The Hospital That’s Not

Last night my wife and I were having a conversation regarding the direction many churches seem to be going in these last days, and from that conversation an analogy, a word picture of sorts, came to mind that I wanted to share with you.


A few weeks ago, the local community had their annual city cruise event, an event that has gone on for decades.  At this event, car enthusiasts with their friends and families will come from all over the region to show off their cars in car shows, and in the evening join in on a cruise down the biggest and longest street in town.  This event brings in not only car enthusiasts, but also venders and other groups that seek to take advantage of the different opportunities it presents.  This year was no different than the previous years, but this time the River Medical Center, a large local hospital, decided to be a part of the festivities.


The River Medical Center, also known as RMC, was looking for new ways to make themselves known to the community.  In a city with four large hospitals, it was important to the administration to get their name out there and to let the community know they were there for them.  It was for these reasons that the RMC administration decided to participate in this year’s annual city cruise event.


In their planning, the RMC administration decided not to say or do anything at the event relating to the medicine and procedures at their disposal, or even of the various health issues they dealt with.  To avoid offending anyone, especially the other local hospitals, or to appear that they were only interested in a particular segment of the community, all they wanted to do was to make themselves known to the community, and that everyone was welcomed to come visit them.  So, it was decided that they would set up the biggest tent they could, have as many of the medical staff on hand helping, music classics of the 1940’s and 1950’s associated with cars and cruising being played, and would hand out hundreds of hats and t-shirts with their name on it.  They even had on display classic cars some of their staff owned; a 1969 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, a 1957 Chevy Bel Air, and a 1955 Ford Thunderbird, among others.


Their plans were a great success.  They saw a great response from those attending the event, and all that they were able to hand out reflected the amount of people they were able to attract.  They were also very successful in not mentioning any of the medicine and procedures they have at their disposal, or even of the various health issues they are equipped to handle, keeping conversations focused around cars and activities, friends and family, as well as around memories of past cruises.  At the end of the night, all the people knew was that RMC was another hospital in town, and that they loved cars and cruising just as much as they do.


Over the days and weeks that followed this year’s event, RMC experienced a significant increase of those visiting the hospital, and talk spread fast throughout the community about RMC and the great presence they had at the event.  Seeing and hearing the great response they were getting from their participation in this year’s annual cruise event, the RMC administration was riding an emotional high and looking forward to the next big event they could participate in.  They were growing, and they wanted to grow even more.


When people would visit the RMC, the staff was quick to make the person feel welcomed and to give them a tour of the place.  In the tour, people would see the various rooms and offices of the place, some of the equipment they had there, as well as the cafeteria and gift store they had on the premises.  Those who felt welcomed and comfortable there and really liked what they saw, they were quickly encouraged to become a part in telling others about RMC and helping however they could, including in the area of finances.


The River Medical Center was doing great.  They were experiencing a greater presence and reputation in the community, more people were coming to visit them, more people were helping them do various things, and the finances were really beginning to roll in.  Despite all the growth, there was a problem, a pretty significant problem at that.  Amid all this growth and attention RMC was experiencing, only a very small portion was actually seeking and receiving medical attention and healing.  On the other hand, some were only told how to change thoughts and behaviors dealing with symptoms they were experiencing without really dealing with core issues and taking the appropriate steps to deal with them.  And there were still some who thought that since they were visiting the RMC and helping where they could, they had no need for the medical services of the hospital not realizing they had serious health issues that needed to be dealt with.  In essence, from the tour and their willingness to help, they got just enough of what was available to them that they thought they had no need of anything else, a vaccine of sorts.


What I just described is a picture of what many churches are becoming.  In their quest to grow and become a light to their community, many will avoid saying or doing anything that might offend someone or hurt their churches potential growth.  Often times this includes not addressing sin on any level, except to say it’s a sin to not be helping, doing or loving others.  There is very little to nothing said of each person being born dead in sin, and that it is only through Jesus and ones surrender to Him, that one can become alive and be free of sin and the penalty of sin.  Nothing is really said of what sin is, or why and how Jesus is the only one who can save us from it, much less anything pertaining to the necessity of the cross and what that represents to followers of Christ.  And, there is even less said of how Christians need to live free of sin and our need to maintain an attitude of repentance to Jesus for any sin in our life as we endeavor to live for Him.  While it is true that we need to hear preaching and teaching on God’s grace, love, mercy and forgiveness, it is also true that we need to equally hear of sin, holiness, and God’s judgment upon unrepented sin for both the believer and the unbeliever.  If we don’t hear preaching and teaching on all of this, as well as Bible prophecy for the days we live in and which are ahead, then we are not getting the full counsel of God.  In fact, to leave any of that out compromises what the gospel of Jesus, or the good news of Jesus, is all about, leaving us with a watered-down and sugar-coated gospel that is grossly incomplete and misleading.  The sickness every single person deals with is called sin, the core issue and cause of man’s moral and spiritual condition, and unless sin is properly and completely dealt with in a person’s life, that person cannot experience the healing and deliverance God makes available to each of us through Jesus.  To leave sin out of our teaching and preaching is to do nothing more than teach others how to deal with or hide the symptoms of sin in their lives.  Just as the hospital in the picture I presented isn’t really operating as a hospital, in the same way many churches are not truly operating as church.  Perhaps this is a part of the deception Jesus and the Apostles spoke of that would be present within the church in the last days?


