Commitment to Christ Means Commitment to His Church (Blogs Revisited)

Commitment to Christ Means Commitment to His Church (Originally posted June 22, 2014)

“Is it possible to have a commitment to Christ separate and apart from a commitment to  his church?  Scores of today’s Christians apparently believe so based on the lack of attendance in worship services around the world. But the church, the body and bride of Christ, is far more than going to a worship assembly or attending the annual church cookout. If we are to identify ourselves as Christians, joined with Christ, we must also join our lives with Christ’s people. It is a privilege to be identified as a member of Christ’s family, but so many believers view it as a chore.

Part of the problem in today’s culture is how we view the church. We tend to think of the church as a building, a meeting place. We characterize churches based upon denominational leaning or what programs they offer. It’s common to hear people say, “I attend the church with the great singles program” or “I worship at the church that has unlimited resources and outings for retirees.”  We’ve created a consumer-driven mentality where we “shop around” for the congregation that best suits our needs.

But this is not how the Bible presents the church. Jesus nor his disciples never once refer to the church as a building or a series of programs designed to please the masses. The church of Christ is simply meant to be a body of believers sharing the life of Christ. We’re meant to care, love, serve, and teach one another. We’re called to forgive, encourage, pray for, and rejoice with one another (Read 1 Corinthians 12:25, John 13:34-35, Galatians 5:13, Colossians 3:16, Colossians 3:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, James 5:16, and Philippians 4:4).

So I must ask the question…How will you approach the church and your commitment to it?  Our only response should be total dedication to the bride of Christ because in doing so, we are also showing total dedication to Christ himself.”

It’s summer vacation time here in Florida, and I’ve noticed a lot more out-of-town visitors at our Sunday morning worship services lately.  I love it when we have visitors because I get to meet and talk to other Christians, but even more importantly, I gain a tremendous amount of encouragement by seeing the importance these visitors place on worship and the church itself.

We all have been there before I’m sure.  We are on a much needed vacation, one which we’ve have planned for months or maybe years, and we have many activities or hours of relaxation planned for our time.  A lot of times, our weekly worship time passes and we don’t give a second thought about missing.  Maybe that’s because we’re not home with our regular church family or we’re unfamiliar with the local churches in the area.

It’s always nice to live in a tourist area and know that Christians have made it a priority to assemble with a group of believers while on vacation.  It shows how strongly they view the church itself and the vital role it plays in worshipping God and strengthening the body of Christians worldwide.  The above post, which I penned almost 5 years ago now, is a reminder of what our commitment to the church should be.  If we are committed to Christ and then show no commitment to his bride the church, then we are really liars and not committed to him at all.  And it’s not just on vacation either.  Our lives should be an example of placing God and his church at the forefront of everything we hold dear.

I’ll close by echoing the words above.  How will you approach the church and your commitment to it?  Our only response should be total dedication to the bride of Christ, because in doing so, we are also showing total dedication to Christ himself.

-Joe Butler

“What Do I Need Church For?” (Blogs Revisited)

What Do I Need Church For? (Originally Published April 1, 2013)

“God never intended for us to live out our spiritual lives on our own.  When someone is connected to Christ through baptism, they are also connected with the saints… everyone else who is in Christ.  We need each other and we need to be faithful to His church.  We must not forget that the “church” is not the meeting place where we gather on Sunday mornings to worship God.  We are the church and we are the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25-27).  It’s unacceptable to God to say we love Him and yet not participate fully in a local church.  Admittedly, people are turned off at times by a church because it is full of sinful people.  It’s so easy to look at the faults of others as an excuse to give up on church or not get involved.  On the other hand, how beneficial would it be if more people would examine themselves and their motives for a lack of church participation?

Following are some ideas for sparking our desire to spend time with Christ and His church:

1.Attend and get involved:  Don’t expect to grow closer to God and other christians if you’re never at church.  It’s important to consistently attend and not just sit in the back where you can make a quick exit.  Get involved, find a place to serve, and don’t wait for an invitation. 

