Tag Archives: worship

Isaiah Chapter Two — Post by Mary C. Findley

gold sky people

What are “the last days?” According to many Bible teachers, they are the time when the Lord has returned to govern the earth. Some people think they want to go to Heaven and be with God forever. Some think we never actually go there, but will live forever on earth. The beginning of this chapter seems to indicate that God will establish a place of worship on earth, in the New Jerusalem.

Whatever and wherever this place is, I want to be there.

And all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths.”
(Isaiah 2:3)

What would it be like to just have everyone want to go to God’s house and learn God’s ways? Right now we do everything we can to wriggle out of it. Commentator Matt Walsh said we are insane in America, trying to find reasons why going to church isn’t really a thing anymore when people in other parts of the world are dying to be able to go to church.

Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near (Hebrews 10:25)

When the Lord is the judge of all the world, there will be peace. Weapons become farm implements. Whoever says they are working for world peace and isn’t willing for God to be in charge is deceived or a deceiver. So many people know that verse about the plows and the swords but so few want that dominion to come. Submission to God means we lose our freedom, right? (I speak as a fool.)

Verse 6 says God abandoned His people? What? No! God never does that, does He? Well, if He did, why would He do it? Verses 6-9 explain that there seems to have been so much stuff in the land that there wasn’t any room for God. There are those influences of the east again, like we brought up in the last chapter. Mystical things and just plain things have crowded God out. Every class of people found itself devolving, losing touch with spiritual reality, forcing God out. And so, He went, because He wasn’t wanted.
He’s coming back, though, whenever “in that day” is, to humble mankind out of those feeling that they are on top of the world. Hide under the dust and rocks, people. Only the Lord should be on top of the world. This day of reckoning is when God says, “No more. No more idols, no more stuff, everybody down on the ground. Hide if you can …” but you can’t.

Terror and splendor don’t usually go together. But they look good on God. At least, they would, if we could look at Him. People will be too busy trying to survive, to hide, to toss away those objects of worship. Did Adam and Eve eat that whole fruit they took and shared? Or did they toss it, dig a hole and bury it, try in some way to hide it?
Some people hunt for buried treasure. Looking at the passage where it describes the mountains of riches these people accumulated, and their idols of silver and gold, I wonder how much buried treasure there will be when the Lord rises to make the earth tremble. (v. 19) No one will go hunt for it though.

The key to what people are really putting ahead of God is in verse 22. “Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils; For why should he be esteemed?” People don’t really worship those false gods or those things. They worship themselves. Until they accept God’s humbling, they will never understand how terror and splendor can bring salvation.

Questions for Further Study, Discussion, or Thought
Briefly comment on what you think “the last days” means. Use two or three Scriptures as support.
What are reasons people give to justify not going to church? Are there any legitimate ones?
Why would God abandon His people?
What is man really worshiping instead of God? What is necessary for that to stop?
Your Turn in the Microcosm
Does Isaiah 2 in any way echo the message of the Book of Exodus? Does it show people insisting that they want to follow God? Any incidences of people seeing God’s clear provision and commands but shoving off in the other direction? Please share your thoughts on these parallels you find on your trip into the Isaiah Microcosm.

This is part 2 in an occasional series for a future book I am calling “The Isaiah Microcosm” Please let me know your thoughts on these posts, and how you would answer the questions at the end.

Image Credit: Composite of sunrise image by Paulbr75 and crowd scene by puzzleboxrecords on Pixabay Public Domain

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Isaiah Chapter One: The Price of Doing What You Want

Isaiah_(Bible_Card)

Isaiah was a prophet to four kings in Judah. His book is, in our modern version, 66 chapters long, the same as the number of the books in our Bible. Some have called it a microcosm of the whole Bible. Indeed, we can find many of the elements throughout the Bible in this one book, so studying it gives a chance to hit many of the highlights God wants us to discover throughout His Word.

