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When the object of our worship is US

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Assuming you attend church regularly, have you ever given much thought about what motivates you to do so? I know I have, and here lately I have been giving this a lot of thought.

Through the years I’ve heard a lot of different answers to that question. Some of them make perfect sense (to me), while others leave me scratching my head. Here is a sampling of what I’m talking about.

  • “It’s the right thing to do”…spoken by a man whose coarse language left me wondering if he really knew the Lord.
  • “It’s what ‘good people’ do”…I guess this means if you don’t go to church you are a ‘bad person’?
  • “To worship God”…hopefully this is one we can all agree with.
  • “I’ve always went to church”…so church has become a habit?
  • “I like the singing”…I can’t tell you how many people have said this one. I guess the opposite of this is if you don’t like the singing you stay home?
  • “I like the pastor”…similar to the preceding one.
  • “My wife’s family helped to start this church”…ah yes, the ‘my family’s roots run deep in this church’ statement. Tread carefully here!
  • “I’m being forced to attend by my parents”…otherwise known as ‘I’ve got a drug problem. My parents drug me to church all of the time’.

Like I said, a wide variety of answers from a wide variety of people. I’m sure the case can be made for what does it matter why I go to church, just as long as I go. I get it!

I wonder though, how many of us would admit that one of the primary reasons we attend church is for what we get out of it? In other words, we attend because we are made the primary beneficiary, or recipient, rather than God. Maybe I should explain this a bit more.

We go because we are made to feel happy. We go because we are made to feel important. We go because we are made to feel loved. We go because we are made to feel needed. And do you know what? All of those are wonderful things!

But here’s the thing, NONE of those things should be our primary motivator in attending church. All of those wonderful things are the outcomes, or the results of our worship and adoration of the King! The come only because we have first worshiped Him!

You see, isn’t a church service supposed to be about God’s children assembling together to worship Him in Spirit and Truth? According to Jesus it is, which means then that God is to be the sole object of our worship. [1]

As a matter of fact, you cannot find a single instance in the New Testament where we are taught that when we assemble together we are to do so with the expectancy that we will be made to feel a certain way or that we will receive anything.

Yet isn’t that the prevailing thought of many today? “Come to our church and you will receive a blessing”. “Sow your best seed and God will multiply it back to you”. “Give, give, give, and you will get, get, get”! In other words, it’s all about YOU!

Here is the inherent danger in adopting such a mindset. We risk prostituting the meaning of worship in the Church because we have replaced the object of our worship with ourselves.

Preaching styles, personality traits of the pastor, types of music and singing, formal or casual dress, coffee bars, pews or theatre seating, all of these reflect on our desire to please SELF.

They have absolutely nothing to do with the kind of worship that Jesus referred to in John 4:23. In that particular verse, Jesus makes it clear that the Father is seeking a specific type of worship because he said “for the Father is seeking such to worship him. (emphasis mine)

This emphasis on self worship also shows up in other ways in the church. For example, I had a lady come up to me and proceed to tell me that the message I had recently delivered on everlasting hope didn’t sit well with her. She said that she did not agree with my definition of hope. Since my ‘definition’ of hope was read verbatim from the Bible, her comments peaked my curiosity.

With that in mind, and knowing that this person tends to ‘disappear’ for long stretches of time (I am being very kind here), I simply asked her how her definition of hope was working out for her. She immediately went on the defensive and said that she knew the Lord Jesus Christ as her Savior and that’s all she needed to know. How that statement proved that my definition of hope was wrong, well, I’ll just leave that to her to work out.

My point being is that if our flesh doesn’t like or agree with scripture, we simply disregard it. What matters is not whether my life is lived in accordance with God’s word, but that I believe what I want to believe. I reign over my life, not God. In assuming such an attitude, I make myself the object of my worship. I exist for no other purpose than to make myself happy.

Beloved, we would do well to remember that the Lord is a jealous God. [2] Worship belongs to Him and Him alone. Creature comforts and the felt needs of you and I are not a part of true worship. They may draw a crowd on Sunday morning, but they have nothing to do with true worship.

That is reserved for God alone.

Have a blessed Lord’s day,

Ron

 

[1] John 4:23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.

[2] Exodus 20:5, 34:14, Deut. 4:24, Joshua 24:19,

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Five traits you never want to see in your pastor

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There are few occupations that can rival that of being the pastor of a church. Pastor’s are expected to be all things to all people, and no matter how good of a job they do it is a guarantee that someone will not be happy.

