Why Do People Show Up Late for Church?

The Timing of When People Arrive at Church Reflects Their Priorities

When do you arrive at church?When my wife and I went on our grand adventure of visiting fifty-two churches in a year, we decided we’d try to arrive at church ten minutes early. In doing so we would avoid breezing in at the last-minute, and we would have time for possible connection with other people before the service. (Sometimes we had wonderful conversations and other times it was an awkward ordeal.)

Three Times When People Arrive at Church

This also gave us an opportunity to observe when other people arrived at church.

1. Arrive Early: For a few churches most everyone arrived early. They sat in respectful anticipation of what was to come, reverently waiting for the service to begin.

2. Arrive Right on Time: At other churches many people timed their arrival with the starting time of the church service, not a minute earlier and not a minute later. They arrived right on time. At some of these places, the people were in the facility early, trying to squeeze in some pre-church activity, but not yet seated in the church sanctuary. In other places, they rushed in at the last moment.

3 Arrive Late: Yet at too many churches, the starting time seemed more like a guideline. At these churches over half the congregation showed up after the service had started. They arrived late. Sometimes this was understandable since the service didn’t start on time either. The church had conditioned people to arrive late, because the service started late. However, even for those services that started on time, the practice of people arriving during the singing of the first, and even the second and third songs, alarmed me.

When Do You Arrive at Church?

Yes, I understand that sometimes things come up to keep us from getting to church on time. This is most pronounced for those with young children in tow. I remember those days well. And other times we may oversleep, not get around as fast as we’d like, or encounter delays on the drive to church. Yet these things should be rare, not common. Late arrivers at church disrespect God and distract other worshipers. Click To Tweet

For people who habitually arrive at church late, I wonder if it doesn’t reveal a bit of their heart. That God isn’t important enough for them to show up early in anticipation of what he’ll do. That church attendance is one more thing to squeeze into an already-too-busy schedule, so they can check it off there to do list.

Late arrivers at church disrespect God and distract other worshipers.

Arrive at church early, arrive at church in expectation, and arrive at church prepared to worship.

Women in the Bible: Ruth

Ruth is a widow and foreigner who remains faithful to her mother-in-law, Naomi. Ruth leaves her family to follow Naomi to Israel. The reason for her loyalty to her mother-in-law is a mystery, since Naomi is a bitter woman at this time. However, Ruth also expresses a devotion to God.Learn about Ruth in the Bible

When they return, Ruth goes out to glean grain, at great physical risk, so she and Naomi will have some food. Ruth finds favor with Boaz, who knows of her fine reputation.

Naomi sets about to find another husband for Ruth, targeting Boaz and developing a strategy to bring that about. The result is capturing Boaz’s attention. He sets out to make Ruth his wife, deftly dealing with another possible suitor.

Boaz and Ruth marry. She has her first child, Obed. Obed is the father of Jesse, the father of David. That makes Ruth, the great grandmother of King David and a direct ancestor of Jesus.

Let’s review: Ruth’s loyalty to her mother-in-law and God rewards her. She marries again, is saved from poverty, and has a son. As a result, she’s later honored by Matthew who includes her in the family tree of Jesus, one of only four women mentioned.

[Read about Ruth in the book of the Bible bearing her name.]

[Discover more about the Bible at A Bible A Day.com: Bible FAQs, Bible Dictionary, Books of the Bible Overview, and Bible Reading Plans.]

Get your copy of Women of the Bible, available from Amazon.

Ask God to Go with Us

God Promises to Go Before His People and Be Their Rear Guard

Ask God to Go with UsIn Isaiah’s lengthy prophecy, he tells God’s people in Jerusalem that they need to leave. However, they don’t need to leave in haste. This is because God will go before them and he will take up the rear. That means, God will pave the way and he has their back. That’s so comforting. However, this promise is to God’s people in Jerusalem. Does it apply to us today?

Yes and no.