Heavens and earth are called to witness the declaration. Creation has been an innocent witness to and victim of man’s rebellion from the time of the fall. Romans 8:18-25 details the correct attitude of believers, that of understanding that suffering is part of true service to God, because sin is not good and pleasant and enjoyable, but produces misery and anguish. Creation has longed for purging from the effects of sin ever since it entered the natural world.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. (Romans 8:18-25, NASB)

This should have been the attitude of the Children of Israel in Isaiah’s time, but the truth was that they, instead of acting like sons raised up to love and serve their father, God, they revolted. They weren’t just indifferent or apathetic, they actively rebelled.
Trained domestic animals know better than these people about who to serve and obey. How can these people be ignorant? Sinful as a whole nation, burdened by all of that wickedness, generational guilt and corruption. Abandoning, despising, and turning away from God.

This has to be true because if the traditions were maintained, Jewish children were educated in the Law from an early age. They knew better, from the three methods God has always used:
1. the witness of creation,
2. the witness of His Word, and the message of the prophets. By this time they had numerous books of the Bible
3. plus teachers and prophets like Isaiah.

“There is no room for another mark.” Tars Tarkas said in the John Carter movie, speaking to his daughter Sola. Sola was punished for disobedience against her green Martian tribe by being branded each time she was caught. She had been punished so many times there was no space left on her body for the signs of her rebellion.

Whether this punishment in this movie was just or not isn’t the point. It illustrates the condition of the people of God. He had disciplined them for their true and unquestionable rebellion until there was no space that did not bear “bruises, welts, and raw wounds.” (Isaiah 1:6, NASB)

Put aside your socially-conditioned shock over corporal punishment, please. Even in our permissive society we reach a point where we have laws to try to correct wrongdoing. These were God’s attempts to lawfully correct His people’s wrongdoings. He just didn’t have any place left to administer correction.

From head to toe these people bore the marks of stubbornness and rebellion. The fact that they were untreated (raw) and “not pressed out or bandaged, nor softened with oil” means that they were like sheep who wouldn’t even let a shepherd take care of the injuries sustained as part of the sheep’s natural tendency to wander and get itself injured or corrected with the rod. They’ve run from the tender aftermath where the father who had to discipline would love to take the rebel into His arms and administer comfort and display love.

The man-curated portion of creation also bears witness to rebellion. His structures created from God-supplied building materials are burned. His crops are stolen by invaders, as happened often throughout the book of Judges. These marauders devoured this food right in front of the Israelites. Desolation by strangers. A terrible fate.
This makes it clear that it wasn’t God who wanted to rob them of safety and sustenance. Enemies took the opportunity to swarm in because the people had trampled on God’s walls of protection. They smashed through those loving arms reaching out to defend them and embraced instead false gods and practices. In doing so they also invited in pain, misery, and loss.

All that was left was a little shack in an empty field, the place where someone was supposed to look after the crops as they grew. But there was nothing left to tend or protect. A besieged city will eventually run out of supplies and come to the end of its food and water. Israel had allowed itself to be surrounded and cut off from God’s help. Only a few survivors would remain because of God’s enduring mercy. They could have been wiped out, as Sodom and Gomorrah were, but God did not desire that.

How do we know that they were probably still following the traditions of teaching their children? Because they were following others, the sacrifices, the attendance at the Temple. We know this because God said they were sacrificing, but instead of enjoying the “sweet aroma,” as He has described it elsewhere, God said “I take no pleasure” calls them “worthless” and says “incense is an abomination.” He says “I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly.” It’s as if you invited and important guest to dinner and served the garbage disposal scraps along with the real food. What were the Israelites thinking?

Just as the people were burdened with their sins in verse 4, God was burdened by their hypocritical sacrifices and growing weary of having patience, seeking true repentance in verse 14. That’s what sacrifices were supposed to be for, to show evidence of being sorry, turning away, and seeking forgiveness.

That’s not what these sacrifices were, though. When the Israelites prayed, they couldn’t even see that they were raising up bloody hands, stained by the innocent blood God says elsewhere that people were guilty of shedding. From evil kings all the way down to mothers who killed their own children, God recounts over and over again the horrors His own people were capable of committing. God will not, cannot, listen to the prayers of polluted people when they never give a thought to confessing and forsaking their sin but just feel like they have to carry out a ritual.

“Tradition!” shouts the cast of Fiddler on the Roof in the famous production number of the same name, but these traditions were empty of truth and meaning to those people in Isaiah’s time.

God begged and pleaded that they would see their sin, acknowledge it, and be cleansed from it. They needed to learn what the traditional education was supposed to be impressing on them, the basics of right human behavior.

