Worthy To Be Praised

Have you ever considered how easily we give our praise away? Or how it seems we cannot contain ourselves as we gush over the latest sports hero or viral music video? What is it about us that makes us want to elevate people to God-like status? Why do we feel the need to make hero’s out of regular people, put them on a platform, and devote so much time, attention, and money to them?

The answer is pretty simple actually. The fact is we have been created to worship. It’s in our DNA. It’s just as much a part of us as our blood type and fingerprint patterns. We cannot deny it or suppress it for very long. We are going to worship someone or something. There’s no way around it. It has to come out of us eventually.

Thankfully, the Bible makes it clear who our worship is reserved for. Speaking of the people of Israel, God referred to them as “The people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise”. Isa. 43:21 Purposefully created to declare the praises of God, thus fulfilling our highest calling.

“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!” says the sweet Psalmist of Israel, King David. This vivid description of worship from Psalm 95:6 calls us to humble ourselves before our Mighty God.

Both of these verses tell us plainly that worship is reserved for God alone. Adoration is His right. Our highest praise is to be poured out upon the One who is worthy to be praised, and no other.

God deserves far more than the cheap, superficial praise that we heap upon our cultural icons. He deserves the best and highest praise we can offer to Him from the very depths of our hearts. Nothing less is sufficient for the One who has redeemed us.

I hope you will join with me on this Lord’s Day by declaring “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” Rev. 4:11

Ron

The Straight and Narrow Way

Heaven. Eternal life. The Promised Land. The Kingdom of God. Whatever you call it, it is the promised destination that every Christian has latched onto since accepting Christ as their Savior. It’s what drives us onward when everything within us wants to drop out of the race and call it quits. It’s the prize awaiting every born-again believer who crosses the finish line.

Some say it’s awfully hard to get there. Too many rules to follow. Too much ‘religion’ they say. All those laws and commandments to try and live by. Some say it’s incredibly easy to get there. Just be the best “you” you can be. Treat people right, give to the poor, be a doer of good works they say.

Since eternity is forever, and forever is a very long time, and it’s for certain none of us can afford to get this wrong, maybe it’s best to go the official ‘guide’ on what it takes to make Heaven our eternal home.

13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is constricted that leads to life, and there are few who find it. Matthew 7:13-14 NASB

Have you ever given thought to just how ‘narrow’ the gate is? How ‘constricted’ is this way that leads to eternal life anyway? And did Jesus really just say that there would be “few” who would find it?

These are important questions, especially given the ‘come as you are, stay as you are’ mentality so prevalent in our churches today. The miracle of transformation after regeneration seems to be lost on this present-day church. That said, the plain truth is that God’s word has been established for all time. It cannot be altered to ‘fit the times’. He will not make it more palatable for people today by removing the tough parts, but instead He still insists that man submit to His word as it is written.

Which brings me back to the thought of the straight and narrow way that Jesus spoke about. To get a clearer insight into how straight and narrow this way is, the apostle Paul had this to say about it:

19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: sexual immorality, impurity, indecent behavior, 20 idolatry, witchcraft, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 NASB emphasis mine

Quite a list, don’t you think? Paul said that if you practice these things, you will NOT inherit the kingdom of God. In other words, even though we may somehow manage to justify them in our own minds, at the end of this life we will NOT inherit the kingdom of God.

For the gate is narrow and the way is constricted that leads to life, and there are few who find it“. Personally, I find that very sobering. I also find it enlightening because it is crystal clear. It leaves no doubt, no room for error or confusion. Practice the things that Paul mentioned, and you will not inherit the kingdom of God. End of story.

Now, for the million-dollar question: how do I avoid those things that will keep me from inheriting the kingdom of God? I’m glad you asked! In this same chapter of Galatians, Paul explains how to avoid these things.16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. Desire the things of God more than the pleasures of sin. Be a lover of God, not of this world. Seek to bring honor to God in all that you do.

