Meditation Monday: 6 Warning Signs Of Half Hearted Worship

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Meditation Monday is where I share my ramblings and reflections from Sunday’s sermons from Watson Chapel Baptist Church in Pine Bluff, AR, Pastor Todd Howard. Today, my thoughts come from our Sunday School lesson from Malachi 1.

The Priests

Can you imagine a house of worship so far gone, the Lord says “I wish someone would shut this place down. Get rid of the musicians, fire the leadership, and lock the doors.” Yet that is where Israel is at the time of Malachi’s prophetic word. Years after they have returned back to the promise land after the judgement of God came through the Babylonian deportation, Israel finds themselves in the same spiritual condition as before, hard hearted, cold, dry worship, which really isn’t worship at all. The priests are offering sick defected animals on the Lord’s altar, there is no regard for the greatness of God, they are arrogant, and the commands of God are a nuisance. They are in a bad place spiritually… where are you in your worship and service to God?

The Bible talks about Christians as the priests who proclaim the excellencies of God,

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Pet. 2:9 ESV)

Believers are also spoken of as the temple of God, the temple was the heart of Jewish worship,

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
( 1Co 6:19-20 ESV)

We are individual members of a collective body of priests and temples who are to shine, worship, and proclaim the excellencies of Christ. So how are we doing? Ask yourself the following questions and examine your heart.

1) Do I honor and fear the Lord or despise Him?

You might ask “how can I despise the Lord?” The funny thing is, the Israelite priests asked the same question,

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name? ’
(Mal. 1:6 ESV)

The Lord ties despisement to honor and fear. To honor someone means to esteem or consider them higher than yourself. To fear is to have a reverential awe and a healthy fear of who God is and what He can do. Honor and fear of the Lord are heart/mind attitudes which reflect in behaviors. If your heart is right with the Lord and you honor and fear Him, your actions will display it. The Lord explains to the priests that they despise Him by their disobedience,

7 By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you? ’ By saying that the Lord ‘s table may be despised.
(Mal 1:7 ESV)

They knew what was right and disregarded it and did what was right in their own eyes, that is sin.

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

(Jas. 4:17 ESV)

Does your life reflect honor and fear for the Lord or despisement?

2) Is your pride in check?

There could be a myriad of things which lead us to sin, but one thing is for certain, pride keeps us in our sin. The priests were apalled when confronted by the Lord through Malachi. “Us despise God, how?” was their reply. Yet they knew exactly what they were doing. Pride keeps us from repentance and keeps us in sin. When confronted with your sin issues, how do you respond?

3) How and why do you serve the Lord?

When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts.
(Mal 1:8ESV)

The service the priests were doing was half hearted at best and their motivation was self serving. They were offering the sickly to the Lord and keeping the best for themselves. What’s in it for me was their motto. Do you give God your leftovers? Your leftover time, talent and treasures? When serving do you give it your best or do you do just enough? Is your motivation to bring glory to His name or self serving?

4) Do you love the Master or the Master’s blessings?

The priests in Malachi’s day idolized the blessings and disregarded the Lord of the blessings.  They were living prideful, sinful lives, asking for and expecting God’s blessings. The Lord tells them,

And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts.
( Mal 1:9 ESV)

God will not bless sin, what He will do is discipline His children to bring them back into a right relationship with Him.

Do you love the Lord or just His blessings? Is your satisfaction truly found in the Lord?

5) Are the commands of God a nuisance?

The commands of God became a bunch of tidious rules to the priests. The precepts of God were no longer desirable to them. The Psalmist wrote,

7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
( Psa 19:7-10 ESV)

Is Scripture reading a chore to you? Are the commands of God burdensome to you or are they a delight? Do you ever wish you could erase a command of God? Do you formulate excuses for your disobedience?

6) Do you scorn your calling?

The priests not only thought the commands of God were a nuisance, but they were beginning to despise their calling.  Malachi describes to us their attitude,

13 But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord.
(Mal 1:13 ESV)

The ESV uses snort to describe their attitude. Just picture a Jewish priest rolling his eyes and sighing heavily when Malachi is preaching to them, which is the attitude the Hebrew word is trying to convey. Rolling their eyes and exasperating at the calling of God.

Do you ever have the “why do I even bother” attitude? Do you sometimes wish you could just live how you want? Are you already living how you want?

Points to ponder from Malachi 1.

