Category Archives: Christianity

The Worship of Your Heart

Luke 7:36-50

That woman who anointed Jesus’ feet. I want to be her.

I want to love Jesus with abandon, worship Him without thought of anything or anyone else. I want to give Him all I have, cling to Him with tears enough to wash His feet.

Do you think for a minute she worried about what other people at dinner thought of her, how she must have looked to them, bent over with her face on the ground, crying the ugly cry? I don’t think she even knew anyone else was there. Her only thought was loving Jesus. He was all that mattered. I want to worship Him like that, too.

Here’s the thing: there has been a line drawn between contemporary and traditional worship styles. What we “do” during worship places us firmly on one side or the other.

On one hand, we’re told if you raise your hands you’ve crossed over into the contemporary camp. On the other hand, if you don’t raise your hands, you’re not really worshiping. On one hand, we’re told if we look to heaven with smiles on our faces we’re putting on a show. On the other hand we’re told that serious faces can’t worship, that we ought to look to heaven with smiles on faces when we worship.

Now what? What does Scripture tell us about worship that pleases God?

Very often, especially in the psalms, we are told to worship God joyfully, with singing and dancing. However, very often Scripture condemns those exact demonstrations of worship.

So which is it? Do I raise my hands or bow my head? Do I put a smile on my face or shed tears instead?

The answer, I believe according to Scripture, is “yes!”

What I see in the woman we read about today is someone who took herself out of her worship entirely. Her worship of Jesus came from a humble, selfless, repentant heart. Her worship wasn’t about her. It was about Jesus only.

I will confess there have been times during a hymn or song of praise, my instinct was to raise my hands in worship. But I have stopped myself because I didn’t want people to think I crossed the contemporary line. And there have been times when I was told to smile or clap, but my heart was broken in worship, and smiling and clapping would not have been an honest expression of my heart.

When I read about this woman I realize I’ve put too much thought into what anyone says my worship should look like. Maybe we all ought to stop trying to orchestrate worship to fit our picture of worship, and let God lead instead.

Maybe we all ought to consider our heart’s condition before the Holy God we worship. Raise your hands if that expresses the worship of your heart. Bow your head if that expresses the worship of your heart. Fall at the feet of Jesus and let your tears wash His feet if that expresses the worship of your heart.

Let our worship of God come from hearts that belong to Him, cleansed by the blood of Jesus, and from humble, grateful hearts that can’t help but worship Him. Worship Him with abandon, without thought of whoever is sitting next to you.

And, worship leaders, may I suggest your own worship of God ought to cause you to focus on Him instead of what the people you are leading in worship are doing. Let God move in hearts without your prompting. Jesus didn’t tell the woman how to wash His feet, or where to pour the oil. He accepted the expression of her worship as she presented it to Him from her heart.

Anyway, as I consider my own expression of worship, I pray you will do the same. May all of us worship our Lord as He deserves, from hearts cleansed by the Savior, and focused on Him without thought of anything or anyone else but Him. Worship isn’t what we do or don’t do. It’s whether or not our hearts are in tune with our Holy God.

The Hope Of All The World

Matthew 12:15-21

Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah to the men who were plotting to kill Him. They were angry because He had healed a man on the Sabbath.

He healed a man.

But it was the Sabbath, a day they had put so many restrictions on, believing they were following God’s Law and then some. And the law was much more important than the healed man. Their idea of the law blinded them from really seeing the miracle.

It’s ironic that they were so concerned about following God’s Law when they were looking at the Author. Jesus wanted them to know that. He wanted them to know He was their long-awaited Messiah.

“I am the beloved Son of God. His Spirit is in me. I haven’t come shouting or fighting or crushing the weak. I bring justice to the nations.”

The fact is, they wanted Him dead because He healed a man on the Sabbath. They didn’t just want Him punished, excommunicated, or simply stopped from continuing His ministry. They wanted Him dead. And Jesus wanted them to recognize who it was they wanted to kill.

I say all of that to point you to verse 21.

And his name will be the hope of all the world.

Our world seems so intent on looking everywhere except to Jesus for hope. Yet here He is!

Some reject Him because He doesn’t fit into their idea of what they think He should look like. Some reject Him because they don’t like His message. Many look to the government, or religion, autonomy, even good deeds to find their hope.

If our civilization has any hope it won’t be because we tolerate differences or are accepting of every thought or belief out there. It won’t be because everyone’s bank accounts have exactly the same balance as everyone else’s. It won’t be because we have a preconceived notion of how things ought to be, like the Pharisees had in Jesus’ day.

Isaiah knew, and Jesus reinforced the truth that Jesus is our only hope.

