Worship: Come Together Right Now

John 4:23&24
23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.

There is much talk today about being relevant in worship. There is much emphasis on externals, such as having a particular musical instrument, not using a particular instrument, dressing one way or another, etc.. Is this really going to improve and unite our worship? It is basketball season again and we are once again preparing to cheer for our favorite teams. There is a lesson to be learned from cheering on our favorite basketball teams. It is often suggested that the lesson to be learned is from the excitement we get when we go to a ball game, and the question is left, Why can we not get that excited about Worshipping God? I do not fully buy into that argument, because there is a distinct difference between the attitude we are to have when going to a sports bar and going to a king’s banquet. However, there is another important lesson. As you watch fans pile into arena pay attention to how they dress and what age they are and how they get along. They are all different ages, they are all different races many times, they usually all bear the mark, logo, or color of their team but they are dressed differently. The elderly fans will often dress up in nice sweaters or even a tie, the young fans will dress with their faces painted and yet they have one purpose when entering the arena and join together to make sure to cheer on their team. Sure, the older fans may not like the baggy shorts on the players, and the younger fans may wish the uniforms were more flamboyant, but this is of little matter at the point when they enter the arena. How does this relate to worship? Some may want this music or that music, or whatever the issue may be, but the focus of worship is God. This is what brings us together. The externals should be non-issues for either party when we begin to worship God.

The Day the Church Stopped Believing In God

John 17:3 “And this is eternal life, that they may know you the only true God.”

How can the Church stop believing in God? Every church is centered on God. It would be better stated that every church is centered on a god. If you believe the logic for the reasoning for God that says God is the being of which no higher being can be thought, then there is only room for one God in the universe. Therefore, God must then be higher than any of our thoughts and thus the only way to know him is to believe what He has revealed about Himself to mankind. In churches all over, they have stopped believing in this Being. It is common to hear someone say, I cannot believe in a God who would send people to Hell. I cannot believe in a God who would not allow women to preach. I refuse to believe in a God that says homosexuality is wrong. I do not want to believe in a God that would choose to save one person and not the next. And all over, without verbalizing it, many have made the claim that they cannot believe in a God that does not let His will be dictated by men’s will. I would challenge you to study the Bible and see what God says about all of these things (Romans 9:22-23, Romans 9:13-18, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 2:12). This does not exhaust the list, but are some of the ways in which we reconstruct God. We try to make him fit our mind, our logic, and our desires. However, the end result is that we stop believing in the one true God, and start worshipping a god constructed in our own mind. What are you basing your eternal life on, the only true God, or a god of you mind?

A Well Spent Life Or A Spent Life

Ecclesiastes 9:9

Enjoy your life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that He has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in you toil at which you toil under the sun.

I am 30 years young right now, and if I live my 70 years I still have more years ahead of me than behind me. I still believe I can change the world; I still believe my children can turn out well; I still believe I can be successful. Any failures I have made up to this point, I still believe I have time to make them good. I still have time and energy enough to have goals and try and bring them about. However, there will come a day when I will not have time and energy and I will have to look back and see whether my life was a well spent life, or merely spent, vain? But how will I know? How will I evaluate my life?

1. In terms of where I am in Christ. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and be clinging less to Christ than I am now.
2. In terms of what I have done for Christ. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and see that most of what I did only profited me or my wallet. Did I show others the love of Christ? Did I do acts of love and mercy in His name? Did I use my time to advance His kingdom?
3. In terms of my relationships. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and see that my family’s and friend’s relationships with Christ were not strengthened by me.

If I am to have purpose in life, I have to hold fast to the truth that the Gospel is powerful. Because of this I believe I can change the world, at least a small part of it. Of course it will not be me that changes the world, but He who is in me.

Consider Your Speech

James 1:26 “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless”

Titus 3:1-2 “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no on, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility to toward all men.”

I was reading a well respected web site yesterday and found several book reviews on the site. One was discussing a modern theologian that I have had real disagreement with in the past few years, so it peaked my interest. The book review appeared academic at first, but then I found it was a bit sarcastic and mocking. Since I disagree with this theologian, I found myself laughing at the review and thinking it was great, at first. Then I went to the other book reviews and found a review of a book written by a good friend who is very faithful in the ministry. All of the sudden these reviews stopped being so funny. I thought about my responses for awhile yesterday and came to the conclusion that I am not as careful with my tongue as I should be.

