Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog
How great to say with David, “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord” (Psalm 122:1). Another psalm also urges, “Come, let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker” (95:6). Both verses are the attitude of a redeemed, transformed heart. Worship is not a substitute for daily living, and we may find ourselves primarily or solely focused on assembling to the neglect of Christian duty or evangelism. But, though those be true, we cannot lose sight of the importance of fulfilling God’s command for His people to faithfully worship Him (John 4:24; Heb. 10:24ff). More than that, as recipients of His grace, we will want to come before Him with what He wants, giving Him our best from an enthusiastic heart. What can help us do that?
A–TTENDANCE (It puts us in the right position–for ourselves, each other, and God)
B–RETHREN (There’s a community, communion, and camaraderie in worship)
C–HILDREN (Is there anything sweeter than seeing and hearing them worship?)
D–ELIVERANCE (Delivered for a few moments from the profane, delivered for a lifetime by the Prince of Peace)
E–FFORT (Hardwork, dedication, and preparation truly pay off!)
F–AITHFULNESS (Obedience, consistency, and holiness fuels acceptable worship)
G–OSPEL (Bible-centered worship highlights the best news of all time)
H–EAVEN (Worship better prepares us for it, reminds us of it, and gives us a foretaste of it)
I–NTEREST (See “attendance” and “faithfulness”; At some level, you can’t fake this)
J–ESUS (We lift Him up, obey Him, and center everything around Him in every service)
K–NOWLEDGE (We seek to know God more and understand Him better, in part, by worship)
L–ISTENING (To God, through His Word, and each other, through the various acts)
M–EMORIES (Young or old, each occasion provides an opportunity to make more of them)
N–OTHING (What’s more special, important, fulfilling, and encouraging)
O–PPORTUNITY (Different places and times have been forbidden from what we get to do multiple times per week)
P–ARTICIPATION (Not just in the door and in a seat, but actively taking part)
Q–UALITY (Not measured by voice quality or dynamic speech, but the very best we can with what we bring)
R–ESPONSE (Each time we assemble to worship, we are responding to God and His gospel)
S–ACRIFICE (You cannot properly define worship without it; It may be a sacrifice to come, but it must be an offering when you do)
T–OGETHERNESS (Worship means fellowship and building our common bond)
U–RGENCY (Feeling a pressing need to be here, and then to act on what we hear)
V–ISITORS (These take note of how much worship means to us; They can see and sense it)
W–ONDERFUL (God knew we needed worship, and that can touch us deeply)
X–RAY (Worship should lay our hearts bare and show us ourselves)
Y–OU (The presence of everyone, including you, spells the difference!)
Z–EAL (Passion and enthusiasm is observable, by others and, most of all, by God!)
Maybe we cannot fully grasp all of why God wants us worshipping Him, but He, as our Creator, knew we would need it to draw us closer to Him and each other. Let’s never let anything occupy a higher place in our hearts!
Moses was a murderer, Rahab was a liar,
David was an adulterer and to murder he did conspire,
Gideon and Timothy were timid, Peter a confirmed denier,
Paul wrecked havoc on the church, so full of hate and ire.
God, from time immemorial, has used the earthen vessel,
Sons of thunder or deceivers– like Jacob, who an angel did wrestle.
Just like Abraham and Isaac, very human if chosen and special
Barak, Samson, Jephthah, who with flaws their faith did nestle
From cover to cover, Scripture shows that God works through sinners
Preachers, prophets, kings and elders, saints and great soul-winners
It helps us who would serve today, to be better enders than beginners
To not let sin defeat us, to go from offenders to God defenders
Perhaps you have a sinful past or there’s guilt here in your today
A habit, sin, or weakness, crimes of deeds, thoughts, or what you say
Look back to men and women of old, they willed for they knew The Way
Conquer through Christ your old man, get busy, trust in God and obey!
Most of us are familiar with the intimate words spoken by Jesus to His followers in John 14:1-6. They were words of active comfort for a man who was imminently facing the worst suffering humanity could ever know. Yet, from those gentle words of guidance, we find a beacon to show us what kind of life it is possible for us to live—no matter what!
We can live a fearless life (John 14:1). Our hearts don’t have to be troubled. That doesn’t mean we won’t face fears and uncertainties. How can we avoid it? But we can let our fears be subjugated to our Father. We can trust the Bible’s promises and follow its guidance on this (cf. John 14:27; Phil. 4:7).
We can live a faith-filled life (John 14:1b). A “theocentric” (God-centered) point of view will influence our decision-making and daily living. We can have assurance and conviction (Heb. 11:1), but we must have a faith accompanied by works of obedience (Js. 2:20). All of us have lives centered around something that we make most important of all. There are many noble things that could fill in that blank—profession, family, friends, or the like. These may be part of our identity, but they should not define us. Our faith should define us.