So, let us be messengers of the full gospel or good news of Jesus, sharing with others as God gives us opportunity to do so.  Let it never be said of us that we never told people all they needed to know to live as true disciples of Christ.


John Johansson


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The Great Illusion

Illusions performed by magicians can be quite impressive, capturing the attention of fans and critics alike.  For fans, fueled by their amazement of what just happened, they are mesmerized into trying to figure out how the illusion was done.  For critics, they are intrigued with how the magician could capture the attention of those watching by their trickery and deceptions.  The world around us is filled with many illusions, where people are working to convince others to believe what they want them to, even when they know it’s not true and will lead them astray.


When we talk of illusions, there is one that I want to address that can be found within church circles.  There are many illusions within church circles, each one bringing some damage to the body of Christ, both small and great.  The illusion I’m referring to in this blog is centered around the idea that churches must make certain changes to be relevant to people and those who are unchurched.  Let me explain.


Over 20 years ago a particular teaching became very popular, acting as a guide of sorts to help churches grow and reach out to their communities.  I understand that churches need to adapt in some respects as culture and societies change, making better use of current technology and social media for example.  However, the teaching I’m referring to went beyond that, telling churches that they needed to focus on the love of Christ, building the self-esteem of those lacking good self-esteem, and doing good deeds through community involvement.  Yes, each of those things are good, I do agree.  But at the same time churches were, and still are, encouraged to say very little if anything about sin and repentance, the shed blood of Jesus and our need for it to wash away our sin, about a coming judgment and an eternity in hell for those rejecting Jesus and the full Gospel message.  Churches were also encouraged to remove crosses or any other traditional displays, inside or outside the church, that would identify them as a church, looking to be ‘seeker sensitive’ to those who are opposed to churches for any number of different reasons.  In essence, churches were encouraged to remove from their premises and from their teachings anything that would offend people and keep them from coming to their church.


What I just described is very disheartening.  It’s like a hospital that has all the resources needed to help cure a person from a devastating disease like cancer, only to remove the cure and any mention of it from their premises because of those who would be offended by the cure and what it would cost them, but they still want them to feel good and welcomed to come visit anytime they desire.  It is true that many of the churches I described have significantly grown numerically speaking, but a question comes to mind.  Regarding the large numbers attending these churches, the question is asked, how many of them really understand salvation, their need for it, and the cost of following Jesus?  Or are they merely attending a church that makes them feel good without addressing sin, the need for repentance, and submission to Jesus as their Lord?


While churches have done what they could to make people feel welcomed to be there, have they at the same time compromised the crux and beauty of the gospel message to facilitate their objective to draw people to them?  The gospel message has remained the same for over 2000 years, and to change or water it down for the purpose of growing the church numerically is not a God thing.  In the New Testament, the church didn’t grow exponentially because they changed the message to be more appealing to the masses.  Instead, it grew amid extreme persecution because the full gospel message centered on the fact that we are all born sinners and in need of a savior, that it is through Jesus alone, and the blood He shed on a cross for us, that we can have salvation.  It is then that the conviction of the Holy Spirit drew people to Jesus for salvation.  Well, the illusion doesn’t end there.


Last year my eyes were opened to something that shows how much this illusion has infiltrated and infected some churches.  It is no secret that I am not a fan of Halloween, knowing that everything about it and what it represents is in direct opposition to the God I serve.  Often people will ask me what I’m doing for Halloween, and I simply tell them I don’t acknowledge it because it’s a conflict of interest for me as a Christian.  I am not opposed to a church doing something on that day as an outreach for the community, but if what they are doing resembles Halloween in any way, in appearance or behavior, then I have an issue with that.  In our community, many churches have what is called, Trunk or Treat, and last year something was brought to my attention that showed how much some churches have fallen as representatives of Christ to their community.  For obvious reasons, I have not attended one of these events, but last year someone at one of these churches mentioned jack-o-lanterns they had made for the event and it got me to thinking about something.  Thinking about it, I made a point in taking a drive Halloween night past some of the churches having such an event, and what I found was very sad.  Of the churches I drove past that hosted a Trunk or Treat event that night, I noticed that while many of them thought it was okay to have both the appearance and behavior of Halloween and all that it represents present, some of them had literally no crosses or other displays outside that identified them as a Christian church.  How is it that they have nothing to identify themselves as a Christian church, yet they feel perfectly fine to welcome and allow that which is directly opposed to Christ?  Have they bought into the illusion that they can’t have anything displayed that might offend or keep people away just to increase their attendance?  Have they become more concerned about offending people with the simple truth of the gospel, than they are in offending the One who gave His life for them to have salvation?  Have they forgotten that they are ambassadors of Christ?  Yes, Jesus reached out to and spent time with sinners, but He didn’t compromise the gospel message or participate in anything that was diametrically opposed to Him or the Father.


And in case I haven’t made it clear, everything about Halloween is diametrically and aggressively opposed to God and the gospel message found in Jesus.  Are you afraid of taking a stand for Christ in your everyday life, pointing people to the saving message we find at the cross of Jesus?  If you are afraid of that, are you also okay with allowing people to think that you are okay with those things that are in clear opposition to and in conflict with the very heart and nature of Christ?  Who or what are you living for, Christ or the opinions and feelings of others?  Let it be for Christ from here on out!