Until next time

Soli Deo Gloria

Meditation Monday: Love For The Church Is Gospel Centered

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Meditation Monday is where I share my ramblings and reflections from Sunday’s sermons from Watson Chapel Baptist Church in Pine Bluff, AR, Pastor Todd Howard. Currently we are going through Colossians and Genesis, todays post focuses on Colossians 2:1-7.

Do You Love The Church?

Simple, but yet a deep question. We know Christ loves the Church, Scripture tells us He died to redeem and purify the church, who is called His bride (Eph. 5:25-27). We know Christ loves the church, but do you and I, his followers share the same zeal and passion Christ does for the church and it’s mission?

In Colossians Paul expresses his desires and passion for the believers in Colosse. Through Paul’s passions for the church we learn characteristics of people who love the church.

Gospel Minded

When our world hears heart, we think feelings, but when the Biblical writers talk about the heart, they were thinking of the mind. Paul expresses to the church in Colosse that he wants their hearts to be encouraged,

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God ‘s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  (Col. 2:1-3 ESVST)

How does Paul want their hearts to be encouraged? Through assurance, understanding, wisdom, and knowledge, all faculties of the mind. Paul wanted them and us to have assurance, understanding, knowledge and wisdom concerning the absolute truth of the mystery of God which is Christ and the Gospel. As Christians, we love the church when we are Gospel minded. We become Gospel minded when we have Gospel knowledge, Gospel understanding, Gospel assurance, and Gospel wisdom. One of the ways we gain knowledge, understanding, assurance, and wisdom is through studying God’s word and learning from godly teachers.

How does being Gospel minded show love for the church? Gospel minded people are about the mission of the church, which is to make disciples. Think of Gospel minded as a verb, an action word. Gospel minded people create Gospel movement.

Another way Gospel minded people love the church is by guarding it from false teachers.

I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments (Col. 2:4 ESVST)

Are you a guardian of truth? Can you explain, defend, and teach the Gospel?

Gospel Love

being knit together in love, (Col. 2:2b ESVST)

Every person who turns from sin and clings to the Gospel of Christ is knitted together in love, into the church. The very Gospel which saves us cements us together into one body. Our Gospel affirmations bring us together as a body, under one head, who is Christ.

The result of being knitted together in love by the Gospel, is the members of the body loving one another. Think about Paul, the various beatings and near death experiences he had so that God maybe glorified in his love for the church. How far are you willing to go for the church? What are you willing to do, give up, lay aside, pick up for the church?

Christ very clearly stated,

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35 ESVST)

Our love for eachother is a witness to the world. How we love those different from us, wether it be by personality, race, or any other difference, our love for one another is a lamp post to the world. Is your lamp dim or is it shining bright with Gospel love? Are you loving those you disagree with, those who are difficult,  and those who are different than you?

Gospel Walk

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
(Col. 2: 6-7 ESVST)

The power of the Gospel which saves you is the same power which enables to walk in Him. God’s work of salvation from his divine favor falling on you to final glorification in heaven is the power of the Spirit applying the Gospel in your life. Just as you recieved Christ,  by grace through faith, so walk in Him, by grace through faith.

What does a Gospel walk imply?

Transformation. A Gospel walk implies change and growth. Last night I was looking at pictures of my children when they were little and compared them to now. There are major changes not just physically, but emotionally, and spiritually. Throughout the years you should noticed the transformation of you becoming less like you and more like Christ.

How does a Gospel walk show love for the church?

Look at the descriptors Paul uses rooted, built up, and established in the faith. All those require involvement. When we walk a Gospel walk we participate in the building up of others in the church who are walking a Gospel walk. A Gospel walk is living the Gospel out by serving others and together we become rooted, built up, and established in the faith.

Gospel Gratitude

The Gospel should lead us to abound in thanksgiving, because it is all the grace of God, lavished on sinful man. Gospel gratitude produces in the believer a content heart satisfied in the Giver. Keeps our eyes focused on God and off the temporal stuff which distracts.

Can you imagine a community of believers who are Gospel minded, sharing in Gospel love, walking a Gospel walk, with Gospel gratitude?

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him

Until next time

Soli Deo Gloria

Meditation Monday

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Meditation Monday is where I share my ramblings and reflections from Sunday’s sermons from Watson Chapel Baptist Church in Pine Bluff, AR, Pastor Todd Howard.