Depending on the size of the congregation, a pastor is called upon to do everything from visiting the sick and shut-ins to mowing the lawn and cleaning the restrooms. In very large congregations they also serve as a type of CEO, overseeing all manner of programs and activities.

Did you also know that a pastor is expected to be a mind reader? That’s right, they’re supposed to be able discern what you’re thinking and whether or not you’re having a good day or a terrible day.

Sounds like a carefree, fun, and exciting occupation doesn’t’ it?

The word “pastor” is derived from the Latin noun pastor which means shepherd and is derived from the verb pascere – “to lead to pasture, set to grazing, cause to eat”. [1]

Pastors, or shepherds have the grave responsibility of feeding and protecting their flock. They have been entrusted with a holy calling from God to defend their sheep from all predators, and have been divinely equipped to do so.

I trust that your pastor is fulfilling his calling and is watching over you with the careful eye of one who understands that he will give an account to God one day as to how well he performed his sacred duties.

Noted pastor, teacher, author, and theologian John MacArthur gives what I believe to be one of the best descriptions of what a pastor’s responsibilities are. Check out the video below. Please Note: this is not an endorsement of all of John Macarthur’s teachings or of his “Grace To You” ministry. I am simply including his remarks here because I happen to believe with them regarding the primary role of pastors.

How wonderful it would be if every pastor fit the description offered by MacArthur.

Sadly, we live in a time now when there are numerous ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’ filling the nation’s pulpits. The Bible refers to them as “hirelings”, meaning they are simply there to pick up a paycheck. In other words, to a hireling being a pastor is just a job. [2]

With this in mind, here are five traits you never want to see in your pastor.

  1. Your pastor is never broken before the Lord. True shepherds are humble and possess a servants heart and attitude. They live to serve others, not themselves. If your pastor is loud, proud, self-serving and arrogant you can be sure that his heart is far from the Lord.
  2. The pastor never mentions that the Lord has been dealing with him privately about spiritual matters. God always works through the leadership of the church. The shepherd is His conduit to reach the people. If the pastor isn’t hearing from the Lord either through the word or his own private prayer time, something is horribly wrong.
  3. The pastor never calls your church to a season of consecrated prayer. Prayer is the lifeblood of a church. It is the means by which God’s people express themselves to their Creator. A church that is not drawn together in unified prayer is a church on the downgrade.
  4. The pastor fails to hold himself accountable to the biblical standards of a shepherd. There are strict moral and spiritual character requirements for the position. This is necessary because not just anyone should be placed in such an important leadership role in Christ’s Church. When a pastor fails to meet the standards as set forth by the Bible, he is in effect degrading the office. [3]
  5. The pastor sees his role as primarily that of a cheerleader rather than one who faithfully proclaims the whole counsel of God. Being a faithful pastor is not for the faint of heart or those who lack the willingness to confront ‘sin in the camp’. At times a pastor must employ biblical correction of wayward behavior among the sheep. A pastor who only wants to be a cheerleader and never impose discipline is not fulfilling the role as intended. [4]

As I said earlier, I sincerely trust that your pastor is fulfilling his duties and watching over you with love, care, and concern. By the same token, all of us should be praying for our pastors that the Lord will guide, strengthen, and encourage them daily.

If however you see any of these traits frequently on display in your pastor, especially if these traits have been discussed with him by those he is accountable to, it may be time to start looking for a new one because your current pastor is no longer hearing from the Lord.

Yes…it is that serious.

Be blessed in Jesus name,

Ron

[1] Wikipedia

[2] Matthew 7:15, John 10:12-13

[3] 1st Timothy 3

[4] Joshua 7:20

The Beast has been unleashed

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On December 31st, 2018, the Rev. Justin Hoke, pastor of Trinity Bible Presbyterian Church in Weed, California, posted the following on the church’s outdoor sign. [1]

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Unfortunately for Rev. Hoke, LGBT activists descended upon the church last Sunday, claiming the sign was “hateful.” Later, these activists vandalized the church sign. Far worse than that however was the shameful lack of support this pastor received from his congregation. Persecution is to be expected whenever one takes a stand for Godly principles, being abandoned by one’s congregation,however, is not. [2]

In light of that sad state of affairs, the Rev. Hoke was forced to write the following on his Facebook page a few days ago:

“As of today, I am no longer the pastor of Trinity Bible Presbyterian Church.

After much prayer and counsel, I have decided that it is best to briefly communicate what has taken place.

1. I was informed by our other elder that he felt he could no longer follow my lead as Pastor of TBPC.
2. I was informed that essentially all but one couple in membership would leave the church if I continued as pastor of TBPC.
3. Our other elder and the couple felt that those who left would likely return if I would leave.
4. Our other elder was agreeable to stay and assume the pastoral responsibilities.

