Monday, September 1, 2014

Worship Is A Privilege and a Commandment

Worship: Adoration, love, reverence, respect, devotion, veneration, adulation 

Perhaps no other Christian responsibility is more misunderstood than the concept of worship.  There is so much going on in the church world that is called worship, but which, in my opinion, does not pass the test of true worship.

   Scripture tells us a lot about worship.  Here are just a few passages regarding worship:
·        Exodus 34: 14;  '…for you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord …is a jealous God.”
·        Psalm 2:11  “Worship the Lord with reverence.”
·        Psalm 66:4;  “All the earth will worship You, and will sing praises to You;”
·        Matthew 15: 8-9;  “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me.  But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”
·        John 4:24;  “God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
·        Philippians 3: 2-3;  “Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision;  for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ and put no confidence in the flesh,….”
   A careful reading of these texts will teach us all we need to know about worship.  It will also reveal that much of what we call worship does not meet the smell test of real worship.  Too often, what we refer to as worship is nothing more than adulation of a preacher’s sermon or of a great chorale done by the choir and orchestra.  These are not worship at all if the participant in the hearing is not focused on the Lord.  Now, I love a great sermon as much as anyone, but unless I am asking, “Father, what are you trying to teach me with this message?”, it is not really worship.  II love music as much as anyone, but listening to a great choir is not worship unless one is focused on the Lord with all one’s heart and mind.  That means not enjoying the music for the sake of enjoyment, but for what it means in the veneration of our Lord.
  We cannot be thinking about where we will eat lunch and call it worship.  We cannot be asking, “Did I turn the stove off?” and worship at the same time.  Worship requires that we are focused on the Lord and Him alone.  That is why so much of what we do is not worship, even though it was intended to be.  Worship is not what someone else is doing, it is about our focus on the Lord.  The preacher is preaching to everyone and the choir is singing for everyone, but only those who are focused on the Lord are worshipping.
   When we go to church to worship, we are participating in corporate worship, but that should not be the sum of our worship.  Read those verses above once more and see if I am not correct.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Not A Time For Blogging

   Sorry about not posting a blog on Wednesday of this week.  My wife of 60 years had knee replacement surgery on Monday and I have not had time to think about blogging.  I will get back to it soon, but for now I need to focus full attention on her.  At this writing (Thursday morning) she is still in the hospital and I am not certain when she will be coming home.  Please bear with me and pray for Martha's recovery.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Doing Evil In God’s Name

   Very little in our world demonstrates evil more than  an individual or group committing atrocities in the name of God.  That is pretty much what Jihadists are doing all across our world.  The latest group calls themselves ISIS or ISIL, basically calling themselves an Islamist state.  At this point their territory seems to be about half of Syria and one third of Iraq.  It almost seems that this group is emboldened by our president’s oft repeated “no boots on the ground” mantra.  Without having to fear an American military force, ISIS or ISIL commits its atrocities on the innocent and the ill-equipped militias they have thus far encountered.
   Were it not for our country’s leaders constantly telegraphing that we will not send military into the fray, this Jihadist group might fear we will battle them, but in the meantime feels emboldened to have their way against the unarmed or unabled.   We just keep on telling them what we will and, more importantly, what we will NOT do.  Meanwhile, we continue with the minimal drone and air strikes, which, though limited, have already made a difference.
   Back to the point of this post.  ISIS is not the first group to do evil in the name of God.  Frankly, even so-called Christians have done the same.  Just think about the French history, when a cardinal of the Catholic church  led what has become known as the Inquisition.  Thousands of people were put to death on the order of Cardinal Richelieu, who wielded almost absolute power over the life and death of those he considered enemies of the church….his church.  Even though Rome disapproved of the cardinals actions, he still committed evil acts in the name of the church.
   Doing evil in the name of God can be seen in modern times, not only in the Middle East, but inside the doors of the church.  We have all heard preachers stand in their pulpit and tell the world that, “God told me to…..”  in reference to acts of sinfulness.  Too often preachers have mistaken their own pride for the voice of God.  I have seen people’s church membership terminated by some of these preachers for nothing more than  committing the sinful act of disagreeing with the pastor.   
   If you find yourself in a church where one person stands as the arbiter of what is right and what is wrong, run, don’t walk, to the nearest exit and get out of there.  You are in a situation that is no better than what ISIS is doing, slaying all who disagree with their version of their religion.  Do you really think Jesus wants His name associated with a church like that?


