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Worship that renews

February 27, 2010 Leave a comment

One of the dominant themes of the Bible is that God continually brings renewal to His people, and to the world.  For example, even though we usually think of the great flood as a form of judgment, it also was God’s way of renewing the world.

This theme of renewal is important to keep in mind as we think of worship.

Christians will sometimes debate what the purpose of worship is all about.  Some will say it’s to praise God, while others will argue it’s focus is to be on teaching. There are also those who contend that worship is about reaching the lost, while still more will claim it’s about experiencing God and getting inspired.

All of these aspects surely play a part in faithful worship.  But underlying it all lies this theme of renewal.  God calls us to come into His presence for worship because He desires to renew us so we would be in a position to live for Him.

We can see God’s intent to bring renewal when we recall the Old Testament sacrifices.  When God brought worshipers into His presence, three big sacrificial operations were involved: cleansing, consecration, and communion.

First, the sacrificial animal was slaughtered, and blood was splattered on the alter.  This was to bring about cleansing and forgiveness for the worshiper.

Next, the animal was skinned, cut-up and arranged on the alter.  This symbolized the consecration of the worshiper or setting apart his life for the Lord.

Finally, the parts of the animal were were consumed and transformed into smoke.  In this way the identifying worshiper experienced God’s presence.

This pattern was repeated over and over through the Old Testament, and with it worshipers were brought from being on the outside to being taken up into fellowship with God.  It’s the pattern God used to renew people for service.

Jewish Christians in the early church would have been aware of this pattern.  But with the coming of Christ, there were some changes.  Animals were no longer sacrificed, because Christ was offered once for all.   This did not mean, however, that the idea of sacrifice disappeared.   Now believers are to present themselves as living sacrifices who would serve God with their lives.
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How taxes helped destroy the Roman Empire

February 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Kairos Journal has posted an insightful article explaining how taxes helped destroy the Roman Empire.  The parallels with our own situation makes this well worth reading. . .

How Taxes Helped Destroy the Roman Empire

What caused the decline and fall of the Roman Empire? Historians have debated this question for centuries and offered numerous and varied explanations. One has a strangely contemporary ring: Rome collapsed because the vitality of her empire and the loyalty of her subject peoples were extinguished by big government and oppressive taxation.    Continue article. . .

Finding faith in difficult times

February 23, 2010 1 comment
When difficult times come, there are really only two ways to respond.  You can see yourself as a victim and spend a lot of time complaining about your circumstances, and just sit back waiting for things to get better.  Or, you can refocus on what you believe, clarify what you think God wants you to do, and move forward in faith, anticipating what new opportunities He will bring.

Most people would like to see themselves in the latter camp – not responding to difficulty as a grumbler, but as one who is able to look ahead to the future with hope.  But the challenge is that it is a lot easier to have faith when things are going well, as opposed to when you’re facing hardships.

This, of course, is where faith is put to the test.

The Bible tells us that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb.11:1).  When we have faith, we are able to see what is not yet realized, believing it one day will be, and then act accordingly.

So, how do you have the faith to see those things that are hoped for in a way that you can go after them with courage and confidence?

Here are the essentials for nurturing your faith in that direction.

First off, consistently worship God every week. Building your own faith begins here, because your hope for the future is not generated from your own resources – it comes from the grace God provides.  Give Him the praise due His Name as the Lord over all.   But also receive of His forgiveness, direction, and presence in order to be renewed and equipped to fulfill God’s calling upon your life.

Also, nurture the relationships within your own family.  Nothing will sink your spirits more quickly than trouble at home.  Take time to foster the relationships of those who are close you do.  As you do what’s necessary to develop the ties within your family, it will do much to encourage you as you do battle in the world.  If your first step toward improving these relationships means asking forgiveness, do it.

Reading for Lent

February 20, 2010 Leave a comment

What to give up for Lent

February 17, 2010 Leave a comment

I was talking with a friend earlier today and he explained to me how he and his wife were discussing what they could give up for Lent.

Lent is a season of forty days (except Sundays) before Easter.  It is a time that many Christians observe as an opportunity for soul-searching and repentance.

Anyway, my friend was telling me that he and his wife considered chocolate, meat, movies, and a few other items as possible candidates to sacrifice for Lent.

Then they decided together, “Let’s give up our sins.”

That’s one of the shortest and best descriptions of what Lent is all about that you could find.

The leaders we need

February 16, 2010 Leave a comment

In a day when the blessings around us are slipping away, and so few appear to be giving worthy direction, the need for leadership is greater than ever. But what kind of leaders do we need?

Do we need leaders with great power to get things done? Do we need those who know how to inspire? Is it consensus builders that we need? Or maybe those who do everything by the book?

While leaders who can fill these roles may have their place, there is a type of leader we always need – and especially today. That’s a leader who has a clear sense of right and wrong, and can bring others to follow accordingly.

Why is this so important? Because in the end, it’s character and ethics that determine the course of a country. Charisma and a “can do” spirit may bring hope for a season, but over time it’s righteousness that exalts a nation (Pr.14:34).

When a nation is faithful, blessings – in the words of scripture – overtake it (Dt.28:2). But when a people fails to heed the Lord’s commands, confusion and curses come upon it. Though it may have been the head for a time, it soon becomes the tail.

Because this moral dimension to a nation’s well-being and future exists, King Solomon was wise to pray as he did. Upon assuming the throne of Israel, He asked the Lord to give him an understanding heart, so that he would be able to discern between good and evil (1 Kings 3:9).