Since Isaiah specifically gives this prophecy and its promise to the people in Jerusalem, we would take it out of context to apply it to us today. We would be wrong to read this passage and automatically conclude that God will always go before us and watch our back. However, that doesn’t mean he won’t do this. For God to travel with us, going before us on our path to pave the way and guarding us from a rear attack, we need to ask God to do this.

Instead of Claiming a Comforting Verse, Ask God for It

Since God promised to do this for his people in Jerusalem, this idea of him going before and bringing up the rear isn’t unprecedented. If he took care of them then, he’ll likely take care of us today. But we can’t claim this verse as our own. It doesn’t apply to us. Instead we must pray it. We must ask God to go before us to prepare the path for our journey. And we must ask God to follow behind us, to protect us from surprise attacks that might catch us off guard. Just because we see a comforting verse in the Bible doesn’t mean it automatically applies to us today. Click To Tweet

We should keep this principle in mind as we read the Bible. Just because we see a comforting verse doesn’t mean it automatically applies to us today. We’d be in error to claim it as our own when it belongs to someone else. However, we can certainly seek God’s provision and ask him to apply it to us today. After all, if he did it for his people once, there’s a good chance he’ll do it for us again.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Isaiah 51-52, and today’s post is on Isaiah 52:12.]

Is Being More Connected a Benefit or a Curse?

Technology May Keep Us Connected but It Can Leave Us Empty

As a society, we’re more connected than ever before. But many people also feel lonelier than ever. With all our connection opportunities, why is this?Is Being More Connected a Benefit or a Curse?

Our smart phones and social media allow us to communicate and stay in touch with more people than we ever could in the past. These technologies erase distance and compensate for time differences. We can communicate instantly with most anyone in the world. We can also enjoy shifted communication with people in different time zones or who are on different schedules.

Yet despite all these connections, it’s challenging to truly connect on a deep, meaningful level. The internet or wireless communication doesn’t allow us to be physically present with another person. We can’t reach out and touch a friend online. Giving someone a heart-felt hug is impossible on social media. These things fall short in providing us with the true, interpersonal connection we need.

We Need Community to Enjoy True Connection

The reason that technology can’t provide meaningful connection is that we crave community. And an online community is a poor substitute for a real, in-person community. We desire to be physically present with others and engage in living life with them. Though technology can mimic it (and for some people this is all they have, sorry), it can’t truly replace it.

This is because God created us for community. We have an innate desire to be in community with others. God desires to be in community with us, just as the Godhead—the three in one Trinity—exists in community with itself. Remember, he created us in his image. That means if community is important to him, it’s inherently important to us. But how can we find community in today’s highly connected but physically isolated society? How can we find community in today’s highly connected but physically isolated society? Click To Tweet

The Church Should Provide Community

Though people debate the purpose of church, a key reason for church is to provide community for its people. Every church should exist to provide community, fulfilling that desire for internal connection that God placed within us. Unfortunately, too many churches fail at providing a safe, nurturing community for their people. Some churches neglect this responsibility altogether, while others try to offer it, but they fall short.

Though connecting with people online has its value, it’s a poor substitute for what we truly need. Don’t login hoping to find meaningful connection and community online; go to church instead.

Women in the Bible: Eve

Eve (along with her husband, Adam), is a well-known biblical figure. I’m surprised she’s only mentioned by name four times in the Bible, twice in Genesis and twice in the New Testament.Discover more about Eve in the Bible

I’ve never understood why Eve bears the heaviest criticism for disobeying God. Adam is likewise culpable, and he could have—and should have—put a stop to eating the forbidden fruit. More contemptible is the serpent, who resorted to lies to trip up Eve.

Because of their actions, all three—Adam, Eve, and the serpent—suffer consequences, which they will pass on to future generations.

Looking specifically at Eve, she receives three punishments: pain in childbirth, a desire for her husband, and him ruling over her. The middle phrase doesn’t make much sense, but the NLT renders it differently: “you will desire to control your husband.”

So before Adam and his wife messed up, things must have been the opposite: childbirth was easy, women did not seek to control their husbands, and men did not rule over their wives.

