Christmas in Light of the Cross, Day 11 (False Worship)

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking,  “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:1-2 NLT

Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared.  Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!” Matthew 2:7-8 NLT 

When the wise men go to worship Jesus, they were probably surprised to find they were the only ones.  Why were God’s people so lethargic? Then the wise men meet Herod, who tells them he wants to worship too. That must have really encouraged them! Of course, we know Herod’s claim to worship was not sincere. It was very hypocritical. The fact that the wise men were not a part of some big mega church or mega movement did not keep them from worshiping Jesus, even if they were the only ones. The fact that Herod, who claimed to be a worshiper turned out to be phony, did not keep them from seeking Jesus either.

Please don’t let the lethargy that may be in your church, family or community, keep you from seeking Jesus, even if like the wise men, you feel all alone. Please don’t let hypocrites or false worshipers rob you of your joy in finding the Savior!

Wise men still seek Him, even if no one else does!

Worship: From Exile to Restoration

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

While studying this week’s SS lesson, two things became apparent to me.  God’s church has never been perfect. The sins of the church leaders described in Ezekiel 8 makes this clear. Many people today act shocked, to see things happening in the church, that ought not to be. They talk about how religious piety is wanting. They talk about the olden days when the church was pure. Friends, the church has never been pure and religious piety has always been wanting. People say, the standards are not upheld like they used to be. For example, I heard someone talking a while back about how when they were growing up, you never saw an Adventist drinking Coke or Pepsi at a church gathering, like you may today. True. We did not drink it at social gatherings but many of us drank it at home. So are the standards slipping, or are we just becoming more real? I am not condoning drinking Coke or Pepsi at Adventist gatherings or at home. What I am suggesting, is that we take a realistic look at things. Are our standards slipping, or are we just becoming less hypocritical, and not hiding what we really do, and who we really are?

I only use Coke and Pepsi as a handy illustration. We, as a church and as individuals, have issues much more pressing than soft drinks. This leads me to my second observation revealed in our SS lesson. Intercession. When we see things in the church that ought not to be, often our first instinct is to have the people responsible removed. Years ago, a children’s SS teacher told me how a pastor changed her life. She was a smoker and a SS teacher. Convicted she should not be smoking, and teaching the children, she confessed to her pastor that she should no longer be teaching the children. The pastor told her she had it all wrong. She should keep teaching the children’s SS class. It was the smoking she should quit! By God’s grace she quit smoking and continued teaching. When my shirt gets torn, it is easier to throw it away and buy a new one than it is to sew and fix it. When we see people with problems in the church, we think it is easier for them to just leave and get someone else, instead of helping mend the people with problems. Jesus is not into quick fixes. Jesus is not into throwing people away because they are broken. This is why He has stood by a church so imperfect for not just centuries, but millenniums. Jesus wants to mend and heal His broken church and broken people. What the church needs is prayer warriors like Daniel, who in Daniel 9 interceded for the church of his day, and even saw himself as part of the problem, and saw God, not himself, as part of the solution.  Instead of praying for people who we perceive to be tainting the church to leave, we should first intercede for them and pray for their salvation.  After all, if we truly believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives and purify the church, why don’t we give the Holy Spirit time to do His work?

I understand church discipline is Biblical and has its place, but intercession has its place too, and it comes before church discipline. In the past we may have used church discipline as a quick fix. Throw away that old torn shirt and buy a new one. A Christ like Church will take the time to mend people, instead of throwing them away. This may make the church less than perfect for a while. That’s okay. It takes to time to fix things correctly. So I challenge you, instead of being critical of your church, intercede for your church. And I challenge you to go a step further. Ask Jesus to send the outcasts, that no other church wants  to your church!

Worship: “Trust Not in Deceptive Words”: The Prophets and Worship

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Sunday’s section of this week’s SS lesson, asks the question, “What do you think is more important: correct theology or correct actions? Can you have your theology right and yet treat others in a poor manner? What hope can you cling to if, perhaps, you see yourself revealed in the above texts? 