The way is indeed straight and narrow. It has to be, because the price that was paid for your entrance to Heaven was too great for you to pay. So great in fact, that Jesus had to pay it for you. You will never get there on your own, or by doing enough good deeds. His righteousness is your ticket. His blood opened the door for you to be able to inherit the kingdom of God.

I’m thankful for that straight and narrow way. How about you?

Ron

Sabbath Day Showdown

Well, it’s been a while so I thought I’d shake the bushes and see what I could stir up. Insert chuckle here! I hope everyone who has been dealing with frigid temps and mountains of snow is staying safe and warm during this cold winter season. Here in Florida, we recently had our own version of a “cold front” that resulted in an F2 tornado a few miles south of me. I’m always hesitant to say something like “I’m so grateful it missed us”, even though of course I am, because somewhere, someone else has suffered a tremendous loss.

With all that said, my mind is still a bit preoccupied with the message I delivered this past Sunday evening at our church. I entitled it “Sabbath Day Showdown” and took my text from Luke 6:6-11. If you are familiar with it, this is where Jesus went into the synagogue and healed the man who had a withered hand.

And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him. But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth. Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it? 10 And looking round about upon them all, he said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other. 11 And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus.

As the story unfolds, the Pharisees and religious folks who were there were only interested in seeing if Jesus would dare to break one of their customs by healing on the Sabbath day. This story has always left me wondering how in the world anyone claiming to be a son of Abraham could be so calloused and hard-hearted as to have no regard for humanity yet be ready to pounce the moment one of their rules were broken.

In preparing for this message, I did a lot of soul searching about the conditions in our churches today, and to be completely honest I don’t think a whole lot has changed with God’s people since Jesus had this encounter with the Pharisees. Meaning, we still struggle to focus on what’s really important.

In reading Mark’s gospel, we see this same encounter being played out with the Pharisees and the man with the withered hand. The only difference is that Mark recalls something Jesus did that Luke either forgot or simply chose to omit it. Here it is:

And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. Mark 3:5 KJV

The Son of God was angry, and His heart was grieved. What could cause such reactions from Jesus? The answer is there in verse five: He was angry that they had allowed their hearts to become so hardened that they cared more about traditions and religious rules than they cared about the well-being of their fellow man.

Call them Pharisees, Legalists, or by some other name. The point is that they cared more about crossing an “I” or dotting a “T” than they did about easing the suffering of the man who had a withered hand. And Jesus called them out on it. He had had enough of their religion; it was time for real ministry to happen. So, he healed the man’s withered hand.

Now, under normal circumstances this healing would have ignited a mini revival of sorts. People would be rejoicing, praising God, and overjoyed at the wonderful miracle this man had experienced. Under normal circumstances, that’s what would have happened. But this wasn’t a normal situation because cold, loveless, dead, and uncaring religion had turned the hearts of this religious crowd to stone.

Their response to this incredible healing was to call an impromptu meeting to decide what to do with this Jesus. This had to stop, they said. We can’t have him doing these things and polluting our Sabbath. It goes against our religious rules.

Here’s the thing though. These traditions and religious rules they clung to so desperately? They were all man-made. They were not from God at all. Examine the Mosaic Law and all its 634+ ordinances, and you will not find one word forbidding the healing of a man on the Sabbath. As I reminded our church, it’s never the wrong day to do the right thing.

The Pharisees had done what Pharisees always do; however, they had taken what God had given to man, considered it insufficient, and added their own traditions and commandments to it. The end result was a “Law” that was based upon man’s ideas of righteousness, not God’s.

When that happens mercy and compassion fly out the window. We can’t be bothered with that when there are rules to administer, traditions to uphold. So, they sat in silence as Jesus asked them “is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath, or evil”? To answer would have brought self-condemnation, something their hearts would never permit.

As I said to the congregation the other evening, we must be so careful not to permit our own hearts to become hardened and unfeeling. At all costs we must stay in the Word and upon our knees so that our hearts remain tender before the Lord. Only then can we be the eyes, ears, hands, and feet of Jesus on this earth.

Failing that, we are no use to the kingdom of God.

Have a blessed week everyone!

Ron