John Johansson


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C G and C

Many people are haunted with memories of their past.  They struggle with thoughts and regrets of how they should’ve handled things better, and now they are in an emotional prison of sorts.  I’m not talking of things for which you had no control over, but rather instead those times when you had the opportunity of handling or responding to situations differently than you had.  While there may be better and more sophisticated ways of addressing these, I want to simplify things by breaking things up into three groups, condemnation, guilt, and conviction.


I’ve found that a lot of people I’ve talked to in the past are confused about what condemnation, guilt, and conviction are or look like, and because of it they don’t know how to deal with them.  The first group called condemnation is a nasty one.  Sometimes others are the source of condemnation, and other times it is self-inflicted.  Condemnation is fairly easy to spot, but not so easy to deal with.  Regardless of its source, condemnation devalues and degrades people.  With condemnation you will hear statements like; “you’ll never amount to anything”, “I’m no good”, “I’ll never be good enough”, or “you’re not worth it”.  All these and other like statements do is destroy your self-esteem and sense of self-worth.  These statements basically knock you down, and then work to keep you down.  Do these statements, or thoughts, reflect how God views you?  NO!  God knows and believes you are very, very special, and He has a very special plan for you.  God wants you to not only know that, but to also believe it.  God will never belittle you or make you feel hopeless or worthless.  He sent His Only Son, Jesus, to come and die so that you could have life and life eternal.  You are worth it to Him!


The second group is guilt.  There is a good or healthy type of guilt, and there is a bad and unhealthy type of guilt.  The bad and unhealthy type of guilt are those things that you take upon yourself when they are not yours to take.  These could look something like feeling guilty because your distant cousin three states away fell and broke his leg the other day while you were home working in your garage.  This may be a bit of an extreme scenario but I think you get the point.  Some people have a way, one way or another, of feeling guilty over things that they have absolutely nothing to do with.  This is unhealthy guilt.  The good and healthy guilt is when you it is for things that you were responsible for.  Guilt comes when we become aware of or acknowledge we should have done things differently in a given situation.  Guilt tells us that the way we responded or treated someone was wrong, or that we went somewhere that we shouldn’t have, or that we should’ve said or done something when we didn’t.  Guilt is knowing that something we said or did, or didn’t say or do, was wrong and we should have done differently.  Many people deal with guilt and never get past it.  The more guilt they feel the greater the chances are that they will begin to feel condemnation in their life.  The more they feel guilty the harder it is for them to move on in life.


The third group is conviction.  This is similar to guilt but with one added twist to it.  Guilt tells us we were wrong in something, but conviction tells us that we were wrong in something and gives us hope by giving us direction on how to make things right and to be free of it.  Granted, sometimes the direction conviction gives us to make things right is not what we are wanting to hear, and therefore we see the conviction as guilt with nothing we can do about it.  God’s Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, and the purpose of it is so that we will make the necessary changes to make things right in His sight.  God’s heart is that we be right with Him in all our ways, and because of that He will let us know what we need to do to make that happen.  Conviction gives us hope that we can rise above what we’ve done if we follow and obey His lead in how to make things right in His sight.  Conviction is what leads us to salvation, where we recognize that we are lost and dead in sin, and with that He gives us the instructions we need on how to get free of it and be made right in His sight through a life surrendered to Jesus.  Some people think that the moment we responded to His conviction of sin and accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior then it’s a done deal.  All our sin is taken care of with nothing more to worry about think, but this is a bit off.  Yes, Jesus’ death made provision for all our sins, past, present, and future, but if all our present and future sins are already covered then why should the Holy Spirit convict us of sin?  Some don’t recognize God’s conviction as conviction in order to avoid making life changes that are pleasing in His sight.  And as I mentioned earlier, some don’t recognize conviction because they don’t like or accept any of the instructions God is giving them to make things right in His sight.  Conviction is something that we should all welcome in our lives as it works to make us more like Jesus, and it prepares us for that trumpet sound we are waiting to hear.  To squelch conviction in our lives, and we can do that, we are in essence quenching this role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The more we ignore conviction we become harder in our heart and more stubborn in our ways, and this can have dire eternal consequences in our life if left unchanged.


So, hopefully this helps clear up the confusion regarding condemnation, guilt, and conviction.  In Romans 8:1 we’re told that there is now no condemnation for those who live according to the Spirit, but there is condemnation for those who live according to the flesh.  Condemnation is not what God has for us as His followers, but if we are living according to the flesh then we are subject to it.  Good and healthy guilt can help us recognize when we’ve done wrong, which is important in order to for God to help us with it.  And conviction is vital in the life of every Christian, and not just convicting the sinner to salvation, because it helps us know when we’ve violated God’s will and nature in our lives and shows us how to make things right with Him and others.  If we are living to honor and please God with our lives, and to accurately represent Him to the world as His ambassadors, then we need to welcome conviction instead of ignoring or pushing it aside.


John Johansson

Is It Time For Some Shaking?

Can you think of a time in your life when you were flat out terrified? Perhaps it was a dream you had, or a time when you thought you were going to be attacked by someone or something terrifying.  Maybe you were a witness to someone getting in a major accident, or you found yourself unexpectedly free-falling from a height unimaginable or standing in front of an audience where all eyes were on you.  No matter the situation, you more than likely had a physical response to this terrifying experience that was out of the norm.  In the book of James we see how demons physically respond when terrified.