Jesus is the hope of all the world.

That Same Jesus

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

The touch of His hand healed everyone. (Luke 4:40b)

Jesus offered Living Water to the woman at the well, and told her if she drank it she would never thirst again. (John 4:14) In fact, He told her, it would bubble up inside her like a spring bringing eternal life.

The demons knew who He was, but they had no power to resist His demands.

He called ordinary men to follow Him, and turned them into extra-ordinary forces for the Gospel, the good news that Jesus is God, the Savior of the world.

That same Jesus is alive today, continuing to touch diseased souls, giving eternal life, and calling His followers to be extra-ordinary forces to share the Good News.

That same Jesus.

Human Nature

John 2

It seems a lot of people trusted Jesus because of the miracles He did. This was no ordinary man. He must be God, the Messiah. So, Scripture tells us, they began to trust Him.

But Jesus didn’t trust them…” (vs 24a)

Well that wasn’t very nice. Wouldn’t the polite thing be to reciprocate their trust? Why wouldn’t Jesus trust them, take them at their word?

But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew human nature. No one needed to tell him what mankind is really like. (verses 24-25, NLT)

What’s that supposed to mean? Aren’t we to believe that people are innately good? What’s not to trust?

Popular philosophy tells us we are good, worthy, pure of heart from birth, that all we need to do is tap into that goodness within us, that given a chance people will be worthy of trust others place in them.

Friend’s that is NOT human nature. I don’t care what Oprah says.

Human nature is self-serving, ego centric, evil. Good hearted? Listen to what Scripture tells us:

The heart is deceitful above all, and desperately wicked; who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

Well, evidently Jesus can know the human heart. He knows that people are emotional, fickle, deceitful, and evil because that’s human nature. That’s what Jesus knew about the people who began to follow Him after seeing the miracles.

And I’m sorry, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize those traits in all of us. Yes, I’m talking to you! (and especially me). Jesus knew the people would get bored, maybe offended, they’d get distracted, and many would fall away.

But He loved them anyway. He would continue to speak truth to them, continue to reveal Himself by miracles. He would die on a cross for them and come back to life to give them life when they truly believed, truly put their trust in Him, and allowed Him to change their wicked hearts into clean hearts.

I don’t know where you stand in your spiritual journey. But Jesus has done all of that for you, too. His death and resurrection offers you the cleansing you need. His truth, as recorded in the Words of the Bible, speak the only Truth. And when you believe in Jesus as your Savior, you are given eternal life!

On your own, you can’t be trusted any more than the people we read about in John’s Gospel. But God can change you into someone He can trust to be the person and do the things that bring glory to Him.

It’s not human nature. But it is God’s nature in you that can make you trustworthy enough to wear His Name and represent Him to a world that needs Him.

I’m praying for you today.

Faith Like Mary’s

Luke 1

Unmarried pregnant girls are so commonplace today I don’t think we can relate to what Mary’s submission to God’s will really meant, what having a baby without being married cost women back then.

Prostitution at best. Most likely death. Loss of everything and every one. And life for that child should he or she be born? Brutal.

Mary’s faith speaks to me. Her total, unquestioning trust in God is something I want for myself. If God asks me to do the impossible, may I remember:

Nothing is impossible with God. (1:37)

May I, like Mary when God asks me to do something hard, say confidently, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let His will be done in me.”

And mean it.

Revenge. Seriously?

Joel

I know someone who, because a member of the church his parents attended said something that offended him, quit going to church. He was a teenager at the time. He’s in his thirties today. And he will give that incident as the reason he still doesn’t go to church today.

I’ve heard of others who see injustice in the world and say, “If God causes such bad things to happen, I don’t want anything to do with Him.” or “There must not be a God at all.”

Do you wonder how God feels when people convince themselves of such?

What do you have against me, Tyre and Sidon and the cities of Philistia? Are you trying to take revenge on me? (3:4a)

Do people who judge God and find Him guilty think they have the upper hand? Seriously?

If you are (taking revenge on me) watch out! I will strike swiftly and pay you back for everything you have done. (4b)

Everything YOU have done.

Joel goes on to remind us we all enjoy the blessings of God. We all live in a world where the sun shines, the rain falls, wounds heal, crops produce fruit, hearts beat…

But we have taken those blessings and carted them off to pagan temples. (vs 5) Instead of using them to glorify God, instead of being grateful, we turn it around and use them against Him

But be warned. Especially when God repeats Himself:

… and I will pay you back for everything you have done. (verse 7b)

Here’s the good news:

But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (2:32)

If you have any excuse why you haven’t called on the name of the Lord, if you have put yourself above God, found Him guilty, or blame your present circumstances on that old church lady who hurt your feelings – get over yourself!