2. Focus on Jesus, not on others:  Jesus is perfect, people are not.  If you’re looking for a perfect church, let me know when you find one because they do not exist.  Be forgiving of others just as you would expect forgiveness for yourself.

3. Be a blessing:  Are you known as an eternal pessimist?  Do you just take and never give?  God gave each of us unique gifts not just to serve ourselves, but to use to give, serve, and encourage others.  Look up the word edification.  It is one of the most important functions of the church.

4. Share God with others:  This is God’s ultimate mission for us.  If we really love Him and are grateful for everything He has done in our lives, we should be bursting at the seams to share Him with others.  And after they become a part of God’s family, look for ways to love, serve, and help them.

As a final word, although I’ve been a Christian for a while, I need you.  I need to see you at church.  I need to know you’re praying for me.  I need your encouragement.  I need your forgiveness and your patience.  I need your love.  But most of all, I want to join hands with as many saints as possible as we seek to know and serve our God from now into eternity.”

I have written many posts over the last few years referencing the importance of the church, but this was the first one I penned for this blog.  To be honest, part of me understands the discontent some have with the church.  Have I been hurt or let down by my Christian brothers and sisters before?  Have there been decisions and situations that I have not entirely agreed with within my church family?  Sure, but by in large, my spiritual family has provided a great amount of support and encouragement during my Christian walk.

It’s not difficult to look into God’s word and find a major importance placed on the church.  It baffles me to think that some Christians want to have a relationship with Christ without having a relationship with the church.  That is impossible because the church is the bride of Christ, the bride he died to save. It would be like trying to grow a plant without the sun.  We cannot completely grow as Christians without the nurturing of the church.

It really boils down to the attitude we have.  Do we love God enough to love his bride as well, even with her imperfections?  And if we are not loving the church as we’re called to do, are we really loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength?

I’ll end the revisit of this post the same way I ended the last one.  “Although I’ve been a Christian for a while, I need you.  I need to see you at church.  I need to know you’re praying for me.  I need your encouragement.  I need your forgiveness and your patience.  I need your love.  But most of all, I want to join hands with as many saints as possible as we seek to know and serve our God from now into eternity.”

-Joe Butler




Yesterday was by far my most enjoyable day as a Father as I had the opportunity to baptize my daughter into Christ and watch her dedicate her life to being a Christian.  I thought I knew what it felt like in your heart to truly celebrate, but yesterday’s events gave new meaning to that word.  Words couldn’t begin to express how much God has blessed me through my beautiful daughter.  I’ve watched her grow physically, but more importantly, I’ve watched her grow spiritually as her love for God has blossomed over the last few years.

Psalm 118:24 has always been a favorite passage of mine for it reminds us that each day is truly a blessing from the Lord.  “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  Needless to say, I have much to rejoice about today, and every day for that matter, because my wonderful daughter Emma has been saved!!!

God is so good!

-Joe Butler

Prayers For My Daughter (Part 4)

Today is my last post in this 4 part series about the prayers we should pray for our children.  Be sure to go back and read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 if you haven’t already done so.