Confessor or Coverer

Sunday nights sermon was in Genesis 13, the historical account of when Lot and Abram seperated. Pastor Todd pointed out in his sermon that there are two types of people when it comes to how they deal with sin; a confessor or a coverer. The Scriptures record Abraham’s continued walk with God. The Bible unfolds to us through the pages of Genesis, a man who made mistakes but continually returned back to God. Abraham was an altar maker, God favored, faith walking man. He was a pilgrim in a foreign land, he is an example for us.

Cozy With The World

John the Apostle gives Christians a command and warning,

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world — the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life — is not from the Father but is from the world (I John 2:15-16 ESVST)

Do not love the world, why? Love for the world pushes out love for the Father. When our hearts begin to wander towards the passions of the world, our worship becomes stale, our love for the Father grows cold, our growth stagnant and our motivation for obedience becomes more about my self image rather than our selfless devotion to Christ.

What is coziness with the world? What does love for the world look like? I am glad you asked, John points out three passions of the world;
1) the lust of the flesh- This is the passions of our sinful flesh. Paul provides us a list of the works of the flesh in Galatians 5.
2) the lust of the eyes- Appeals to covetous and envious nature of sin. Part of the reason we sin is because in the moment it looks so enticing, like a fish going after a jig.
3) the pride of life- the word for life here is really going after the goods or possessions of life. The accumulation of the things and philosophies of this world so we can turnaround and say look at me, my wisdom, my accomplishments. Life becomes all about me.
We are tempted by the world constantly with these three desires because our fallen sinful nature craves sin.

Eve

We see the serpent using the passions of the world to tempt Adam and Eve. We also see Adam and Eve go after the serpents worldly enticements.
1) So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food (Gen. 3:6aESVST)- lust of the flesh.
2) and that it was a delight to the eyes (Gen. 3:6b ESVST)- lust of the eyes.
3) and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise (Gen. 3:6c ESVST)- pride of life.

Lot
Now we get to Lot. In the Genesis narrative we never read of Lot walking with Lord, building altars, or living as a pilgrim. The account of Genesis gives us a picture of Lot being a coverer not a confessor.  We read the tragic account of Lot and how he settled and cozied up to the world. Lot was tempted by the world with the same temtations.

1) And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw (Gen. 13:10a ESVST)- lust of the eyes
2) that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, (Gen. 13:10b ESVST)– lust of the flesh and pride of life. Lot seen this land and became consumed with the idea accumulating wealth and fufilling his fleshly desires.

Sadly, Lot succombs to the temptation and is enriced by the world. Through Peter we know at some point Lot became a confessor because he is called rightous, but his example is one we should learn from and avoid the pitfalls of worldly living.

7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard);
( 2Pe 2:7-8 ESVST)

Christ

Satan tempted Christ with the same worldly passions, unlike Lot and Eve, Christ is a pattern for victory. Lets look at his temptations,
1) And the tempter came and said to him, “ If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” (Matt. 4:3 ESVST)- lust of the flesh
2) Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “ If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,“‘He will command his angels concerning you, ’and “‘ On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. ’”
(Matt. 4:5-6 ESVST)– pride of life
3) Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “ All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
(Matt 4:8-9 ESVST)– lust of the eyes.

How did Christ show us how to overvome the temptations of the world? Three very important keys which go hand in hand;
1) Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit (Matt. 4:1 ESVST)– Jesus was being led by the Spirit of God. We need to be submissive to the leading of God’s Spirit. Paul explains to us,

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
(Gal 5:16 ESVST)

By keeping in step with the Spirit of God we can overcome the passions of the world.
2) But he answered, “It is written (Matt. 4:4a ESVST)– Jesus knew God’s Word. To be filled with the Spirit is to be filled with God’s word. How can the Spirit lead you, if you don’t know the words He has inspired? How can you respond to the lies of the world if you don’t know the truth? How can you be submissive to the Spirit’s leading if you don’t know what to submit to? Knowing your Bible is key to overcoming.
3) Continual Walk with God- Christ was finishing a forty day period of fasting and prayer. Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus secluding himself to pray to the Father. Jesus displays for us how to walk with God through prayer, knowing His Word, and being led by the Spirit. 