Going forward, women would desire to control their husbands, and husbands would rule their wives. However, in the beginning there was neither controlling nor ruling; there must have been equality, with God intending spouses to live as equals.

Get your copy of Women of the Bible, available from Amazon.

Can We Cause God To Change His Mind?

Hezekiah and Moses Plead with God for a Different Outcome

Can We Cause God To Change His Mind?In Isaiah we read about King Hezekiah. The king is sick, and Isaiah comes to him with a dire message from God. Through Isaiah, God tells Hezekiah to put his affairs in order because his illness is fatal. Death looms.

Though few of us would welcome death, knowing when our end would occur might bring about a certain appreciation. This would give us an opportunity to say our goodbyes and get our estate organized for our heirs.

Hezekiah Prays and Cries to God

But Hezekiah doesn’t give God a heartfelt, or even a respectful, “Thanks for the heads up.” Instead the king cries bitter tears and reminds God—as if God needed reminding—of his lifetime of faithfulness, devotion, and good living.

Guess what happens next?

God hears Hezekiah’s prayers and sees his tears. God changes his mind. Instead of sticking to the plan that the king’s end is near, God pledges to give him another fifteen years of life (Isaiah 38:1-5).

Moses Also Seeks God’s Favor

However, long before the reign of King Hezekiah, Moses and God have another interesting exchange. When God’s chosen people decide to worship a golden calf instead of him, God has enough. He says he’ll destroy his people and start over with Moses to make a new nation.

If this happened to me, I’d bow my head in false humility and say something like, “As you wish.” But not Moses. Instead he tries to talk God out of it. Moses fights for the nation of Israel even though they don’t deserve it. God listens to Moses’s reasoning and he relents from destroying his people as he had planned (Exodus 32:9-14). God wants to do good things for us, and sometimes all we need to do is ask. Click To Tweet

God wants to do good things for us, and sometimes all we need to do is ask.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Isaiah 37-38, and today’s post is on Isaiah 38:1-5.]

Read the Bible with Intention

Study Scripture in a Different Way to Glean More from It

Read the Bible with IntentionFor most of my adult life, even going back to my teenage years, I’ve read the Bible most every day. Yet there were a few times when I needed to take a break, when my Bible reading practice had fallen into a rut—the deep rut. Yes, I was reading words, but those words failed to connect with me. They had lost meaning, because I had lost focus.

I recently emerged from one of those times, and I’m back reading my Bible and studying its words with gleeful abandon. Here are some things I do when studying the Bible to engage with its words and remain open to receive its insight.

Ask Why the Passage is in the Bible

The Bible is an odd collection of writings with different genres, different writing styles, and different points of view. Sometimes I seriously wonder why some of these things appear in the Bible.

However, I believe God has a purpose for every word in the Scriptures. So I ask, “Why did God include this passage in his written Word?” The answer tells me why I need to concern myself with the passage.

Shove Aside What We Think We Know

I remember hearing an enlightening sermon that explained what Jesus meant when he talked about a camel going through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:24). The problem is that I can’t find any support for that interpretation. Therefore, I must shove aside this compelling teaching because it is likely in error.

Just because a minister tells us something, doesn’t mean it’s right. They could be wrong. Sometimes they are. Too much of what I’ve heard from the pulpit on Sunday didn’t come from the Bible that I read the rest of the week.

We need to hold to the teachings of others loosely and not let them influence how we understand the Bible. Instead we should let the Bible influence how we engage with the things ministers teach.

View the Bible Passage from the Character’s Perspective

As we read a passage from Scripture, explore the point of view of the author or the story’s protagonist and antagonist.

  • What might David have been thinking when he wrote the twenty-third Psalm (Psalm 23)?
  • What might Jeremiah have been feeling when he was lowered into the muddy cistern (Jeremiah 38:6)?
  • Why did Judas turn on Jesus and betray him (Matthew 26:16)?

As we gain insight into these questions, we can grasp a fuller understanding of the passage we’re reading.