  • RESPONSIBILITY (Galatians 6:4-5)- In light of the most recent school shooting and all of the irresponsibility we have from people from all walks of life, it feels appropriate to talk about responsibility, or maybe the lack thereof.  Our society, for some reason, has grown into a group of people who want to take less and less responsibility for their actions.  That’s why we must pray for our children to learn to be responsible and test their own actions.  Our kids must learn that it’s not only about the rights afforded to them, but also the responsibilities they must shoulder as well.  They must learn this trait, because in the end, they will have to answer to the Almighty God for their actions.
  • MERCY (Luke 6:36)- I firmly believe there’s no better way for our children to learn the true mercy and forgiveness that our heavenly Father offers them than to pray for and exemplify that mercy ourselves.  The Bible specifically commands us to be merciful if we expect to receive mercy from God.  Fervently pray that your children show a merciful heart towards others when they are wronged.  It’s not always easy, but that way they may truly understand what God has done for them.
  • THE HEART OF A SERVANT (Ephesians 6:7)- This statement may be too much of a generality, but I believe the most detrimental thing affecting the growth of the church today is the fact that many Christians haven’t yet developed the heart of a servant after giving their lives to God.  More and more we are hearing Christians complain about the church not doing this or that, and instead we should be looking for ways that we can serve and be a blessing to the bride of Christ.  I have prayed for my daughter to have the heart of servant and I’ve seen the fruit of those prayers as she has taken up a leadership role in our church’s early childhood education program.  Just one more example of how God answers our prayers for our children.
  • HUMILITY (Titus 3:1-2)- In a world filled with a multitude of social media opportunities, it’s easy for our children to grow an unhealthy sense of vanity, as if the entire world centers around them.  In fact, this seems to be a problem across all age groups of people.  There’s never been a more important time to pray for the humility of our children so they can help contribute to showing the world how little we truly are.  When Christians and their children start living an example of godly humility, the world will definitely take notice.
  • HOPE (Romans 15:13)- This virtue seems an appropriate way to end this list of things we should pray for our children.  A Christian should have hope, and children seem to have a propensity for this, but we must pray for it anyway.  It’s hope that keeps us focused on God when trials or temptations come our way.  It’s hope that brings us joy at the end of our lives, knowing what awaits us in Heaven.  Pray that your children may receive this blessing from God and have the kind of hope that can only come from his Spirit.

I hope this series of posts has been as much a blessing to you as it was for me to write.  As you can see, we parents have a tremendous responsibility to raise our kids in a godly manner, and the truth is, we can’t do it alone.  We’ve got to pray wholeheartedly for the spiritual welfare of our children.  Let’s pray for their…

  1. salvation
  2. love
  3. honesty and integrity
  4. courage
  5. contentment
  6. perseverance
  7. compassion
  8. self-control
  9. love for God’s word
  10. faithfulness
  11. passion for God
  12. purity
  13. generosity
  14. self-esteem
  15. gratitude
  16. responsibility
  17. mercy
  18. the heart of a servant
  19. humility
  20. hope

This list was not meant to be exhaustive as I’m sure many of you can think of other ideas to pray for.  The important thing is that we pray, because these are prayers that I’m confident God will answer, for he wants us to be successful in this act of stewardship.

-Joe Butler

Prayers For My Daughter (Part 3)

It’s time again to continue my mini-series of posts discussing the prayers we should offer for our children.  Be sure and take time to go back and read Part 1 and Part 2.

