Tag Archives: church

(Psalm 93) Adorning the Temple

Our God reigns! He sits on His eternal throne and has absolute rule over His creation. There may be powers that would destroy what God has so lovingly and purposefully made, but God is greater than the enemy of us all.

We can put our confidence in our Eternal King because all He has said is true and completely reliable. What an incredible gift is His Word in print. We can know Him, hear Him, recognize His hand in our lives by spending time in the Bible.

We have reason to praise and worship God!

I have shared that our church fellowship is in the middle of a building project. For years we have met in the basement of a commercial building, but we are hopefully going to move to the north end of this island and occupy a brand new building with classrooms and our own parking lot before the end of this year. God is doing amazing things in and through this journey.

Warren Wiersbe said something in regard to verse 5 of this Psalm in his “Be Exultant” study (David C Cook Publisher, 2004, page 32) that I think could be engraved into the foundation of our new building if the cement wasn’t already dried:

“It is a holy people that makes the temple holy, and ‘the beauty of holiness’ (29:2) is the greatest adornment for any structure dedicated to the Lord.”

We, of course, want our new structure to be pleasing to our Lord. We want what happens inside those walls to matter for eternity. We pray that it will be a tool God uses to reach the lost. But the psalmist (and Wiersbe) reminds me it’s not about the building.

It’s about holy people. Not busy people. Not even worshiping people, or a people with great outreach programs.

Holy people are what makes the temple beautiful in God’s eye; people who have repented of sin and obey God from clean hearts and minds. Holy people, not just good people.

My prayer is that as we worship and praise our Eternal King, whether in the basement or sitting inside a structure smelling of cut wood and new paint, we will each of us be that holy person who adorns the building. I pray that our focus won’t be on the new church or even in the worship and programs inside, but on God alone from clean hearts: a holy people unto the Lord.

If holy people are what makes the temple beautiful in God’s eye, may it be true in the “temple” which will be Frederica Baptist Church on Saint Simons Island. Starting with me.

(Psalm 15) Acceptable Worship

Evidently Psalm 15 was an “entrance” psalm. People who wanted to worship God in the temple didn’t just barge in there. They were to meet the following requirements first:

  1. Be blameless. Doesn’t mean “sinless.” The requirement for worship was receiving Jesus’ righteousness by faith. The Old Testament people looked forward to the Messiah with the same faith we who live after the cross have. Faith in the saving work of God’s Son makes us blameless before our Holy God.
  2. Practice righteousness. Our walk throughout the week must be an expression of our salvation. The psalmist will give us practical ways to practice righteousness in later verses.
  3. Stand for Truth. Jesus IS the Truth. God is the only God and His Words as found in the Bible are True. Period. If we want to worship Him we must worship Him in spirit and Truth.

The psalmist goes on with some specific actions that need to be true of we who worship God according to His Word:

Verse 3 – don’t gossip. Don’t maliciously talk behind someone’s back.

Next is – don’t harm friends. Sometimes we can be cruelest to those closest to us. God wants his worshipers to express patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness…

Be considerate of your neighbor. Yes, that means the person living in the house next to yours. But Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan when asked, “who is my neighbor.”

Verse 4 – We who want to worship God must hate what he hates. And he hates those who reject Him. That’s a hard pill to swallow, especially when we know God is love. But how did Jesus tell us to treat our enemies? Pray for them. Do good to them. And the best good you can do for anyone is introduce them to their Savior.

The psalmist tells us that another requirement of acceptable worship of God is to honor our brothers and sisters. We need to consider our fellow believers more important than ourselves, serve them instead of expecting to be served, mourn with them and rejoice with them, encourage them in their walk with the Lord.

We must keep God’s Word NO MATTER THE COST. That means protecting the Truth by listening to preaching and teaching with discernment, and speaking out against false teaching. It means speaking up when people twist Scripture. And it means obeying what God inspired men to write, even if it’s not politically correct, or pleasant to hear, or easy to do.

Verse 5 – Treat others the way you want to be treated. God’s people need to be the most fair, the most trustworthy, having the most integrity of anyone, but especially to those who are weak and innocent. We represent God Himself to a world that is looking for reasons to reject Him. May they never find those reasons in your life or mine.

