Jesus Was a Mourning Person

Dear Bedside Baptist,

I am not a morning person. Never have been. My brain seems to function best late at night. I am a night owl extraordinaire! When I was a teenager, my biggest gripe about going to church was that it started too early in the morning. I would rather sleep in bed than get up early and fall asleep in church. I just wasn’t a morning person. I often hear grown-ups use the same excuse for not going to church- it’s just too early. I get that. I once believed the same thing. Yep, I get it… What they’re really saying is that it’s just not a priority.

What if Jesus wasn’t a morning Person? What if He didn’t bother to hang up on the Cross early in the morning to die for our sins? What if our salvation just wasn’t that important to Him?

Not only was Jesus a morning person, but He was a mourning person. Mourning is an emotional expression of deep sorrow or grief. It acknowledges the reality of loss. Authentic mourning requires intense vulnerability. Jesus mourned lost souls. He identified with Mary and Martha over the death of Lazarus. While in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus agonized over His impending crucifixion. Luke 22:44 tells us that as He prayed to the Father, His “sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” He was deeply grieved over the knowledge of being separated from His Father as He died on the Cross. And He mourned for you and me. Jesus was a mourning Person.

In fact, it was His mourning that led Him to the Cross. He loved His body (aka- the Church, aka- you and me) so much that He sacrificed Himself so we wouldn’t have to die for our sins. Wow. Let that sit with you for a moment. Whether “big” or “small”, every sin you committed was befitting of a crime punishable by death (eternal separation from God). Jesus paid the price for that sin. Your sin. My sin. Our sins nailed Jesus to the Cross. But His love for us kept Him on the Cross. He could have easily said, “Forget it. These ingrates will only turn their backs on Me and deny me again. I know how they do. They’d love to join Me in Heaven, but they won’t appreciate the Hell I’m going through to get them there. I’m full of eternal life and they’re just full of excuses. Why bother?”  He could have saved Himself and let us pay the penalty for our own sins. Thank God He was a mourning Person.

It grieves me to hear folks rattle off excuse after excuse about why they don’t go to church: too tired, too busy, too many hypocrites, too early in the morning, too this, too that. Blah, blah, blah. Being a Pastor’s wife, I see first hand the hours dedicated to studying the Word and preparing a sermon that the congregation will only get to hear for 30-45 minutes on Sunday morning. I know the toil that sometimes goes into preparing Bible Study Lessons and the time management required to balance home, work, church, etc. (my husband, like many Pastors, is bi-vocational). I see the prayer, frustration, care, concern, and sacrifice involved with being the Under-Shepherd of a flock of individuals. But what trumps all that is knowing that the Good Shepherd laid down His life to provide eternal life and abundant life to His wayward sheep. I get offended when folks don’t commit to attending their local church. Yes, I kind of take it personally. It’s like they’re taking my Savior for granted! How can you truly confess that Jesus is first in your life when you are content with keeping Him last? Does His crucifixion mean nothing to you?

We need to go to church and Jesus expects us to go to church- on a regular basis. Every born-again believer needs to be a member of a local church (not TV church or on-line church). As I have creatively outlined in “How Deep Is Your Love?”, your commitment to your church is a clear indication of your relationship and commitment to Christ. Hebrews 10:25 instructs us not to “give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but to encourage one another…” We were created to be in relationship with each other- yep, even the hypocrites. (Side Note: saying that God is first in your life but willfully disobeying His commandments is rather, uh- hypocritical, don’t you think?). As our buddy, Pastor Tejado Hanchell (@TWH_PhD) always says, “there are hypocrites at your job, and you still go to work.   Go to church.” And might I add, you show up on time for work, so show up on time for church! Is Jesus mourning your lack of faithfulness?

You know those spiritual gifts you possess? They were given to you for the edification of the church- not for your own personal gain (see Ephesians 4:11-13).The church is in need of your gifts. Stop hoarding them. Are you grieving the Holy Spirit with your arrogance and selfishness?