In Luke 10 Jesus tells the story of the good Samaritan. In this story a priest and a Levite, walk by and leave a wounded man to die. They knew the law. I am sure their peers would say they had sound theology. But did they? In Exodus 23:4-5 it says we are to help even an animal in distress. How much more a man! Surely the priest and Levite knew this. After the Priest and Levite leave the man to die, for whatever reason, a Samaritan comes along. Samaritans had their own place of worship, which according to the Jews, was the incorrect place to be. The Samaritan probably did not know the law or the Scriptures like the priest and Levite did. However, he was more like Jesus than either of the other men because, according to Luke 10:33 he had compassion. In this story, that one word, “compassion”, seems to separate right actions from wrong actions and bad theology from good theology. I have heard it said, that many will miss heaven by about 18 inches. The difference between the brain and the heart. I have also heard it said, and I believe, that heaven will be filled with people who had muddled theology, but none with bitter hearts.

As we continue reading the story, we find the Samaritan to be even more like Jesus. First he had compassion. Second he binds up the wounds of the hurt man even as Jesus binds our wounds. Finally he tells the innkeeper that he will pay for this man’s complete recovery. On the cross Jesus paid for our complete recovery from sin, and today gives us the free gift of sanctification as well as justification.

So, to answer the original question, I would say you can’t really have one without the other. If your theology is good, it will have good actions. Good actions are good theology. I think Ellen White says it best, in the book Desire of Ages, in the chapter “The Good Samaritan.”

  In the story of the good Samaritan, Christ illustrates the nature of true religion. He shows that it consists not in systems, creeds, or rites, but in the performance of loving deeds, in bringing the greatest good to others, in genuine goodness.  {DA 497.1}  

Worship: Conformity, Compromise and Crisis in Worship

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Sunday’s section of this week’s SS lesson asks, “What are some things your own society does not condemn that are clearly condemned by the Bible? More important, how much has society impacted you and the church in regard to these issues? That is, what things clearly condemned in Scripture might the church take too lightly, directly as a result of the influence of society?”

Things that used to shock the world several years ago are now freely accepted by the church. This makes me wonder, is the church following the Word of God, or just trying to stay a few paces behind the world in paganism? In 1939 the world (not the church, the world) was shocked when Rhett Butler told Scarlett, “Frankly my dear I don’t give a d—n” on the silver screen. Today it takes a lot more than that to shock not just the world but the church. Satan is smart enough to make a small gradual effect on the church. Before you know it, things that the world once saw as sinful, the church within time freely condones. It seems as though sin is relative. Well that’s not a bad movie compared to this movie which is even worse. This swimsuit is not that immodest once you consider what they wear on South Beach. Smoking marijuana is not as bad as Crack.  So, are we trying to follow Jesus, or just make sure we are not following the world too closely? Is our goal to be like Jesus, or is it to just not be too much like the world? Could it be that our goal is actually somewhere in between Jesus and the world? Is the Bible our guide, or is society and the Bible our guide?

Being a single Christian man in my forties I am surprised at how many older Christians believe sex outside of marriage is okay. People will not come right out and say it, but I believe many in the church today think the “no sex before marriage” rule only applies to teens. They bend the teachings of the Bible to agree with what is socially acceptable instead of the other way around. Even homosexuality is gaining acceptance in some churches. We are satisfied with the explanation that they must be born that way, totally forgetting the words of Jesus that we must be BORN AGAIN! Fact is, we all are born sinful so we must all be born again, including the homosexual. Of course the sex and entertainment world is not the only area we have let society dictate. I once heard a pastor in Texas say, “a homosexual church is not in any more open rebellion against God’s Word than is a church that keeps Sunday instead of the Bible Sabbath.”