The worship of God is a serious thing. If we read the Old Testament we see examples of what happens when people try to take short-cuts to worship. Unauthorized fire, carrying the ark on a new cart, gold calves at the foot of the mountain where God was meeting with Moses, and other examples that all ended in death.

God does not accept all worship, no matter how sincere that worship might be. God might not accept your worship if you don’t meet His requirements.

Please do not invite your unsaved friends into God’s house for a worship service. That is not the place for them to be saved. It’s the place where the saved worship God according to His rules.

Your unsaved friend should be meeting their Savior in your living room or their’s, on a park bench, or over coffee at the local coffee shop where you share the Gospel with them.

Then, when they have received what Jesus died to give them, invite them to worship with you and other believers in sprit and Truth.

And may I suggest that this Sunday when you walk into the sanctuary, instead of chatting with someone about last night’s ballgame, or your problems with your rose bushes, or that new recipe you found, prepare your heart. Find your seat and bow your head, quiet your mind, take inventory to see if you are ready to worship God according to His rules. Are there things you need to confess? Confess them. Center yourself on the One whom you are there to worship.

If we took the “entrance” test this Sunday, would be pass? May we offer God only acceptable worship.

(Genesis 20-25) Not Harsh Enough

We question Sarah’s treatment of Hagar and think she was too harsh when she sent Hagar and Ishmael away. We see Abraham having other children after Sarah died, and he sent those children away as well. What’s up with that?

Sarah’s words spoke to me today:

Drive out the slave with her son, for the son of this slave will not be a coheir with my son Isaac. (21:10)

Are we that protective of that which we hold dear, of the very promise of God?

I believe the Church has become a wishy-washy, bleeding hearts club where we are so concerned about offending, we’ve allowed anything and anyone into our midst. In fact, we have the idea we need to be inviting non-believers into our fellowship. We’ve been told to think we will rub off on them, but I wonder if the opposite isn’t true.

We’ve fashioned our worship service so it’s attractive to non-believers. We’ve watered down our sermons so as not to step on toes of non-believers, because we don’t want them to stop attending and giving to our worthless ministry.

Yes, worthless.

Because the Bible is clear. The purity of the Truth, the Gospel of Jesus and the Holiness of God must be protected. There are no co-heirs with God’s Promise. The Church must drive out any hint of compromise or threat of compromise in order to retain its purity.

You might think that’s harsh. I think it’s not harsh enough.

Don’t Destroy The Work Of God (Romans 14)

I’ve shared that there is an ongoing conflict in CEF with some people leaving the organization, others being fired from their positions. Even though I do not know the details of the core issue, it is not a theological issue. The Gospel of Jesus is not being compromised. Yet, I can say that I have not seen Romans 14:19 played out from either side.

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

I am not their judge. But the Bible tells us we will be held accountable for our actions, especially in regards to the ministry of the Gospel. I ask you to be in prayer for all involved.

Now the split has trickled down to our local chapter. It hurts. Our once cohesive Board is divided and some are choosing to leave, others to stay with CEF and carry on the Good News Clubs in our district.

Yes, it hurts. But my prayer is that all of us on the Board will make every effort to do what leads to peace between us, and that we will encourage each other because we all have a passion for sharing Jesus with children.

Paul warns, in verse 20: “Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food.” Now, I know some people believe God’s work can’t be destroyed because He is Sovereign. I read the Bible and hear God’s warning through Paul and through the example of the Old Testament Israelites that God’s will is NOT always done if we get in the way.

Paul is talking about food. “Don’t let an insignificant issue like food harm the ministry,” he tells us. But I also hear him say, “Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of change, or pride, or power, or your need to be ‘right.'” It’s easy to get caught up in the emotion of the issue. I’ve had to fight anger myself these days. It’s tempting to view people with differing opinions as the enemy, and fight against flesh and blood.

“I’ll show them!”

“No one treats me that way!”

Don’t destroy the work of God because you think you’re not being heard, or because you want the other side to suffer in some way, to get what you think they deserve.

My church is in the middle of a building project. Churches have split over paint color. Let’s not destroy the work of God for the sake of a building’s aesthetics. Rather, let’s make every effort to bring peace, and to edify each other. (I’m not actually worried about this in my church. I’m so thankful for this congregation of people on this island who, with differing opinions, are still living out verse 19).

