Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups
09/11/16 – 568
Well, I certainly hope you picked up from yesterday’s devotion that whatever we are faced with, we have a choice as to how we will react. In other words, we are not held accountable for our emotions, but for our actions! Sp where do our emotions come into play?
Simply put, they can make things really difficult for us – or really easy. Behavior that follows an emotion is usually pretty easy – but rarely is it deeply satisfying. But… if we keep on doing the right things according to what God tells us, we’ll eventually come to a place where our emotions follow our actions instead of the other way around. I would argue that these emotions are more firmly grounded in truth, in what is right, and therefore will be deeper and more satisfying in the long run.
For example, do you really want to find true love? Start by learning what it is to love and be loved by Christ. Then, and only then, will you know what to look for in another person. See what I mean?
In the same way, do you really want to find true friendship, or brotherhood among people? The first place to look is within the church. Why? Because we in His body are supposed to be different. Are we? Not always. Is it possible to find a good, loyal friend outside of the fellowship of Christ? Possible, but (I maintain) not as likely.
Now, I know that last statement is controversial. It’s been argued in many forms for years, and I don’t think that non-believers and Christians will ever agree on the answer. However, I base my statement on scripture.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
As you read this remember – love is a verb.
So ask yourself this question – what should church look like when you walk in this morning? Maybe a better question is this – what would it look like if you were invisible? Would the conversations be the same as they are when you’re standing there? Would the smiles still be there, or would those disappear as soon as you did? Here’s another question.
Good or bad, how much have you done to help build the culture of the church into what it is today? What can you do to strengthen it? What can you do to help repair what’s broken? Let me give you a hint. It doesn’t begin with following your emotions – they are like leaves on the wind! Begin with obedience and commitment to God alone, your emotions will follow. Not only that, but they’ll become much steadier and deeper than you could ever have imagined. And by the way, so will you relationshships.
Today as you prepare for worship, start with the basics. Ask God to prepare your heart and mind to receive His Spirit. Be obedient, whether He asks you to kneel, lift your hands, pray, or whatever. Just do what He tells you, then see if your emotions don’t follow along.
Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups
09/04/16 – 561
Here we are at Sunday again, hopefully preparing our hearts (and the rest of us) for worship. As you know, this is the day we usually take a break and examine something to do with worship, the church etc. Interestingly enough, I heard a discussion this past week that included the position that Jesus never talked about worship or the church because Christian church didn’t exist until after He returned to heaven!
This isn’t an uncommon argument, sadly, but it is far off track. As far as I can tell, corporate (group) worship existed at least as far back as the exodus from Egypt, and probably much earlier as family groups. I’m pretty sure Noah’s family was doing some prayer and worship together on the ark! I know I would have been.
It’s true those people weren’t worshipping Jesus of Nazareth because He wasn’t around yet, but they certainly did worship Jehovah. Mostly. But we’ll get to that in a minute. As a matter of fact, Jesus did talk about worship in several recorded places. The first one you read in yesterday’s devotion:
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
Remember when Jesus quoted scripture, He was pretty much talking about our Old Testament. But in using this simple reference, He shows us the significance that He placed on worship of the true God, and no other – even more than food! He was at the beginning of His earthly ministry, being tempted by Satan, with no help except the Word and the God Who gave it. But because He was faithful, God was also. Another time Jesus mentioned worship was in Matthew.
You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
8 “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
9 They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’”
Here the Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus by accusing Him of allowing His disciples to break tradition by eating bread without a ceremonial washing of their hands. Jesus pointed out that they were doing much worse – using a man-made tradition to keep from helping their parents as commanded by God, yet they worshipped God publically, proclaiming their holiness to the world. Jesus was pretty clear – their worship was meaningless – empty words. God wants our love, not our words. The last passage for today is this:
“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
Jesus was explaining to a Samaritan woman who was trying to figure out where people had to go to worship, that location wasn’t the important thing. What would matter, whether one was a Jew, Samaritan or Gentile, was that they recognized that God is a spiritual being (as opposed to a statue or idol), and the only true worship of Him must also come from the spirits inside of us.
