We Come for Forgiveness

We come for Forgiveness

We come for Forgiveness

The door is open for worship. We park the car and get the kids out of their seats—perhaps even help them move a little faster toward the door. On the way in, we grab a bulletin and sit down. So we’ve come into the Lord’s house again.

Why did we come? After the first hymn, we get one answer. It comes in language so familiar that we sometimes say it without thinking. We say together with others, “Holy and merciful Father, I confess that I am by nature sinful and that I have disobeyed you in my thoughts, words, and actions. . . .” The words might change a little from Sunday to Sunday, but the point is always the same.

We come to confess our sins. We might think of the past week and recall the angry words we’ve spoken or the failure to help someone else—even our spouses and children. The list is long for each of us; we have “done what is evil and failed to do what is good.”

We have come to worship, but we are not worthy. When the psalmist asks “Who may stand in his holy place?” his answer is “He who has clean hands and a pure heart” (Psalm 24:3,4). We know the truth—we are sinners unworthy to stand before the Lord in his house with others. We are sinners. We “deserve [God’s] punishment both now and in eternity.”

Why come? Why not stay home? At least there we don’t have to face this harsh reality. We come because of what happens next. We hear the message of forgiveness, “God, our heavenly Father, has been merciful to us and has given his only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” The worship leader announces, “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Forgiveness. Absolution from God himself: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A sweet assurance that God will not mete out the punishment we deserve. Instead, he has placed our sins on his Son, Jesus. Then burdened with all our sins, Jesus suffered what we should suffer. We are forgiven, declared pure in heart and with clean hands.

Such a seemingly simple thing happens in the Lord’s house every time we walk through the doors. It’s why we come. The weekly turmoil fades when we are assured that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. We are ready then to stand in God’s holy place to worship and later to leave worship ready to do better as his dear children.

We Come for One Another

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When you come into the Lord’s house, you are not alone. Others come too. For a stranger, that is a little awkward at first. For him or her, no familiar faces exist. Even conversations before or after church might make a stranger wary instead of welcome.

But we come together because we all know Jesus and we want to know him better. The Scriptures remind us that we are all children of God by faith in Jesus and even identify us as members of the family of Jesus. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember that we are not alone.

Remember Elijah? He lived in a difficult time when it appeared that the family of God had disappeared. He complained, “I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too” (1 Kings 19:10). Of course, he was not the only one left. God encouraged him with the promise of his gentle love for sinners.

Our journey through life is troublesome too. When faced with our own personal struggles, we may be tempted like Elijah to think we are absolutely alone. Perhaps we think that the Christian minority has dwindled down to so few that we are the only ones left.

Come into the Lord’s house. You are not alone! The Lord, by the power of his love in Jesus, has brought others into his house too. They are your brothers and sisters in Christ. Over time even a stranger comes to recognize faces and treasure smiles, handshakes, and greetings from other Christians.

The battle we all wage throughout life is difficult. Others travel the road with us. God places them along the road to help us, encourage us, and keep us going. We are there for them too. God has drawn us together for one another.

No one offers perfect help or encouragement. We are still plagued with the sins of cold pride and hard indifference. As imperfect as we are, we still need to love others and have them love us just as Jesus loved us all. We are his family here on earth.

We come to the Lord’s house for one another. Sometimes all it takes is the voice of the person next to you in worship. At other times that person may simply need to see your smile. Friendly words sometimes turn into words of comfort, concern, and caring. Words often turn into actions that help, support, and encourage.

All of us together have come to hear the Lord’s promises. We are not alone on life’s road, wherever that leads. Our brothers and sisters in Jesus share the journey.

We Come to Listen!

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All of us are assaulted with a barrage of messages every day. Some suggest that an average American hears or sees three thousand ads every day. Whether or not the total is accurate doesn’t change the reality of our world. We hear and see noisy messages about almost everything under the sun.

Yet one subject doesn’t get as much attention—Jesus. On occasion we might find some message about religion. The news might carry a story about someone who has helped the poor or needy, but it just as likely might be a story about some scandal in the church.

At least in the messages outside of church, we will find little to help us understand Jesus and his message of forgiveness. Even if we limit our television or radio preferences to a religious or family oriented network, it doesn’t always help. We discover that the Jesus pictured there is not exactly the one we have come to know and love. The printed material that assaults us provides ideas that range from secular spiritual helps to requests for money from religious organizations.

All this highlights one reason we come into the Lord’s house. We come to listen to his voice—the Scriptures. The beauty of coming to church is that we leave behind the raucous world with its blaring messages. It’s a quiet time—a time to listen. We come to sit quietly and wait for someone to read the Bible and comment on its meaning.

Can’t we find time on our own to listen to God’s voice? Yes, and we should. But two things happen when we do not come to the Lord’s house to listen. First, we have a tendency to forget the message of God—his love for us in our Savior, Jesus. We might hope or even boast that we can find the quiet time on our own. But many times our lives get so hectic and busy that the resolution to listen disappears and the time evaporates in our own activities.

One other thing happens when we don’t come to the Lord’s house. Soon we begin to imagine what God says instead of learning his truth carefully. Our thinking slowly drifts away from his truth. When we stay away from the Lord’s house, we simply begin to drift away.