  • PASSION FOR GOD (Psalm 63:1-8)- I was recently having a talk with my daughter about going to middle school next year and all the new challenges she will undoubtedly face.  Not one to pass up a teachable moment, we ended the conversation by discussing how she needs to maintain her focus on God regardless of the environment around her.  Like the 63rd Psalm, we should long for the company of our God who provides a safe haven for us during any time of need.  Pray that your children find this kind of intimacy and develop a genuine passion for God.
  • PURITY (Psalm 51:10)- When King David wrote this psalm following his sin of adultery and murder, he pleaded with God to cleanse his heart and spirit.  It’s no surprise to say that godly morals are on the decline in our society today, so we must pray for our children’s purity while they are growing up in a world that tries to defile them.  And when they make mistakes and sin, we must pray, like David, that God create in them a clean heart that desires to serve him.
  • GENEROSITY (1 Timothy 6:18-19)- To say that my family and I are blessed would be a gross understatement.  In fact, if you’re reading this, it means you probably have a nice expensive phone or computer with internet access, so suffice it to say that you’re blessed too.  But not everybody in this world has it as good as the majority of us.  That’s why we must pray for and teach our children the concept of generosity.  The verse referenced above tells us to be rich in good works, to be generous, thus storing up treasure in what really matters.  Help your kids to know that all that we have and all that we are belongs to God.  It’s our job to use our blessings to generously show God’s love to others.
  • SELF-ESTEEM (Ephesians 2:10)- Kids can sure be mean sometimes.  Trust me, I know.  I’m around third graders all day long.  In their haste to fit in with the crowd, our children can have all kinds of ugly things happen or said to them.  This is why we should pray for our children to have a healthy view of themselves.  This isn’t some kind of pretentious outlook either where they believe the entire world revolves around them.  This is a godly self-esteem that believes they are truly precious in the eyes of God.  Pray that your children know that they are the very workmanship of God.
  • GRATITUDE (Ephesians 5:20)- Have you ever given your child something and been offered a look of, “Is that all?”  I can’t imagine any parent being able to answer “no” to that question.  We human beings tend to have the ingrained ability to grumble and complain about our circumstances, and our children are no different.  In fact, they may have even learned that attitude from you!  Nevertheless, we should pray that our children exemplify a heart of gratitude, always giving thanks to God for what he’s blessed us with.  And be sure to live that attitude as well, because your children will most definitely follow your example.

That ends our five things today on what to pray about for your children.  Make sure to check out the next and final post in this series and start praying for the virtues that we’ve already covered.

-Joe Butler

Prayers For My Daughter (Part 2)

Yesterday, I began a series detailing how we should be praying for our children.  Today we continue this series of blog posts and discuss the next five things that should be on our hearts when we talk to God on behalf of our children.  If you haven’t already done so, read part 1 here.

  • PERSEVERNACE (Hebrews 12:1)- If all of my readers were present here in front of me at this very moment and I asked if anyone had ever experienced any troubles in life, I have no doubt in my mind that every hand would go up.  I wish it weren’t so, but trials are a part of life.  We live in a sinful world where things don’t always work out as God intended.  That’s why it’s essential that we pray that our children show perseverance while running the race of life.  There are so many lessons to be learned by being persistent, and of course, the reward of Heaven awaits those who hold fast to following God.
  • COMPASSION (Colossians 3:12)- This is another area where I’ve been blessed as a parent by having a daughter who exemplifies a compassionate and tender heart.  It is something I continue to pray for on her behalf, because many people treat compassion with contingencies.  We are commanded in God’s word to clothe ourselves with compassion.  What does that look like?  I believe we find the answer in the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).  We should show empathy and concern when we see someone hurting or struggling, and should we teach our children to do the same.
  • SELF-CONTROL (1 Thessalonians 5:6)- At the sake of sounding a little pessimistic, we definitely live in a world where people refuse to accept responsibility for their words and actions.  Prisons are full of people who have excuses for why they’re there.  The reality is, being a Christian requires a tremendous amount of self-control.  But we can’t do it on our own.  Without God’s help, we’ll never come close to living a life of complete self-control.  That’s why we must pray for our children to listen to God’s word and the urgings of the Holy Spirit so that their decisions are based on a godly standard and not on the world’s idea of what’s right.
  • A LOVE FOR GOD’S WORD (Psalm 19:7-10)- Speaking of a godly standard, we can only understand that standard if we actually read God’s word.  This is one area where I believe many Christian parents are failing their children today.  It seems less Christians are opening their Bibles outside of a worship service, and even less are discussing biblical topics with their family at home.  I’ve prayed consistently that my daughter will grow the kind of love for God’s word that’s mentioned in Psalm 19.  That will only happen if I model that behavior myself so when she grows up, she’ll look to God’s word for guidance, encouragement, and instruction and not just follow the popular teachings of the day.
  • FAITHFULNESS (Proverbs 3:3-4)- Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).  If I could offer up only one prayer for my daughter’s faithfulness, it would be that she understand that we need not have all the answers.  So many children growing up ask why and have a deep anxiety or angst at not receiving the answers they want to hear.  God assures us that he always has our best interest at heart and to trust him with our life.  I think this is a great prayer we can speak over our children.

