When everyone else hears the name of the church, they hear “Little House on the Prairie.”
Come on. You did too.
When I tell people the name of the church where I pastor, one of the most common reactions is laughter. They think I’m kidding. And when they realize it’s really our name, they’re embarrassed for laughing.
That’s how it typically goes.
For new residents in Lakewood and for others who don’t know our history, the name doesn’t do anything for us. One could make the argument that the name actually might be hurting us with new residents and younger people who are looking for a church in the area.
When I first came to LCOP as its senior pastor, one of the changes I contemplated was leading the church through a name change.
As with all change a leader leads, there are some very important questions to consider:
- What are the costs?
- What are the benefits?
- Is this a battle worth fighting?
First, what are the costs of making such a change?
There are folks at LCOP who were born here. They’re parents help to get the church started. They were baptized here, married here, and buried their loved ones here. The Little Church is their church. Changing the name of a church or organization that has as much emotional ties as our’s should only be taken with the utmost care.
The cost of making a name change would have been very significant. It could have been done but would come at a costly relational price.
Second, what would be the benefits of a name change?
We could have gone with a name that expressed more clearly the vision and the direction of the church, a name that connected with the people we are trying to reach in the community.
Finally, would this been a battle worth fighting?
One of the realities of leadership is that not all battles are worth fighting. There are things that absolutely need to be fought for, but not all things fit in that category.
The more I spent time reflecting on the name, it was clear that this would have way more relational cost and consequences than benefits. And more importantly, with all the other things that needed changing, the name of the church was not even close to being a priority.
I’m going on four years of as one of the pastors at the Little Church on the Prairie. You know what? The name’s grown on me. I actually think it really fits the culture and the history of this church.
We are a place where simplicity matters, relationships matter, character matters. We may not be the fanciest place around, but you’re going to find some wonderful, caring, loving people at the Little Church on the Prairie.
The Little Church on the Prairie. Love this church! Love this name.
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I’ve been blogging at firstname.lastname@example.org for about ten years. I will continue to keep that blog going.
Then, what’s up with this new blog?
I realized that the other blog was my rambling thoughts about everything from movies, reviews of gadgets, to thoughts about the church, Christ, the Bible. I mean it was all over the place. I will continue to do that because that blog is really for me to express my thoughts on all kinds of things.
However, in this blog, I want to concentrate my thoughts on the issues on leadership and the church of Jesus Christ.
I want this to be a more focused blog on just those topics.
That’s the goal anyways.
So here it goes!!!