Ancient Israel did not want to be governed by God’s standards, but rather wanted to have a king and be like the other nations. Today some churches want to gauge their success as though it is a worldly business. Instead of comparing themselves to the Word of God, they like to look at growth graphs and charts to gauge success just like worldly businesses do. When we gauge our success the same way the world does, we then try to use the same means to achieve success. I would like to point out at this time Dueteronomy 13:17-18. “He will increase your numbers, as he promised on oath to your ancestors—because you obey the LORD your God by keeping all his commands that I am giving you today and doing what is right in his eyes.” Success comes from the Word of God and not being socially accepted by society. In modern society we have the same challenge as ancient Israel. Are we going to follow God’s Word, or just stay a few paces behind the world?

There is another and more important question that should engage the attention of the churches of today. The apostle Paul declares that “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” [2 Timothy 3:12.] Why is it, then, that persecution seems in a great degree to slumber?—The only reason is, that the church has conformed to the world’s standard, and therefore awakens no opposition. The religion which is current in our day is not of the pure and holy character that marked the Christian faith in the days of Christ and his apostles. It is only because of the spirit of compromise with sin, because the great truths of the Word of God are so indifferently regarded, because there is so little vital godliness in the church, that Christianity is apparently so popular with the world. Let there be a revival of the faith and power of the early church, and the spirit of persecution will be revived, and the fires of persecution will be rekindled.  {Great Controversy, p. 48}

Worship in the Psalms

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Friday’s section of this week’s SS lesson asks, “What are some of your own favorite Psalms? What do you like about them, and what do they reveal to you about the Lord?” So here are three of my favorites and what they mean to me.

To me, studying the life of David is like studying human nature. Here is a man whose aims were high, but still succumbed to his humanity. Isn’t that all of us? We learn some very valuable lessons in the life of David. Many people want to point out that David made some terrible mistakes, and God forgave him which is true. However let’s not use that as a license to sin, or as an object lesson that God condones sin.  Fact is, while David did receive forgiveness for his grievous sins, the lessons for us are, it still would have been much better for David and his family (nation too) if David had never committed those sins in the first place. Another very important lesson is, we do not see David going back and making the same mistakes over and over again! Here is the balance of grace in David’s life. He received forgiveness for sins and the power to overcome those sins in the future.

I believe one of the reasons we do not see David going back again and again making the same mistakes, is because he trusted God’s grace to change him instead of promising to change himself. As I read David’s Psalm of repentance in chapter 51, I see David declaring his dependence on God’s grace to overcome instead of promising to overcome on his own. I see him asking God to give him a clean heart and to purify him instead of trying to make himself better. I also love how David declares that God will never despise a heart that is broken because of how its sin has hurt God. I would like to add, that while David makes it so clear that God can give victory over sin, that if we fall again we do not need to lose hope. I believe God will never despise a broken heart, no matter how many times that heart has been broken by sin before!

Read Psalms 51 in your favorite language and version here.

Psalm 51

1Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.

2Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

3For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.

4Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

5Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

6Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.

7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

8Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.

9Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.

10Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

11Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.

12Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

13Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.

14Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.

15O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.

16For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.

17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

18Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.

19Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.

I love the first few verses of Psalms 103 as they give hope and encouragement in every situation. I often share this verse with people in the hospital and find it is one of their favorites too!

Read Psalms 103 in your favorite language and version here.

Psalms 103:1-5

1Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

2Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:

3Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;

4Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;

5Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalms 23 is packed with comforting theology. For those who are looking for good sound pastoral leadership in the world today, you will be pleased to know that the Lord Himself wants to be your pastor! A shepherd is a pastor, and the Spanish version literal reads that God is our pastor. Throughout the years of my ministry I have experienced God preparing a banquet feast for me time and again in the presence of my enemies, who actually are not my personal enemies at all, but rather God’s enemies! I love the fact that God’s goodness and mercy are with me all the days of my life! Not just on the days I feel good or think everything is going my way, but all the days of my life!

Read Psalms 23 in your favorite language and version here.

Psalm 23

1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Worship: Rejoicing Before The Lord: The Sanctuary and Worship

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

While studying this week’s SS lesson, I ran across some interesting articles from the Spirit of Prophecy.