You don’t like the preacher in your church? Don’t destroy the work of God.

You don’t like the music? Don’t destroy the work of God.

You don’t like the amount of money given to missions? Don’t destroy the work of God.

Rather, do everything in your power to bring peace to the situation, and to encourage each other with the love of God.

And don’t think that means offering an olive branch will automatically get you what you want. People may never see things the way you see them in issues of administration, or design, or music, or pot-luck dinners, or wearing masks. Keep the peace anyway.

Don’t destroy the work of God.

Haggai; Caring For The Church

I’ve shared that our pastor obeyed God’s call to minister at another church, leaving us pastor-less for the time being. We certainly miss him. But what an exciting time to be a part of this fellowship!

I thought about us, and other churches like us with pastor search committees, as I read what God had to say through Haggai. The Jews had neglected the Temple, they let it fall into ruin. Yet their own homes were state-of-the-art. Maybe an exaggeration, but God said:

Because of my house, which remains in ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house. (1:9)

God was doling out discipline for their lack of care for His house. Now I’m not suggesting our church is in ruin because Pastor Whit is no longer here. Quite the opposite is true. In fact, the three men who have filled the pulpit since Pastor left have all had a similar theme – Don’t stop!

We’ve been encouraged not to think of this season as “limbo.” We’ve been challenged to step up our service and giving instead of sitting back and waiting until we call a preacher. Why? Because this isn’t Pastor Whit’s church. Never has been. Never will be. This is God’s church here on this island. And WE are charged with it’s upkeep and growth.

We had our quarterly business meeting last Sunday evening. The various committees gave reports, and we were caught up on where we are in the pastor search process. My heart was blessed as the reports were given, how excited people are about ministry opportunities in and through our church, how much prayer is being given for each area of service, and how much we are seeking God’s will for our future. I don’t see this church fellowship going into ruin any time soon!

But the potential is there. Not just for us, but for any church looking to call a Shepherd. Not just for us, but any church fellowship in transition.

For some people, it might be easy to step back a bit during these times, to sleep in on Sundays rather than taking a chance on the potluck preacher who is speaking this week until we call an interim. It might be tempting to cut back on giving since we’re not paying a preacher right now. (Who couldn’t use a few extra bucks each month?) It might seem we are within our rights to turn down ministry opportunities until we see where this thing is going.

But God needs us to keep his house in good repair – not because of a pastor – but because it’s GOD’s. Haggai reminds us there are consequences to pay for neglecting God’s house. I know we can apply this to our church fellowships as well.

You most likely have a pastor at your church. Are you letting him be the sole carer of God’s house? Are there things you should be doing to make your fellowship vital, fruit-bearing, and beautiful? Many times things start falling apart slowly, almost imperceptibly. We get used to passing by that door hanging off its hinges. We get used to not seeing the Smiths or Joneses in Sunday School, before we forget they were even there. Giving is down, but we don’t even realize the pastor’s salary has been cut, or that there is no money to repair the roof.

Dear one, we have the honor of caring for God’s house, for caring for His Church, for caring for his children. Let’s determine to keep His house in full repair, running on all cylinders, and being a bright light in our communities for Jesus’ sake.

With or without a pastor in the pulpit.

 

2 Kings 14-16; In Deference

As I continue to read through the history of kings, I notice some repeating themes. Like I said the other day, most of the kings follow in their fathers’ footsteps. Good kings influenced good kings, bad kings influenced bad kings.

It seems those who took on the position of a Jewish king may have had a death wish. Whether they reigned two weeks or twenty years, someone was always plotting to kill them and steal the throne.

Good kings followed God in varying degrees. Bad kings didn’t follow Him at all.

We get to King Ahaz in these chapters today. He was not a good king, even though his father Jotham had been. Scripture tells us Ahaz made a treaty with the Assyrians, sworn enemies of God’s people. We read that Ahaz remodeled the Temple, removed the basins, the canopy, and the royal entryway, he moved the walls and the Sea, “in deference to the king of Assyria.”

“When you show deference to someone, you make a gesture of respect. The noun deference goes with the verb defer, which means ‘to yield to someone’s opinions or wishes out of respect for that person.'” (Vocabulary.com)

Has the Church made a treaty with the enemy? Look at what has been removed from our places of worship: altars, pulpits, Bible reading, hymns, organs, steeples, pews, the list goes on. We’ve remodeled our sanctuaries much like Ahaz remodeled his.