Examine the Bible Passage in Context

We read the Bible through the lens of our perspective: our life, society, and experiences. Yet we need to first consider the words of the Bible from its context of when it was written, its culture, and the situation that frames it. Then, and only then, are we in a position to examine it more fully.

Consider How the Bible Passage Applied Then

Once we have a deeper insight into the context, we can begin to consider how a passage of Scripture might have applied to the ancient people who were its original audience. And that might be completely different than how we understand it today.

Contemplate How the Bible Passage Might Apply Now

Only after we’ve considered its context and how it might have applied to the ancient world are we in a position to try to extend those principles to us in our world today. Now applicable truth can emerge. Before opening the Bible ask for Holy Spirit guidance. And any time we get stuck on a passage, ask for supernatural insight. Click To Tweet

However, we shouldn’t go through this process alone. Engaging Scripture in community is beneficial, but relying on the Holy Spirit to provide insight is essential. Before opening the Bible, ask for Holy Spirit guidance. And any time we get stuck on a passage, ask for supernatural insight.

As we study the Word of God using this process—under the influence of the Holy Spirit—we will gain deep layers of understanding that we would have otherwise missed.

Women in the Bible: Anna

Anna is widowed after only seven years of marriage. A devout woman, she dedicates her life to God, spending as much time as possible in the temple fasting, praying, and worshiping him.Anna thanks God she lived long enough to see Jesus

Anna is at least eighty-four years old when Mary and Joseph show up to consecrate Jesus. First, she recognizes him as the savior who the people have been expecting for centuries. Then she thanks God she lived long enough to see Jesus and then tells everyone about him.

After a lifetime of devotion to God, he rewards her by allowing to to see Jesus. How many other people were likewise as devout, but never got to see him?

God calls us to focus on him, but we may not receive any reward for our loyalty during our lifetime. Will we be faithful anyway?

[Luke 2:36-38]

Get your copy of Women of the Bible, available from Amazon.

God Brings Low the Pride of the Arrogant

God Wants Us to Celebrate Him and What He’s Done for Us

As Isaiah moves forward in his sweeping prophecy, he devotes a section to the city of Tyre. Tyre is a city of prominence, a center of trade and commerce. God doesn’t like their self-sufficiency and that they take pride in what they have become. Isaiah warns them of their coming destruction.

He emphatically ends his prophecy for them, saying that God has planned this because he wants to bring down the pride of their splendor. In fact, he desires to humble all who are renowned (Isaiah 23:9). This describes the arrogance of the city of Tyre. They’re going down.

Pride Sets Us Up for Failure

In Proverbs Solomon writes that pride brings about destruction and haughtiness leads to a great fall (Proverbs 16:18). King Solomon is right. We unwisely elevate ourselves when we take pride in our skills, status, or inherent characteristics without acknowledging God who is behind it. We glory in ourselves and not our creator who made us. He created us to be who we are and granted us his favor. Misplacing our confidence in ourselves sets us up for a fall. Pride prepares us for failure.

Instead Boast in the Lord

To the church in Corinth, Paul reminds his friends that if they’re to boast in anything it should be in God (1 Corinthians 1:31). We should boast in God’s character, in his love, and in his power. God is worthy of our boasting. In sharing this reminder, Paul paraphrases Jeremiah 9:24. So, Jeremiah said it first and Paul reminds us that we should boast only in God. That is, we are to glory in the Lord. God wants us to celebrate him and what he’s done for us. Click To Tweet

Our egocentric society celebrates self-accomplishment and elevates the individual. This is far from what God has in mind. God wants us to celebrate him and what he’s done for us. He wants us to elevate him and not ourselves.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Isaiah 23-24, and today’s post is on Isaiah 23:9.]

When Should You Change Churches?

Changing Churches Should Be Rare, Not Commonplace

When Should You Change Churches?In our Facebook group we discussed the post “When Not to Change Churches.” Justin asked a pertinent question: “When should you change churches?”