These were such simple precepts. Stop doing evil. Learn how to do right. You don’t have to have superpowers to become a champion of justice. Tell bad people they are wrong. Stand up for children with no parents. Defend women left without husbands.
Did you think God was only interested in emotion, in mysticism? Then why does He invite us in verse 18 to reason together with Him? Because true belief isn’t weird. It isn’t mysterious and impossible to think through and understand.

God gives an object lesson. If you spill blood on something, it will stain. Just so, the people had stained themselves by killing the innocent. But blood can be washed out, even out of something pure white, like wool, and then it will be bright, clean, and shining pure again.

But of course He isn’t talking about literal blood or wool here. He’s talking about sin and its remedy. Sin is the destruction of innocence. People do murder innocents when they abort babies or leave newborns in a toilet or leave children in a cardboard box someplace because they didn’t want to protect them. The same goes for women who are attacked, molested, raped, or murdered because they are deemed easy prey.

In the days of Isaiah there were human sacrifices, usually children, but women were also victimized, used and discarded as temple prostitutes or subject to other monstrous mistreatment. Anytime we fail to value and protect life we are guilty of innocent blood.
Again, God appeals to simple reason in verse 19. Consent to obey, and you will have the best. Refuse and rebel, and the sword is coming to kill you. You have been warned, just as you are warned about the consequences of misbehavior when you accept a job.
If you keep abusing your position, stealing from your employer (so many ways to do that and no one can pretend they don’t know many ways to betray an employer’s trust) vandalizing his property, mistreating fellow employees, you could end up worse than fired. You could go to prison, at least. This is what the people were doing to God.

How does a person go from faithful to unfaithful? Just to unjust? Righteous to murderer? How does this happen in the heart of a man or woman today? A bride and groom do still sometimes exchange vows, including a pledge of fidelity. Believe it or not, this is still a thing in many marriage ceremonies, even nowadays.

Yet married couples betray each other by adultery, mistreat each other by hiding or misspending income, abuse each other with physical violence, and even murder a spouse, sometimes with the added horror of committing suicide afterwards. This can happen in other areas of life as well, following a pattern of initial faithfulness devolving into downward steps that end in some kind of terribly unnatural death.

Instead of maintaining valuable currency we have, like ancient Sparta, become satisfied with coinage worthless outside our own tiny circle. We can’t get anything but watered-down beverages because we don’t protect the value of things. We are led by the rebellious and form friendships with people who think stealing is just getting what you’re owed or the only way to get ahead. You can pay people to make you falsely successful. Nobody listens to the cries of the real needy, the orphans and the widows. They’re too busy chasing false success for themselves.

These people are adversaries of God. They oppose Him, and He will treat them like enemies in battle. He won’t put up with impurities like the dross in silver. Get ready for the lye soap, you dirty sinner. You will become pure by God’s washing and it won’t be comfortable or make you feel loved, since you didn’t want to be loved when you had the chance.

How do we get back to righteousness? Let God restore it. Stop rebelling. Give in to His wisdom in the choice of judges and counselors. He chose them in the time of the Judges, just to name one example. Wow! Would we have chosen Samson or Jephtha? God’s ways are not our ways, but He asks us to trust Him and to be obedient, not understand or know everything. “Trust and Obey” is far more than a song for children in Sunday school. It’s a life principle.

Only in that way can faithfulness be restored. God does it. We don’t do it. Our efforts fail and so do our sinful hearts. “Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it.” But how do we get redeemed? By sacrifices? By struggling with our own version of righteousness? Nope. Once again, God does it. Verse 27 doesn’t say Zion redeems herself. It says she “will be redeemed.” How? By repentance.

What’s repentance? Simple. It’s when I’m walking that way, the way of sin, doing that thing that is opposed to God, and suddenly I say, “No. I’m going to walk the opposite way, and do the opposite thing!” You say and think the same thing about sin that God says. “No more! I oppose it! I turn my back on it.”

