I am too busy to go to church

“Are you going to church this morning?” Mary asked her mother. “Oh, no!” her mother replied. “I have way too many things to do! I just don’t have the time.”

It’s amazing how busy our lives are. What is even more amazing is how much we can miss because we are so busy.

Jesus had a very close friend who was very busy. Her name was Martha. Jesus had come to her home for a visit, and Martha wanted to prepare a special meal for him. She was busy with the meal preparations and she was irked that her sister Mary was not helping her.

What was Mary doing? She was listening to Jesus teach God’s Word. When Martha complained about her business and Mary’s lack of help, Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).

Mary could have been busy too. But she chose to put off her business to listen to Jesus’ word. The Word that Jesus spoke had eternal consequences because it was God’s Word of love and forgiveness.

That precious Word was more important than anything Martha might be busy doing. God’s love and forgiveness is the one thing needed in your life too! Being busy is okay, but as you realize the good news of God’s Word you can find room for it in your busy day.

How do I worship God?

Worship, most of us think, is something that happens in church. And it does. But it does not start or end there.

It is better to say that worship is something that happens in our heart. It’s what happens when God speaks to our heart and our heart responds to God.

For worship to take place, we have to hear God’s message of love. We call it the gospel, which means “good news.” God tells us that good news in his Word, the Bible. He tells us how he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to win forgiveness of sins for us and give us eternal life.

When God’s good news reaches our heart, it lifts the weight of guilt from our soul. It makes us happy because God loves us and he cares for us. Our happy response is to love him back and to say, “Thank you, God!” And we praise him. Also, as with other good news, we want to share it with others.

That is worship. Because it starts in our heart, we can worship anywhere. We just need to keep in mind that it has two sides: God speaks to us, and we respond to God. Another way of understanding worship is that it is everything we do because of our faith in Jesus.

The impact of worship multiplies when we join in worship with other Christians. That is where church comes in. In church God talks to us through Bible readings and preaching. The church service is designed to remind us how much we need Jesus and how he has filled our needs. He lived a perfect life that God the Father credits to us. Then he took upon himself the punishment we deserve for sin when he died on the cross. He proved our eternal joy when he rose from the dead, assuring us of a new life in Christ!

In church, believers together respond with music and song, thankfulness and praise. We pray for each other and encourage each other with God’s promises. We form a bond of Christian love and faithfulness. We work together to serve God. Therefore, each of us can say with David in Psalm 122:1: “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD.’ ”

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More Bible passages about worship, taken from the New International Reader’s Version Discoverer’s Bible:

Colossians 3:16, 17. Let Christ’s word live in you like a rich treasure. Teach and correct each other wisely. Sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing with thanks in your hearts to God. Do everything you say or do in the name of the Lord Jesus. Always give thanks to God the Father through Christ.

Romans 12:1. Brothers and sisters, God has shown you his mercy. So I am asking you to offer up your bodies to him while you are still alive. Your bodies are a holy sacrifice that is pleasing to God. When you offer your bodies to God, you are worshiping him.

Hebrews 10:25. Let us not give up meeting together. Some are in the habit of doing this. Instead, let us cheer each other up with words of hope. Let us do it all the more as you see the day coming when Christ will return.

What is love?

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. – 1 John 3:16

If you asked ten different people what love is you may very well receive ten different answers. Ask a three-year-old and his answer may be a simple “mom.” Ask a psychologist and you may have to settle in for a long and complicated response. The answer given by a fifteen-year-old girl will likely be very different than the one given by a sixty-year-old man who has been married to the same woman for 42 years.

Even though these answers may all be different, they likely all revolve around the same thing–emotion. Describing what love is usually involves describing how a person makes them feel or the committed feelings they have about a certain person.

God doesn’t talk about emotion when he describes love in his Word. He talks about action. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”

Love is defined by the greatest act of self-sacrifice ever made. God’s own Son gave up his life for you. He didn’t do it because of the way you made him feel. He did it because he knew it was the only way for you to live with him forever. He shed his blood not because he saw some great potential within you. He shed his blood because the sin within you needed to be washed away.

Jesus Christ laid down his life for you because his desire to save you eternally was far greater than any desire to preserve his own life. That selfless, self-sacrificing action is the very definition of love.

Now that you know what love is, go and love others.

Why does God love sinners?

Let’s take another question first. “Why do mothers love their children?” Mothers love their beautiful babies, but they love their ugly babies, too. It’s not because of how the child looks or what the child does. Mary, the mother of Jesus, loved her son. But probably the mother of Judas, the traitor who turned Jesus over to his enemies, loved her son as well.

Why do mothers love their children? God made mothers that way. Mothers love their children. That’s the way mothers are. We call it “mother-love.” It’s an unnatural mother that does not love her own child.