This prayer was right on. Read more…

Praying for the persecuted

February 15, 2010 Leave a comment

The Bible makes it plain that we are to pray for the persecuted, as though we were suffering with them (Heb.3:13). One of the difficulties with this is that we may not know much about those we need to pray for.

The following video helps with that problem, as it reveals that those who are persecuted have families and hopes and fears as we do. As we remember this, may our prayers for the persecuted not just be abstractions, but heartfelt petitions on behalf of fellow saints with serious needs.

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Love and marriage

February 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.  The day was originally named after several early Christian martyrs by the name of Valentine, and was established as a way to remember and encourage sacrificial love.   The association between romantic love and Valentine’s Day was not introduced until the fourteenth century.

Today, couples will typically observe Valentine’s Day with small gifts, flowers, chocolates, or a night out for dinner.    The observance of Valentine’s Day is an encouragement for most, but it does bring pain for many.

I’m thinking here mainly of those couples who realize that their marriage does not possess the love that it once did, or needs to.  The question for these couples becomes, “How can we find love in our marriage?”

I believe the answer to this question very much falls on the attitude and actions of the husband.

The Bible tells us that the husband is the head of the wife (Eph.5:23).  It does not tell us that the husband needs to be the head of his wife, but that he is.  This truth has many applications, most basic which is this:  wherever the head goes, the body will follow.

Many husbands will chart their course with their wives by reacting to her basic demeanor.  So, if she is generally chilly in the relationship, so will he.  But with this approach the relationship will likely remain cool, and probably get colder with time.

The husband needs to take another approach.  He needs to act like the head that he is.  He needs to continually approach his wife in a loving way — no matter what her demeanor.   Quite often, this is absolutely all that needs to be done. When a woman sees that her man truly does love her, she doesn’t only thaw, but warms up quite quickly.

So, how does a husband take such action, especially when he may be struggling with his own bitterness toward his wife?  By looking to Christ.

Christ is the model husband, and He demonstrates how to love in the way He gave Himself for His church.  As Christ initiated that kind of love for His bride, so is any husband for his.

A practical place to start is by looking to the great love chapter, where we are told what love is. . .

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,

does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,

does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

~ 1 Corinthains 13:4-7

Any husband can apply these verses to his own marriage in a multitude of ways.

When a husband takes the initiative to show a love that is constant toward his wife, there is great likelihood that love will flourish in the marriage in a way that not only satisfies both the husband and the wife, but brings glory to God as well.

Emotions and maturity

February 9, 2010 Leave a comment

What does God have in mind for your life? The answer is pretty straightforward. It’s that you would mature in Him. Or, as the book of Romans puts it, it’s that you would be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ (Rom.8:29).

When people think of becoming like Jesus, what usually comes to mind is being obedient and doing the right thing in every circumstance. This is very biblical, but there’s another dimension that must be considered – the emotional dimension.

God made us emotional creatures. Emotions like joy, peace, fear, sadness, anger, and love are all part of what makes us human. In proper balance and in their right place, emotions like these enable us to live lives that are full and effective as we engage others and receive what God brings us.

The problem is that many people find their lives dominated by negative emotions. They wake up every day bound up by a negative feeling like anger, bitterness, jealousy, fear, or sorrow. The result? They are stuck, with little hope for the future. Instead of living their lives to the fullest as they serve others, they endure each day trapped by their own negative emotions. They fail to grow and become stagnant.

So, how does one in this situation become unstuck and free to embrace life, move forward and mature?

Here are a few places to start.

Let God be God. People who are dominated by negative emotions often have a hard time accepting what God has dealt them in life. By letting God be God they are able to believe that God works all things for good for those who love Him, and are then in a position to experience personal growth.   Read more…

Types of fools

February 8, 2010 Leave a comment

In his concise commentary on Proverbs, Derek Kidner notes that the fool presents himself under various names.  I like to remember these as the three stooges of scripture.

First, there’s the simple.  This kind of person is easily led, gullible and silly.  He is naive, and because of his thoughtlessness, may graduate to more serious forms of folly.

The locus classicus of the ‘simple’ is Proverbs 7, where it describes a young man who seems to court temptation.  The simple’s problem is not that he is incapable of wisdom, but will not accept it.

Second is the fool.  There are actually three Hebrew words that are translated ‘fool.’

The most common refers to one who is dull and obstinate.  Not because he lacks mental equipment, but because of his chosen outlook.  He likes his folly, and like the dog that returns to its own vomit, he keeps repeating the same sins.

His major problem is that he rejects the fear of the Lord (Pr.1:29).   At a minimum, he wastes your time, and if you have to endure him long he becomes a menace.

There is another word for fool that also describes one who is stubborn, but this person’s folly comes across darker.  He knows no restraint or sense of proportion.   He is impatient of all advice and is flippant.  Because of the disposition of the heart, foolishness is very hard to drive from this type of fool (Pr.27:22).

An infrequently used word that is often translated “fool” is nabal and brings to mind Nabal’s wife when she said, “One cannot speak to him” (1 Sam.25:17).  He is a crude, overbearing and godless man.

Third, the scoffer or scorner.  He despises correction and sets his heart on mischief.  He is a debunker and a trouble-maker.  He is a bad influence on the impressionable.  Yet, for all his arrogance, in the end the Lord will scorn him (Pr.3:34).

The common thread with all types of fools is that their problem is not their mental capability but the attitude of their hearts.  They are enamored with their own way of thinking and will not have the fear of the Lord.

Even a brief review of the types of fools is an admonishment to “Get wisdom” (Pr.4:5ff.)