My friends one final encouragement and promise from the Apostle John,

17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
( 1John 2:17 ESVST)

Until next time

Soli Deo Gloria

Worldview of The Avengers: Age of Ultron

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Spoiler Alert

On Thursday night I packed up the family and met some friends for one of this summer’s blockbuster movies, The Avengers: Age of Ultron. We sat in anticipation, through 45 minutes of previews, to see the next epic, in the tale of The Avengers. Two plus hours later, I must admit, on a entertainment level, I was entertained. I enjoyed the story, the character development,  and of course the cliff hanger for the next installment of Marvel movies.

Yet I was also disappointed, and at times upset. Honestly, I don’t know why it surprises me still that our Hollywood culture projects an image of a Biblical worldview in a negative light, even in a movie like The Avengers. The Apostle John, thousands of years ago writes, ” Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you” (1 John 3:13 ESV).  Jesus tells us why the world hates us “I have given them your word” (1 John 17:14a ESV). A Biblical worldview is attacked from many fronts in our world, so it shouldn’t surprise us when we see it poked at in a movie like The Avengers.

Recently, I reviewed Developing A Biblical Worldview by C. Fred Smith, I would like to use his paradigm of who are we? Where are we? What is wrong? What is the solution? To examine and point out some of my disappointments with The Avengers.

Who Are We?

In The Avengers we (humanity) are a product of evolution. We have evolved through years and years. Evolution is referenced a few times throughout the movie, but another aspect we seem to casually glance over is the reason genetic enhancement, a super soldier or a Hulk, is possible because of evolution. Humanity is still evolving, even if it is by genetic programs or a lab experiment gone bad. Humanity is still surviving.

You may be thinking Thor isn’t human. Right, Thor is Asgardian. Unlike mythology, Thor is an alien king from Asgard, one of the other dimensions. His enhancements seem to be a part of who he is.

On the other hand “survival of the fittest” is not the motto of The Avengers. The Avengers use their evolution to become heroes, they protect humanity from the evil of ourselves, aliens from other dimensions, and so on. The world is worth saving. Their goal is to create a world in which The Avengers are not needed, a world of peace.
Which is not possible because the answer to the “who are we” question in The Avengers is still “we are broken people.” Humanity, even Asgard, is full of pride, selfishness, what Christians call sin. The banter of who the better man is between Thor and Stark is a great example of selfish pride. In one part of the movie Wanda Maximoff (AKA Scarlett Witch) uses their own brokenness to cause The Avengers to fight against each other.

Where are we?

The Avengers live on earth, well most of them anyway. An Earth which is evolving with them. But in The Avengers Earth, they are just one world of many. There are other dimensions and worlds out there. The answer to, are we alone, has been answered. They are not alone.

More importantly is the reality of their world. Here and now is the ultimate reality. There is no mention of the afterlife, God, heaven or hell. Which is why Stark can live how he wants, or why morality changes from generation to generation. A good example of this was the constant poking at Captain America for being offended at Stark’s language. If here and now is the ultimate reality, the here and now is constantly changing, so everything is relative.

Although there are beings that exist outside of earth, there is no mention of a personal God. The only allusions to a god, seem to be created by The Avengers, the villains, or the perception of people who see The Avengers as gods. Which is interesting because in an evolutionary/secular worldview, many would say the idea of god is created by humanity.

What is wrong?

Humanity is wrong. Alien invasions are wrong. Evil is wrong. This is what is wrong in The Avengers. All these wrongs lead to conflicts, the battle for good to triumph over evil. In order to bring peace to the world Stark, with the help of Dr. Banner, harnesses the power of Loki’s staff (yes I am a Marvel enthusiast) to create Ultron, the Ultron program is created to bring world peace. To prevent the evils of humanity or alien. Unfortunately for Stark, his Ultron experiment goes wrong, gets a messiah complex and begins the process to wipe out the world of evil. What does that mean? If humanity is what’s wrong, humanity needs to be wiped out, starting with The Avengers.

What is the solution?

Avengers assemble. The Avengers assemble to attempt to defeat the Ultron experiment. In order to defeat Ultron, Stark and Banner create another experiment with the mind of Jarvis, Starks AI from Ironman. When it is created, he uses the Biblical name of God, I Am, to describe himself. Which I must admit was disturbing.

In a world where humanity is wrong and the ultimate reality is the here and now. The solution to the problems are found from within us. Humanity evolves to prevent their extinction. Humanity evolves and creates their own gods. The solution is us. The solution is evolution.