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Lost Art Of Witnessing

    “…you shall be my witnesses….” Acts 1:8

   Family members of ours attend worship at Life Church, which is a teleconferencing kind of church.  In other words, the person who started the Life Church movement preaches in Edmond, Oklahoma, but he is seen and heard in 199 other locations across, Oklahoma and Texas, and perhaps other states.  As I understand it, each of the 200 locations has a pastor who shepherd the flock in that location, but the preaching is done from Edmond, the home church.  This past Sunday the 200 congregations of Life Church baptized 3,000 people, and average of 15 per location  That is a phenomenal record of achievement of the most important thing a church should do, bring people to Christ.  I commend the Life Church movement for what they are doing.  At the same time, I recognize that too many churches in my own denomination have gone more than  a year without baptizing a single convert.
   Going a year without a convert is not an issue if the people of that congregation are faithfully witnessing.  After all, Hudson Taylor went five years without a convert after going to Burma as one of the first missionaries of the modern missions movement.  Converts are the business of the Holy Spirit, not the church members.  The business of the congregation is to obey the command of our Lord, as seen above, to be witnesses of His grace.  My own experience has taught me that if we were all being the witnesses we should be, there is no way a church could not be baptizing new converts on a regular basis.
   Back in the 50’s churches were always having what they called “soul-winning” training.  A Baptist preacher named Gene Edwards wrote a number of books on the subject, books that were taught in many churches in week-long studies in how to lead people to Jesus.  One of those books, Soul Winning Made Easy, taught a methodology one could memorize and use to “lead” people to Jesus.  Truthfully, it was an exercise in mental gymnastics designed to trap people into answer “yes” to a series of questions, the last of which was “Will you accept Jesus as your Savior?” .  Because of the way he had answered all the preceding questions there was no way for him to gracefully say “No” to that question.  When he answered “Yes” we would consider him saved, and rejoice.
   That is not what Jesus was talking about when He told us to be His witnesses.  He wasn’t talking about memorization of a foolproof method for bringing people to Jesus.  All Jesus wanted His disciples to do was to deliver an honest testimony of what the Lord’s grace has done in our lives.  If you are a person who organizes their thoughts, think of it as being this kind of testimony:  First tell what your life was like before Jesus came into it.  Then, tell how Jesus came into your life.  Finally, tell what your life has been like since Jesus came into it.
   In discipleship language a witness is someone who gives first-hand testimony of an event he/she experienced.  This is the art we have lost.  We are just not witnessing as we should or as we once did.  If we were, the baptismal waters would be stirred regularly. At least, that is what I believe.  With whom have you shared your experience with Christ this week?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Wrong Choices Cannot Produce Right Outcomes

   The world has been noticing events in Ferguson, Missouri this past week.  It is a week of so many wrong choices.;  Some of them are as follows:

·        A policeman (presumably white) shot an unarmed college student (black), when witnesses say he was on his knees with his hands in the air.

·        Crowds of black men began rioting, looting stores, carting off all the loot they could carry.

·        Ferguson police responded with overkill.

·        State police were called in, but they will not arrest looters.  Store owners are being told, “It’s none of our business.

·        The governor chose only this past Saturday to declare a state of emergency.