Therefore it was determined that it would be in the best interest of the local body for us (TBPC and the Hoke family) to part ways.”

So what we have here is a minister of the Gospel who stated three irrefutable,Biblical truths on his church sign.

  1. Bruce Jenner is still a man
  2. Homosexuality is still sin
  3. God’s Word does not change,even if the culture does

Incredibly, his entire congregation (save one family) decided that it was better to side with the LGBT activists than their own pastor,and left the church. Rather than standing firm upon the truths of God’s word, this congregation bowed their knees to Baal, soundly rejecting God, His word, and their pastor. Instead of supporting their pastor and his family by upholding these truths, they took the cowards way out by throwing him under the bus.

The fact that this could even happen is evidence that the spirit of antiChrist, which has always been present (though largely kept under wraps), has been unleashed upon America and is no longer being restrained. This should serve as a warning to all Christian leaders that the freedom to declare the whole counsel of God is now a part of America’s past. [3]

Indeed, the Beast has been unleashed!

This is only the beginning of course. Don’t want to support an unholy agenda by baking a cake for a homosexual couple? Then you will be shut down so you can’t bake a cake for anyone. Soon, these events will become commonplace, hardly raising an eyebrow.

It isn’t too far on the horizon when the Devil’s advocates will sit in the sanctuary, secretly recording a gospel message, carefully listening for anything they can remotely twist into “hate speech” so they can call in their ‘activists’ and destroy more pastors and their congregations.

What these so called ‘activists’ are willingly ignorant of however is that these same tactics have long been employed by ruthless regimes of every type in order to weed out the “subversives” who seek to overthrow the government by their “heinous deeds” of worshiping God. The only difference between them and groups such as LGBT and others like them is that the latter have managed to garner the support of the liberal elite in both Hollywood and Washington D.C.

Thus, they wield an unprecedented level of power to destroy the family and as much as possible whatever is Godly by ascribing the words “hateful” and hate speech” to all who dare oppose them.

But let’s be honest here, shall we? Was it the sign itself that caused such an explosion of anger and hate from the LGBT activists, or is something else the cause of their outburst? Was seeing words that refute their lifestyle and their agenda really what triggered this explosion of hate from them?

Of course not! What so enraged these people was the fact that someone would dare condemn their chosen lifestyle.  What really happened here was these LGBT activists were making a statement. And that statement was that no one, not even God Almighty himself can tell them how to live their lives. This was all about spiritual rebellion against the authority of God to govern our lives according to His divine mandate.

This outburst is just the latest in what has become a predictable pattern by those who oppose God. Oh, to be sure the methods have changed, as have the players in the game. New strategies are being developed almost daily in order to destroy the family as God created it. Rest assured however, that the chief engineer behind these activities is Satan himself.

There really is nothing new about all of this. As a matter of fact, it’s been going on since Satan first appeared to Eve in the garden when he coerced her and Adam into disobeying the command of their Creator. It’s the same mindset today, only instead of cunning, stealth, and deception, Satan now uses an “in your face” attack designed to intimidate God’s people into surrendering without a fight. [4]

Those who are wise understand where all of this is headed. The ‘children of light’ understand that these are the beginning days of the time when the adversary would unleash his power against all that is called Godly, thus causing many to lose their faith. [5]

Rather than cower in fear at those who oppose God and all that is Godly, our assignment is to pray for those who persecute and seek to harm us. Jesus teaches us that our weapon of choice must be love. We are not to return hate for hate, but must rise above the hate from those who oppose God. [6]

Be blessed, and pray without ceasing!

Ron

 

[1] https://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/article224506495.html

[2] 2 Timothy, 3:12

[3] 1 John 4:3

[4] Genesis 3

[5] 1 Timothy 4:1

[6] Matthew 5:43-45

Substitute Preacher…

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As I mentioned in my last post, this past week I have been filling in for my Pastor, who is taking a few days off for some much needed rest.

Since we have both Wednesday evening and Sunday morning services at our church, I needed to prepare two different messages, and when you add in hospital visitation it was a busy week.

Well, not that busy, but busier than what has become my new normal since retirement.; )

If you’ve never done something like this, it is both exhilarating and somewhat frightening, especially if you’ve been “out of the saddle” for awhile. It also helps a great deal to know that there are people praying for you, and I sincerely appreciate those of you who lift me up in prayer.

A lot of prayer and study time is necessary to deliver God’s word effectively, at least that’s how it is for me. I understand that many ministers preach from a sermon outline they’ve purchased online, and many simply purchase an entire sermon series which they then tweak to fit their needs.