That wraps up our five virtues today on what to pray for your children.  Be sure to come back next time to the read the next post in this series.

-Joe Butler

Prayers For My Daughter (Part 1)

I love being a father.  I wear many hats in my life, but I think the role of “Daddy” is  my favorite.  Now, I will admit that I don’t have a teenager yet.  My daughter just turned 11 years old, but to be honest, I don’t think I’ll mind when she hits her teenage years either.  Part of being a parent is experiencing all the stages of childhood, and I feel so blessed to have been given the important job of raising my daughter.

Like any other Christian parent out there, I’ve quickly learned that to be a godly parent, you must be a person who prays.  God absolutely wants me and my wife to be successful as parents and he wants you to be as well.  But we must understand that God’s idea of success may be a little different from our own.  God doesn’t care as much about how much money your child makes as he does about his or her salvation.  God isn’t concerned whether your child grows up to be a sports star as much as he cares about their love, contentment, and faithfulness.

What follows is a 4 part blog series which will detail some of the things that I pray for on behalf of my daughter.  Each virtue is supported by a passage or two of Scripture showing that God really does want to bless us in our endeavor to raise godly children.  Today, we’ll start off with the first five and continue with five more each day.

  • SALVATION (Hebrews 7:25)- As a parent, the most important thing we can pray for is the salvation of our children.  There is nothing else in this life that will have a longer lasting effect than teaching our children to obey the gospel and give their lives to Christ.  Because I was baptized at age 10 and my daughter is now 11, I’m keenly aware that this decision may be made soon, so we have spent a lot of time studying the Bible and answering questions that she may have.  Most importantly, I’ve fervently prayed that God will touch Emma’s heart and help assure her that a life surrendered to him is the only way to live.
  • LOVE (Ephesians 5:1-2)- Second only to loving God with all of our heart is to love others as ourselves.  In the case of our daughter, she has such a tender heart for others and I think that is a direct result of our prayers for her on that behalf.  In a world with more and more selfishness, love for our neighbor is becoming a lost art.  Always pray that your children will imitate God and live a life of love and teach them that they should do so regardless of the circumstances or without passing judgment.
  • HONESTY AND INTEGRITY (Psalm 25:21)- One of my favorite things to tell my daughter, especially at her age, is to be prepared to do the right thing, even if you have to stand alone.  As a teacher, I see firsthand the effect that peer pressure has on our kids.  Even when it’s not necessarily bad, our children are constantly tempted to sacrifice godly integrity to maintain friendships or fit in with the crowd.  It takes a certain kind of personality to always stand up for what’s right, and your child may have a more go-with-the-flow demeanor.  That’s why, as parents, we should pray that our children look to God for their standard and will boldly live a godly lifestyle not matter what the world throws at them.
  • COURAGE (Deuteronomy 31:6)- Coinciding with the previous virtue is the idea of courage.  I pray that my daughter will always feel the presence of God with her and know that in all situations, he is there and is helping her do the right thing.  So many children today suffer depression or anxiety, and while there are many reasons for those issues to occur, the knowledge that God will never leave us always brings great assurance.  Pray that God will bless your children with the courage necessary to face any kind of trial that may come their way.
  • CONTENTMENT (Philippians 4:12-13)- Let’s just put this out on the table.  I’m not a millionaire.  There’s no doubt that my family and I are very blessed, but we live a relatively simple life surrounded by friends, family, and God.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.  In the materialistic society that we live in, it’s vital that we teach our children that God wishes for us to be content.  We must also pray to that end, because we are bombarded daily with the message that we need more.  Contentment is found when we learn that God truly has given us everything we need and more, and this is an attribute that we should instill in our children as well.  Example really sets the tone here.  If we, as parents, live a life of contentment, our children are much more likely to follow suit.

