The Joy of Going to Church

Today I went to church and thoroughly enjoyed it. In high school, church was seriously the best 2–3 hours of my week. I loved my youth pastor at Reno Christian Fellowship, I grew in knowledge and love of God each week, I was in an environment of self-expression, and I could only see some of my best friends during that time. When I went to college, I got really big into Intervarsity and ended up not going to church too often because my Christian fellowship came from it. After a few years of Intervarsity, I found the politics and emptiness of the group and decided to leave. I soon found a new church in San Luis Obispo: First Baptist. Pastor Aaron was truly phenomenal, the people were awesome, and the music was top notch. When I moved to LA; however, it was kind of difficult to find a new church.

The funny part is that I am having such a hard time looking for a new church in a city with hundreds! If you didn’t know, Los Angeles has a church on almost every street corner. They’re like Starbucks or something. The thing is that most of the ones I’ve seen remind me of the Catholic churches I went to as a kid. I had such a bad experience at them that I just can’t find a connection in those spaces. There are several other churches in the community, some I’ve visited and many more I haven’t, that don’t have the same vibe but I still just don’t feel that they are my place. A church is meant to be your family and I just didn’t feel that way in them.

Well, when my friend, Cal, moved to LA, his roommates introduced us both to the Church of the Redeemer. Its a pretty cool church; though its quite different than the ones I’m used to. The church family is the most socioeconomicly and racially diverse church I’ve ever been to, the service includes a time for the family to openly talk about what God is doing in their life (and people actually talk), and services switch between English and Spanish constantly (to name only a few differences between Redeemer and other churches I’ve been to). The key thing that makes or breaks a church for me is always the pastor. If the pastor’s sermons are shallow commentaries of the Bible, I just cannot be apart of the church but the pastor at Redeemer is awesome.

Today’s Church Experience

Today’s sermon was on a chunk of the Lord’s prayer:

And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

Its a pretty simple verse but sometimes the most simplest of verses have the greatest amount of impact.

Today we talked about how most of the time we sin and follow temptations because we are a part of this world’s culture. This culture I’m talking about consists of us wanting to get everything done. We want to work, clean, party, drive, bungie jump, sing, draw, etc. We want to do everything under the sun. Oh, wait! To do that, we have to have money and friends. Well, then we have to work a lot and become popular. That way we can afford to do whatever we want whenever we want with whoever we want.

The problem with this cultural goal is that its impossible. How many people do you know can attain this goal? None. Even if a person had all the money in the world, they still wouldn’t have the experience of not having any. And that experience goes under something we want to do. Even if that goal was possible, does a rich man or woman even have the time to accomplish everything? No. Man does not have the time to do everything and because of it, we get depressed and frustrated.

When we were worshipping, I was thinking about this (I really think church worship is the best time to think about God). To be happy, we all use some sort of drug, whether it be actual drugs, alcohol, money, people, art, work, perfection, TV, hobbies, etc., to try and fill that hole in us. Its like we are all stuck in some evil demonic prison where the walls are bloody arms trying to cut you with AIDS knives and the only way we can think of escaping the prison is by running into the walls to be stabbed. Then for a moment, that stab actually feels good only to soon became agonizingly painful. But that moment of good feeling, that moment of hope, makes us do it again.

But the true cure, the true escape, from this prison is Jesus. He’s like this innocent man who walks into the prison just to lead us out. How does He do it though? He throws himself against the walls so they stab him instead. And while he’s getting ripped to shreds, we escape. Its cool.

What I learned

The part that hit me this morning was that God “leads us not into temptation.” He doesn’t take away our temptation. He doesn’t make us better. We still strive to jump back into the prison to be stabbed more. Those stabs are these addicting things we think we need and he doesn’t remove that stupidity from us but reminds us not to go there. Its kind of annoying because thats not what I want but its more loving. It means I get to walk with God to Mordor, rather than Him just take the ring and destroy it Himself. We get an adventure out of it.

cross-shaped vaccine needle with title on it

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