Too often, too many folks have a lop-sided view of church. They consider it a place to go instead of a place to grow. They see it as a means to get something from God instead of giving back to God. Their perspective is skewed. As a result, they become spiritually malnourished and never fully develop in the things of God. How much more effective would we be as the body of Christ if we went to church to worship our Lord and Savior instead of seeking spiritual entertainment? What if we put our flesh aside and committed to serving the house of God with our gifts and talents? What if we sought to encourage our brothers and sisters, instead of judging them? After all, they’re just as human as we are. It’s pretty difficult to show care and concern for the fellow members of your church when you avoid being in their presence. What if our friends and families started taking our faith seriously because they finally see us taking it seriously? Imagine how much more effectively we could witness to our loved ones if we were living out what we talked about! What if folks lined up to get inside the church like they line up to get inside a store when a new Apple product hits the market? And what if we learned to mourn the loss of souls like Jesus did- to the point where we die to our flesh so we can share the Good News of eternal life in Christ? Imagine that!

I wish someone explained to me early on why it is so important to go to church. Perhaps I wouldn’t have made so many excuses not to go. Maybe I would have made my relationship with Christ more of a priority and set aside my childish ways a little sooner.

I am not a morning person. Never have been. Probably never will be. But I have grown enough to know that there is more to life than sleeping in on Sunday morning. I don’t want the Lord to find me sleeping on Him like He found the apostles after He finished those agonizing prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane. I don’t want to be that shallow Saint anymore. I denounced my membership at Bedside Baptist years ago. No, I’m not a morning person, but it is a privilege and honor to get up to worship and serve the Lord. I don’t do it begrudgingly or out of tradition. It’s out of willful obedience and love. Sure, sometimes I’d rather stay in the comfort of my bed when it’s too cold or too rainy, or when I’m just too tired, too busy, or to lazy to get up and go. But if Jesus got up on that rugged Cross for me (even though He didn’t feel like it), surely I can get up to be with Him- in the fellowship of other believers. Jesus was a mourning Person. He’s already mourned over me. I don’t want to be a grievance to His Spirit.

Practically Yours,

~The Practical Chick

How Deep is Your Love?

Dear Choosy Lover,

Ever been so enamored with someone that you just can’t imagine your life without them? Before the advent of text messaging and other social media, I can recall a time when two teens in love would chat on the phone in a conversation similar to this:

BOY: I love you.

GIRL: I love you, too.

BOY: I love you three!

GIRL: I love you forever!

And on, and on, and on they would go for hours. Then they’d both fall asleep on the phone because neither one of them wanted to be the first to hang up. Don’t front- you know you did it too! 😀

Remember that? That crazy love? That deep love? The type of love that would have you going to the ends of the earth just to make the other person smile? And then, at some point, something changes. Something goes wrong. The love you once knew doesn’t seem quite the same any more. What happened? Who changed? I bet God is asking the same question about some of you reading this post. How deep is your love for Him?

If you really want to know, you can simply look at your relationship towards the Church. The Church is the Body of Christ, and Christ is the head (Colossians 1:18). How can you truly love the Lord, and not love His Body? How can you accept part of Him and not all of Him? Let’s be honest- you can’t. There seems to be varying degrees of love and commitment to Christ- different relationship statuses, if you will. I have narrowed down these status levels into 4 main categories: Single-Minded, Superficial, Shacking, and Submitted. Let’s examine each, shall we?

Single-Minded

These are the folks who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, but aren’t looking for commitment. If they join a church, it’s out of temporary guilt/emotion, rather than a deep longing to grow in the Lord. They’re dating Jesus. They come to church when it’s beneficial for them: when they’re lonely or in need of a pick-me-up, or to receive freebies (counseling, back-to-school supplies, turkey baskets at Thanksgiving, etc). These folks are your spiritual gold-diggers. They take, take, take, and rarely give anything back to God. They have no relationship with Him. Nope. They’re just dating. They enjoy occasional quickies with Jesus. Not looking for anything serious. They just want to “enjoy” Him and “have fun”.

