(After some misunderstandings I’ve found I need to say “please read it this to the end. It’s not about how a bar is as good as a church”)
Life can be mighty tough and sometimes it takes all we’ve got just to make it through the day. Sometimes we just want to get away from our worries – you know, go somewhere to be with friends, be where they’re glad to see you and be where everybody knows your name.
You can do that by going to church…or going to the bar down the street. I’m sure many of you recognized the paraphrase above of the Cheers TV show theme song from years ago. Cheers was the bar down the street. “You want to be where you can see, the troubles are all the same, you want to be where everybody knows your name.”
I’m reading the book “The Gospel Driven Church” by Jared Wilson. At one point he emphasizes a statement by James Gilmore – “The only thing of value the church has to offer is the Gospel.”
When I read that, I felt like telling Mr. Gilmore that the church can also offer, in fact we’re told in the Bible to offer, love for one another, bearing one another’s burdens, laughing and crying together. Then the Cheers theme song started running through my head. And I imagined Mr. Gilmore agreeing that the people in the church can, and should, provide love, and fellowship and support for each other, but without the Gospel to go with it, those actions might as well be found at a bar down the street, or in a bowling league, or the Kiwanis club – take your pick.
So, as we strive to love one another, laugh and cry together, and bear one another’s burdens, let’s make sure we remember the main reason the church is here – to proclaim the Gospel (the Good News) that Jesus Christ came to earth as a man and died and rose again to save His people from their sins.
“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21
Last week my Bible reading included Genesis chapters 39 and 40. Joseph’s brothers had sold him to a caravan of travelling merchants, and he ended up in Egypt as a slave to Potiphar, an official in Pharaoh’s court. Potiphar’s wife “cast her eyes” on Joseph and tried to seduce him. Joseph refused her over and over but one day she caught him alone in the house and grabbed him. He pulled away and ran but she held onto his coat and he left it behind. Potiphar’s wife yelled out and lied that he had tried to assault her. The result was that Joseph ended up in prison even though not guilty.
After two years, Joseph was released from prison because God enabled him to interpret Pharaoh’s dream about seven good years and seven years of famine that were coming. Joseph told what the dream meant and also gave a plan to deal with the famine. The plan pleased Pharaoh and his advisors, and Pharaoh made Joseph second in command because it was obvious to him that Joseph was wise because God was with him.
About that time in the chapter, my brain began wondering about a possible scenario. Say, two or three months after Joseph became second in command, he called his administrative assistant. “Here, Hapusenaram, take this note over to Mrs. Potiphar. Tell her to come to Pharaoh’s palace, where I’m second in command, by the way. I’d like to talk with her a few minutes.”
Wouldn’t that get her excited about what Joseph might do and say? I have a hint of what I might do and say in that situation and it might not be nice (We can deduce that because my mind wandered in this direction in the first place). But I also think we can deduce what Joseph would say based on what he later told his brothers about being sold by them: “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”
Those words can easily roll off our tongue, but it takes a work of the Holy Spirit and much work by us to have them come from our heart. So, we pray and work against our wandering mind so that we can mean it when we say “God is good—all the time!” – no matter what situation we’re in.