Are you trying to teach God a lesson? Get even? Punish Him? That, my friend, is foolishness. Do you have any idea who it is you are dealing with?

Here’s the deal: obey God according to His Word, the Bible. Or not. Just remember your decision will stay with you for eternity. And in the end you won’t judge God. He will judge you.

I pray that when He does, He will be able to judge you according to the righteousness of His Son Jesus. The flip side of that is unthinkable.

20 Years In The Making

Nehemiah 7

The wall was repaired in a matter of days. Once lying in rubble around Jerusalem, it now stood firmly, the result of everyone doing his or her part. They hadn’t relied on professional builders. They’d relied on God who gave them the ability to do something great.

There had been opposition, bullying, insults and lies thrown at them to intimidate them to stop. But the Jews didn’t stop. And God was glorified.

So now what? Their goal was reached. Did they just sit back and simply enjoy the fruit of their labor? Not at all.

Appoint the residents of Jerusalem to act as guards, everyone on a regular watch. Some will serve at sentry posts, and some in front of their own homes. (vs 3b)

That wall protected Jerusalem and its residents from outside forces. Jerusalem was also the place where God lived on Earth That wall was there to keep the enemy out.

What spoke to me is that all the residents took guarding the wall seriously. Everyone did their part in protecting the wall around Jerusalem. It guarded the Temple. It also guarded their own homes. That wall was worth guarding.

We are celebrating 20 years of Frederica Baptist Church today. 20 years ago this month a couple dozen people took a giant leap of faith, believing God was calling them to establish a church on the north end of this island. 20 years ago they met in homes, in store fronts, in an elementary school, until they could use their own savings, or put their own homes up for collateral to buy a commercial building in which to worship. It took almost 15 more years from that point to pay off the debt, sell the commercial building, and erect a church building on land given this small congregation, a gift they knew was from God.

So today we will gather with our present fellowship along with former pastors and friends who have called Frederica Baptist their church home at times during these past two decades. It’s going to be a glorious celebration! God be praised.

But I am reminded this was never the goal. God didn’t call these people 20 years ago to build a building so people could drive by and say, “Look! There’s a new church on the north end of the island.” He didn’t ask us to build a church so people would come to fellowship with us, but fellowship with Him through the blood of Jesus. We aren’t here to be a social club, but a holy people unto the Lord, equipped to go and make disciples on the north end of the island.

There will be opposition. And it will be up to each of us to stand guard against the enemy. Our enemy is Satan, sin, apostasy, heresy, tolerance, compromise, the world. We will depend on our leaders to protect us at the door, being gatekeepers and barring the door against the enemy.

But each of us must do our part, too, by guarding our homes, and our hearts from the enemy. Satan is not welcome here! And it’s up to each of us to stand guard.

So I’m going to church today to praise God for bringing us to this point. We have a wonderful facility in which to worship and prepare to be the people we need to be to do God’s work on the north end.

We will sing, worship God together, share a meal, laugh, remember, and praise our faithful God today. Then tomorrow we’ll get to work, protecting what God has given us, and being His hands and feet in this community.

It’s been 20 years in the making. But the work is just begun.

Mixed Messages

Ezra 9-10

I wonder if the Church isn’t guilty of “marrying foreign wives” like the people of Israel including priests and Levites were guilty during the time of Ezra.

So the holy race has become polluted by these mixed messages. Worse yet, the leaders and officials have led the way in this outrage. (9:2b)

No one wants to talk about the Church as the holy race. We’d rather talk about how we can be attractive to foreigners, to those who don’t know the Savior. Our goal, preached from so many pulpits, is to actually bring the foreigners into the Church!

That’s like marrying a non-believer, expecting them to change. Folks, you know that doesn’t work. It certainly isn’t working in the modern Church.

I watched a movie on Pure Flix last night, “Play the Flute.” We geezers will recognize Loretta Swift from “Mash,” Fred Grandy from Love Boat (your remember Gopher, right?), and Clint Howard, Opie’s real life brother. It’s a good movie about a young youth pastor, burdened for the teens in his church who not only do not read the Bible, they don’t even see a need to read it.

The youth pastor struggles with whether or not to make his youth group about programs and events and fun so numbers grow. He hears from a friend whose own youth group has grown because of all the things they are doing. He reads articles and commentaries from church leaders who promote the idea that if youth group is an event, kids will come. But he can’t shake the conviction that the Bible needs to be the focus of his youth group.

So he gets up in front of the teens and reads what Jesus says in Matthew 11:

To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a funeral song, and you did not mourn.”