We can live a focused life (John 14:2-4). Jesus urges His disciples to focus on at least three things:
We live in a world full of distractions—technology, appointments, hobbies, politics, and sports. Never let any of those things get your life out of focus.
We can live a follower’s life (John 14:6). We must believe that Jesus is the only way. We must shun the politically-correct notion that says there are many ways. We must live the exclusive way that Scripture teaches. We cannot serve God on our own terms. We must submit to His way and His truth, and we can enjoy the eternal life He offers.
Fame, fortune, fun, friendship, and such may draw and lure us. But none of those things will last. Jesus points to the kind of life we should live. May we be wise enough to listen.
Bob Russell tells the story of Dwight Day, a UPS pilot who had come back to church after many years away. Russell walked into the auditorium one day to catch Day scrubbing grape juice stains off the pews. This pilot was an important man with sufficient money to hire someone to do the job, but there he was scrubbing. He “wasn’t too important to clean the pews” (When God Builds A Church, 178).
Who visits the elderly members in the nursing home? Who participates in the workday? Who takes the poor, ill member to a doctor’s appointment? Who prepares the communion? Who teaches the cradle roll class? Who grades the correspondence courses? Who gives a lift to someone who needs a ride to church? Who does the many “invisible,” thankless tasks that must be done for the church to grow and meet its many responsibilities? The servant!
The serving Christian is not necessarily the one-talent, lower-class, uneducated person ill-equipped to do something more “sophisticated” and “important.” These are the kinds of things anyone can do, but only the servant does them. Lest we consider such tasks too menial and such people meaningless, we reflect on John 13. That chapter records the all-knowing, all-powerful Creator of the universe (you can’t one-up that) pouring water into a basin, washing the disciples’ feet and drying them with a towel he had put around Himself (v. 5). They had to have been baffled, this group who had been jockeying for a seat on His left and right hand in the vision of Kingdom greatness they had imagined (cf. Mat. 20:21). What were they thinking as Jesus tells them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” (12b-17).
This was a gut-punch to them and to so many of us. We can be more interested in getting the good seat than stooping to wash the dirty foot (or scrub the grape juice-stained pew). But we will miss the heavenly definition of spiritual greatness unless we lower ourselves. Jesus told the Sons of Thunder and their mother to remove the worldly gauging of greatness out of their thinking (Mat. 20:25-28). Perhaps He’d have that conversation with you and me, too. May God grant us the humility to see the opportunities and serve as stain scrubbers and every other, similar task that allows Him to use us for His glory. If that spirit permeates a congregation, it will turn the whole world upside down (cf. Acts 17:6)!
Kathy just called me and told me she saw this bumper sticker on a truck as she fought traffic on Wadsworth Boulevard. How clever! It uses the same religions that the infamous “Coexist” bumper sticker uses, including Hinduism, Daoism, Shintoism, Unitarian Universalism, Satanism, Atheism, Islamism, and Judaism. There is a website where these bumperstickers can be purchased (http://www.contradictmovement.org; warning: I do not endorse everything on this web site, whether message or method).
The “Coexist” campaign is meant to promote pluralism, a theory or system that recognizes more than one ultimate principle. The very idea is contradictory. The Koran says, “And whoever desires a religion other than Islam, it shall not be accepted from him, and in the hereafter he shall be one of the losers” (3.85). Shintoism says that humans become gods (kamis) after death, and they do not believe in absolute right and wrong with the soul losing individual identity and becoming part of one great guardian spirit (Japan-Guide.com; litesofheaven.com). Atheism believes, since there is no God, that there is no judgment and no accountability to a higher power. Taking any number of tenets about conduct, salvation, our nature, deity, afterlife, and the like, one sees inescapable and frequent contradiction between these faiths and philosophies. Yet, even without all of this, there is the exclusive truth claim of Christianity in Scripture. The “Contradict” bumper sticker has a passage that says much. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). Jesus speaks of an exclusive way, calling it “the” way and saying there is “no other” way.
The “Coexist” mentality is founded, for some, upon a noble enough desire, the desire for peace and harmony. Yet, it seeks the wrong way to peace and harmony, letting mankind devise their own way for this to exist. We do not have that prerogative. The Bible reveals God, the Creator, in a specific way, revealing His nature, His will, and His expectations. With that, there is human accountability and an expectation that people will follow that way or suffer the consequences of disobedience. Conflicting, opposing positions contradict one another, and they cannot all be true!