I read this invitation this morning: “If you are looking for a spiritual home that is full of love, acceptance of all, and truly tolerant of all beliefs, ask me about…”

I think too many churches have removed sin from their vocabulary, they don’t talk about God’s holiness and His righteous judgment. They’ve removed so much of what makes the Church God’s house, in deference to whom? Non-christians? Christians who want to feel good about going to a Sunday service without the responsibility of living a separate life during the week? Satan?

It’s time to break our treaty with the enemy, and defer to God instead. God who is Holy, Fierce, Unchanging, who went to the cross because of sin; God who accepts those who accept Jesus, and rejects those who reject Him.

Holy God, I thank you for pastors and churches who are standing on the Truth of Scripture. I thank you for congregations of people who are not afraid to resist trends and political correctness. Bless their fellowships in a mighty way. I pray for those who are caught up in the treaty between your people and the enemy. Convict hearts, Lord. Drive us to our knees. And may Your people worship You in spirit and in Truth, according to Your Word. Then, Father, enable us to get out there and do what You intend the Church to do, introduce lost souls to their Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

Deuteronomy 1-3; “Why” Doesn’t Matter

I will admit I am a bit disappointed in Moses. As he is teaching an important history lesson to the children of Israel before they finally go into the Promised Land, he says something that is only partially true. He says it in 1:37, then again in 3:26.

“It’s because of YOU,” he tells them, “the Lord was angry with me and won’t let me go with you into Canaan.” Now, while it’s true the Jews had been whining about not having water, their verbal attacks on Moses were not the reason God was angry with him. It was Moses’ own disobedience that resulted in God’s punishment.

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day. She shared that her son, a man who is celebrating fifteen years sober after many years addicted to drugs and alcohol, doesn’t want anything to do with church. A while back he attended a service, and an elderly saint said something that offended him, so therefore all Christians are judgmental and unkind.

Now being verbally attacked, whether you’re Moses or a recovering addict, is unfair, embarrassing, infuriating. You may have reason to be upset. But the fact of the matter is, when you stand before God, He’s not going to ask you how you felt you were treated by others in this lifetime. He’s not going to ask any of us WHY we refused to obey Him.

The “Why” won’t matter. But the “What” will.

What did you do with my Son? Did you repent of your sins? Did you accept His grace? Did you obey His Words? Did you live your life in such a way that drew others to the Savior?

When you meet Jesus face to face, the only thing that will matter is, does He know you? No excuses. No pointing fingers. Just you and Jesus.

What will you say?

Exodus 24-26; Where Worship Is

I know people say you can worship God anywhere. I actually hope you do worship Him often throughout the day, every day. I’m sitting here in my enclosed porch watching a couple birds make their home in a birdhouse that was once my dad’s. A squirrel just ran along the top of my fence. And my azalea bush is at the end of its beautiful display. I worship the Creator in the magnificent work of His hand.

But does sitting here today mean I don’t need church? God’s instructions to Moses concerning the building of the tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant include minute details. These were carefully instructed, ornate, expensive, purposeful places where God’s people would gather to worship.

As I read these chapters it occurs to me that if God was so interested in the physical places of corporate worship back then, He probably is still interested in us taking our places of worship seriously. In the building of these structures God was providing a place for the Jews to gather together to worship because corporate worship was important to Him.

Still is. Don’t neglect the gathering of saints just because you think you can worship God on a golf course. Oh, go ahead and worship Him on the golf course. Just don’t do it on Sunday morning when you have the unique opportunity to gather together with other believers and worship God as one.

I think God, by the example we read in these chapters, must think it’s pretty important.

November 4 – Warm Fuzzies

Matthew 22; Mark 14

I love reading the Bible. It can humble me, challenge me, encourage me, or tickle me. Today I was tickled.

Jesus has less than a week to live on planet Earth, as reported in the chapters we read today. He still has a large following, and the Jewish elite are still trying to trap Him: Should we pay taxes? Who is married to whom in the resurrection? What’s the greatest commandment?