Keep Silence Before Him

  The Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him. Habakkuk 2:20

From the sacredness which was attached to the earthly sanctuary, Christians may learn how they should regard the place where the Lord meets with His people. There has been a great change, not for the better, but for the worse, in the habits and customs of the people in reference to religious worship. The precious, the sacred, things which connect us with God are fast losing their hold upon our minds and hearts, and are being brought down to the level of common things. The reverence which the people had anciently for the sanctuary where they met with God in sacred service has largely passed away. Nevertheless, God Himself gave the order of His service, exalting it high above everything of a temporal nature.  {FLB 189.2} 

     The house is the sanctuary for the family, and the closet or the grove the most retired place for individual worship; but the church is the sanctuary for the congregation.  {FLB 189.3} 

     In the name of Jesus we may come before Him with confidence, but we must not approach Him with the boldness of presumption, as though He were on a level with ourselves. There are those who address the great and all-powerful and holy God, who dwelleth in light unapproachable, as they would address an equal, or even an inferior. There are those who conduct themselves in His house as they would not presume to do in the audience-chamber of an earthly ruler. These should remember that they are in His sight whom seraphim adore.  {FLB 189.4} 

     Those who assemble to worship Him should put away every evil thing. Unless they worship Him in spirit and truth and in the beauty of holiness, their coming together will be of no avail.  {FLB 189.5} 

     It is your privilege, dear young friends, to glorify God upon the earth. In order to do this, you must direct your minds away from things that are superficial, frivolous, and unimportant, to those that are of eternal worth. {FLB.189.6} 

  Reverence for the House of God

  Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:30 

God is high and holy; and to the humble, believing soul, His house on earth, the place where His people meet for worship, is as the gate of heaven. The song of praise, the words spoken by Christ’s ministers, are God’s appointed agencies to prepare a people for the church above, for that loftier worship.  {ML 286.2} 

     When the worshipers enter the place of meeting, they should do so with decorum, passing quietly to their seats. . . . Common talking, whispering, and laughing should not be permitted in the house of worship, either before or after the service. Ardent, active piety should characterize the worshipers.  {ML 286.3} 

     If some have to wait a few minutes before the meeting begins, let them maintain a true spirit of devotion by silent meditation, keeping the heart uplifted to God in prayer that the service may be of special benefit to their own hearts and lead to the conviction and conversion of other souls. They should remember that heavenly messengers are in the house. We all lose much sweet communion with God by our restlessness, by not encouraging moments of reflection and prayer. . . .  {ML 286.4} 

     Elevate the standard of Christianity in the minds of your children; help them to weave Jesus into their experience; teach them to have the highest reverence for the house of God and to understand that when they enter the Lord’s house it should be with hearts that are softened and subdued by such thoughts as these: “God is here; this is His house. I must have pure thoughts and holiest motives. . . . This is the place where God meets with and blesses His people.” . . .  {ML 286.5} 

     Parents should not only teach, but command, their children to enter the sanctuary with sobriety and reverence.  {ML 286.6} 

     Practice reverence until it becomes a part of yourself. {ML 286.7}

Worship: The Sabbath

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

As we study this week’s SS lesson, we realize we all have our own ideas about Sabbath and worship. That is good! God has too many wonderful ideas to pack into any one human brain. Sometimes our ideas come from tradition instead of the Bible. We need to be careful to follow the Bible. Sometimes people will throw away human tradition which is good, but then they also throw away Bible teachings with it. We must be careful to save the Bible standard of worship while not making human tradition law. In pursuit of this goal, here are some blog posts that I hope you find helpful in following the Bible and your own convictions, placed in your heart not by man, but by the Holy Spirit.

Sabbath Observance myth Busters #1 Sabbath Afternoon Naps.

Sabbath Observance Myth Busters #2 Saved By Grace

Preparation Day: The Other Forgotten Day.

First Day of the Week Bible Texts.