After all, transgressors, that is, people who turn off God’s path, ignore His signs so they can do things ‘way worse than walking on the grass, end up in the trash compactor. Hear that awful din when the garbage man comes with his big truck and those claws grab your can and hoist it into the air, emptying it into the maw of the crusher? Hear the roar and squeal and the grinding of the compactor mashing your trash into … yeah. That’s the fate of the sinner. You don’t want to be in God’s compactor. You don’t want to know what it means when God says these people will “come to an end.” (v. 28)

Why would you be ashamed of trees? Embarrassed by gardens? (v. 29) Maybe you don’t understand the Bible because you don’t see how the cultural applications are relevant today. Ever hear of a Zen Garden? Japanese and other Buddhists create these as a place where they can meditate. It’s a form of worship. False worship.

These trees, these gardens, mentioned in Isaiah, are places to worship false gods. You should be embarrassed if you are worshiping idols. Oh, you don’t worship any false gods? People throw around terms from other religions today, like feng shui, yoga, even mindfulness, claiming they are ways to get healthy, get focused, be more successful. They don’t see the idolatry. Or they don’t want to. These are obsessions with physical things that cross over into supposed spiritual benefits.

God uses parallels to visualize the fate of idolaters. Love to worship at that sacred tree? Watch the leaves wither and fall. Sitting and meditating in that mystical garden? It dries up without water. Who puts life into a tree or gives water to a garden? Look to the Source of life, God, and stop worshiping the mere life itself.

Not only are the tree and the garden temporary, not only do they die off, they dry up and so do the people who worship them. A man might seem strong and successful as he practices techniques of eastern mysticism, but if the focus is on the mere physical, something so temporary, when it dries up it could become just something to spark a fire. It could burn up. In fact, God says the idolater will burn up, no matter how strong he appears. No one can put out a fire that God starts, and He will start one, to do away with the idol and the idolater.

Questions for Further Study, Discussion, or Thought
1. Why is Creation a good witness for God to call upon?
2. How do we know that Israel should have known better than to rebel?
3. How should children respond to their father’s discipline? Why would they not respond correctly?
4. Why did God hate their sacrifices? What is the real purpose of sacrifice?
5. List some ways married couples can be unfaithful, and how this is a picture of man’s relationship to God.
6. Explain the meaning of repentance.
7. Share some cultural examples of idolatry that people may not realize they practice. What is their justification for doing these things?

Image Credit: Isaiah Bible Card from the Providence Lithograph Company, 1904. thebiblerevival.com Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

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Brethren We Have Met To Worship By Michael J. Findley

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Our last post stated that throughout the United States, churches are worshiping golden calves. It is much easier to point out what we are doing wrong than what we should be doing. What is true and proper worship?

Since this question has been asked and answered repeatedly for nearly 2,000 years, there are many and detailed answers. Since most modern Americans do not like the answers, you might not have heard these before.

The church began in the Temple built by Herod, also known as the second temple. While the vision of Peter and the Jerusalem Council recorded in Acts 15 both clearly point out that Gentile believers are not under the whole law, Christians followed Jewish synagogue rituals.

These rituals included men separated from women and children during the service, daily services, Sabbath services lasting from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday, almsgiving to the poor separate from the synagogue, antiphonal singing, that is one group singing a phrase which was then repeated by another group, lengthy Scripture reading (the Old Testament), woman wearing garments where only their faces, hands and feet were visible, special services which lasted five hours, tithes which were obligatory and had to be paid. Some of these practices had little to do with the biblical Law of Moses, and the Spirit of God clearly grants us freedom. But our freedom is not to do whatever we want. God grants us the freedom to worship God in the manner which bring Him the greatest possible glory.

Paul wrote that the Corinthians should remember me in all things, and you keep the doctrines as I delivered them to you. I Corinthians 11:2 But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor the churches of God. But in enjoining this, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better, but for the worse. For first of all, when you come together in the church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and I partly believe it. I Corinthians 11:16-18

So Paul teaches us in this chapter that as believers, we are to come together to pray, publicly read God’s Word, teach doctrine, baptize and celebrate the Lord’s Supper. There are several disagreements over the Lord’s Supper and baptism but these disagreements are well over a thousand years old. The disagreements over the Lord’s Supper and baptism are part of the traditions of the church and this blog will not have any affect on any of those different beliefs. What day we should come together has only been an issue for the last 2-300 years, yet this issue, like baptism and the Lord’s Supper and are fixed in most believer’s minds and this blog will not matter on the issue of what day we should come together to worship.