I decided long ago however that I could not do it this way, preferring instead to spend time in the Word and in prayer in order to hear from the Lord as to what He would have me to deliver to the congregation.

This is not something I take lightly, and I approach it as if the Lord Himself were listening. Which, of course, He is.

As it turned out, it was well worth the effort, and I am happy to report that both messages were received with a lot of sincere enthusiasm, and many reported to be encouraged and strengthened.

I count it a privilege to be able to pray with people who have been broken by the cares of this life. Hearing them pour out their hearts to God, and to be able to pray and weep with them is an honor I do not take lightly.

It is humbling to be reminded that the Lord will still use a willing vessel, and I am thankful for the drive and passion for ministry He has instilled in me.

Sensing the presence of God was just icing on the cake, and that makes it all worthwhile for me.

Have a great Monday everyone!

Ron

 

 

 

Business as usual?

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The other day my wife heard a somewhat amusing story about a pastor and his struggling church,and she thought I might want to pass it along via the blog. I thought it made a pretty good point and I hope you will agree.

Seems a church was struggling to make ends meet, and the situation had caused the pastor to inquire of the Lord as to why this was. The Lord responded and said “you are in the church business, but I am in the redemption business. If you will get in the redemption business, I’ll take care of your church business”.

Sometimes we get caught up in things and situations, and in doing so we forget who is really in charge and what is important. Some call this majoring in the minors, and that sounds about right.

The thing is, we all do it to some degree. It’s hard not to when you’re struggling to get by or are trying to figure a way out of a seemingly impossible situation.

It’s in these times however when we need to take a step back and remember that God is our Helper. We are not alone and have no reason to doubt or fear because God is with us.

The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, A refuge in times of trouble.   Psalm 9:9

We have the assurance that we can trust in Him and that he will not forsake us. Our job then is to be about the Lord’s business. Or as my Pastor likes to say: “let go and let God”.

Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,then these other things will be given to you. Matthew 6:33

If we are faithful to do that, to be about our Father’s business, he then is faithful to “supply all of your needs according to his riches in glory.”  Philippians 4:19

Be blessed!

Ron

Translation or Demonstration: which do we need more of today?

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As of this post, there are approximately 100 versions of the English translation of the Bible. Amazingly enough, I am old enough to remember when you could count the number of Bible translations on one hand! My, how things have changed!

We now have versions that have eliminated all of the “impossibly difficult to pronounce words”. There are also versions that contain word for word translations of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek . We have Women’s,Men’s, Teens, Tweens, Children’s, Student’s, Leader’s, and New Believers Bibles.

Browsing online or through a Christian book store reveals a plethora of KJV,NKJV,ESV,NIV,NLT,NASB,HCSB,ISV, and about ninety other translations.

Confused yet? You should be.

Why do we have so many translations of the Bible when statistics show that only one in five Americans actually read the Bible? If we are to believe the data, it seems obvious that our attempts to make the Bible easier to read have largely been for naught.

Of course some will argue that if even one person is strengthened in their walk with Christ through reading one of the above mentioned Bibles it’s worth it, and I couldn’t agree more. I am thrilled that the Word of God is being presented in a manner so easily understood by the masses.

Yet somehow, the sheer volume of Bible translations hasn’t equated to stronger, faith filled Christians. How could they be, when the percentage of Bible reading is so low? Or as the Princess recently told me, just because man changes a lot of the words, man cannot change the heart.

Could it be that our focus is misdirected? Do you suppose that even with all of the available translations of the Bible we are still missing something?

I believe that we are. It’s a key component of our relationship with Christ, and it’s written on the very pages of the Bible we aren’t reading! Consider the following from  2nd Corinthians,chapter two:

1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

In his 2nd letter to the church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul has just revealed to us the key component I was referring to. Let me explain.

It is not excellency of speech, for Paul said that he didn’t come spouting great sounding words, nor did he come declaring his vast wisdom. He could have, but that wasn’t his focus.

He did not come to them bragging about all of his past accomplishments, or of his powerful connections. Again, he certainly could have done so, as his resume was filled with them. What he did profess however was the knowledge of Jesus Christ and His resurrection.

Paul did not speak as to appeal to the wisdom of men, though he certainly could have held his own with the brightest minds of his day. Being a master of the Law, Paul was well versed in all aspects of communication, yet he made no effort to appease the conscience of men.

What Paul brought was nothing that would appeal to the carnal nature of man. What he brought to Corinth was a demonstration of the Spirit and power of God.

