Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Does How I Worship God Matter?

“Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from you hand.” - Malachi 1:10

In 21st century America, we tend to be very individualistic. We think in terms of what we like, want, and our rights. Sadly this attitude gets applied to our attitude when we worship God, thinking sincerity is the same as obedience.  Remember we can sincerely want sin!  We should be quick to remember several things about worship. 

 First, worship is not just music, but a lifestyle. We don’t simply worship on Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings and Wednesday nights, but we worship when we parent our children, marry our spouse, work at our jobs, and how we treat those we live around (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Second, let’s remember the point of worship is to glorify God not appease a guilty conscious. In ancient Israel, they were bringing their left over livestock that they didn’t want to continue on in breeding. Instead of giving God their best, they simply gave him their leftovers. The call in the above passage is for believers to give God the best of their lives. Giving our best to God includes our finances, abilities, gifts of the Holy Spirit, and love.

Third, I would add that this is best done in community with other believers. God has called us to worship privately and publicly with the body of Christ (Hebrews 10:25). In the Old Testament times, the people would gather once a year or more for all day public readings of the Word of God. We are called to worship in a covenanted community called the local church. A place where the people are committed to Jesus Christ first and to one another as well.

Finally, what you do during your private worship effects worship at church. If we do not labor in preparing our hearts at home through the word, prayer, and other spiritual disciplines, our attitudes during a worship service will be effected and has the potential to disturb the body of Christ. In the Old Testament, Achan’s private sin cost Israel 36 soldiers' lives as they went to battle in Joshua 7. When we sit in a worship service and ask questions like, "How does this suit me?" or  "Am I satisfied with the music, does it make me feel good?"  or "Did the pastor make me laugh, cry, and think all at the same time?"  A negative, judgmental attitude causes great harm and division to the body of Christ. Instead, we should be asking ourselves, does this honor the Lord? Does this draw attention to God and away from men and women? Are any commands or principles of God being violated by this action in the service? Our worship should be geared toward pleasing God with our best privately and publicly, so yes how I worship God does matter to God and my church family!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Is It OK for a Christian to Marry Someone Who is Not a Christian?

“11 Judah has acted treacherously, and a detestable thing has been done in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the Lord’s sanctuary, which He loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god.” –Malachi 2:10

There could be no more fitting book to end the Old Testament with than the book of Malachi. It shows that the worship of God has been restored externally, but internally selfishness reins! It is the same selfishness that was planted by the serpent in Genesis 3:1 when he challenged God's authority with this phrase, ““Did God really say…””.

 The issue that the people of God faced then is the issue we face now. The Word of God has always forbidden the mixing of those who have professed the one true and living God of the Holy Bible with others. While some have tried to use Old Testament passages like Malachi 2:10 to promote racial purity that is a misunderstanding of the text. The bible is not concerned with racial purity, but with his people being pure in the faith. To marry outside of the faith was a sin then, and is a sin now. To marry outside the faith is a sure way to be pulled away from God. It is important to note here that your choice of a spouse is considered part of your worship to God. Worship is not something that we do only on Sunday Morning, but worship is all-encompassing in our lives. True worship must be faithful in our marriages, because that is the place where new people will be created and taught who or what to worship.

The New Testament calls it being “unequally yoked” in 2 Corinthians 6:14. It is the idea of oxen who pull in two different direction and therefore become useless for the task. Even within the Christian faith two believers may be unequally yoked to a degree, perhaps one is called to missions and one is not. All expectations and calls should be talked about and explored before the commitment of marriage is made.

For those of you who are in a marriage with an unbeliever, you do not have a get out of marriage free card (1 Cor. 7:14). You are still called to love your mate as outlined in Ephesians, just as Christ loved the church or as the church is to love Christ.  Two sins don't make an act of righteousness nor worship.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How Should We Think About the Brittany Maynard’s Assisted Suicide and the “Right to Die” issue?

On November 1, 2014, Brittany Maynard, a 29 year old women terminally ill from brain cancer, chose to end her life. My heart goes out to her family as they grieve this devastating loss. Her death has sparked a national debate on the right of terminally ill patience’s to seek medical means to end their lives early. Brittany made her choice to die a public issue in order to leave a legacy behind, since she had no children. 

First off, if you are going to submit yourself to the idea of killing yourself to avoid suffering, then you must fully believe that suffering is meaningless. Let me remind you what we are instructed by the apostle Peter in 1 Peter 4:12-13 which reads:

“12 Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you. 13 Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory.”

The Bible makes it clear that suffering is a part of God’s plan for everyone’s life. Many times sufferings are what God uses to draw people to Himself. God does not ordain suffering in the world or in people for no reason. Suppose that Brittany had taken treatments for her cancer and met a follower of Jesus Christ, who shared the gospel with her and encouraged her in a place that only they could understand. 

Suffering is not pointless, there are lessons to be learned by the person in the sick bed, and by those who are their caretakers. We need to do all things to the glory of God, which includes dying a hard, death full of suffering. We should not seek to short circuit God’s plan for our lives, especially the end!

As I think through this I am reminded of two deaths from the Old Testament, King Saul vs. King David. King Saul had his issues, he hid on his promotion day, prophesied for the Lord, was plagued by an evil spirit, killed priests of the Lord, and sought help from a witch to call Samuel back from the dead. At the end of his life in 1 Chronicles 10, he would rather die in his delusions about who he is than face reality as a king, so Saul throws himself on his sword and kills himself.

On the other hand, King David, a murder and adulterer, was willing to repent of his sins. King David is found withering away on a death bed in 1 Kings 1, and I would argue that this is God’s mercy to David. David is reminded in his old age and sickness of his frailty and dependence on God.

This debate scares me as a pastor. It starts to question “quality” of life. As one wise author once said, “quality is meeting expectations”. If that is true, the question should be asked, “What is your expectations for your life?” Someone may have a “quality of life” on a deathbed that could never be learned in a healthy body, through learning to be more like Christ in suffering. Brittany’s very public death opens a Pandora’s Box on who should live and who should die. Who should decide what the expectations of life are other than God?