In James 2:19 the writer makes the following statement. “You believe that there is one God.  You do well.  Even the demons believe – and tremble!”  Even demons tremble at the thought of God!  Wow!  If they physically tremble at the mention of God, how is it that many can be so cavalier and flippant about the presence of God?  I’m not talking about those in right relationship with Christ as they find comfort in His presence yet maintain a sense of reverence and awe of Him.  I’m talking about those who seem to have little regard for Him and His presence, not really taking Him serious, thinking they are okay because they said a prayer, go to church, or sing in the choir.  Is it possible that these people are so self-absorbed that they give little, if any, thought about the Creator of the ends of the universe, the same one that can destroy body and soul in hell?


Okay, we just saw the physical response of demons when it comes to God, but what about humans? Do we have a similar example of a human when it comes to God?  I believe we do in the person of King Belshazzar as recorded in the book of Daniel in chapter five.  In this account, he has just summoned for the gold and silver vessels taken from the temple in Jerusalem to be used for a party he was having.  This was an act of mockery and disregard towards the one and true living God.  After having done so, a man’s hand appeared and began to write on the wall to be observed by those there, including King Belshazzar.  In verse six we read what the Kings physical response was to this event.  In a nutshell, much like many of us who have been faced with a terrifying experience, his body simply became like Jello with knees knocking.  Nothing or no one touched him, but he was so terrified by what he saw that it shook him to the core.


As we can see from the above examples, just because someone is terrified at the mention or presence of God does not mean they will repent and get their lives right with God through Christ. This just goes to show how strong ones free will is, and how that God will not override that free will to save someone.  Oh, he may override ones free will to accomplish His will or to make Himself known to someone, but He will never override their free will when it comes to salvation.  We can see this in the lives of Pharaoh and Jezebel.  Even after all the things God did to persuade Pharaoh to release the Jews, he still chose to buck God and do his own thing.  As for Jezebel, even after Elijah’s showdown with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel and the overwhelming and decisive way that God made Himself known to the people, she still chose to do her own thing and threaten the man of God.  And we can see these same type of responses in many people in our day.  It doesn’t matter what God says or does, no matter how persuasive and powerful He shows Himself to be, there are still some will choose for one reason or another to reject God and His son, Jesus.


But back to the main issue I want to address in this blog. We live in a time when God is not esteemed as He should rightfully be, taking Him and His presence so lightly.  Many churches have become more of a social gathering and a place of gourmet coffees and snacks instead of the place of worship and respect for the God to whom we claim we serve.  I remember a time when drinks and food were not allowed in church, that the sanctuary was not a playground, and when the disrespectful talking and conversations going on during worship or the message was not tolerated.  How is it that we have become so irreverent towards the house of God, His Word, or even His presence?  I’m reminded of Ananias and Sapphira and how they were smitten dead on the spot for lying to the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes I wonder what God will do to restore the reverence we have so trampled on in the pursuit of making people “feel” welcomed and comfortable in church.  And what about the price many choose to pay for the sake of “fellowship”.  We can have fellowship in many different ways and at various other times, but do we treat it as though it is more important than our corporate time with Him, and as saints of old would do, being patient and pressing in to Him all the more?  I find myself wondering if we really don’t care about Him and what pleases Him, being more concerned about our own personal agendas and what we think is more important.


How about you? Are you one that has shown little, if any, reverence and regard for Christ in your life and at church?  If so, what would it take for that to change in your life?  Would it require a hand appearing out of nowhere writing on a wall?  Would it take the sudden and unexpected death of someone in a church service that was being so flippant about the house of God and His presence?  I hope you’re not one of these people, and that you are ever in awe and reverence of Him no matter where you go or who you’re with, especially at church.  If not, I strongly encourage you to take this to prayer and ask God to change your heart and attitude towards Him into that which is healthy and right in His sight.

Why The Silence

I remember, more than 25 years ago, sitting in my high school Sunday School Class when the subject of the rapture was brought up. It wasn’t the first time I had heard of it or had even talked with others about it, but this time it was different.  I had already heard of the three main views of the rapture; 1) pre-tribulation, 2) mid-tribulation, and 3) post-tribulation, but what I was about to hear was something new to me.  Our Sunday school teacher was asked what his personal view was in regards to the rapture, and after reminding us of the Assemblies of God’s position of a pre-tribulation rapture he then told us he was a “pan-tribulation” person.  For those of you that don’t know, the “pan-tribulation” view simply states that as long as you’re ready it will all “pan” out in the end.


I realize that my Sunday school teacher probably had a good reason for saying what he did, either because he was unsure of what position he personally agreed with, or because he was trying to avoid getting into a discussion on the different viewpoints relating to the subject. It’s also possible that he held a position that differed from the denominational position of the church and didn’t want to be seen as divisive on the subject, so it’s really hard to say why it was that he decided not to share what his stand on the subject was.


Since that time I’ve talked with many that take the same approach as my Sunday school teacher, and I’ve found with many of them it was because they didn’t want to think about it. The position they were taking was that as long as they are ready when it happens then that is all that is needed, but I think they are missing an important part of what it means to be ready for the rapture, something that I will get into shortly.


