Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for July, 2014

What comes to your mind when you hear the phrase “congregational worship”? An hour wasted in irrelevance? Or a meaningful encounter with God that is vitally important for those who want to grow in their faith? A.W. Tozier once called worship “the missing jewel of the church.”

Human beings were created by God with the capacity for and the need to worship. Those who do not worship God, or have stopped worshipping Him, do not stop worshipping – they redirect their focus and worship toward themselves or toward another created object. Is there any doubt that there should be a renewed emphasis placed on the importance of genuine worship in today’s churches?

The pulpit, as important as preaching is, has taken over center stage in most churches. Corporate worship services are times when sound doctrine is proclaimed, expounded, and defended. The importance of this should not be de-emphasized, but those who listen to what a preacher says on Sunday without any awareness of being in God’s presence, will return home as unfulfilled and as empty as when they came.

The people in the prophet Malachi’s day likewise misunderstood, abused, and neglected the worship of God. Thus, the prophet’s words have significance for Christians today: “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you, says the Lord Almighty, and I will accept no offering from your hand” (Malachi 1:10 NIV). What Malachi is saying is that just because you attend church and go through the motions doesn’t mean you have genuinely worshiped God.

Psalm 95 has long been used by Christian churches as a call and guide to worship. First, it declares that we are to enter into worship with joyful praise (vv. 1-5). Second, it tells us that we are to be brought low and silent in a sense of reverence (v.6). Finally, it says we can only demonstrate the integrity of our worship by being obedient (vv. 7-11).

There is something wrong in a church that is not ringing with praise. The absence of praise is the sign of a stale or mediocre faith. Such faith, said G.K. Chesterton, is “more theory than a love affair.” Praise offered to God is a sign of spiritual health. Our discipleship and our spiritual growth in Christ will not be complete until our lives are alive with praise.

As we move closer to the Holy of Holies, we are caught up in the wonder and awe of who God is. Speechless and not knowing how to respond, we can only recite the words of the elders recorded in Revelation 4:9, 11 – “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come. You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” Wow! That is what genuine worship is!

God’s words to our individual hearts may come through the singing, a prayer, the sermon, an anthem, or in some other way – but obedience is the proof of its genuineness. Recent decades have seen the growth of what is called the “me generation” resulting from the “culture of narcissism.” It has been easy for this kind of egocentricity to be incorporated into what is often called worship.

We should not sing “I Surrender All” unless we are trying to give God our very best. We should not sing “Standing on the Promises” if all we are doing is “sitting on the premises.” We should not sing “Wherever He Leads, I’ll Go” if we are not willing to go across the street to speak to a neighbor who needs to hear the story of God’s love. The ultimate test of worship is this: What difference does it make in our lives?

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Have you ever worked long and hard on some project that turned out great? When you stood back to admire what you had accomplished, you may have even said to yourself, “I gave it my best. What I was able to accomplish is good.” It is fact, not pride, to recognize when you have done a quality job. I wonder if that is how God felt when He created the earth and our entire universe. The early chapters of Genesis tell us:

When daylight was separated from darkness God said, “It is good.”

When the land was divided from the sea God said, “It is good.”

When the sun and moon were created – the sun to give light for the day and the moon to give light for the night – God said, “It is good.”

When creatures were created in the sea and birds were created to fly, God said, “It is good.”

When all the animals were created God said, “It is good.”

But following the creation of Adam God said, “It is not good.”

Notice the change from “good” to “not good” (Genesis 2:18, 20). After Adam was created there was something missing in his life. He was lonely, and this left him unfulfilled. Having been created in the image of God, aloneness and isolation were not good. Husbands and wives need each other more than they realize.

One of the greatest threats to happiness in any marriage is when either a husband or a wife has the feeling of being a married single. It hurts. The loneliest place in the world is a human heart when love is absent. Isolation has no place in a successful marriage. It is often the first step in the direction of adultery and in many instances to the dissolution of the marriage.

Couples need intimacy—verbal intimacy, emotional intimacy, and physical intimacy. Without intimacy they move further and further apart. Mole hills become mountains. Minor arguments mushroom into major confrontations. Intimacy leads to apathy, and apathy leads to loneliness. A husband and wife can live under one roof and still be a million miles apart. And when this happens, God says, “It is not good.”

Dr. John Baucom, in Wait Quietly, makes an interesting observation about how couples move away from intimacy: “With the appearance of the two-bathroom home, Americans forgot how to cooperate. With the appearance of the two-car family, we forgot how to associate, and with the coming of the two-television home, we will forget how to communicate.” He wrote these words before smart phones, I-Pads, and other technological inventions that require so much time that couples are left with little or no time for intimacy.