God’s love is something like mother-love. God loves the people he makes. That’s the way God is. In fact, God made us so that he could love us. In the beginning God made the world. At the end of his creation he made the human race, a man and a woman. The world and everything in it is a gift from God to the human race. He made you and me in our time because he wanted to love us, too.

Because God our maker loves all of us so much, he deserves the obedience, respect, love and trust of the human race. Beginning with the first humans, we haven’t given God what he deserves. We keep cutting ourselves off from the God who made us. We are rebels who run away from God. In other words, we are all sinners.

Why does God still love us?

He loves us because that’s the way he is. God is love, and he doesn’t change. Because he loves us, he made a plan to bring the rebellious human race home to himself again. That plan is the main plot line that runs through the whole Bible.

Really, the whole Bible is the story of God’s love for sinners like you and me. Why does he love us? That’s the way he is. God is love, and he doesn’t change. No matter who we are. No matter what we’ve done.

God says: I the LORD do not change (Malachi 3:6). God is love (1 John 4:16). He describes his plan in John 3:16: God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Why is Jesus’ resurrection from the dead significant for me?

It was refreshing, though the situation certainly wasn’t. Sandy’s mom had spent a wonderful, joy-filled day with her and her ten-month-old daughter. But it took just one moment. What started as a minor health scare quickly escalated, resulting in an emergency trip to the hospital. Less than two days later, Sandy’s mother went home to heaven.

They weren’t ready to lose her. If they could have their way, she’d still be here. So what was so refreshing? “We ask that God’s will be done.” “I’m glad she is in Jesus’ arms.” Throughout the entire tragedy, that’s what Sandy wrote.

How could she be so upbeat? In the midst of mourning, she was a modern-day Martha. Martha, fighting through tears for her brother Lazarus, freshly laid in the grave, boldly proclaimed to Jesus, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:24).

How could she be so confident? How can I be so confident? As a result of Adam and Eve’s first sin, death was introduced into the world. As a result of sin, I’ve lost loved ones. As a result of sin, I myself will lose my life one day. And as a result of my sin, God tells me there’s only one place where I deserve to go, hell.

How can I be so confident? Because I have a loving Savior. Where I struggle and fail each day to love and obey God, Jesus didn’t ever fail. Even when loving God meant dying for me, Jesus obeyed. His love for me took him to the cross. His love has taken away all the guilt of my sins.

How can I be so confident? Because I have a living Savior. Jesus died, but he’s not dead. His resurrection is more than just an occasion to commemorate once a year on Easter. It’s the proof that Jesus not only forgave my sins and conquered hell, it’s also the promise that because he lives, I also will live. When I die, in his loving and living arms, I will live!

Jesus’ resurrection gives me confidence. It makes me confident to say, “I know that my Redeemer lives.” I am refreshed in every joy and every sorrow because I know that my Redeemer lives. And when at last my earthly journey is done, I will wake to live forever with my Savior because my Redeemer lives.

The Good Shepherd Leads You

The Lord is my Shepherd; I’ll not be in want. – Psalm 23:1

Psalm 23 describes our Savior God as our Shepherd. And because he is our loving Shepherd, we come to this confident conclusion: we shall never be in want—we shall never lack anything we truly need.

How does the Lord our Shepherd give us such confidence? We can trust where our Good Shepherd leads us. He guides us for our benefit, even if it doesn’t always appear that way.

Many people want to be leading their own life. As they strive after numerous things, they look somewhat like a dog chasing its tail. They pursue money, possessions, popularity and many other things, but those things don’t give them any true peace and lasting fulfillment. They know what they want for themselves, but they miss what they need for a relationship with God.

Give thanks that we do not have to be part of this vain chase. We do not lead. Our Shepherd does, and his lead is always for our greatest benefit. He supplies everything we really need for our physical life. Most importantly, he gives us what we absolutely need for our souls: the forgiveness of sins which he provided by laying down his life for us!

Take comfort in the confidence that your Good Shepherd is always leading you. Trust him, and gladly follow the Lord who is your Shepherd.

Does God really care?

Does a shepherd care about a lost sheep?  Does a father care about a wayward son?

Jesus Christ used both examples to assure those who have made terrible mistakes, assumed deplorable lifestyles, or suffered grievous loss that God cares for them. Jesus was being criticized because he “welcomed sinners” (Luke 15). So he defended his compassionate care with two stories that people would understand.

In the story of the sheep, a shepherd owns a hundred sheep, and one of them becomes lost. He takes a calculated risk, leaves the other ninety-nine sheep, and goes after the lost sheep. He calls it by name. He rescues it.

He joyfully puts it on his shoulders.

The wayward son isn’t ignorant, like a sheep, but rebellious. He demands his inheritance and then lives the wild life in a distant country until he spends it all foolishly. His money and his pride gone, so he returns to his father and pleads to be hired as a servant.