Over the years I’ve also talked with some who, when the subject of the rapture comes up, become silent and at times will even attempt to change the subject as though I wouldn’t notice, which often times has perplexed me especially when they are a minister. Why the silence, especially from those who are ministers of the Gospel and should be teaching and preaching on the subject?  Is it because they don’t know what they believe and therefore want to avoid any discussions on the subject?  Is it because the view they have is contrary to the position their church or denomination takes?  Is it because they take the same approach as my Sunday school teacher and embrace the “pan-tribulation” view?  While I think it is important to ask these questions, I can’t help but wonder if the reason for the silence is far deeper and more personal than these questions touch on.


When people appear to be silent on the issue of the rapture, I can’t help but think it is for reasons beyond what view they have or because they are trying to avoid getting into a debate on the it. Several years ago I came to the conclusion that Christians in America are enjoying life too much or are too comfortable with life here in America to truly desire Jesus to come back any time soon.  You’ve heard of the “bucket list”, a list of things that people want to do or experience before they die?  Well, I want to coin a new term, the “bucket plus list”, a list of things that people want to do or experience before the rapture takes place.


People with a “bucket plus list” believe that Jesus is coming back, and some of them even know that it will be possibly very soon, but they are hoping deep down that He doesn’t return until they’ve completed their “bucket plus list”. There are things that they value more than the return of Christ because they desire those things more than they do His return.  Jesus said that those who desire the things of this world more than Him are not worthy of Him, and the Apostle John tells us that we can’t love Him if we love the world, so what does that say of those who have a “bucket plus list”?  And, if people have a “bucket plus list” would they be considered “ready” when Jesus does return for His bride?


In the ancient Jewish marriage customs, the bride didn’t know when the groom would return but it was her responsibility to be ready when he did. If the groom returned and saw she wasn’t ready, namely that she hadn’t adequately prepared herself for him or was even eagerly watching for him having her affections elsewhere, then he could turn around and leave her where she was and give her a letter of divorcement.  Understanding that our relationship with Jesus and His return parallels that of the ancient Jewish marriage customs in so many different ways, we can safely assume that His return for us, His bride, would resemble the same marriage customs ancient Jews modeled.  There were many times that Jesus either told us He would return as a thief in the night, or He would tell us to “watch and pray” regarding His return.  Seeing that Jesus would come as a thief in the night and how much he stressed and even commanded us to watch and pray, it only stands to reason that to be watching for and eagerly anticipating His return is one of the core elements that makes one ready for Him when He returns.  If we have a “bucket plus list” that keeps us from eagerly watching and looking for His return, then we risk not being considered “ready” and worthy in His sight to go with Him when He returns.


No matter what your view of when the rapture of the church will take place, the fact remains that His return is very, very near. The fulfillment of Biblical end-time prophecy before our very eyes points to the very near start of the tribulation period, which in turn tells us that the rapture could happen at any moment for those of us who believe in a pre-tribulation rapture.  So, this is not the time to have a “bucket plus list”, but instead it is the time to get rid of them and start watching and looking for His return with anticipation.  Don’t be like the foolish virgins who were not ready and prepared for His return because of the things you want to see happen before He comes for His bride.  After all, what is more important; the things you have on your “bucket plus list”, or the return of Christ for you His bride?  What is most important to you reveals where your heart is, or more importantly where your heart is not.  Are you ready for Him to return, even if it is this very day or night?


Watch and pray, and eagerly desire to see Him when He returns more than anything or anyone else, otherwise He may not consider you ready when He does return.


John Johansson

The House of God

A few weeks ago on a Wednesday, while helping to take up the offering, I saw almost a dozen of our youth with their cell phones out texting, surfing on the internet, or playing games.  This was very disconcerting to me as it became even more apparent how far we’ve come from honoring God and the house of God.  Churches have in many ways, and for a number of different reasons, evolved more into a social club than a place of worship to the Creator of the ends of the universe.  Churches, in the eyes of many, have become a place of optional attendance where many can go to get the latest updates on what’s happening with others instead of meeting with the one true God.  Don’t get me wrong, we do need to interact and fellowship with other believers, and we don’t have to attend church to meet with God, but we’re talking about a place set aside for the purpose of gathering together to meet and worship Him in a corporate setting.  Yet, we often time treat it no differently or no better than the local grocery store, a school or place of employment, just to name a few places.  In many ways we treat church more as a social club than as a place of worship.

How is that an overwhelming number of churches, places set aside as a place of worship, have become more of a social club of sorts?  Is it because we have as some call it, lost the ‘fear’ of the Lord?  Do we not value or revere God for who He is anymore?  Have we become so caught up with our own life, and our pursuit of it and the happiness we hope to attain by it, that we are no longer concerned about the God who created us?  The same God who is more than able to, as Jesus put it, to destroy both body and soul in hell?

You say that I’m wrong, and that churches are still revered as a place of meeting and worship of the one true God?  Think about it.  If students had their cell phones out to text, surf the internet or play games while in class and their teacher is talking, would that be considered acceptable and overlooked by the teacher or school administration?  Or, what about the employee who is having to receive some training but keeps talking to others, either intermittently or continuously, especially about things that don’t pertain to what the training involves or could wait until afterwards?  Would your employer be okay with that?  I venture to say that neither of these situations would be allowed nor tolerated, and that there would probably be some negative consequences to such behavior either immediately or shortly thereafter.