If you are married and have a very special mate, as I have had for sixty-three years, ask him (or her) if there are times when he (or she) feels lonely. If the answer is in the affirmative, ask him (or her) for suggestions as to how you can correct the situation. It will help if you then say, “Thank you for letting me know. I will begin to work on it because I want our marriage to be filled with happiness.”

Sometimes people are lonely because they build walls rather than bridges. If this in any way describes your marriage, you need to know that a wall can be torn down and replaced by a bridge. God stands ready to supply the building materials with which you can become a bridge builder.

Read Full Post »

Hippocrates back in 400 B.C. said, “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.” Today, good nutrition is more important than ever. Four out of ten leading causes of death in the United States – heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes – are directly related to the way we eat. Diet is also implicated in scores of other health problems.

Many people think a balanced diet is to have a king-sized hamburger in each hand. This kind of thinking leads to obesity. One hotdog manufacturer stages a hotdog eating contest annually. At the most recent hotdog guzzling fiasco the winner downed 61 hotdogs with all the trimmings. I don’t remember what prize he won, but the ultimate price he could pay for such inane gluttony could be to have a heart attack years before he is old enough to enjoy his grandchildren.

Obesity has even become a problem among America’s children. To address this situation the federal government now requires all school lunch menus to have balanced nutrition. Eating a balanced diet, of course, is only part of an overall healthy lifestyle, which should include regular exercise plus taking care of your body in other ways.

The book of Genesis tells us that God created Adam and Eve in His spiritual image. Since they had both a spiritual and physical nature, God knew they needed both physical and spiritual nourishment. This is why Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

The apostle Paul said to the Corinthian Christians: “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body?” (I Corinthians 6:19). Eat well to have a healthy body, and feed on God’s Word to be nourished spiritually. Those who fail to take care of their body often do not live to become senior adults. The anonymous author of the poem, Methuselah, humorouslydescribes a man who was a senior adult for several centuries:

          “Methuselah ate what he found on his plate

          And never, as people do now,

          Did he note the amount of the calorie count;

          He ate it because it was chow.

          He wasn’t disturbed as at dinner he sat,

          Devouring a roast or a pie,

          To think it was lacking in granular fat

          Or a couple of vitamins shy.

          He cheerfully chewed each species of food,

          Unmindful of troubles or fears

          Lest his health might be hurt

          By some fancy dessert,

          And lived almost a thousand years.”

          If he had paid more attention to healthy nutrition, there is no way of knowing how long he might have lived.

 

Read Full Post »

Many of our daily activities are influenced by labels of one kind or another. We try to purchase merchandise containing labels that we have learned by experience will have the kind of quality we can trust. We have learned to avoid buying items containing labels that have earned the reputation of being inferior in quality.

We have all purchased products with labels that are advertised to have quality, but which are actually substandard. Watches, clothes, and other items, for example, can be purchased from street vendors in New York City that have expensive labels, when both the label and the merchandise are fakes. It is not until after the buyers of these items have returned home from the Big Apple that they discover they have purchased cheap imitations. They feel cheated, and indeed they been cheated – that is, unless they knew all along the quality of what they were buying.

Several years ago my brother bought a watch for me from a street vendor when he was in New York City on a business trip. The watch’s name, had it been the real item, would have cost a lot of money. The price Ed paid? Ten bills bearing a picture of George Washington! He knew the watch was only a copy. It looked exactly like the expensive label; it cost ten dollars.

The word “Christian” is also a label – a very worthy label. But Jesus said that those who only wear the label, but do not live the Christian life, are hypocrites. Such persons do not intend to be what they pretend to be. What they do doesn’t match what they say. They don the uniform but are not willing to fight any battles. They want the benefits of the name Christian without taking up the cross. The Bible says that on judgment day Jesus will say to them, “I never knew you.”

A few years ago I was sitting in the surgical waiting room of the Cape Fear Hospital in Wilmington with the family of a church member who was having a serious operation. As I prepared to have a prayer with the family, another lady was there whose male friend was also having surgery. She asked if I might include her friend in my prayer. I told her I would be glad to do so.

She explained, “We are senior citizens. His wife, and my husband, died a few years ago. We were both lonely, so we decided to move in together. We have lived together now for a little over a year. We are Christians who attend church, but if we had gotten married we would be ineligible to collect as much Social Security.” She asked if in my prayer I would bless their living together without being married. I told her that this was something I had no power to do. I did include them in my prayer, and they needed prayer, but I could not and did not bless their relationship.