Instead, he is welcomed by his father like a king. A party is thrown in his honor.

Now, a shepherd may take a privilege or two away from a sheep that tends to stray, just to keep that rascal in plain sight. A father may not be so willing to extend responsibility to a foolish son. Neither indicate lack of loving care, however, but just the opposite – a loving care that is willing to help even if it hurts.

We will sometimes see the loving care of God and appreciate it. Other times we will see sadness and pain. During sad times our limited understanding can yield to our faith that God understands more than we do, and he cares in a way we can’t understand.

We turn to his promises and hold him to his Word, “In all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).

How Can I Live in the Presence of God?

Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. (Romans 10:4)

If you want to live in the presence of a holy, perfect, and righteous God, then you need to be holy, perfect, and righteous yourself. If you are holy, perfect, and righteous, then you can live in his presence and live in his presence forever.

This is the situation that every single human being ever born into this world finds him or herself in. It’s also a problem. A huge problem!

It’s a problem because none of us can meet this standard that our holy, perfect, and righteous God has placed on us. We are, by our very natures, stained with sin and so everything we think, say, and do is stained with sin too. We have failed to meet God’s standard. We have not kept his law in the righteous way that he demands. We deserve to be cast away from his holy, perfect and righteous presence forever.

This is how the story of every single human being ever born into this world would end if…

…if Christ would have never entered into our story. But praise be to God, he did! He entered into the story of humanity as God himself made flesh and into our story for a very important reason. He came to live the righteous life that God demands of us. The righteous life that we could not live on our own he lived in our place–perfect obedience all his life to every last one of God’s laws. Now, his righteous life is for all of humanity as a free gift. So, how does this gift of righteousness become our own?

God’s Word teaches, “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”

Christ’s righteousness becomes our own through faith. Through faith in what Christ has done for us, we personally receive the righteousness that Christ has won for the world. Therefore, through faith in what Christ has done, we stand before our righteous God with the righteousness that he demands from us—not a righteousness we attempt to produce ourselves, but the righteousness that has been gifted to us by Christ. That means, by faith in Jesus we live in God’s righteous presence forever!

Jesus is Light

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned (Isaiah 9:2).

Light is certainly one of the most precious things in our world. Without it, we can’t do much of anything. The simplest tasks become all but impossible when darkness envelopes us instead of light.

A lack of light can also strike fear into our hearts and be quite dangerous. If you have ever tried navigating your way through complete darkness, you know this to be true. When you can’t even see your hand two inches in front of your face, it is impossible to walk with purpose and confidence. That is what life is like without Jesus.

Without Jesus there is no purpose in life. Every reason our world produces for our existence comes up empty in the end. Without the light of Jesus, we would be forced to stumble our way through life, bumping into blessings without knowing where they come from and tripping over trials and problems. As we stumble we would always have the terrifying understanding that death could be right around the corner.

Thank God for sending Jesus to be the Light that illuminates our lives. He gives us hope and purpose. He came to remove the darkness of sin by shedding his blood and scatter the shadow of death by rising from the grave. Since our sins have been paid for by his blood, we have the sure confidence that every one of our sins has been removed – even the ones that weigh us down with the most guilt. Since he rose from the grave we have the rock-solid guarantee that death is not the end for us. We too will rise with him to live eternally.

With Jesus lighting up our lives we can live with confidence and purpose. The confidence comes from knowing that nothing can change the fact that our sins have been washed away by his blood and our eternal life guaranteed by his resurrection. Our purpose now is to live every moment to his glory.

Protected Information

Mark 13:32-33: Jesus says “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on your guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.”

Why doesn’t God tell us everything. Wouldn’t it be helpful for us? Wouldn’t it make us better? However, God protected some information because it could be misused.

As Jesus prepared his disciples for the time he would complete his work on this earth, he wanted them to understand there are some things they will never know. This was especially true regarding the last day. He made it clear, no one had that knowledge. Even at that time as he humbled himself to the point of death, he chose not to have that knowledge. Still, wouldn’t it be better if this knowledge were not protected?

In his undeserved love the Lord chose to protect certain information about the last day. His concern was that this knowledge would be misused. He would be right. Because of our sinful nature we would indulge ourselves right up to the time when the Lord would return. We would even feel secure in this destructive life style because we knew that there would always be time to change. But would we?

This is why Jesus makes the last day and hour protected information. He also exhorts us to keep watch and be on guard. Not knowing when Jesus will come suddenly turns our attention to what we need to do to be prepared.

In the time which remains we can dedicate ourselves to grow in his Word and to grow in the peace of his forgiveness. We can dedicate ourselves to a more faithful life of prayer and loving service. This will keep us focused and ready.

Although the day and hour of the Lord’s return is protected information, we can find great joy and peace in what we do know about our Savior and how he prepares us for his return.