This is what I believe to be the missing, key component in our relationship with Christ: the demonstration of God’s power.

All of the things that Paul did NOT do or bring to Corinth, we have in abundance today. We have some of the most highly educated and knowledgeable men and women to be found anywhere in the world standing in our pulpits today.

We have men and women so eloquent of speech as to be capable of painting a thousand virtual masterpieces with their great swelling words, all designed to appeal to our carnal nature.

Yet what we desperately lack is a demonstration of the power of God. Please understand what Paul was referring to by the “demonstration of the Spirit and power”.

He was referring to the power of the Spirit to heal the sick, save the lost, and yes, even to raise the dead. Real power. God power. The kind of power that has become nearly extinct in our day.

While publishers continue to pump out more and more new Bible translations that go largely unread, the Church starves for a demonstration of the real power of God.

I must ask though, how can God reveal Himself in power when we don’t even know Him as the God of the Word?

Why is this so important? Paul gives us the answer in the last verse, where he says “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God”.

Our faith, that precious commodity that we are to cherish and nurture as a precious gift, must not be in any man. No preacher, no pastor, certainly not a “pay for your blessing” televangelist. Paul declares that our faith should stand in the power of God.

As many of you know, in the hardest times of your life faith that is rooted in God will stand. Likewise, faith that is rooted in man will last only as long as the good times last. God’s power is infinite, and His supply has not diminished with the passing of time.

My prayer is that all who read this will commit their being to God,not man. That instead of running to the next conference or the next hot off the press translation, we will run instead to the Word of God.

Regardless of the translation.

Ron

 

“I want God to heal me,but…”

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I still remember hearing someone say those exact words to our pastor. A young man from church had been injured at work, and the pastor had asked him if he would like the church to pray for him according to James 5:14.

Now, the first reaction would normally be to answer “YES” to having the church pray for you, especially if you are in pain and unable to work. Especially if that was the norm for your church!

That would be the normal reaction.

That wasn’t, however, the reaction of the young man who was injured. His response was “well, I want God to heal me, but I’m expecting a big check from the state Workers Compensation and I don’t want to jeopardize that”.

Like most of us in the congregation, the pastor was stunned at his response. Quickly regaining his composure, the pastor said something along the lines of “well, let’s pray that God will heal you and that you will get the money you are anticipating”. I mean, what else could he say at that point?

What would your reaction have been?

Is it not strange how we say we want God, but we really don’t? On one hand we say we want God’s blessings, but sometimes our actions say we want them if

I guess it isn’t just kid’s “that say the darnedest things”, but do we really think about the things we say?

What does this say about us and about our relationship with the father? I think it says that we think way too highly of ourselves for one thing. Or it could say that we are confused as to who serves whom.

This attitude is reminiscent of one that appeared long ago in a garden somewhere. Remember the Garden of Eden, when Satan tempted Eve? Satan told Eve that if she would eat of the forbidden fruit her eyes would be opened and she would be like God. Even though God had been explicit in His instructions to Adam & Eve, they decided to roll the dice.

How did that work out for them?

There is an interesting dilemma in the church today, this idea that we can bargain, or negotiate with God. Of course, we’ve all heard or known of people who have said “Lord, if you will do such and such, I’ll serve you”. That’s not at all unusual.

However, we seem to have taken this thought process a step further when we say that we want God’s blessings, “but”…Are you or I in a position to negotiate with the Almighty?

This mindset is further proof that we are living in the time that Paul said would come where “men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful.…” (II Tim 3:2-5).

The young man at the beginning of this story, what happened to him? Well, he got his big check and spent it on all kinds of “stuff”. He did not however, receive his healing. It’s also interesting to note that he has not worked since those events of 25 years ago.

Oh, and lest you think this story was one that couldn’t possibly be repeated, you would be wrong. Just three years ago I had a lady from another church tell me nearly the same thing. She was also receiving compensation for a work related injury and was therefore hesitant to be prayed for.

What is it that you need from God? Healing? Finances? Hope? Comfort? Encouragement?

If we need something from our Heavenly Father, we cannot be double minded about it. When we come to the throne, we must ask in faith, with no doubting. The Bible tells us that we who are double minded are unstable in all our ways and we will receive nothing! (James 1:6-8).

Whatever your need this day, don’t try to bargain with God. Simply come to Him and make your needs known to Him. He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).

Perhaps you are questioning whether or not God will hear your prayer,or whether or not you are “good enough”. If that’s you, I’d like to leave you with this verse to meditate on:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will by no means cast out.   John 6:37

Have a blessed Lord’s day!

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