Show Up | The Challenge
Monday— And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25
Mindi and Hank settled on the sofa next to Jesus. He smiled and said, “It’s Sunday morning. What are we doing today?” Hank picked up the remote. “We’re gonna do church online and then maybe golf this afternoon. How’s that sound?” Jesus looked puzzled. “What do you mean by ‘do church’?” He asked. Mindi leaned forward. “You know, watch it on TV. It’s streaming live from our church downtown.” Jesus nodded slowly. “You mean your church is meeting, but you’re only going to watch them? Is there a reason?” Hank frowned. “Well, you know, Covid…and we’re tired, and it’s just easier to do church than go to church.”
Can you imagine having a conversation like that with Jesus? What do you think He’d say? (Hint: He’s already told us. See above verse). It’s impossible to “stir up one another to love and good works” if we’re not there. It’s impossible to encourage, serve, minister to, or meet together if we’re only “doing church.” TV church is NOT church. It’s a TV program about God and the Bible, featuring people we may know. Technology is a blessing for people physically unable to attend church services. But it’s only a substitute, not a fulfillment of this verse. We already see the Day approaching when it will be illegal to meet together for worship. While we have freedom to do so, God expects those who claim His name to meet together and BE the church.
Final Thought: If Jesus showed up at your house on a Sunday morning, what would He expect you to do together?
Prayer: Father, is this me? I make excuses and assume you’ll be fine with them, but your word has already spoken. You’ve commanded me to become an involved part of your church in my town. Am I pleasing you about that? In Jesus’ name, amen.
Tuesday— When he came to the village of Nazareth…He went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath … Luke 4:16
Why would the Son of God need to go to the house of God every week? Didn’t He already know what they’d teach? After all, He wrote the curriculum. But what if He’d had YouTube? Would He have stayed home and watched it on TV? Tough week for you? Think about the kind of week Jesus had—walking for miles, teaching, healing, doing miracles, explaining things for the umpteenth time to His clueless disciples. If anybody had reason to stay home in His jammies and “do church,” it was Jesus.
So why did He go every week? Because it never occurred to Him not to. He wanted to be there, wanted to be with God’s people, imperfect as they were. He wanted to help teach and guide them, wanted to soak up the fellowship of people hungry to know God. If we want to be like Jesus, then it can never occur to us to disobey Him. We know God wants us to plug into a good church, so it never occurs to us to say, “Forget it. Those people irritate me. I can be just as close to God at home in my Lazy Boy.” Did First Church of Nazareth always preach what He wanted them to preach? Were the Rabbis always right? Were the people always good, wise, and correct in their doctrine? If we read a little farther, we see that some of them wanted to throw Him over a cliff. He knew they wouldn’t accept Him, but He went anyway because it never occurred to Him not to.
Final Thought: Who makes the decision about whether or not you go to church on Sunday? Is it God or is it you?
Prayer: Father, this convicts me. If Jesus thought church attendance was important, then I should consider it important too. Forgive my lapses of the past. Show me where you want me to plug in. I commit to following His example. In His name, amen.
Wednesday— …zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me. Psalm 69:9
“Get out!” The whip came down on a table and knocked it over. “Get this out of here!” A merchant scrambled to gather his spilled coins, tripping over another in his rush to get away from the whip. Animals bleated, bayed, squealed, and spooked. Men shouted, tables crashed to the floor, money flew like confetti as con artists half-ran, half-crawled to get to the door. Jesus stood in the middle of the floor, panting, whip in His hand, sweat beading on His forehead. His disciples cowered in shock, but a scripture floated through their minds. The Psalmist had written about this; now they’d seen it: zeal for God’s house (John 2:17).
Zeal is neither good nor bad. It depends on the reason for that zeal. We see zeal at every ball game, every concert, every political rally. We have no problem being zealous, but the objects of our zeal are not always worthy of it. Isn’t it odd that we think nothing of a group of men leaping, clapping, and shouting at a football game, but if they did that in church, we’d be shocked. God created us for zeal, but Satan has misdirected it. God wants to see us zealous for His holiness, His reputation, His word, His people. But Satan convinces us to waste our passions on things that don’t matter and give God the leftovers. Jesus didn’t waste His zeal on stickball, dice, or races. Maybe He enjoyed them, but only His Father’s house deserved zeal.
Final Thought: What are you most zealous about? Does Jesus agree with you?
Prayer: Jesus, you were so zealous for the things of God that you were willing to be misunderstood and even hated. Help me develop that kind of zeal. Let nothing keep me from gathering with your people, in your house, to worship you. Amen.
Thursday— I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.” Psalm 122:1
Chad groaned and pulled the covers over his head to escape his wife’s angry face. “Chad, we’re gonna be late for church,” she said again. He’d heard her the first four times, but the bed was so warm and his fishing rod was calling. “We don’t have to go today,” he mumbled into his pillow. “God will understand.” He listened as she stomped from the room and slammed the door behind her. He heard the muffled sounds as she hustled the kids out the door. By herself. Again. Guilt tickled his soul, but he shoved it away as he did every week and he wondered again: Why was she so glad to go but he wasn’t?
The answer is unpleasant and one Chad would deny all the way to his boat: he had another god. In fact, he had several and none of them were the Lord because the Lord will not share His throne. Chad was NOT glad when they said, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” His heart sank because that’s not where his passions were. His preferred gods were comfort, fishing, relaxation, and self-rule, and that left little place for Jesus. His heart had not been transformed by the Holy Spirit, his allegiance had never shifted from self-worship. Going to church was a duty that nice people did, but it was uncomfortable and boring. God was a concept, but not a Person he loved. So he wasn’t excited about going to church because his gods were not there.
Final Thought: If we’re not glad when we get to go to the house of the Lord, we need a heart check.
Prayer: God, am I being a hypocrite when I call you Lord? Do my choices prove you are Lord of my life? Show me my real gods. What makes me glad? Do my passions lie somewhere besides you? I’m ready for the truth. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Friday— …and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18
What did Jesus mean that He was going to “build my church?” Sure, He was a carpenter, but we have no record of Him actually constructing a building. We think of “church” as a structure we enter to have worship services but that’s not what Jesus meant. The Greek word translated “church” is “ekklésia.” It means a gathering, or an assembly. That’s why it is impossible to “have church” by ourselves. We can worship, serve, and pray by ourselves, but we’re not having church. We’re only “in church” when we are with other believers for the purpose of worshiping and serving Jesus.
So why is it so important that we assemble? First of all, God knows that Lone Ranger Christians don’t fare very well. Avoiding the assembling of ourselves together creates religious wingnuts. We veer into the weeds when there is no accountability, no balancing, and no spiritual authorities to correct us when we’re getting off track. Satan sneers at Lone Rangers and bides his time until we’ve become a law unto ourselves. Then he strikes in a way that convinces us even our disobedience is fine with God. “I prayed about divorcing, marrying an unbeliever, lying, continuing my addiction, having unmarried sex, staying prideful…” Lone Rangers say with lifted chin. “God knows my heart.” And they march boldly into Satan’s trap, believing themselves righteous for doing so. Jesus created the church for our good and His glory and expects us to be faithful to it.
Final Thought: Are you justifying being a Lone Ranger Christian? You won’t recognize Satan’s trap until it’s too late.
Prayer: Father, in these turbulent times, it’s so easy to drift away from your church. There are so many other options to hear your word, but it’s not the same as being part of it. Help me be faithful to you and your church. In Jesus’ name, amen.