The way we speak of others if very important to our souls and others. Even if we think we are just being funny, but are putting others down we have crossed a line. It would have been fine for the reviewer of these books to point out truth and error. It would have even been faithful. However, when we point out what we think to be error in a degrading way it is wrong. It puffs up and makes us feel self-righteous, while tearing apart the other. In the same manor I was not showing humility toward all men when I found his put downs funny. Peoples theological errors should not be laughing matters. Slander is very dangerous, we must all guard against enjoying it in any fashion.

We live in a day and age where speaking truth and error is not vogue, but to speak of opinions and emotions is the thing. Instead of examining if someone is right or wrong, we examine how they make us feel and whether we like them or not because of it. We often speak of peoples tones, rather than discussing the substance of what they have said. And we end up attacking people, instead of defending truth. I am learning the old lesson that I am better served to keep my opinions quiet, for it is the opinions of Scripture, truth, that matter.

4th Commandment

Exodus 20:8-11
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. on it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

I just completed a series of sermons on the Sabbath/Lord’s Day and had a very interesting discussion with a man from Kentucky about the last sermon. He posed the question, “What do we expect to happen to us if we break the Sabbath? What should the church do to Sabbath breakers?” It was an interesting question. First, we really don’t like the term Sabbath breaker, because it sounds like we have done something wrong. But wait, haven’t we? The Sabbath day is part of the Moral Law, written on our hearts under the New Covenant. What would a church member expect to happen to them if they committed murder, adultery, or theft? How about if they were running around using the Lord’s name in vain? Most of us would expect to be called out on our sin, or for those committing them to be approached concerning their open sin. So why don’t we consider treating the Lord’s Day in an unholy manner a problem for a Christian? Could it be because we do not expect Christians to be under the Lordship of Christ? To be Holy? Be a Christian, call the Law of God a delight. Be a Christian, obey God’s commandments.

Holiness

Wayne Grudem: “God’s Holiness means that he is separated from sin and devoted to seeking his own honor.” It is this idea of being separated or set apart that we need to understand, but we also need to understand what God is set apart. He is separated or set apart from sin. In Him is no sin. He knows no sin. What does all this mean to us? There are several important lessons. First, God cannot have anything to do with sin, but we are sinners. Second, if we are sinners and God is separate from sin then we are separated from God. Third, it shows how necessary Christ’s perfect, holy work is to man. Without it we can have nothing to do with God. There is another lesson for us though, and it is concerning what sin is. We often misunderstand our sin and the problem of it. What is sin? It is really the opposite of God and holiness. For God to be perfectly holy, that means that everything he does brings glory to himself, nothing he does falls short of the glory of God. And in Christ we see this played out. Everything Christ did, brought Glory to God. There was nothing neutral in Christ, everything brought glory to God. If he would have failed to glorify God in any, even the smallest area of his life or action then he would have sinned. Many times we thing of sin only has terrible acts, but many good acts can be sin if they fail to bring glory to God. This is where God’s holiness, exposes he depths of man’s sin and his desperate need of Christ. There are things I do every day that fall short of the glory of God! That is sin, and that separates us from God. But in Christ I can do all things. I can do all things to the glory of God. May we seek God’s honor.

Contemporary Vs. Traditional Worship

Labels can be very helpful, but it is sad that this debate comes down to these labels because neither is the real issue. The issue of worship is to be God centered vs. man centered, or that which is designed to please God vs. that which is designed to be pleasing to man. Traditional Worship can be man centered if a church decides to be Traditional solely based on what their people like. And Contemporary Worship seems to often be man centered, in that its whole focus is on what will appeal to this generation. But shouldn’t all worship seek to be God centered and contemporary? What I mean by that is not that every church needs to sing choruses, have guitars and drums, and be lead by a worship team, rather the service is to be applicable to life. When our focus shifts to trying to make a service contemporary or traditional in the common use the labels, it becomes dangerous because both are then often man centered rather than God centered.