The church which claims to represent Jesus Christ in the United States of America must do several things to regain the power of God. She must return to a life of holiness and purity, return to teaching the Word of God and forsake the standards of this world in public worship. These are interlinked, interconnected. We will find that attempting partial obedience will not fill our churches with the power of God.

The word repentance means to turn from our own course, our own thoughts and our own actions and turn to God’s instructions, plans, desires. Once we do that, the average Christian in the United States will find that he has sold himself into slavery. The first step of repentance is get out of debt. The Secular Humanist plan to get out of debt is to increase income. While an increase in income can help some people get out of debt, for many people attempting to get out of debt by increasing income is either not possible or is simply destructive. The pursuit of wealth can destroy health, spiritual life, relationships and rarely produces the wealth you are seeking.

The correct course of action is to trust in the Lord and reduce expenses. While this sounds contradictory, it is God’s plan. Some people do need to change occupations to properly serve the Lord, but many find that they need to fundamentally change the way they live.

Debt slavery has destroyed churches as well as individuals and families. Organizations such as churches and schools who obligate themselves through debt are pressured to do whatever is necessary to keep people attending to keep money flowing to keep paying the debt obligations. Often (usually) this means failing to take proper disciplinary action, failure to preach against certain sins or promoting “popular” speakers, programs, organizations, etc. just to keep from losing money.

Therefore I solemnly witness before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who is going to judge the living and the dead according to His appearance and His kingdom, preach the Word, be instant in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine. For a time will be when they will not endure sound doctrine, but they will heap up teachers to themselves according to their own lusts, tickling the ear. And they will turn away their ears from the truth and will be turned to myths. 2 Timothy 4:1-4

First and foremost organizations which call themselves “churches” must return to preaching the Word of God. The cry I heard growing up was how can a few hours of the Word of God taught in church each week compete with the Secular Humanist indoctrination of all day every day in schools, TV, movies, etc. While that was a very legitimate concern, the answer of the American church was to give up and invite Secular Humanism into the church. Programs such as AWANA, Bible Memory Association, Navigators, and Teen Challenge which teach Bible Memory used to be far more prominent in churches. Bible memorization is commanded in the Word of God.

Throughout the Word of God the emphasis is on personal holiness. God also expects us to give Him our best. While the doors of every church should be open to unbelievers to “come as you are” believers in most churches dress and act like the world. Why are we surprised when young women dress like harlots when they are simply copying the dress of their parents? While the Bible does not give a detailed definition of modesty, that subject is rarely mentioned in modern American pulpits.
Our language needs to be not only pure and wholesome, but encouraging and uplifting. Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. Colossians 4:6 The individual believer must also be knowledgeable, always ready to give an answer of hope that lies within us.

After all these things, the real dividing line still comes down to music. It was said of the American church for over 200 years that Christians had their Bibles in one hand and their hymnbooks in the other. Many unbelievers were more afraid of the hymnbooks than the Bible, because the words of the American hymns taught the words of the Bible in a way that was easy to understand. TV advertising copied the style of Gospel songs because they made an impression and the concepts were easily memorized.
Paul commanded both the Colossians and the Ephesians to be speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. The question the Anabaptists, Mennonites, Lutherans, Reformers and church of England all asked 500 years ago was how this was to be obeyed. They had no electronic recordings, electronic instruments or electronic amplification. Otherwise, they were not so different from us.

The first conclusion they all agreed to was that the music must glorify and teach the Word of God. While “teaching the Word of God” means different things to different people, there was quite a concern over instrumental music without any words. Since the first recorded church manual in the 2nd Century AD, how much music should there be in a service and how should it be divided between congregational and “professional musicians,” that is soloists, musical groups and instruments.

They drew some nearly universal conclusions. There is room for great variety in our freedom in Christ and this allows for occasional exceptions to each of the following guidelines. Congregational singing should be predominate. Most of the music should be as simple as possible, so as many people as possible will understand the words. The words are the most important part of music and they should reinforce the teachings of the Word of God. Whenever possible, they should reinforce the teachings of that sermon. There should be a balance between, psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. This means that the majority of music in any given service will be older traditional music because the church is two thousand years old. The style of music must not bring the world into the church.