The Sabbath in Light of the Cross.

El Sabado 

 

 

Worship and the Exodus

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me’ ” (Exodus 20:2, 3, NKJV)

The above text is the key text for this week’s SS lesson. It contains a wonderful promise. God is not demanding His people to have no other God before Him as much as He is promising they will need no other God before them.  Earlier, right before giving the commandments, God says in Exodus 19:3-4, “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.   Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people.” What we have here, right in the middle of the law in the Old Testament is the New Testament gospel! The Old Testament law does not oppose the New Testament gospel. It compliments it.   God is telling His people that they did not free themselves from slavery. He freed them.  The Word, “obey” in Hebrew is the word, “Shawmah” Which means, be attentive and listen. The word “keep” in Hebrew is “Shawmar” which means to treasure and to cherish. It is the same word used when God told Adam to keep the garden. He was not telling Adam to obey the garden but to cherish it and treasure it.  Today a covenant is a two way agreement, but when God uses this word He is often referring to His promises. So, in Exodus 19:3-4 God is telling His people to listen and be attentive to His promises, and cherish His promise to deliver us from sin just as He delivered His people from Egyptian slavery!

So when you read all of Exodus 19-20 in context, what you find is God promising we will need no other gods before us. By His promises we will not be taking on His name in vain, but will truly be His people. He is promising we will have no need to be unfaithful to our family or mistreat our neighbor for He will take care of us, just like He took care of His people in Egypt and delivered them! What we have in the ten commandments is the gospel itself! God promising to deliver and be the Savior of all who believe His promise to save!

 

Garments of Grace; Garments of Splendor

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Download SS lessons to your cell phone here.

 

Sunday’s section of this week’s SS lesson asks how we worship God. While the Bible clearly teaches us there are many different ways to worship God, Satan also has his counterfeit ways of worship. While we should always be open minded to different ways of worship lets also be careful that we don’t adopt any of Satan’s ideas for worship.

 

Various forms of worship are condemned today which the Bible actually endorses. We condemn them today simply because they are not a part of today’s tradition in the church. For example I have seen people raising their hands in worship only to be met with condemning stares. Why? Because while David talks of lifting his hands in worship in the 141st Psalm, that just is not the way we do things today.  So raising hands is condemned by some today, not because it is unbiblical but rather just because it is not largely our tradition.  We don’t need to condemn new ideas in worship just because they are new, especially when some forms of worship are not new at all but are just new to us. Some forms of worship that are new to us were actually approved of in the Bible we just don’t happen to worship that particular way today so we think they are wrong. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 says, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good”.  Let’s keep an open mind and hold what is good.

 

Below are some thoughts I have on worship. As I have studied, what I have found is what really separates wholesome worship from unwholesome worship is our motive of worship. We are often tempted to seek and please self while claiming the whole time we are actually worshiping and seeking God. I am not saying we always give in to that temptation, but I believe the temptation is always there. 

 

 

Worship: Is it all About God?  

 

I recently purchased a CD with worship music. In one of the songs the lyrics say, “Lord I’m sorry for the thing that I made it to be, when it’s all about you it’s all about you.” For centuries, mankind has tried to worship God their own way, forgetting that it is all about God and not about us. When David worshipped the Lord he cried out “Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” PS103:1  But how often do we worship God with the intention of blessing Him rather than being blessed by Him? How often do we worship God seeking His glory and not our own?  

For centuries man has made self the center of his worship experience, and in the process the worship experience has been designed to feed the ego of the worshiper instead of the One being worshipped. Instead of offering a lamb as God instructed, Cain offered the fruits of his own works. In so doing, Cain put trust in his own ego instead of the Lamb of God. He also changed the system of worship that God had commanded to make it more convenient and pleasing for himself.