Superficial 

You know them well- they tout the Bible (in a carrying case, of course), shout on cue, blast their favorite Gospel radio station while at work, and share their testimony everywhere they go. They’re members of a local church and some of them are even faithful in returning the tithe. They’re in what I like to call the “loopy” stage (this can last for up 2 years- which is ironically about the same time most folks tend to “fall out of love” with someone. Go figure!). They’re “in love with Jesus”. They’ll do anything for Him- until the feelings wear off or until something goes wrong. Some may call them the “Shallow Saints”. At some point, some stop putting the effort into going to church. It’s no longer a priority. Others are simply ready to jump ship at the first sign of trouble. They say things like, “I just don’t feel the same anymore. I don’t think I’m growing here. I’m not being fed. Something’s changed.” As a result, they go from one church to another (or just stop going to church altogether) until that loving feeling wears off again. Sadly, they don’t see that it’s not the church.  It’s their shady level of commitment when things aren’t going their way. They can easily be mistaken for “Super Saints” but they really just have a superficial relationship with Christ. They soon begin to proclaim,

“I don’t need to go to Church. I have the Church in my heart. I am the Church. That’s why I’m spiritual, not religious.”

(Oh, give me a break!). Their relationship status suddenly changes from “Taken” to “It’s Complicated”.

Shacking

These Saints appear to have it all together. They faithfully return the tithe and attend Service and Bible Study. They enjoy praising the Lord. They also enjoy making it a point to tell everyone else how to live their life. They think they’re doing the church a favor by being a member. They’re kind of, well, self-righteous. Shacking Saints are really good at nagging and complaining about everything in their church, but rarely do anything to contribute spiritually to its growth. Some would consider them “holier than thou”, or “deep Saints”. They’re clothed in pride, draped in judgement, and naked of repentance. Truth be told, they’re just shacking with Jesus. They attend church religiously without relationship. They’ve been playing the role for so long, they’re now comfortably stuck. A higher level of commitment would take them too far out of their comfort zone. Oh sure- they trust God… just not enough to relinquish full control of their life to Him. They’re reaping all of the physical benefits of the relationship, but none of the intimate benefits (spiritual growth). These Shacking Saints aren’t whole in Christ. He’s just their “better half”.

Submitted

These folks are truly souled out for Christ. Their relationship with Jesus extends far beyond Sunday Morning Worship Service. They don’t just follow Christ- they live for Him. They go IN during Praise and Worship. They contribute cheerfully to the expenses of the church and the relief of the poor. They engage in regular spiritual intimacy (prayer). They are true servants and disciples of Christ. They’re ministry involvement is an act of worship. Like a submitted wife to her husband, these Saints willfully submit to Jesus because He gave the ultimate sacrifice for them. Jesus is the center of their joy. Their love runs deep for Him and His anointing overflows on them. They don’t profess to be perfect; they just want God’s perfect will for their life. Fully submitted and fully committed- that’s what they are.

Sacrificed

John 3:16 is a perfect example of God’s love for us: “For 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.” Now, that’s some deep love! How deep is your love for Him? No need in lying- your track record with church is a pretty good indication, and He already knows where you stand anyway! Give Him the courtesy of keeping it real. Confess your willful disobedience. Submit to a fully committed relationship with Christ. The longer you run from His loving arms, the longer you miss out on the splendor of His Majesty in your life. He knows everything (yes, EVERYTHING) about you, and loves you nonetheless.

You have an ongoing date with Jesus. Will you show up next time? There is a well-balanced spiritual meal prepared for you each week. Your Pastor sets the table and invites you to feast on the Word of God. You can study the Bible on your own all you want, but it’s just not the same as receiving the Word from the Man or Woman of God who has been trained and anointed to give you the spiritual nourishment you need. How could you not partake in the Sacrifice that has been prepared just for you? Don’t you know your own spiritual development is dependent on it?

Jesus gave His all for you. Isn’t it about time you stopped giving Him your leftovers? Allow Him to court you. It’s time for a deeper relationship, don’t you think?

Practically Yours,

~The Practical Chick