The only serious conflicts are the last two points. If you simply do not like any form of traditional music, then the question is why? Traditional music can mean no instruments at all, country/western style, “hillbilly” or southern gospel style, orchestral, piano and organ, a single guitar, an electronic keyboard, chanting and bells. Are you unable to tolerate any of these?

The last point, “must not bring the world into the church”, centers around volume and rhythmic beat. Electronic amplification is used by the world to overwhelm make people accept a message they often do not even understand. It is often called sensory overload. While much about music is subjective and many techniques depend on how they are used, the concept of getting a message across by overwhelming people through volume is sin. God wants us to love Him emotionally, but where does the Word of God give us permission to bypass our rational nature and allow our emotions to overwhelm us? Yes, that happens sometimes as part of life, but to create an environment to overwhelm an audience using volume every service, several times a service? The addition of flashing lights, vibrations and scented smoke adds to the sensory overload.

When used by secular musicians, they openly claim that their techniques are designed to break down sexual inhibitions and cause an emotional acceptance of whatever message the musician wants. How do these techniques Glorify God?

Image from Morguefile “Ladyheart”
Scripture quotations are from the eSword modern King James Version

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The Busy One

Though Solomon warns us of the dangers of sloth in Proverbs 6:6-11, The Busy One is an Arabic title for Satan based on Job 1:7 And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.

Every American, even if he is hates Christianity, knows Solomon’s admonition Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat (food) in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard: when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep: Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little fording of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man. From a child I have heard the phrase “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.”

But just “being busy” does not put us in good standing with the LORD. In our culture Be still, and know that I am God. is often taken as a sign of laziness while being busy is exalted. Resting in the LORD is not laziness.

Satan is very busy. Though the title The Busy One is not the exact wording of Job 1:7, it is the right idea. We can never be busy enough to outwork Satan. Satan, like the LORD, never sleeps nor slumbers. He is looking for weaknesses we do not even know about ourselves.

When we are too busy for God we are doing the work of Satan. The work of Satan distracts us when we should be worshiping. The Law commands the Children of Israel to stop working and worship Him every Sabbath, on feast days and special occasions. While laziness is condemned, working to the neglect of worshiping God is following The Busy One.

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The Greatest Commandment


“Master Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40

Everything we do, every decision we make must have these two guiding principles. Does it glorify God? Does it show that I love my neighbor as myself? This blog post is inspired by a variety of topics that come across my Facebook page.

People have said in many different ways that they want their Facebook experience to be, in effect, “light and fluffy.” They don’t want to talk about religion or politics. A cute picture or a funny story receives many, sometimes hundreds of “likes,” reposts, and comments. Sometimes we like and repost such things too. But important posts, prayer requests for persecuted Christians or links to important news items, rarely show any evidence that anyone has even seen them.

As believers in Christ Jesus, we are not keeping these two commandments when we keep our lives “light and fluffy.” As believers, we are part of the Church, engaged in warfare. As believers we are faced with daily choices. Are our bodies temples of the Holy Spirit, or are they simply, as the Secular Humanist bumper stickers claim, amusement parks?

The Scriptures have detailed teaching about how a church should conduct itself and what it should expect of its membership, and vice-versa. Failure to follow these Scriptures is sin. A church or an individual needs to condemn failure to follow clear Scriptures or the making up of practices the Scriptures do not teach or allow for.

The Word of God clearly commands us not to fellowship with believers living in open sin. Though it grieves God’s heart, some people in positions of church leadership are living in open sin. Sadder still, unbelievers mock and ridicule the Word of God in the majority of the church buildings of Western Europe and the United States. We can neither glorify God nor love our neighbor in these services. We need the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help us discern exactly what type of ministry we should join and support.

But some people say they won’t go to a church service if it does not meet their “needs,” whatever that means. Would you attend a church where men were segregated from women and children? What about a service without pews or chairs, where you had to stand for the entire service? What about a church that met in a different place each service because of threats on the worshipers’ lives?

There are three standards in the word of God for choosing to fellowship and support a local work by joining in membership. First, does it preach the Word of God? This means the whole council of God, not just what I want to hear. Second, is there a place for ministry? If the abilities and gifts God has blessed you with cannot be used in one fellowship, seek out another place where they can be used. Third, can I faithfully attend the services? The perfect fit a thousand miles from your house is not such a perfect fit.