Around the first century AD certain people in the church started worshipping onSunday in order to entice the Eastern religions. They disregarded God’s command to keep the Sabbath day holy in order to make their worship more convenient for themselves and to feed their own egos by increasing the number of believers to their religion. Thus, we can be certain that when we disregard one of God’s commands or lower His standard of worship to increase membership, our motive is not God’s glory but rather our own egos! “The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye [were] the fewest of all people” Deut. 7:7 Let’s take a little inventory of our worship service, to see if our worship is truly all about God, or like Cain’s worship service, all about self.  

 

Speaking: Is it all About God?

 

“Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.” Eccl. 5:1-2  

 

It has been said that a preacher will cross the ocean to give a sermon but will not cross the street to hear one. Before sharing an opinion in Sabbath School or a testimony during the Sacred Service or even giving a sermon it would be well for us to ponder our motive for speaking in God’s House. Is it to give glory to God, or frankly is it to hear ourselves talk? I have witnessed “Testimony and Prayer” times that were nothing more than gossip sessions! Just because we begin talking about some one by saying “pray for John…..“ does not keep it from being gossip.   True worship does not call for much speaking. “The LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him”. Hab. 2:20  

 

Music: Is it all About God?  

 

 ”I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving.” PS 69:30  

 No doubt God calls upon us to rejoice and praise Him with our songs and music. At the same time there is a type of “feel good ” music that makes us not only feel good about God but even more so about ourselves. So what’s the problem with that? First of all our worship is to be all about God and not about us. Secondly scripture tells us to examine ourselves when we come to worship God.“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves….” 2 Cor. 13:5 “ But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of [that]cup.” 1 Cor. 11:28  There is a type of music that plays upon our emotions and keeps us from taking an honest look at ourselves.

Not only do we need to be careful of the music but even the words we sing. Jesus in the sermon on the mount warns against vain repetitions. Vain repetitions can be more than just meaningless words in prayers but also our songs. Just because we can belt out the chorus “When we all Get to Heaven” does not mean we are all getting to heaven, even though the emotions may be there. Just because we respond to an altar call as the congregation sobs through “I Surrender All” does not mean we surrender all, unless we do so during the week when the music is no longer heard.  

 Music must be a response to our emotions, and not our emotions a response to music! 

 

There is much more I could say about this, but I will let inspiration be the final word.  “The things you have described . . . the Lord has shown me would take place just before the close of probation. Every uncouth thing will be demonstrated. There will be shouting, with drums, music, and dancing. The senses of rational beings will become so confused that they cannot be trusted to make right decisions. And this is called the moving of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit never reveals itself in such methods, in such a bedlam of noise. This is an invention of Satan to cover up his ingenious methods for making of none effect the pure, sincere, elevating, ennobling, sanctifying truth for this time. . . . A bedlam of noise shocks the senses and perverts that which if conducted aright might be a blessing. The powers of Satanic agencies blend with the din and noise, to have a carnival, and this is termed the Holy Spirit’s working. . . . Those participating in the supposed revival receive impressions which lead them adrift. They cannot tell what they formerly knew regarding Bible principles. No encouragement should be given to this kind of worship. The same kind of influence came in after the passing of the time in 1844. The same kind of representations were made. Men became excited, and were worked by a power thought to be the power of God. . . . I bore my testimony, declaring that these fanatical movements, this din and noise,were inspired by the spirit of Satan, who was working miracles to deceive if possible the very elect. {Mar 234.5} We need to be on our guard, to maintain a close connection with Christ, that we be not deceived by Satan’s devices. The Lord desires to have in His service order and discipline, not excitement and confusion.” {Mar 234}  

 

Dress: Is it all About God?  

 

“For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?”  James 2:2-4    

A friend of mine once complimented her boss on her nice watch. Her boss then explained that since she was not allowed to wear jewelry growing up she always wore the nicest watch she could find. Here is the problem; the sin of jewelry is pride. However, if we get rid of the jewelry but do not get rid of the pride it will just show up somewhere else as it did in the case of my friend’s boss in her watch.