When we come into his house, however, we allow the voice of God in the Scriptures to bend our thinking to his—to straighten our religious attitudes. If you don’t look at a compass, you will lose your way. Coming into God’s house to listen to him is our compass check. It keeps us on the narrow way that leads to eternal life.

“Blessed . . . are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:28).

BUSY?

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I picked this up from a workshop I recently attended and thought it had great application to the priority of worship in our lives. If we are too busy for God and his Word, who are we really serving? — Pastor VK

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. -- 1 Peter 5:8

Satan called a worldwide convention. In his opening address to his evil angels, he said, "We can't keep the Christians from going to church. We can't keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the Truth but we can keep them from forming an intimate, abiding relationship in Christ. If they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken.

So let them go to church every once in a while, let them have their conservative lifestyles, but steal their time, so they can't gain that relationship with Jesus Christ. This is what I want you to do, angels. Distract them from gaining hold of their Savior and maintaining that vital connection throughout their day!"

"How shall we do this?" shouted his angels.

"Keep them busy in the non-essentials of life and invent innumerable schemes to occupy their minds," he answered. "Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, and borrow, borrow, borrow. Persuade the wives to go to work for long hours and the husbands to work 6 - 7 days a week, 10 - 12 hours a day, so they can afford their empty lifestyles. Keep them from spending time with their children. As their family fragments, soon, their home will offer no escape from the pressures of work!"

"Over-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear Christ speaking to them through His Word. Entice them to play the radio or cassette player whenever they drive. To keep the TV, VCR, CDs, and their PCs going constantly in their homes. And see to it that every store and restaurant in the world plays non-Biblical music constantly. This will jam their minds and break that union with Christ."

"Fill the coffee table with magazines and newspapers. Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day. Invade their driving moments with billboards. Flood their mailboxes with junk mail, mail order catalogues, sweepstakes, and every kind of newsletter and promotional offering free products, services, and false hopes. Keep skinny, beautiful models on the magazine covers so that husbands will believe that external beauty is what's important, and they'll become dissatisfied with their wives. HA! That will fragment those families quickly!"

"Even in their recreation, let them be excessive. Have them return from their recreation exhausted, disquieted, and unprepared for the coming week. Don't let them go out in nature to reflect on God's wonders. Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, concerts, and movies instead. Keep them busy, busy, busy! And when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences and unsettled emotion."

"Go ahead, let them be involved in soul winning. But crowd their lives with so many "good" causes they have no time to seek power from Christ. Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family for the good of the cause. It will work! It will work!"

It was quite a convention. The evil angels went eagerly to their assignments causing Christians everywhere to get busy, busy, busy, and to rush here and there.

I guess the question is: has the devil been successful at his scheme? You be the judge! Brothers and Sisters, please take heed of the message it brings:

B - Being

U - Under

S - Satan's

Y – Yoke

Are you "BUSY"?

Good - Better - Best

Good… Better… Best!

Good… Better… Best!

If you’ve ever had to pick out an appliance, some carpet or other flooring, or perhaps even some light fixtures or cabinets for your home, you’ve probably seen some products at the store labeled “Good,” some others labeled “better”, and finally others labeled “best.”   Typically, the products marked “good” are entry level type.  Those marked “better” are mid-grade, and those marked “best” are premium.  This has a way of helping us to understand the products that we’re buying so that our expectations are set appropriately. 

Good – Better – Best is also a useful analogy when it comes to how we view the practices that build a healthy spiritual life.  There are some practices that are good, others that are better, and still others that are best.  With this understanding, we can recognize what is good, but at the same time identify what are the spiritual “best practices” and strive for them.

So let’s start with what’s good.  When compared to not coming to church at all, not praying, and not reading a Bible, coming to worship once or twice a month, or 25-50% of the time, can be considered “Good.”  Those one or two times a month provide some level of spiritual nourishment, encouragement in faith, and opportunity to be a blessing to others.  But is there room for more? Certainly there is.

So what’s better?  Rather than participating in worship 1-2 times a month, “Better” would be participating about 3 times a month, or 75% of the time.   Naturally, this provides more food for the soul than only once or twice a month, and it keeps the connection to Jesus stronger.  But is there room to improve here too?  Certainly.

So then, what are best practices for spiritual health?  Let’s refer to a study done by the Center for Bible Engagement and Back to the Bible.  Their study indicates that if a person is engaging with the Bible less than four times a week, their actions and choices are statistically the same as non-believers.  However, those same studies show that a person who engages with their Bible four or more times in a week are 228% more likely to share their faith with others, 407% more likely to memorize scripture, 59% less likely to view pornography, and 30% less likely to struggle with loneliness. They term the results of their research “The Power of Four.”[1]

Based on this research, the best practices for spiritual health, then, would include weekly worship as often as possible, plus at least three other interactions with the Bible during the week.  These other interactions can take many forms, such as 1) participating in a Bible Study or a sermon discussion group, 2) Reading and thinking through a devotional, such as the “Meditations” booklets that are put out by our church body, and 3) Plain, old-fashioned Bible reading and prayer.   Probably a mix of these would serve most people very well. 