These should not be such high standards. Instead, Christian Churches are filled with people “whose god is their appetites.” Philippians 3:9. These people will only attend a church which meets their appetites. The sad part is, what might be acceptable for one believer, might be a stumbling block and a sin for another believer.

The following is a brief list of some of the issues we have seen which cause people to leave a church. 1) The church is not the right size. These are “Goldilocks” Christians. This church is too big. This church is too small. They go through life forever searching for the church that is “just right.” 2) The music or worship service is not “contemporary” enough. They often tie this to other issues. They say the church is cold, unfriendly, judgmental, sometimes after attending for years and suddenly discovering that all these things have bothered them for years. Do they really mean to say, “I hate this church and I know this church hates me because I hate its music”? 3) The Church isn’t “giving” enough. What they usually mean by this is that other members are not giving them enough. 4) The Church is “legalistic.” This word is so overused that it has lost it’s meaning. In the Bible the word legalism simply means works salvation. Sometimes people simply mean that this particular church has standards they do not like.

So maybe our facebook pages, and our churches, and our lives, should not consist of what is light and fluffy, of what is pleasing to us, but rather of things that fulfill the Greatest Commandment.

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All Glorious Within

Psalm 45 is a beautiful passage of Scripture. It describes a king which certainly seems to be the Messiah, Jesus Christ. In verse nine it begins to talk about women, and there are lessons for Christian women and their earthly relationships with men and others in the descriptions found here.

First, though, we witness the anointing of the king with “oil of gladness.” The scents from his garments are of “myrrh, aloes and cassia.” The mentions of these and the “ivory palaces” are stirring descriptions of beauty for multiple senses — touch, sight, smell, and a delight for the emotions as well. It’s easy to see why “they have made thee glad.” Woman, this man and his dwelling-place are being prepared for you, as if for you alone. Are you blessed, or what?

This Psalm is aiming toward a point, and I think that point is a “pre-echo,” if you will, of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Sure enough, verse nine states that “Kings’ daughters were among thy honorable women,” (attendants at a wedding) and the queen is on his right hand, in gold of Ophir.

Mention of Ophir goes all the way back to Genesis and it is an ancient source of the highest-quality gold. I think that could mean that Christ loved His Bride from ancient times and set aside ornaments for her wedding day just as God planned salvation “before the foundation of the world.”

Verse ten is another “pre-echo,” this time of the statement of Christ that if one does not love father and mother more than Him, or even hate them, he is not worthy to be a disciple. So the daughter, or bride, is urged to “forget thine own people, and thy father’s house.” Just after the creation of Eve, before there were mothers or fathers, or perhaps even houses, Adam says that a man will leave these things and “cleave” to his wife.

The passage says that by doing this, the bride will cause her king to “greatly desire thy beauty.” She will be irresistible to her man as she is wholly committed to Him alone. And verse twelve has a great by-product of being the king’s bride. She gets presents! Tyre is certainly not known historically or biblically for being a good or godly kingdom, but its princess will have to show respect for this bride. All the richest and most powerful kingdoms on Earth want to get on her good side.

Now we get to the really good part! Verses thirteen and fourteen say “The king’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework.” I’m told that “within” means within her chamber, that is, while she’s getting ready for the wedding. She gets to put on wrought gold and that magnificent tapestry brocade you see in ancient portraits. No sweatpants, no bluejeans, no sir! The king’s daughter, who is now also the wife of a king, shines like the sun in the most beautiful and best workmanship. She is glorious, mind you, not glitzy. No bling here. The virgins, young girls, follow her, and you can bet they follow her example of godly beauty, too because they are accompanying her to her Lord and theirs with “gladness and rejoicing.”

Like many Scriptures this is a “here and now” as well as prophetic passage. The godly earthly queen will have children who can take the place of her forefathers as princes, leaders of kingdoms. In our sinful world we too often see children fall away from following their parents’ example and teaching. Not so here. The influence of this godly queen is solid because she worships her Lord with her whole heart. The memory of a woman who can produce generations of godly children will always be praised.

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