Calling the Sabbath a Delight

Nehemiah 13:17
“What is this wicked thing you are doing-desecrating the Sabbath?”

The word translated “desecrating” can also be translated to make profane, pollute, make common, or to treat as common. We live in a day and age where the Lord’s Day or the Christian Sabbath is treated as common. It rarely reverenced or protected. It is often treated as a day to do what we need to get done or what will bring us pleasure, rather than a day of Holy rest. Recently when an Archbishop in New York tried to tell people that Little League Baseball and Soccer should not be played on Sunday, the response was, “I don’t think anyone has the authority—hopefully not in this country—to tell you that.” Dr. Al Mohler responds “Taken as a portrait of postmodern America, this little squabble reveals a great deal. There was once a day when a statement like this—from the man known simply as His Eminence to most New Yorkers—would have brought Little League to a Sunday standstill. No more. The erosion and secularization the Cardinal blamed for a decline in Sunday observance have eroded his authority as well. Americans now treat Sundays like other days, though for many work takes a back seat to leisure activities…Sociologists have traced the demotion of Sunday and the decline of worship attendance for years, and have offered a variety of explanations. Their theories all come down to the secularization of the American soul.” In other words our Christian society and many of the Christians in it have become common, polluted, and profane. Are we that much different than the world? Are we not merely seeking after what we like, what makes us happy, what we want? It just so happens that let religion play a role in that, but are we seeking Holy Rest?, God’s Glory?, and God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven? We say the prayer, we go through many of the motions, but have we become like the woman in New York? We want our religion, but we don’t want anyone to tell us what is right and wrong. We want our religion to fit into our desires, rather than our desires being molded to God’s.
O day of rest and gladness, of day of joy and light,O balm of care and sadness, most beautiful, most bright:On Thee, the high and lowly, through ages joined in tune,Sing holy, holy, holy, to the great God Triune.
On Thee, at the creation, the light first had its birth;On Thee, for our salvation, Christ rose from depths of earth;On Thee, our Lord, victorious, the Spirit sent from heaven,And thus on Thee, most glorious, a triple light was given.
Thou art a cooling fountain in life’s dry, dreary sand;From thee, like Pisgah’s mountain, we view our promised land.A day of sweeet perfection, a day of holy love, a day of resurrection, from earth to things above.

The Power of Weakness

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

It is a useless feeling to realize you are weak or cannot do anything to help. For the Christian, that helpless useless feeling often places us where we are strongest, on our knees. It is often said, “All I can do is pray now”, Or “I wish I could do more, but I will pray for you.” We often say this when we feel we can be of no help, or cannot help ourselves, but it is when we have the most power. I cannot raise anyone from the dead, I cannot even heal the sick, nor can I change a person spiritually. However, I can go before the Great Physician, I can go to the Healer, I can go to the Savior and plead on their behalf. Christians have the great privilege of being heard by a God that answers prayer. In other words, our prayers are not weak words or fond thoughts, they are pleas before the only one that can truly help anyone. Today, I have felt many times that I can do nothing, so I have spent more time in prayer, and God has shown his power.

Weary in Doing Good

Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

As believers it ought to bring us great comfort that our Savior knows our hearts. The Christian life is full of ups and downs, and during the down times it becomes increasingly easy to weary in doing good. In a “what have you done for me lately” society, we tend to look at our Christian life the same. If we cannot see that doing what is right is paying off, we are tempted to give up. Truth is now judged by experience, rather than something greater. Therefore, if our experience is not what we want it to be we grow tired, start to complain, and decide doing good is not worthwhile. Take heart, we are given the promise that we will not be disappointed with doing good. If we do not give up, if we persevere, God will reward us. Have you grown tired of doing what is right? Does it feel like doing what is right does not pay off? Are you growing concerned that adhering closely to God’s way is not worth it? DON’T GIVE UP! For at the proper time you will reap a harvest. We are not living for the here and now, but for God. Your Savior God knows there will be times where it is difficult and you feel like it is not worth it, and so He gives us this verse of encouragement and gentle reminder. Do not grow tired, weary of doing good.