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No Expewses Series: Part II

Church attendance in general is in decline.  There’s no denying it.  But why?  Congregations often look to reverse the trend by keeping members entertained with service events or social calendar opportunities.  What if we’ve got it backwards? What if it’s not the commotion but the stillness of the service that is difficult. It’s during those times of quiet that we find ourselves in battle within our hears and minds. Sometimes, those negative thoughts are just too powerful to overcome. What if what we need to focus on is overcoming self-doubt in our faith?

It’s Too Quiet

The ability to focus on a sermon has not been a luxury that has been afforded to me in the last few years.  My last post was centered on the antics of my children on Sunday mornings.  When I have had the random opportunity to attend a service alone, I find it just as difficult to focus.  And yes, the looks that my fellow congregants give me when I walk into the church without kids is akin to how they would react if I walked in the sanctuary wearing a giant yellow duck costume.

What’s so difficult about church?  It’s the silence.  When it’s just you, the word, and the magnitude of being in a house of worship, there’s no place left to hide.  At our church, there’s a time for personal confession over the things that didn’t go so well over the last week.  While it’s not something that’s said out loud, it’s almost as if the room raises in temperature.  There’s a coloquialism about sweating in church and I’m guessing this is the reason why?

A group of people have their hands lifted above their heads.  In their outstretched hands are small copies of the Bible.  The congregation is filled with men and women of all races.
This picture was definitely NOT taken at a Lutheran church.
We get uncomfortable when our hands get higher than our elbows.

The stillness of the sermon allows us to do something over-scheduled lives prevent us from doing: reflecting on our behavior from the past week.  Have you ever tried to sit quietly for an extended period of time?  How long is it before you want to reach for your phone?  Do you have a hard time blocking out all the other intruding thoughts?  Do some of those thoughts you have in these moments make you uncomfortable?  

What if it’s those intruding thoughts that keep people from the pews?  We hear something that “makes us feel bad”.  Then, we decide that “this place isn’t for us” and we never darken the doorway again.  In a society where there are no limits, we struggle when we come up against one that doesn’t fit our version of “right”.  Perhaps it the truth that hurts?  

I’m throwing stones in glass houses right now.  I’ve said and thought everything that I’ve written in the previous paragraph.  Ironically, I have tried to write this post for months now but could never muster up the courage to do it.  Why?  I struggle because I feel like all follies of my youth disqualify me from being the “right person” to talk about Jesus.

There, I said it.

It may be cliche, but the Lord works in mysterious ways.  A couple months ago, I read a book called “The Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod.  While it’s a secular reading, the synopsis of the book is encouraging healthy morning habits.  One of those is reading positive literature or books.  In looking around my house, I saw a dusty copy of the NIV Bible I received in college.  I thought, well, that’s a self-help book!

Growing up in a pastor’s house, reading the Bible was pretty routine.  What I was surprised to find was that now that I had a little life experience under my belt, the words connected with me in ways that I had never known before.  I even began journaling on what I had read.

King David’s Hot Mess

*Yes, God uses ancient Kings of Israel of to help us in overcoming self-doubt in our faith*

One morning, I was really struggling with confidence in my faith.  The feelings of self-doubt kept rising to the top.  I had just finished Proverbs and was like “Matthew sounds like a good place to start!”  If you’ve not been to Matthew for a while, the first few verses is a genealogy of Jesus that traces all the way Abraham.  As ancient Israel was a patriarchal society, I always glazed over it.  Mostly, because I couldn’t pronounce half of the names.

This morning, something very different came to light.  While not listed for many of the forefathers, every now and then, the mother of the descendent was listed.  

Salmon, the father of Boaz, who’s mother was Rahab.”

Matthew 1:5 

Huh, that’s interesting.  Matthew, in order to substantiate Jesus’ as lineage as a fulfillment of the prophecy, documented all of his forefathers. He also included the notable women from Biblical history.  Hmm, I thought. That’s odd. Then, in reading the next verse, I saw

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife. 

Matthew 1:6

Say what?!  How did I miss this?!

A black foreground.  A lightbulb is center in the picture above an open book.  The book is a bible.  The verses of the Bible are easily read from the light of the light bulb.

Quick backstory:  (Read the story from the Bible here) David was King of Israel.  He was a pretty amazing guy but he was a 7 on the Enneagram.  He enjoyed life and that often got him in trouble.  One day, he sees a beautiful woman, Bathsheba, and falls madly in love with her.  Uh oh, turns out she’s married.  So David says “married schmarried” and begins an affair.  Bathsheba ends up pregnant. Whoops.

King David, to cover up his misdeed, sends her husband Uriah, a super loyal soldier, to the front of the battle.  Uriah doesn’t make it home.   David is now in some major hot water.  The consequences are heartbreaking as he and Bathsheba lose their first child.  

Did you notice that the genealogy does not say “Batsheba”?  Matthew clearly points out that the lineage of Jesus did not come from one of David’s royal marriages.  Instead, God used one of the greatest scandals in Old Testament!  She was also the mother of King Solomon, the wisest king of Israel!!!

Out of all the dumb things that I have ever said or done on this earth, I now realized that hiding behind my past mistakes was the most ridiculous.  If God can bring to fruition salvation through a horrific pile of misdeeds, is anything really impossible? What if we when are struggling in overcoming self-doubt in our faith, we crack open the Good Book? Like me, we might just be surprised at what we find!