Throughout the movie there seems to be little jabs thrown at Christianity, I must admit I chuckled at a couple. As Stark was flying the team, a sticker is shown stating “Jarvis is my copilot”. Another example is when Captain America is offended by the bad language, which turns into a running joke throughout the movie. For me the most disturbing was when Vision uses the “I Am” reference when speaking of himself.

Positives

What are some positives?

Saving the world

The world is worth saving. Even God believes so,

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 ESV)

The fight for good and evil, for the right to triumph over the wrong. The struggle is real, which is one of the reasons we enjoy these movies so much. Good triumphs over evil.

Teamwork

When we sit back and watch The Avengers we see a group of broken people come together to accomplish a mission. Broken people with their own separate issues, brokenness, gifts, and talents put aside their differences to achieve a common goal. Sounds like the church.

Family

One of the highlights of this movie is the high view of family. Yes, the high view of family. At one point in the movie The Avengers need to get off the grid. Hawkeye takes them to a safe house, which turns out to be his house. Much to the teams surprise, Hawkeye is welcomed by his family, who was kept off the grid as a condition for Hawkeye joining the team. The family is strong, Hawkeye is a good husband and father. He is welcomed with love by his wife and kids. Hawkeye’s family is something the other Avengers desire.

We also learn Black Widow can no longer have children because as part of her training they perform surgery to prevent her from getting pregnant. When this comes up in the movie it is portrayed as something so wrong that was done to her. Children are something she longs for. The fact that she can’t have children hurts her deeply. Family and children are held up high, which is refreshing.

I must admit I was proud of my kids because on the drive home we talked about the story, the next movies, and of course Marvel Agents of Shield (a household favorite). We also talked about the jabs at Christians, which they caught while being entertained by a movie. They are learning to filter what they see and that makes me proud. One of my kids said “if they continue to do that I am not going to watch them anymore.”

Until Next Time

Solo Deo Gloria

Book Review

I had the privilege of reviewing Discovering A Biblical Worldview for Lifeway Pastor’s page. Go check it out.

“A worldview is like our hearts, everyone has one. Just as our heart functions and pumps life through our bodies, our worldview becomes the source of how a person “understands…” http://www.lifeway.com/pastorstoday/2015/04/24/pastors-library-developing-a-biblical-worldview/

The People of Yahweh: A Celebratory People

Have you experienced a celebratory moment? Or have you been a part of a joyous occasion that causes an eruption of celebration? We get a picture of this in sports, think back to the Super Bowl. The Seattle Seahawks were on the one yard line, ready to go for the go ahead score and seal the game. Russell Wilson hikes the ball, all watch in silence, Wilson throws to the receiver and the Patriot defender intercepts the ball and all the Patriots and their fans erupt in a celebration of joy. There was leaping, shouting and overall joy in the victory.

Celebratory moments are a great picture of how the people of Yahweh should be. In the book of Zephaniah we see this. Before we look at the passage allow me to give me some background. Zephaniah has just prophesied judgement on Judah which is coming because of their covenant breaking ways. Zephaniah proclaims the day of the Lord is coming and the Lord will unleash His wrath. Judah strayed away from the Lord time and time again and the Lord’s patience is finally coming to an end. For two plus chapters Zephaniah prophesied judgement over Israel. Finally in chapter three, the Lord through Zephaniah begins to prophesy of a time of hope. In this time of hope, Zephaniah calls for the people of Yahweh to celebrate,

Sing for joy, Daughter Zion; shout loudly, Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem! (Zephaniah 3:14)

In Zephaniah three, the Lord through Zephaniah begins to speak of a time of restoration. In this time of restoration, Zephaniah gives us a description of the people of Yahweh being a celebratory people. He specifically mentions four characteristics of their celebration. The people of Yahweh,

  1. Sing For Joy- The people of Yahweh sing for joy because of the Lord they serve. He has restored them. The people of Yahweh sing for joy because of the triumph He brings to them.
  2. Shout loudly- The people of Yahweh shout loudly as if to sound an alarm of the Lord’s victory and restoration. Shouting Joyfully.
  3. Glad- The disposition of the people of Yahweh is one of gladness because the Lord has restored them and caused them to triumph.
  4. Full of Rejoicing- The word which Zephaniah uses here is one which pictures some one jumping for joy. They are so full of joy they cannot contain it.

The people of Yahweh should be a celebratory people and Zephaniah tells us why, which we will look at in our next post. But for now if you are a believer you are a person of Yahweh. Celebrate my friend

Until Next Time

Soli Deo Gloria