Should you think that makes me old-fashioned or judgmental, let me say that most, if not all Christians, have experienced times when our words and actions did not live up to the label. There are even Christian churches that fail to live up to the label. When this is true of a church, it puts on a lot of foliage, but bears little fruit. It regularly schedules and piously carries out religious exercises in the sanctuary on a regular basis, when those who are present make less than a stellar effort to apply the Christian faith in their personal lives, their home, their workplace, or in the marketplace.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven,” said Jesus, “but he who does the will of My Father” (Matthew 7:21). Profession without possession, preaching without practicing, declaration without dedication, is always libelous. It may dazzle and impress a few people for a short period of time, but it certainly doesn’t impress God.

In order to take the libel out of the label “Christian” we must recognize that our Lord calls us to be servants. We must also be aware of the importance of maintaining a perpetual and permanent commitment to the living Christ as Savior and Lord in everything we do. This is what gives us the courage to live and act in a way that will glorify His name and build His kingdom on earth.

Faith with works is a force. Faith without works is a farce.

 

Read Full Post »

Those who choose to believe that human life on earth is the result of accidental changes that took place without deliberate and intelligent design over eons of time are welcome to do so. I choose to believe that you and I were created by a loving and thoughtful God. However many years or millions of years He chose in order for that to happen is His business, not mine. It simply does not matter. He created each human being in His spiritual image and housed that likeness within a physical body.

Have you ever given serious thought to what a marvelous and miraculous creation you are – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually? Your complexity is unexcelled by the government organization of any nation on earth. There is within your physical body a microcosm of mankind.

For example, just one square inch of your skin is estimated to contain 20 blood vessels, 13 sensory points for cold, 78 for heat, 165 for pressure, 65 muscles, 100 glands secreting fatty matter, 650 sweat glands, 28 nerves, 1,300 nerve ends to record pain, and 19,500 sensory cells at the end of nerve fibers.

All of the blood in your body passes through your heart, which has a grip stronger than a fist, every half-minute. The two ventricles of your heart hold about ten ounces of blood which they pump out with every beat.

At 72 beats per minute, that is 45 pounds of blood per minute, 2,700 pounds per hour, and 64,800 pounds (that is 32.4 tons) per day. This is equivalent to the heart raising its own weight 13,000 feet per hour. This continues throughout your entire life span.

Your body is made up of approximately seventy-five trillion cells. Every one of those cells contains hundreds of thousands of molecules with six feet of DNA and over three billion letters of coding. These cells are a potent blend of matter and memory. Your body comes from the earth, is sustained by the earth, and will return to the earth at the time of your death.

Your body contains 206 bones – that is, unless you have lost some of them as the result surgery or an accident. Your brain weighs between forty and fifty ounces and almost eighty percent of this is water. The remaining ten ounces of gray cells have the capacity of storing over ten trillion units of information. A bit of brain tissue the size of a pinhead contains as much information as many of our earliest computers.

No nation’s central intelligence system can compare with your nervous system. Your brain cells are arranged in highly specialized groups for various purposes. Autonomic nerves communicate with one another. Sensory nerves transmit information from the outside world. Motor nerves make possible the contraction of your muscles that allows you to run, jump, play, chew your food, or become involved in other activities.

Your body contains such an awe-inspiring world that that it must be governed. Every organization or group must have structure or it will collapse. No nation can exist and prosper if its internal affairs are controlled by outside influences. A community that is not controlled is soon controlled by anarchists. Misrule becomes the rule. That is as true of a human body as it is of an entire nation.

This leads to a very important question: Who is in control of your life? How you answer that question matters a great deal. No external influence can dominate you without your consent. Your feelings, emotions, and sentiments are not determined by what happens around you as much as by the decisions you make and the attitude you display. You are no one’s marionette unless you choose to be.

God created you not just as a physical being but also as a spiritual being. This means that you are a moral agent – you have the power to choose. It is why Jesus spoke of the importance of being born from within. And, according to the Bible it is why, as unique as you already are, you cannot and will not ever become all that God created you to be until you have accepted Jesus Christ, His Son, as Savior and Lord.

Hopefully you have already made this decision and are actively serving Him. If not, you need to know that even though He loves you, He will not force Himself on you. You must choose to open the door and invite Him in (Revelation 3:20). You can make that decision today – in fact, this very moment! The time is definitely coming when you will no longer have the opportunity.

It could happen much sooner than you realize. Think about it!

 

Read Full Post »