Do we dress for God when we prepare for church or is it an ego thing? Do we worship to glorify God or make a fashion statement? I am reminded of a story I heard about a man who went to a church where he was shunned for his long hair, sandals and plain clothes. He noticed a picture of Jesus with long hair, sandals and a plain robe and began to pray asking Jesus why the people at the fancy church shunned him that day. Jesus answered him, “I don’t know about that church, I never go there.”

  “Now wait a minute” you say. We are suppose to wear the nicest clothes possible, for God when we go to worship Him. You are correct. We are to wear the nicest clothes possible FOR GOD, not for MAN. Is our dress all about God when we worship? What is on our mind when we shop for our worship clothes, God or what is vogue? Do we ask ourselves what God will think and say or about what our friends may think and say?

There is a versethat many Christians use to condemn jewelry when actually it condemns more than jewelry but all pride in dress. Let’s take a look,: “Whose adorning let it not be that outward [adorning] of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” 1 Peter 3:3,4   By the way, this verse teaches us that it is the wearing of jewelry that is legalistic, while some try to say that abstaining from jewelry is legalistic. In this verse Peter is telling women that God will make them beautiful as He fills them with his goodness. That is the gospel. Men and women who depend upon their jewelry to make them beautiful are not trusting God to make them attractive but are trying to work out their own beauty themselves instead of just letting God’s grace do it’s work. That is legalism in its truest sense!  

It’s All about God when it comes to worship. God is more interested in the heart than the “outward adorning”. He is also more interested in the heart than the words we say and music we play. He is also more interested in the conversion of the hearts of those worshipping than the number of those in the congregation . If our numbers fall we are tempted to change our format of worship to attract more people. If our worship is all about God would it not make more sense to have a format of worship that would attract God rather than man? If we did thus, would God not draw people to our worship services who are seeking Him with all their hearts? Would He not draw people who realize, true worship is all about God?   

Acts 9-12; Pride and Humility

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Acts of the Apostles Chapters 14 and 15.

These chapters are based on Acts 9-12

As I read these two chapters here is what jumped out at me. First we see a man who has come to Peter to learn more about Jesus. Here is what happens, “And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped [him]. But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.”  Acts 10:25-26 While the pope and many other religious leaders for that matter will accept worship and homage from others, not Peter! He realizes he is just a man and refuses to let anyone worship him. According to Catholic church tradition Peter was the first pope but Peter would never assume the title Vicar of Christ and would never allow himself to be worshiped. Peter realized worshiping humans in the place of God is blasphemy.

Later in Acts 12 let’s look at what happened, “And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, [saying, It is] the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost. But the word of God grew and multiplied.  Acts 12:21-24.

 

Unlike Peter, Herod accepts being worshiped as a god and we see what happened. Here is the thing that is so ironic to me. Peter was a lot closer to being like God than Herod was and yet, Peter refused to be put on that pedestal while Herod who was nothing like God at all accepts the praises of the people. My point is, the closer we are to being like Christ the less boastful we will be. Pride is a sure sign that we are nowhere close to Jesus.

I have seen this contrast between Peter and Herod many times, on a much smaller scale of course. One such incident really amuses me to this day. My father had been the church treasure for many years and people loved the job that he did. One year though a long long time ago, my dad decides to take a break and made them pick someone else. When they asked this someone else of course they had no idea they were only being asked because my dad refused the position for that year. This someone then goes to my parents and tells them the reason they were picked instead of my dad (which they weren’t my dad was asked first and turned it down) was because they had formal training and a degree. Before the year was up this someone had made such a mess of the books that my dad had to take back over to straighten everything out. My dad is not one to brag but I will. My dad was the humble one in this story but doing the better job, while this someone had all the pride but could not do the job. That is just human nature though, and so much like all of us. On an magnificantly larger scale, we have Herod who was proud for no reason, while Peter who was very close to Jesus practiced humility. Reminds you of Lucifer who wanted to exalt himself above God, and then God who became a man and a servant to die for us all.

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light of The Cross.