He likens God’s Word to the flute, himself as the musician, and to the teens as those who refused to dance, who just sit there and don’t accept what they hear. The pastor tells the kids he’ll continue to play the flute. What they do with what they hear is up to them.

I hope you’ll watch the movie. I think you’ll like it. It certainly has me thinking today in light of what I read in Ezra.

Church, it might be time for us to divorce ourselves from foreign wives, and return the Church to that which God intended – a holy people. It might be time for us to simply play the flute and quit dancing to get attention. Why do we think the sound of God’s Word is incapable of changing hearts today? What if we got back to having the preaching and teaching of Scripture plus nothing be our focus?

I know some of you will say times have changed, kids are bored with church, we are a technology focused society, that bells and whistles are needed to draw people in. And some of you say we want anyone to come in no matter what they believe.

But is that what God says He wants of His Church? Times have changed, but He hasn’t. His demand for a holy people still rings true today. And foreign wives, mixed messages, are defiling His Church.

That’s not just my opinion. It’s what God’s Word says, whether we like it or not. I’m praying for my church, and for your’s. I’m praying for Christians everywhere to get back to God’s Word and let Him work in the hearts of people without our interference. I’m praying for the holy people of God to pick up our flutes and play them with all our hearts.

And let God do the rest. He’s better at it than we are anyway.

Happy Re-Birth-Day

Esther

Reading about Purim in the book of Esther has me thinking. Thousands of years since God saved the Jews through Esther’s obedience, Jewish people celebrate the anniversary of that day every spring. It’s one of the biggest religious holidays in the Jewish religion. Costumes, singing, gifts, lots of food. It’s a party! Kind of like a birthday party.

And that’s what has me thinking.

Most of us celebrate birthdays every year with some kind of party. As we should. The day you were born into this world is reason to celebrate!

But most of us don’t give a second thought to our spiritual birthday, the day when we were born again into the spiritual kingdom of God, becoming His child through the blood of His Son Jesus. If Purim celebrates the day the Jews were saved, how much more should I celebrate the day I was saved, too?

Honestly, the date of that life-beginning event in my life is blurred in my memory. I was really young when Jesus saved me. And I’m really old today. But I have never celebrated my spiritual birthday.

I know of a couple of families who celebrate their children’s spiritual birthdays every year with the same fanfare as their physical birthdays. Cake and ice cream, or dinner out, or some kind of special event to celebrate the day their children were saved. I love that idea. If you’re a parent of a child who has been born-again, I hope you’ll consider doing this as well.

If you’re like me, and don’t remember the date of your salvation, why not celebrate today, September 15? Throw a party. Bake a cake. Wear a party hat. Celebrate the day you were truly born, whenever that was!

However, let me say that I know we have reason to celebrate our re-birth-day every day! God’s mercies are new every day! It doesn’t take a party hat to remind me how loved I am, or what it means to be born into the family of God.

I know we don’t need a party. But reading about how the Jews celebrated their salvation in such a festive atmosphere, and knowing they eventually died anyway, makes me want to celebrate by rebirth with the same fervor, knowing I will take that rebirth into eternity.

So, whenever it is you were saved…

Happy Re-Birth-Day!

Ya Do What Ya Gotta Do

Esther 1

I guess I don’t blame Vashti for not wanting to parade around in front of a room full of men who’d been drinking excessively for a whole week. Regardless of her reasoning, she had to pay the consequences for disobeying an edict from the king.

Should she have gone? It would have saved her a lot of trouble, and she would have been able to keep her crown. Aren’t there times when “ya do what ya gotta do,” whether you like it or not?

That’s a question I’m afraid we all need to be making these days. And it’s getting harder to answer that question by the minute.

I know of a school district that has told teachers they are not allowed to teach pronouns, that they must use the non/gender pronouns when they speak, that they have to honor a parents decision to let their children “identify” as a gender not given to them by God. And, they must teach all children that doing that should be accepted and considered normal.

There is a movement to normalize “furries.” Are you aware? People (including children) who pretend to identify as an animal. They want people, including teachers, to treat them as the animal they are pretending to be.

Teachers have received an edict from the powers that be, like Vashti received hers from the king. Now what? Do you do what you have to do, and teach what you’re told? Or do you do what you have to do, and resign?

Like I said, it’s getting harder every day.

What if the edict comes from your child? “I’m gay. Accept it.”

Or from your church? The Methodist denomination is facing some hard decisions, as is the SBC. Do you go progressive? Do you stand firm?

We don’t often think about what it took for Vashti to refuse the king’s order. But I think there might be a lesson there for us today.

May we all know when it’s time to say, “No.” And may God give us the courage to say it, then do what we gotta do about it.