I knew part of the answer, but I needed to contemplate how far to take my response. Part of my hesitation stemmed from the reality that sometimes I changed churches for the wrong reasons.

I’ve changed churches eight times in my life. Some of you might think that’s a lot and others might think that’s not much at all. Of the eight times, five were for the right reasons, while the other three fall into a gray area and may lack a sound motive.

Here are the reasons for when you should change churches.

Change Churches When You Move

When you move out of the area and it’s no longer practical or feasible to continue going to your old church, it’s time to find a new one. Don’t delay. Set about finding a new church right away. Each Sunday you take a week off from church makes it a little bit harder to return to that practice. And if you wait too long, you may never go back.

Change Churches If Yours Closes

Each week churches close. It’s a statistical fact. And if it’s your church that shuts down, then you’re faced with the task of finding a new one to plug into. Churches seldom shutter abruptly. There’s usually plenty of warning. They’ve been dying a slow death over months, years, and sometimes even decades.

It’s sad anytime a church closes, and there may be a time of mourning over what you lost. In addition to not having a place to go each week, the friends you’re used to seeing typically scatter and end up at various churches. So, in addition to losing your church home, you’ve also lost your church family.

When this happens it’s time to find a new spiritual community and make a new church home.

Change Churches If You’re Called to Do a New Thing

Sometimes one church will start another one. It may be a satellite location or planting an independent church. You may be part of the launch team. Though this could be a short-term responsibility, it’s usually a long-term commitment.

Another scenario occurs if God calls you (that is, the Holy Spirit prompts you) to move to a different area and help start a new church. Whether in name or in function, this is being a missionary. Leaving one church as a missionary is an obvious time when it’s appropriate to change churches.

Change Churches If Jesus Isn’t Part of It

Jesus is central to Christianity, and he must be part of every church that bears his name. If you go to a church that has pushed Jesus aside or fails to acknowledge him and what he did for us, then question if it’s truly a Christian church. A church without Jesus is a church that doesn’t warrant your attention. If Jesus isn’t there, you probably shouldn’t be there either. It’s time to change churches.

Change Churches If Your Present Church Is Hindering Your Faith

This one is harder to define, but sometimes we may find ourselves in a church that is so misaligned with who we are and where we are in our walk with Jesus, that it gnaws at our soul. Persevering in that environment pulls us away from God and threatens to derail our faith. I would never encourage anyone to persist in a church community that is damaging their relationship with God. If this happens, it’s time to find a new church community. Seek one will help you draw near to God and encourage you in your faith.

Are There Other Times to Change Churches?

What about other beliefs? Christianity is filled with various viewpoints on faith and theology. If Jesus remains the core, I encourage us to accept one another for our other differences in belief and practice. Yes, some people view these differences as heretical, but I don’t think Jesus does. Based on what he prayed in the Bible (John 17:20-26), I know that he wants us to get along, to remain united, and to act as one. Leaving one church because we disagree with an element or two of their religious platform is a bad reason to leave.

Of the eight times I’ve change churches four were because of moving and one was for a church plant. The other three were more dubious. The first was because I was bored, the second was because our kids weren’t plugged in, and the third was to fulfill my deep desire to go to church in my community, with my neighbors, and worship with my family. The first was selfish—though I did meet my future wife there—while the other two were more laudable, even though they fall outside my list of five reasons to change churches. Leaving one church because we disagree with an element or two of their religious platform is a bad reason to leave. Click To Tweet

This implies there may be a sixth reason to change churches, but it’s one that’s hard to define. Its subjective. And any time something is subjective it means that our emotions can replace logic, which allows us the latitude to make about any determination we want. And usually that decision leads us to change churches even though we probably shouldn’t.

But regardless of the reasons of why you want to change churches, before you do, take a careful look at when not to change churches. Pray about it, and ask for Holy Spirit guidance. If he says it’s time to move on, then move. And to help you on this new adventure, check out “How to Find a New Church.” May God bless you in your search for a new church home and guide you to the place he wants you to be.

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