Now, while most Christians are aware of this truth at some level, many still struggle to consistently engage with Scripture outside of worship.  The reason that is most often given?  “Too busy.” This is why “busy” is the subject of next week’s 10 for 10 reading.

Finally, why do we want to engage in spiritual “Best Practices”?  Because there we’ll find our God who wants to be known by us, and who is also eager to be known by us, so eager that he sent Jesus his Son to lay down his life for us. 

 

Did you know?


[1] https://www.backtothebible.org/research

10 for 10 Timeline - Important Dates to Remember

  • September 8th, 15th, and 22nd are Teaching Sundays.

  • You will receive your commitment card on September 8, and be asked to turn it in with your offering on September 22nd.

  • The 10 Sundays begin on September 22nd and end on November 24th.

  • The next two worship series after 10 for 10 will also tie into the importance of being a regular participant in worship:

    • September 29-October 22 “With Jesus – Like Jesus” The more time we spend with Jesus in his Word, the more we will grow to resemble him in our thoughts, words, and actions.  In this series we will be spending time with Jesus so that we can better reflect his goodness and love to the world. 

    • October 27 – November 24 “Welcome Home” If we want to grow in faith and godly living, we need to be knit into a close, Christian family.  The series stresses benefits we receive from being part of a Christian family… from being connected to other Christians to the spiritual blessings delivered and reinforced at our church “home.”

10 for 10 – Encouraging Healthy Worship Attitudes and Habits

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Worship is the beating heart in the life of the Christian. There our souls are fed with God’s Word and there we get to encourage others and be encouraged in our lives as God’s people.   It is what builds us up to go out and live our lives in God’s name in the world in which we live.  It’s what provides us with encouragement from other Christians when life as a Jesus-follower is hard.  And it is worship through which God works in us to grow in our Christian character. 

This September, our whole Mt. Calvary family will be asked to make a personal commitment regarding our participation in worship.  We’ll be encouraged to examine our hearts and attitudes, to ask ourselves where time with the Lord and his people in worship ranks in our life’s list of priorities, and how well our attitude toward worship reflects a thoughtful and thankful response to who God is and what he’s done for us. We’re titling this emphasis 10 for 10 – Encouraging Healthy Worship Attitudes and Habits.  Its purpose is simple – to give our Mt. Calvary family a taste of the blessings that come from being in worship every week and to encourage the practice.  10 for 10 will challenge each of us to be in worship 10 out of 10 Sundays over a 10-week period of time. 

Over the years, God’s people have found great joy, comfort, and peace in the practice of weekly worship.  They’ve found their struggles, while just as present, are easier to bear. They’ve found that they live with a deeper sense of peace, no matter what goes on in the world around them.  And they’ve found that they live their life with a deeper sense of purpose in this world – among many other blessings too!  I’ve never met a fellow Christian who exercised their faith through worship consistently every week and regretted it.  Never – not even once.  In short, 10 for 10 is going to encourage each of us to be prayerful, thoughtful, and intentional in our worship participation. 

It is possible that some within our Mt. Calvary family may not be able to go 10 for 10 in worship participation over that period of time because of circumstances that are outside of our own control, such as a work schedule, or plans that have already been made.   If this includes you, I have two recommendations and suggestions:

1)      Commit to being in worship as many Sundays as possible over the 10-week period.  Think of this time as a deliberate step toward being in worship every Sunday.

2)      On the weeks that you are unable to come, at a minimum watch the week’s sermon on our YouTube channel.  You will miss out on the singing and fellowship, but at least you will be feeding your soul with God’s Word.

It is also possible that some of our Mt. Calvary family are already in worship every week.  You are already experiencing the blessings that God gives through it.  If this is you, might I also suggest something like coming to a Bible Study, or taking your weekly bulletin home to re-read the Scripture lessons?  This will help you to get even more blessing out of worship.

Attached to this letter you will find a timeline of important dates and happenings in connection with 10 for 10.  Please make note of them – especially the 10 Sundays and the day to turn in the commitment cards.

May the joy of worship increase and overflow in our Mt. Calvary family this Fall! May the blessings of Jesus be yours in abundance today, tomorrow, and forever!

In Christ,

Korey Van Kampen, Pastor

 

 

10 For 10 Timeline – Important Dates To Remember

  • September 8th, 15th, and 22nd are Teaching Sundays.

  • You will receive your commitment card on September 8, and be asked to turn it in with your offering on September 22nd.

  • The 10 Sundays begin on September 22nd and end on November 24th.

  • The next two worship series after 10 for 10 will also tie into the importance of being a regular participant in worship:

    • September 29-October 22 “With Jesus – Like Jesus” The more time we spend with Jesus in his Word, the more we will grow to resemble him in our thoughts, words, and actions.  In this series we will be spending time with Jesus so that we can better reflect his goodness and love to the world. 

    • October 27 – November 24 “Welcome Home” If we want to grow in faith and godly living, we need to be knit into a close, Christian family.  The series stresses benefits we receive from being part of a Christian family… from being connected to other Christians to the spiritual blessings delivered and reinforced at our church “home.”