   With so many wrong choices, it is no wonder the situation has gotten out of control.  There is never a way for things to go right when there are so many wrong choices.  That is true not only in Ferguson, but in life in general.  There are so many people who seem to feel they can make wrong choices about their eternal destiny and things will still go right for them when they leave this earth.
   For instance, you cannot choose to ignore the claims of Jesus Christ  and hope things well turn out well in eternity. 
   You cannot choose to walk through life as though there was no heaven and expect to go there.
   You cannot choose to live life like you want to and have the life you want in the afterlife.
   Wrong choices make wrong outcomes.  Believe it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

God’s Protection

    As we watch the slaughter of Christians in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries, many must be asking, “Where is God?  Why isn’t He protecting these fellow believers?”  At the core of these questions is the one big question—“Is it God’s will for His followers to be slaughtered?”  Now the focus is on the will of God, instead of the protection of God.
   This I know for certain—God is able to protect His followers.  I also know God is able to destroy those who are persecuting His followers.  However, the way things are now it is easy for these butchering soldiers, those who are killing Christians, to shout, “God is on our side”, because it appears Her is letting them have their way.  I remember, though, a bit of history.  I remember how God dealt with an army from Egypt who sought to kill His people.  It seems to me I remember they were drowned in the Red Sea as they pursued the people of God.
   I remember also how God used a boy with a slingshot to route the army of the Philistines after the boy killed their hero, the giant, Goliath.  Is God capable of repeating such acts as these in modern times?  Absolutely.  Will He?  I do not know.  What I do know is that one day He may call on me to give up my life for Him.  I confess, I hope that does not happen, but if it does, I hope I am ready to do it.  Here’s what you haven’t read in the papers or heard on the air—500 Christians were slaughtered when they refused to convert to Islam in one Iraqi village. 
   What do you suppose would happen in America if someone took over your town and demanded that you renounce your Christian faith or be killed?  You see, that is the real crux of things.  We should worry less about God’s protection and more about our own faithfulness to Him.   In a world increasingly hostile to the Christian faith, how many Christians will remain faithful to the faith they profess?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Spiritually Speaking..Obama Makes Right Call

   In a presidency marked by almost unanimously making the wrong call (or no call at all), I give the president high marks for his decision to finally order airstrikes on ISIS.  This army of Islam has made a name for itself as a ruthless, barbaric killer of all who do not hold the beliefs of Islam.  They have been seen beheading children, and slaughtering adults who are Christian or any other religion except Islam.  Fleeing from their onslaught are thousands of Christians and others who found themselves trapped on top of a mountain that stands a mile higher than sea level.  This ISIS army would slaughter every one of these people if they had not run to hide in the mountains.  ISIS is NOT an army of God, but an enemy of God, with designs on the death of all who do not follow Islam.
   This evil, barbaric army of Islam has murdered its way across Syria, and Iraq.  The fact that they march in the name of Allah is a sham, since this ISIS army shows none of the mercy of the god they purport to serve.  Of all the armies of this world in my lifetime, which includes the armies of Nazi Germany, this ISIS army takes the cake for sheer evil deeds.  They have declared war on America and all who fail to worship as they do in their Islamic traditions.   Rather than pit themselves against military men and machines, they have chosen to go against innocent, non-military civilians.  They have called down on themselves American bombs and I for one hope America bombs them back to the Stone Age, which judging from their actions would not be a very long trip.
   The goal of this evil cadre of “soldiers” is to take land away from other sovereign countries and build an Islamic state in the Middle East, a state which could be the launching pad for well-trained terrorists who would go throughout the globe wreaking havoc.  They have already vowed to raise the flag of Allah in the White House.  I would hope President Obama would see this as a declaration of war against America and act accordingly.  These targeted bombing sorties are a start, but they must not let up.  This army must be destroyed completely.  Since their goal is annihilation of all “unbelievers”, our goal should be to make sure they get what they have vowed for others and wreak havoc on themselves.
   The United States could destroy ISIS within a week with constant bombing, strafing, missiles, etc.  Not one single solder would need to be on the ground.  Our air superiority and drone arsenal are sufficient to wipe these varmints out completely.  This nation would stand united behind the president if he would answer the ISIS declaration of war with an unlimited air war against them.  The sooner the better.
   In my opinion, a war against this evil force would be a just war, one that would bring glory to the Lord God.  How long must we wait to enter the fray?