I’ve heard some argue that there is nothing wrong with this behavior in church, citing various different reasons to justify it.  Recently, however, I thought of another situation that discounts many of the reasons I’ve heard and at the same time shows the lack of regard or value some have for the house of God.  Or should I say how much they value other places and events above that of our churches which are to be a place of worship?  Cell phones have become for many a necessity in life, something that provides a ‘life-line’ of communication and entertainment for many.  It’s as if some can’t bear the thought of just turning it off or ignoring it when it beckons for their attention.  I’ve known many, both past and present, that can’t seem to leave their phones alone, so much so that some felt just checking their phone was more important than keeping their job, and it cost them.

I told you I thought of a situation that demonstrates how much we’ve lost respect and reverence for the house of God, so I’ll tell you what that is.  Now, I must start by saying that it’s been years since I’ve visited a movie theater, but I venture to say that things haven’t changed much since then.  When a person goes to a theater to watch a movie they are expecting to see the movie without any interruptions or distractions of any kind.  If there is anyone that seems to have a problem staying quiet by continually having to say something or make a lot of noise, that wouldn’t be tolerated and the person would be asked to leave.  If someone kept using their cell phone, people wouldn’t appreciate the repeated distraction of the display lighting up or the various audio sounds it would broadcast.  I know that there are some who will go so far as to either turn their phones off or put them on silent, and if someone needs to get a hold of them they will have to wait until after the movie ends, unless they will step outside into the lobby area.  The idea is that many will keep their phones off or ignore them until after the movie is over, not wanting to be distracted from the movie or to be a distraction to others, not really worried about checking it or making people wait, but will they do the same thing during church?  Do they approach their time at church the same way?  For myself, my phone goes on silent before church starts and remains silent and unchecked until after Sunday school, the only exception possibly being between the service and Sunday school if not preoccupied.

Like the movie theater, there are other places that we frequent where we have reasonable expectations of what to expect when we get there.  When we go to the grocery store we expect to get groceries, not an update on the current events in the Middle East.  When we go to our place of employment we expect to do the work our employer assigns us to do, not to take out some golf clubs and practice our golf swings.  When we go to school or some other form of training we expect to learn from those giving the instruction, not to sit back in our seats with an espresso coffee in one hand and in our other hand texting others with our cell phones.  Yet, when it comes to church, a place set aside for the corporate worship and learning of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Creator of the ends of the universe, we find it hard to avoid the various behaviors associated with a very casual social club and to focus on the purpose the church is set apart for.  We can gather with fellow believers at other various locations and times where a more casual time of fellowship is expected and enjoyed, but the House of God should be recognized as such and given the respect and reverence it deserves and requires.

So, I conclude by asking you a few simple questions I hope you will honestly ask yourself over the next few days.  Are there one or more places that you frequent where you have no problem leaving your cell phone alone for the duration of time you are there no matter what, whether that means it is turned off or on silent?  Are there one or more places that you frequent where you have no problem focusing on both the purpose the place is set aside for and the leaders giving instruction instead of trying to catch up or talk with others in attendance?  Did you include the House of God in your answers to the last two questions?  If you did, is at the top of your list?  If the House of God was not included in either of your answers, or if it wasn’t at the top of the list, then it could be surmised that you do not value the House of God as much as other places, or as much as we ought as both children of God and Ambassadors of Christ.  Take the time these next few days and honestly ask yourself each of these questions, then ask yourself if your actions and behaviors support what you say is important and valuable to you.


John Johansson

What’s Keeping You from Church?

Over the years I’ve seen and heard of many who have stopped  going to church for one reason or another, and sadly the trend just seems to be  growing.  On several occasions I have had  conversations with people who have stopped going to church, and for them they  feel very justified in it.  Most not only  shared why they’ve stopped going, but were also very transparent into their  thought processes that they felt legitimized their decision. There were also  some who acknowledged they had stopped going to church but couldn’t point to  any particular reason except to say that life got in the way.  While there are numerous reasons why people  stop going to church, I believe that there two core reasons that are the basis  for the countless other reasons people give, and I want to take a look a brief  look at them.

Before we get into the core reasons why I believe many stop  going to church, I first want to remind ourselves of what Paul tells us in Hebrews  10:24-25, and also to take a look into some of the reasons some have given for  not going to church.

Paul tells us in Hebrews 10:24-25 (NKJV);       24.  And let us consider one another in order to  stir up love and good works,       25.  not forsaking the assembling of ourselves  together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the  more as you see the Day approaching.

Paul tells us three things in this passage; 1) to consider  others by, 2) not forsaking or neglecting the gathering of “ourselves” together  and, 3) especially all the more as we see that day of His return  approaching.  Paul is telling us that our  time gathering with other believers is not just for us, but it is for  others.  To not go for reasons focused on  self is simple selfishness.  Apparently  there was an issue in Paul’s day with people not being faithful to the  assembling together of the brethren for him to address it, so it’s not a new  issue.  Paul also instructs us to make  sure we are faithful more and more as we see that Day approaching, yet in the  midst of so much prophecy unfolding before our very eyes alerting us to His  soon return the churches are becoming more and more empty.  Something is wrong with this picture, would  you agree?