It is what’s in our hearts that makes our worship acceptable to God. Nothing more, nothing less. That’s why the writers of the New Testament focus so much on cleansing your heart, your mind, your life of any and all unrighteousness. You canNOT willingly live in sin (any sin) and expect it not to affect your soul – and therefore your relationship with God.
Make the decision today to remove anything from your life that you know isn’t pleasing to God. Of course it won’t be easy. Worthwhile things seldom are. But He’ll help you. So will others. Make that your prayer and promise today. Then go and worship – “in the Spirit and in truth.”
Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups
08/28/16 – 554
Well here we are, another Sunday. We’ve made it through another loooong busy week. At least we can look forward to a restful Sabbath, right? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
For many of us, especially those that are really involved in their churches, Sunday has become more like another workday than a day of rest and worship. We have so much to do before, during and after the service that we barely have time to worship and if we do, we feel guilty about it because we’re neglecting something else. And yet there is this:
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
What does ‘holy’ mean? It means set apart, specifically for God’s purposes. It means strengthening my relationship with Him through praise, worship and prayer. It means strengthening our relationships with others – most notably our families. So here’s the question for us – does doing all that stuff – really accomplish those goals? If not, should we really be doing them on the Sabbath – our sabbath?
But, if we don’t do them on Sunday, we won’t have time during the week, we say. Don’t you think it’s a lot like tithing in that regard? What I mean is that God will provide for your needs whether they be money, time or whatever. As long as you are faithful, so He will be also.
We often ask people to test Him by tithing. But I don’t remember ever doing the same kind of challenge regarding time for the Sabbath. Maybe we could come up with something like our ‘money-back guarantee’ for new tithers. How about, if you really practice biblical Sabbath and get behind in your work or other essentials, we will do whatever we can to help you get caught up.
We have to do something. What I do know is that all too many of us are so caught up in doing church things that we don’t have the time or energy left to simply be with Him. As a result, our worship becomes hollow and forced – because it’s a reflection of our spiritual lives.
Let’s try this, just for today, and make it our focus of pray today. Then, we’ll maybe try it next week as well. Ask God to help you wake up refreshed on Monday morning instead of exhausted, with another half-dozen things added to your ‘to-do’ list.
Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups
07/31/16 – 538
Theologian A.W. Tozer had this to say about worshipping God:
“If you will not worship God seven days a week, you do not worship him on one day a week.”
What do think about that? Agree? Disagree? Does this mean we have to go to church 7 days a week?
Not at all. Just in case you haven’t picked up on it, and I’ve been so lax as to not make the point, man’s main reason for being here since we were created has been to worship God – every day, in everything we do. In our culture, we have traditionally set aside Sundays as our ‘church day’. Unfortunately, in doing that, we’ve ended up relegating our worship time to not only that day, but the hour or so that we’re actually in a worship service.
We compartmentalize our lives. We separate our work lives from our family lives, our social lives from our spiritual lives. And mostly, that’s OK. The problem is that we can’t separate the spiritual part from any other – because that is who we really are, and so we carry it with us wherever we go.
A person simply can’t be a Christian for an hour a week, and spend the rest of the week ignoring the teachings of Jesus. But don’t just take my word for it:
1 John 2:1-8
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
3 We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4 The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
7 Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. 8 Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. NIV
As Christians we cannot ignore corporate worship – the gathering together with other believers. I know some of you don’t attend church on a regular basis. Maybe you’ve been hurt by a church. That happens, I’ll grant you. But you haven’t been hurt by Christ – and all of His churches are NOT the same. Maybe you’re just too busy on Sunday mornings. Well, there are plenty of churches now that offer Saturday or even weekday services.
The point is simply – obedience. Every minute, every day, in everything you do. Whether you’re at church, at home, at work. Alone or with friends or in a crowd of strangers. Obedience to Christ.
This is true worship, isn’t it? And isn’t today a good day to start?