I hope this series of posts help to encourage you to be a better parent and one who actively prays for the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of your children.  Come back next time as we examine 5 more prayers that we should offer up to God for our children.

-Joe Butler

The Church is a Family

I know not everyone can relate to my personal situation, but I have had the benefit of a wonderful and very rewarding family life.  I have extremely fond memories of childhood spent in a caring household surrounded by loving parents and siblings.  Of course we had our hiccups; every family does.  But being raised in a Christian home has made all the difference in my view of God, of family, and of life.

On the other hand, there are many who read this and would give anything to have the fond memories of a loving family as I do.  You may have grown up in a broken or abusive home, one from which you longed to escape as soon as you were old enough to do so.  Others may be facing family turmoil as we speak.  Your marriage didn’t turn out the way you’d hoped or your kids are in and out of trouble.  For whatever reason, many people think of grief and heartache when they hear the word family.

I believe this is what makes membership in a church family so difficult sometimes.  When people from all walks of life come to know God and are added to his church, we then have to learn what God calls us to as a family of believers.  We are, “no longer strangers and aliens, but…are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19).  We are meant to be a family, a group of loved ones who look out for one another (Galatians 6:10), and God has left us plenty of instruction on how to carry that out.

As a family, Christians are to…

As you can see, membership  in God’s family is a very active position.  You’ll also notice that our role as family members has us always seeking to take care of the needs of others.  Nowhere in this family is there room for selfishness or pride or jealousy.  Do those things happen?  Sure, for they are part of our human nature.  That’s why we must strive to stay in God’s word, learning his definition of what a true family looks like so we can apply that wisdom not only to our spiritual family, but to our family at home as well.

The church is a family that has joined together the saved of countless generations and whose head and leader is Christ himself.  Won’t it be grand to one day be reunited with all our brothers and sisters in Christ and to be called home by our Father to our place in Heaven to reside for eternity?  I hope to see you there!

-Joe Butler


Monday Motivation: Youth is a State of Mind

fire-pngI set up the Christmas decorations the other day with my wife and daughter and it was such an enjoyable evening.  With traditional Christmas music playing in the background and the smells of a home-cooked meal wafting through the house, my family set out to decorate for the holiday festivities.  I watched my daughter’s eyes light up when the tree glowed for the first time and the joy on her face when she placed the ornaments on the branches was unforgettable.

It’s always rewarding to see things through the eyes of a child, for they remind you that youth is a state of mind.  It’s something to remember, for although we have no control over the fact that we grow old, we can decide just how we’re going to do it.  Below is a quote from General Douglas MacArthur during a dedication speech he gave in 1952.  I hope these words inspire you to always stay young even when you’re old.

“Youth is not a time of life- it’s a state of mind.  You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair.  In the central place of your heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage, grandeur and power, so long you are young.”


Monday Motivation: Our Adoption

fire-pngPicture two infants, one the picture of health and energy, beautiful in every way, just waiting for someone to come adopt her, and the other, a little boy full of physical ailments, doomed to live as an orphan indefinitely.  Seems a little harsh, but this is the typical picture of adoption as we know it.  The children with the pretty smile and quiet demeanor and well-to-do pedigree are usually the ones sought after by parents who are ready to adopt.  And what of the other child, the one with all the “problems”?  If it were up to most people, he would be passed up, a task for someone else to tackle.

But not for God.

He has chosen to adopt you whether you fit the mold of beauty or not.  Got any scars from sin and imperfections?  He wants you anyway.  Do you feel like you’re never going to be good enough or smart enough or pretty enough to really feel loved?  He loves you anyway. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1).  We have been adopted into the family of God, not because we deserve to be there or that we’ve earned our place in is house, but because He loves us and “he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will” (Ephesians 1:5).

Let that thought really sink in as you start a new week.