I want to set the record straight by saying that our  attendance record in gathering with other believers at that house of God is not  the determining factor to your place in eternity, but the reasons behind that  attendance record could be.  Some try to  make an issue of one’s attendance record to church as an eternal one, and that  is wrong.  The issue shouldn’t be so much  what our attendance record is as much as the reasons behind it.  Let me explain with an example.  A person may work at a hospital, a prison or  even a fire department, and because of it there are times that they are  required to work a shift that conflicts with getting together with fellow  believers at times, and I would consider those as legitimate reasons.  On the other hand, and I’ve seen this a lot,  a person may ‘conveniently’ accept a job, work overtime, or even request  specific shifts that will conflict with church as an excuse for not going.  They have no intentions on going, and if they  can ‘conveniently’ work when the two conflict then it helps their conscious and  keeps others and their questions at bay.

So, what are some reasons people have given for not  attending church?  One of the biggest  reasons given is hypocrisy.  They note  how some claim to be Christians but in their opinion aspects of that person’s  life or character do not seem to match that claim, and they don’t want any part  in it.  Another reason is because they’ve  been hurt in some way by others in the church, and they don’t see why they need  to stay and be vulnerable to getting hurt again.  Oh, and what about this one?  For whatever reason they expected God to move  in some way in their life but when He didn’t as they thought He should they  concluded it wasn’t real and that it was just a scam of some sort to get people’s  money.  Even though the list of reasons  could go on and on, I want to through one more out at you.  Some have stopped simply because they got  caught up in life, whether it was in some form of recreation and hobbies, the  pursuit to make more money or further a career, business or education, to  travel, to rest, or to just hang out with friends or family.  No matter what the reason given is, they  always seem justified in them.

I recently wrote an article called, “Yes, but God  understands …”, and you can almost see the same mindset I shared in that  article in these reasons to not be faithful to church.  God understands each of the reasons one may  give for not going to church, so whether or not God understands is not the  issue or the question.  The question is,  however, does our view of God’s understanding of our reasons truly match up  with God’s understanding of them?  In  other words, does our picture of God understanding accurately and truly match  up with God’s understanding of them?

At the core of many of the reasons people give for not being  faithful to church are one of two reasons.   The first reason is found in that it is not a priority.  We tend to view church and gathering with  other believers as something optional if it’s convenient and we feel up to  it.  One of the things that gets under my  skin is when people put more stock and importance on being faithful to work or  school even when it’s not convenient or they’re not feeling good, but when it  comes to church they have a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude.  God, Jesus, the Creator of the ends of the  universe, desires and instructs us to be faithful in gathering with other  believers, where we can receive from Him in much greater ways than we ever  could from an employer or teacher.  There  is something to be said when believers gather together to seek Him in a  corporate setting that you won’t get in any other venue of any size.  We should value time with Him, the Creator of  the ends of the universe, and with fellow believers more importantly than  anybody or anything else.  It’s not just  an issue of priorities regarding His place in our lives, because many will  argue they can pray and worship Him just as well if not better at home or with  a small group of people, but do we value and prioritize His instructions to us,  His “followers”?  Many try to separate their  relationship with God apart from their interaction with fellow believers and  His Word, but that can’t be done.  If you  value interaction with fellow believers and obeying His Word as unimportant,  then your relationship with Him is lacking and not what you think it is.  So, one of the core reasons many stop going  to church is because they do not place a high priority, in fact the highest  priority, on Him and His Word.  When He’s  not the top and highest priority in your life, then something or someone is an  idol to you, and He strongly frowns upon idolatry.

The second core reason why many stop going to church is  because their eyes are on man more than they are on Jesus.  When one’s eyes are more on a man than on  Jesus, they then become very vulnerable to allowing the hurts, the offenses,  and the ungodly (un-Biblical) teaching of some to push them away.  We will all experience hurts and at times be  offended by someone, that is a given, but when our eyes are more on man than on  Jesus it becomes extremely difficult to overcome and press through.  When we’re hurt and offended it’s easy to start  using others as an excuse for not following Him and His Word, excuses Jesus  will not allow or accept when each of us stand before Him to be judged.  When we allow someone to keep us from being  faithful to church for whatever reason, we’ve then allowed them to be more  influential to us than Jesus Himself.   Yes, we could talk about those who have hurt or offended us that keep us  away, but it could also be because we value other people and their opinions  more highly than Gods.  In either case,  our eyes are more on man than on Jesus, which is also idolatry.  Since my youth I have observed something that  touches on this, and as I share it keep in mind that we are simply asking the  question, “What is keeping you from church?”, and how that our eyes being more  on man than on Jesus plays into that.  It  could also fall under the area of Jesus not being in His rightful place in our  lives as well.  As I mentioned, ever  since my youth I have observed something regarding people and going to  church.  We’ve been mentioning some of  the ‘negative’ reasons for this, but there is a reason that in itself doesn’t  seem to be negative but is just as dangerous.   I’ve noticed how that when people have friends or family visiting them  they deal with this in either one of two ways.   One way that I’ve observed people handle this is that they invite their  visitors to go with them to church, citing that following Jesus is the highest  priority in their life and for their family, and one way that is lived out is  to be faithful as a family to church.  I’ve  heard how that there have been times the visitors went with them, or they chose  to leave, or to wait at the house for when they returned.  Sometimes the visitors were also Christians,  and sometimes they were not, but the approach was the same.  The second way that I’ve observed people  handling this is to just not go.  It didn’t  matter if they were friends or family, Christians or not, they were content  with staying home with them.  Sometimes  their rational was that they wanted more time to sit and talk or to do some  activity with them, and at other times it was because they were afraid of  offending them in some way.  Wow, what  does that tell God?  Here we are  ambassadors of Christ with the task of reconciling men to Him, yet we ignore or  downplay opportunities to do just that because we want social time or afraid of  offending someone?  If they’re not  Christians, wouldn’t we want to take them to church where God might reach them  and they can have an opportunity to meet fellow believers?  Besides, if they don’t see and believe with  our lives and our priorities that God is the most important person in our life  and of the highest priority, then what message are we saying to them as to how  important He is, or is not, to us?  And  if they are Christians, how awesome would it be to go and worship God as a  family especially when those opportunities may be few?  What it comes down to is if our eyes are more  on man than on Jesus?

