There is a birthday card making the rounds that says, “You know what they say about age — it’s all in your mind.” Inside the card it adds, “and your legs, your arms, your neck, your arches, your back, your shoulders, etc.” Well, the body may grow old, but the mind and the spirit can be ever young.
There need be no debate about whether or not God uses large churches or small churches. Both have their place and can even bless each other. We remember that Spurgeon regularly preached to over 6,000 per Sunday. That is a truly remarkable number for his time. But, that is not how it began. Spurgeon was converted at the age of fifteen in a small church where only a handful worshipped, on a snowy Sunday when the crowd was even smaller than usual.
In our own time, Bob Russell, recently retired from Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, helped lead his congregation to the place where they ran over 18,000 in attendance. When Russell was a young man, he grew up in and was nurtured by a church which at the time was running less than 100 in attendance.
All churches can contribute to the work of the kingdom regardless of size. Let us give praise to churches that are faithful wherever they are and however many sit in the auditorium.
Recently the Gallup organization released results of a survey that said that 82% of Americans identified themselves with a Christian religion. 51% said they were Protestant, 5% said "other Christian," 23% said they were Roman Catholic, and 3% named some other Christian faith. Gallup reports that this is down a bit.
Interestingly, actual church membership has declined from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s where 73-75% said they were church members. Since 2002; the number has dipped to 63%. What about actual church attendance? 45% in recent years say they attended church in the pervious seven days.
Belief in God and at least a nominal commitment to Jesus remains strong, but a deep commitment to Christ and his church is still a goal we all labor for.
In some ways, people have distanced themselves from the cross. But, they cannot avoid it. The cross of Christ has so affected the nations of the world, that many national flags still display it. A partial list would include: Jamaica, Burundi, Denmark, Finland, Iceland Sweden, the UK, Switzerland, Greece, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Tuval, Tonga Slovakia and Malta. You can’t escape the influence of the cross.
We have so beautified the cross that we often forget that it was really a hideous instrument of cruel torture. In the Passion Play at Oberammergau, Germany, the man who plays the part of Christ carries a cross weighing eighty pounds and hangs on it for twenty minutes. We do not know how much the cross of Christ weighed, but He hung on it for six long hours of agony until death came.
We make it beautiful because of the way it has blessed us. We make it beautiful because it made our lives beautiful. We make it beautiful because it expresses a beautiful love. The cross is not the only ugly thing made beautiful by Jesus Christ!
The legend is that when Julius Caesar came to Alexandria, they showed him the coffin of Alexander the Great. They then asked him if he would like to see Ptolemy's coffin. He said, "I came to see a king, not a corpse." When we come to church, we come to see a King, not a corpse!
We welcome how the new technologies can help us, but even they are not infallible. The newspapers reported recently that a driver in New York using a GPS navigational device followed the instructions and drove right into the path of an oncoming train. The driver was able to get out of the way, but his car was not. The car was a total loss.
It didn’t help the man to think he was right. We need to be discerning when it comes to those who try to tell us the way. We can always depend on Christ and His word to lead us in the right direction.
A recent issue of the US News and World Report marked a significant anniversary. It reminded readers that this year is the 15th anniversary of the “Random Acts of Kindness” movement. It was in 1993 when a Bakersfield College professor named Chuck Wall challenged his class to go do a random act of kindness. Even churches took up the cause with significant results.
Wall today reminds people that even the simplest acts can have a gigantic effect. Today he urges we not discount the blessing that can come from holding the door for someone or buying a cup of coffee, or sending encouraging emails.
Jesus taught us of the importance of giving a cup of cold water in His name. He sanctified these acts by saying that we do them for Him.
The warden of Sing-Sing prison once said that, on the average, an inmate was forgotten by the outside in five years. Friends first ceased to write, then brother and sister, then sweethearts, and mother last of all. But we are never forgotten by God. The Supper reminds us of this, reassuring us that even when we forget Him, He does not forget us. Though we fail Him, He will not fail us. Even if we forsake Him, He will not forsake us. The limitless, persevering, determined love of God is written here. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son."
The theories keep changing, but here is the latest theory about how the dinosaurs became extinct. According to a new theory, reported in the news, it wasn’t an asteroid that did in the giant beasts. It was mosquitoes and ticks. The problem may have been the spread of insect-borne diseases or even the change the insects had on plant lie.
If this theory turns out to be true, it would remind us of the power of small things. Things that seem very insignificant may be powerful indeed.
SOWING AND REAPING
In a classic Peanuts comic, I remember Violet saying to Charlie Brown, “Sooner or later, Charlie Brown, there is one thing you need to learn. You reap what you sow. You get out of life exactly what you put into it. No more no less.” Snoopy, overhearing the conversation, muses, “I’d kind of like to see a little more margin for error.”
There is no margin for error here. The law of sowing and reaping is inviolate.