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I am confident

Words of Grace  

 

For many believers, perhaps most, there is a disconnect between the way they feel and the truth. In other words, we often don’t feel strong, even if Jesus is our Strength and in Him we are strong. We often don’t feel free, even if Jesus has set us free. And we certainly find it hard to feel righteous or good or even forgiven most of the time.

That disconnect is normal. For so long the flesh has told us what we are supposed to feel and then has shown us that our feelings reveal the reality of our lives. If we find ourselves in trouble, for example, the flesh tells us to be afraid. Then our flesh tells us that the fear proves our weakness. In fact, a great deal of evidence could be shown that in these circumstances we find ourselves to be strong, and we would still think of ourselves as weak because we felt fear.

The message of the flesh is a lie. Yes, it feels right. Yes, it feels normal and familiar. Yes, it is what we have always felt. But it is still a lie. The message of the flesh is designed to keep us walking according to the flesh. But you and I, and all those who belong to Jesus, live according to the Spirit and must learn to walk according to the Spirit. The flesh is no longer our master and no longer our “normal.”

I suspect that many of us have shared an experience like the following. You are called to talk with someone about something that is uncomfortable. Perhaps you want to share the good news. Perhaps you are supposed to challenge a decision or an opinion. Perhaps you need to ask the person to do something. Whatever it is, you lack confidence and you are afraid. At least that’s what the flesh is telling you.

One time I was moved by God to confront a man in my church about his relationship with another man’s wife. It was one of those times when I couldn’t take someone with me and I had to do it right away. There was little choice. But I was afraid. I actually drove to his house and then drove away again. Finally, I stopped and talked it over with the Lord.

Now, you have probably done that. You have examined why you are feeling afraid. You have asked yourself or the Lord if this is the right thing to do. You stopped in the midst of your fear and confronted it. And, when you did, the fear was put into perspective. It maybe didn’t go away, but you knew that you had to do the uncomfortable thing and you knew it would somehow be okay.

Well, I decided that the man could try to punch me, but I would still talk with him. I knew my heart was right. I had respect for him and spoke to him in love and the visit went very well.

You see, my flesh lied to me. First it told me that I had something to fear. The man might get angry (even though I had never known him to be an angry man), or he might get violent (even though I could hardly imagine him doing anything), or he could leave the church or organize his supporters against me or whatever. My flesh played through all those scenarios and more until I was afraid. Then my flesh showed me my fear and told me I was too weak to do this thing.

But it was a lie. Once I understood that none of the things I feared could really hurt me and I was doing the right thing, the thing God wanted me to do, then I found the confidence that was there all the time.

You see, the Spirit is confident. The Spirit knows that you and I can do whatever the Lord calls us to do. The Spirit knows that there is no reason for fear and no reality of weakness. Jesus is my Strength and my Confidence.

Don’t let the flesh pull you back into bondage by pushing away your confidence. If the Lord is calling you to do something, do it in strength and know that He is with you. The results are His.

 

I am confident!

I can do what I am called to do.

My fear and anxiety may try to pull me down,

But I will not listen to the lies.

I am confident.

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Little Churches

The inverse of yesterday’s post is probably more interesting.  You have heard that one also, I suspect.  “Our church is small because our message is pure.  Not many people can handle the kind of faithfulness we represent.”  In other words, our church is small because we are better.

I call this the “sour grapes” school of church growth.  It excuses our limited connections with the people by asserting a spiritual superiority.  Everyone else wants to compromise, that’s why they go to the other churches.  Especially that big church.  You can tell how compromised they are by how large they are.

Never mind that the logic of this would keep us all at home by ourselves.  After all, if the smaller the church the better, then just me by myself should be the best.  Right?  Just you and me and I’m not so sure about you.

Let’s be honest: some churches are small because they are bad at connecting with people.  Maybe it is true that some large churches are too open with the ideas and lifestyles they accept.  But it is certainly true that some small churches are too closed about what ideas and lifestyles they accept.

It is not only unproductive to try to discern God’s favor by the size of the church, it is wrong.  It is foolish to suggest that church size is any measure of success.  We say that we believe God looks on the heart and does His own thing with His church, but we still try to judge according to the world’s standards.

I suggest that we begin to understand that some people need small churches and some need large churches—and God provides churches of all sizes.  We can go even further and say that some people need one size church at one point in their lives and a different size church at another point.  My wife and I fellowship with a church of 40.  Our last church home numbered over 3000.  Different points in our lives.

Let’s get away from this idea that church size is a way to judge things like faithfulness.  Let’s let the Lord be the Judge.  I think there are good churches and bad churches and I think that things like doctrine and relationships matter, but church size doesn’t matter at all.

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Big Churches

“God has really blessed XYZ Church!  Look how they are growing.  They must be doing something right!”

Ever hear a line like that?  Then you look at your poor little church and wonder what you are doing wrong.  Few people understand how difficult these comparisons can be for pastors and church leaders.  If the church isn’t growing, you must not be in favor with the Lord.  I wonder how many pastors have lost their jobs because their people have blamed them for lack of numbers in church attendance.

Pastors go to their denominational conferences and guess who is asked to speak—the pastors of the large churches.  Who is on the cover of the magazine?  The pastor whose church is growing fast.  After all, these guys must have it together.  They must be doing something right.

Church success equals right doctrine and God’s favor.  Is that right?  I’m not so sure.  Does the largest retail store always offer the best prices?  Is the largest newspaper the one filled with the most truth?  Is the largest sales company the one filled with the most honest people?  Does the largest car company make the best automobile?  Does size always indicate quality?

Well, when I put it that way the answer seems obvious, doesn’t it?  We sometimes forget that churches are in the marketing business today.  Some are better at communicating with the community than others.  Some connect with people in more ways than others.  Large churches, like large retailers, offer a wider variety of entry points or products.  Some have the organizational structure to grow.

I have observed the church scene for nearly 40 years and I can’t say that the largest churches are the best.  Some large churches have lousy messages and lousy doctrine.  Some are outstanding in both areas.  Church growth has a great deal to do with location, timing, and marketing.  Just like any other business or organization.

But not all large churches are compromising.  I certainly don’t mean to suggest that.  I just mean that church growth seems to have less to do with pleasing God than with connecting to people.  It may simply be that a much larger percentage of the people are more comfortable with a large church.

More tomorrow…

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