So, what is keeping you from heeding Gods  instructions for us to be faithful and not neglect the assembling of “ourselves”  (which includes YOU) together with the brethren?  Maybe you are being faithful, and that is  great if you are, but if you’re not then you need to take a few steps back and  re-assess what is keeping you from church and why?  If Jesus were to appear before you tonight to  have a chat, and he were to ask why you haven’t been faithful to church, knowing  He knows your heart, what would you tell Him?   If you haven’t been faithful then I would suggest that now is the time  to change that.  The news headlines are  pointing to Jesus’ very soon return, and I don’t want you to be caught  unprepared for Him.

Going to church with “expectation”

Have you ever heard people say that they don’t get anything out of church, or that while others receive something from God they don’t?  There are many different reasons why people go to church.  Some go because that is what they’ve always done, having been raised in church all their life.  Others go because they view it as a social gathering, a place where they can meet with friends and chat and have fun.  Others go because they are being dragged there, either by a spouse, a parent, a friend, a co-worker, or someone else.  And even then, there are some who go only out of a sense of duty and obligation.  Why do you go to church?  Or, are you going to church?

I’m not going to get into why Christians need to go to church, much less why they need to be faithful and plugged into a local church, but I really want to focus on our attitude about going.  Like I said, there are many who go for all the wrong reasons, and no wonder why they don’t receive from God what He has for them.  What’s worse is that the respect and reverence for the house of God just is not there anymore, for the most part that is.  Yes, I do know that our bodies are the temple of God for those of us who are in relationship with His son, Jesus, but I’m talking about those places that have been set aside as a place where His followers come together corporately.  The house of God has become a location for social gatherings and connection, not that there is anything necessarily wrong with that, but all to often it is at the expense of God, Himself.  While it can be argued we’ve lost the respect and reverence for these places that we should have, and I will agree with that, what is more disheartening is that we’ve lost respect and reverence for God.  It’s a shame that more often than not, people, especially the younger generations, have more respect for their employers, their teachers, their friends and family, and even their hobbies and recreation, than they do the Creator of the ends of the universe, God almighty.  We can sit and pay attention to a teacher giving us a lecture or instructions on something, an employer conducting some training, a politician or some hollywood celebrity, or even a ‘respected’ athlete, but we can’t give even the same respect for God who created everything and everyone.  It isn’t an issue of having respect and reverence for the house of God, it’s more an issue of showing our respect and reverence to the God of all creation.  The way we respect and reverence the house of God is a reflection of our respect and reverence towards God.

Why am I talking about respect and reverence for the house of God when I’m supposed to be talking about going to church with expectation?  Well, it’s simple.  If I went to your house and did not show it respect, odds are I’m not going to receive anything from you even if I expect it.  If I went to the White House but did not show respect towards it, then I would be amiss to expect anything from the President.  However, if I were to show great respect for the White House, the acting President would interpret that as respect for him in the role of President, and it would be his good pleasure to do whatever he can for me.  So, how can I really expect to receive something from God when I don’t even respect His house?

Another thing, if I don’t show respect towards those who represent God then I’m showing disrespect for Him.  The other day we had interviews where I work and an interesting thing took place.  One of the people interviewed had been showing an arrogant attitude and there was some concern if he was hired.  Well, as he was leaving he made a comment to another employee which showed disrespect towards current management.  The owner of the company heard this person make the comment and that was “all she wrote” as this guy torpedoed any chance of getting hired.  Just the same way, when God sees and hears our disrespect towards His servants, He has the final word.

If we want to receive from God when we go to church, the first place to begin with is to make sure we have a respect for Him, and that we show Him that respect by our respect towards His servants and His house.  The next thing we need to do is go with expectation.  I’ve been in churches where people go, knowing that God could show up and touch them, but if He doesn’t then there is always next time.  These churches don’t see God do much, though He may move in their midst in a limited capacity at times.  There are other churches I have attended that people would attend with great expectation to receive something from God through music, word, and His servants, and these churches see God moving often.  Usually the people in these churches generally have a strong passion for Him, and that just creates an atmosphere that literally invite Him to show up.  I don’t know about you, but I want Him to feel both invited and welcomed to come and ‘visit’.  I want to go with an expectation that no matter what is said or done, or how good or bad things are, He is going to show up and meet me there.  Oh, that could happen at home or somewhere hidden in nature, but there is something about being with others of like mind in a corporate setting that rolls out the ‘red carpet’ for God, and I want to be there when He comes walking down the runway.  How about you?

So, if you don’t already do so, start going to church with expectancy and see what happens.  Your life may never be the same when you begin to see God respond to your expectancy of His attendance and what He has for you.  You can’t expect God to give you something you’re not expecting to get, especially if you don’t show Him the respect and reverence due Him.

Copyright 2012 – John Johansson

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