Monday, February 27, 2017

Worship vs Entertainment

  I was despaired watching an episode of the Tim Allen comedy Last Man Standing. This particular episode dealt with the church they attended and how the attendance was falling off because the services weren’t entertaining enough.
  It is sad indeed that people feel church is a place to be entertained. I often hear things like “I go to this church because they have a great band,” or “the preacher there is really entertaining.” Somewhere along the way people have decided our purpose for going to church is to be entertained. But what does the Bible say our purpose should be?
  Nowhere in the Bible does it state that our worship should be “entertainment.” Isaiah 43:7 tells us we are all created for God’s glory. Further along in verse 21 God says He creates us for the expressed purpose of proclaiming Him to the world. We are told in Philippians 2:12 to work out our salvation in fear and trembling. In James 6:10 the Scriptures say to “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and Colossians 3:2 instructs us to set our minds on things above and not on the things of this earth. Do those sound like attitudes of entertainment?
  Consider that the Bible constantly reiterates the ideals of piety, humbleness, reverence and fear when it speaks of our worship of God. To seek to be entertained in worship is nowhere to be found in the Bible and is a contrivance of the mind of man, which is by definition the exact opposite of piety and humbleness.
   In our worship to God we are instructed first to meet together to encourage one another (Hebrews 10:25) by reading the Scriptures and teaching (preaching) God’s word (I Timothy 4:13), to pray (I Corinthians 14:15-17), sing songs of praise and thankfulness (Colossians 3:16), and to observe the sacrifice of Christ on the cross (I Corinthians 11:28).
  Inevitably a conversation on worship comes around to the subject of instrumental worship. I’ve written on this subject before (click here to read my blog entry on instrumental music) and feel even more ardently that God does not want us to use mechanical instruments in our worship to Him and I urge you to read my blog post to understand why. I won’t rehash those points over again here but I will offer up the following additional thoughts to consider.
  God is a spiritual being. He is not constrained by a mortal body. The Bible references time and time again his spiritual nature and he constantly tells us our worship is to be in spirit and in truth. When we worship God it should be in Spirit as John tells us in John 4:23-24:
”But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

  Since singing is part of our worship to God it is to be done in Spirit, not with talent and skills as is necessary for those who play an instrument. If that were so He would have excluded a great many from the opportunity to worship Him. It is through our voices that God has chosen for us to worship Him so that ALL might sing in worship. But it does not stop there. Since God is spirit he desires our songs be sung in Spirit. We are to use our hearts, our spirit, to sing to God. When we sing and just mouth the words without considering their meaning he cannot hear our voices. We must understand and feel the words we are singing. Any less or any more is vanity and unacceptable worship.
   As I sat and watched the episode of Last Man Standing the story resolved the issue of the worship service not being “exciting.” Their answer to the problem was spot on. Tim Allen’s character concluded that the main problem was the lack of the congregation to invest itself in the worship. They didn’t get anything out of the lesson or the worship because they weren’t putting anything in to it.

  If we are not singing in spirit, if we are not praying in spirit, partaking of the Lord’s Supper in spirit and listening to the sermon in spirit (by following and paying attention) then we are not investing in the worship and will come away unfulfilled. It is our duty to God and our joy to worship Him in a way that pleases Him.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

To RIP Or Not To RIP

   An aunt of mine posed the following question on her Facebook page – “if one is not a Christian, how do they RIP?” Her question, in reference to an abundance of people who use that acronym to note the death of someone (especially celebrities), echoed misgivings I’ve had in my own mind when acknowledging deaths. After all, just wanting to go to heaven or wishing someone to go to heaven just isn’t going to make it so. Sadly there is a great epidemic of failure to understand the truth of the Bible in our country and the world today.
  The Bible is very specific about what is necessary for men to gain entry into heaven. It takes much more than just being a “nice person.” Consider Matthew 7:13-14 that says
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
  In other words there will be more people who don’t make it to heaven than there will be those that do make it. So why is this so? After all, the Bible was written on a level a fourth grade student could comprehend so why is it so hard to get into heaven? I believe the answer is in the nature of man. Man has free will, the ability to make decisions in this life for himself. He can decide if and when he wants to do something, including how he will respond to God’s instructions on how to attain eternal life in Heaven.  Often subscribing to God’s directions means leaving behind things of this world that provide excitement and thrills and for most men that is just too much to ask because they fail to see the “long game.”
  Of course no man knows with a certainty what state of submission to God another man is at the time of his death. Had he heard, believed, repented of his sins and confessed Jesus as the son of God? Had he been immersed in water (baptized)? Had he then continued living a life devoted to God? Those are the things we do not with a certainty know when someone passes away. In the case of celebrities we often have a good indication to the answer of those questions because they live their lives in the public eye, but then we still do not know with a certainty. But we do know with a certainty that had they passed away and had followed the “broad road” they most certainly will not be resting in peace.

  For myself I often said “RIP” more in a sense of compassion for the family of those who passed than for the deceased. But I believe in the future I can find a better way to express condolences to the family, after all expressing a desire for a departed soul to rest in peace is pretty well useless since their destination is in death determined.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

I Was Convicted.

  I know what it is like to be on trial and hear the words no defendant desires to hear - "We find him guilty!" I know what it is like to be bound in chains, and discarded from those you hold dear and love to enter a life of uncertainty, of fear, of knowing you are where you are because of your own decisions and actions, torturing yourself knowing the time you spend incarcerated could have been better spent, could have been spent in joy and happiness and love with a future to look forward to.
  Yes I know what that feels like. Not because I was a criminal and actually sent to prison, but because I was a child of God and turned my back on God and the church purposely. When I left the church in 2009, I didn't leave it suddenly, it happened over a period of weeks. At a time of weakness, at a time when I was not a mature Christian, I let evil into my life. Not once, but several times. Not in a huge ugly heap but with small little things that chipped away at my soul. I knew I was sliding downward even as I sporadically went to worship services.
  It was in those worship services I attended though that I learned and felt the anguish of being convicted. Convicted as I listened to the words of the songs being sung. Convicted when I partook of the Lord's Supper when I knew in my heart I was lost. Convicted when the heat of the words the preacher spoke singed my heart. Convicted at the invitation because I knew I was headed for death for not surrendering to Jesus.
  But especially the songs. The songs haunt me even today. For now my soul and spirit has clawed from the mire of a sinful world, I have been released from my prison, I have returned to the fold. I sing with joy and love the words of the hymns. And now I am revived, reborn, renewed and redeemed. Some songs are almost impossible for me to sing now, not because they convict me but because of the joy and love that wraps and protects my heart and knowing how close I came to eternal death.
  I was always told of how easy it is to fall away simply by missing a worship service. How easy it is to miss a second service after missing the first one, easier still a third service, then a fourth and on an on until one day you just stop coming to join the family and worship God altogether. Don't think "that's not me," or "I'm not worried about that," or "It's just one time." Falling away always starts with  "just one time."
  If I had an absolutely, positively, can't miss, sure-fire way to make a million dollars with virtually no effort you'd probably listen up and follow my instructions wouldn't you? Well, I have an absolutely, positively, can't miss, sure-fire way for you to live a joyous life both here and now and in eternal life. You see, there is another type of conviction. One that pierces your heart and soul. One that makes you fall to your knees and cry in joy and happiness. Will you listen? Will you follow my instructions? See me at worship services this Sunday and I'll tell you how. Hope I see you there.