They tried hard to get him to say something… anything… that would show Him up in front of his followers, and give them reason to get rid of Him once and for all. So Jesus gave them a bit of their own medicine. He asked them:

How can the Christ be David’s son, if David himself called Him, Lord?

Here’s what tickled me. The large crowd were listening to Jesus answer question after question. They heard Him ask the hard question, too. Their response?

And the large crowd enjoyed listening to Him. (Mark 12:37b)

I’m not a preacher. But I think if, after preparing a sermon and preaching my heart out, someone shook my hand on Sunday morning and said, “Enjoyed your sermon today, Pastor,” I’d go home and throw something. If all you get out of hearing God’s Word proclaimed is a good time, then either your pastor isn’t doing his job, or you aren’t going in there prepared to hear what God has to say to you.

I said this verse tickled me. It did. I even laughed out loud. Until I remembered that these very people, these followers who “enjoyed” listening to the exchange between Jesus and the Jewish leaders, were the same ones who  cried, “Crucify Him,” only days later. I guess they’d stopped enjoying what they were hearing.

Your pastor is preparing a message he’ll give two days from now. Are you preparing, too? God has something to say to you through the words He has given your pastor. I can say with confidence that God isn’t interested in tickling your ears, or giving you warm fuzzies so you go away feeling good about yourself. I’m pretty sure He wants to challenge you to live for Him in a more effective way, He wants to put a finger on sin in your life so you’ll repent of it, He wants to humble you, drive you to your knees, so you’ll admit how much you need Him.

I dare you to prepare your heart to be changed Sunday morning. If your pastor is doing his job, and you are doing yours, you can expect something truly amazing to come out of it.

Father, I want to be ready to hear from you on Sunday. I pray that You will point out sin so that I can ask you to forgive me, and enter Your house with a pure heart. I want you to beat me up, if I need it. I want you to humble me, light a spark within me, draw me closer to you. I pray for my pastor. Thank you so much for this man who is truly a vessel you use to speak to me. God, encourage his heart. Give him clarity, discernment, power. May he continue to allow You to speak through him right to me. Defeat Satan’s attempt to block what You want to do in our church. May my pastor be an instrument in Your hands to help me love You more, and serve You better. Bless my pastor today, Lord. And make him a blessing to your people who are not looking for warm fuzzies on Sunday morning.

April 6 – Safe Places

Judges 19-21

Where do you turn when you feel lost, or afraid, or overwhelmed by the circumstances of life? I hope you all can answer that question by saying you go directly to God in prayer.

But I’m talking in addition to that. When you get up off your knees, where do you go to feel safe? Who in your life represents that safe place we all need from time to time?

Judges 19 tells of a Jewish man traveling with his wife and servant. It was getting late in the day, and they were close to a town of non-Jewish people. The man decided to travel a bit further because he did not want to stay with foreigners. They went, instead, to Gibeah, a town of the tribe of Benjamin.

First of all, the travelers were ignored by their fellow Jews. No one offered to take them in until an old guy showed up and invited them into his home. Read the account for yourself. It’s horrible what happened.

Shouldn’t we be able to feel the safest with our families? Shouldn’t we be welcomed and cared for by those related to us? And shouldn’t the same be said for our churches?

This story made me think of those who have been hurt or betrayed by people in their homes, or in their churches. We probably all know someone who tells of mistreatment at the hands of those who they trusted to care for them. Maybe you have experienced that pain yourself.

If you describe your home as a Christian home, is it the one place on earth your children feel the most welcome, the safest, the best loved? Even when discipline is required?

Is your church fellowship warm and caring and forgiving? Or is there gossip and jealousy and pride running rampant? Do your members have reason to trust and support each other?

If there is hurt going on, don’t just stand by and let it happen. That makes you just as guilty as the one inflicting harm. Let’s put our homes and churches in order and set them as the standard for which everyone else strives.

Our Christian homes and our churches need to be the safest, most caring and loving places in the lives of our fellow Christians. And making that a reality is something you can do.

Dear God, I pray for all of us today as we take a look at our homes and our church fellowships. Convict those of us who are guilty of holding grudges, or having a mean temper, or who gossip, or are jealous… I pray that you will help us to repent, to speak up against mistreatment of our brothers and sisters, and to demand that our homes and churches be the safest place for a Christian to be. May You be glorified as we love one another like You love us.