Church, Worship

Throwback Thursday ~ Rolling Out the Welcome Wagon

Originally published August 25, 2010

The LORD said to him, “I have heard your prayer and your supplication, which you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built by putting My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. I Kings 9:3

As Golden Girl Sophia would say, “Picture it:”

After church one Sunday, a friend says, “Why don’t you come over to my house tomorrow night for dinner?”

So, the appropriate time comes on Monday evening, and you drive over to her house. The door is standing open because she is expecting you, and you’re familiar enough with each other that you feel comfortable just walking on in.

As you’re walking in, you see your friend standing there, and you say to her, “I invite you into this house! You are welcome here!”

Anything seem a little off about that?

Well, of course that seems strange. It’s her house.

But that’s what is taking place in churches all over America every Sunday morning. I saw it in a televised local church service last week. The worship leader stood up to lead the first song and said, “God we welcome you into this place!” I’ve heard others say things like, “Lord, we invite you into this house this morning!” We sing songs like Holy Spirit, Thou art Welcome and Lord, we Invite You.

‘Scuse me? Isn’t the church God’s house?

Of course, it isn’t God’s house in the same way the temple was God’s house, in that there isn’t a holy of holies where the actual presence of God resides. On the other hand, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s only a building, like the post office or a doughnut shop.

At some point, way back when, or maybe even recently, a body of Believers got together and asked God to give them a place where they could worship Him. God saw fit to answer that prayer. He provided the land, the permits, and every brick, nail, and piece of sheetrock. He allowed His name to be placed there when we decided to call it “Grace Fellowship”, “St. Luke’s”, or “First Baptist”. He protects that building and allows it to stand as a testimony to the community: God, and God’s people, can be found here.

It’s not your church. It’s not my church. It’s God’s church. And it exists for His glory.

But somewhere along the way, we’ve forgotten that. Somewhere along the way, we gave God an eviction notice and became squatters on His property. How arrogant have we become that we strut into church as though we own the place, and dare to invite Him, to welcome Him into His own house as though He were a guest? How dare we?

Maybe it’s partly because we no longer have a holy of holies that we don’t see God’s house as sacred. “Ah,” you may say, “but that’s Old Testament thinking. Now we understand that when we gather together in His name, He is with us.”

Really?

When it’s my church, my comfort, my pew, my ministry that nobody else better touch, my style of music, my opinion about how long the sermon should be, my feelings that got hurt, my idea of how things should operate, what I got out of the service, are we really gathering in His name?

Welcome, Lord. Are You sure You want to come in?

Church, Throwback Thursday, Worship

Throwback Thursday ~ Rolling Out the Welcome Wagon

Originally published August 25, 2010

The LORD said to him, “I have heard your prayer and your supplication, which you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built by putting My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. I Kings 9:3

As Golden Girl Sophia would say, “Picture it:”

After church one Sunday, a friend says, “Why don’t you come over to my house tomorrow night for dinner?”

So, the appropriate time comes on Monday evening, and you drive over to her house. The door is standing open because she is expecting you, and you’re familiar enough with each other that you feel comfortable just walking on in.

As you’re walking in, you see your friend standing there, and you say to her, “I invite you into this house! You are welcome here!”

Anything seem a little off about that?

Well, of course that seems strange. It’s her house.

But that’s what is taking place in churches all over America every Sunday morning. I saw it in a televised local church service last week. The worship leader stood up to lead the first song and said, “God we welcome you into this place!” I’ve heard others say things like, “Lord, we invite you into this house this morning!” We sing songs like Holy Spirit, Thou art Welcome and Lord, we Invite You.

‘Scuse me? Isn’t the church God’s house?

Of course, it isn’t God’s house in the same way the temple was God’s house, in that there isn’t a holy of holies where the actual presence of God resides. On the other hand, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s only a building, like the post office or a doughnut shop.

At some point, way back when, or maybe even recently, a body of Believers got together and asked God to give them a place where they could worship Him. God saw fit to answer that prayer. He provided the land, the permits, and every brick, nail, and piece of sheetrock. He allowed His name to be placed there when we decided to call it “Grace Fellowship”, “St. Luke’s”, or “First Baptist”. He protects that building and allows it to stand as a testimony to the community: God, and God’s people, can be found here.

It’s not your church. It’s not my church. It’s God’s church. And it exists for His glory.

But somewhere along the way, we’ve forgotten that. Somewhere along the way, we gave God an eviction notice and became squatters on His property. How arrogant have we become that we strut into church as though we own the place, and dare to invite Him, to welcome Him into His own house as though He were a guest? How dare we?

Maybe it’s partly because we no longer have a holy of holies that we don’t see God’s house as sacred. “Ah,” you may say, “but that’s Old Testament thinking. Now we know that where two or three are gathered in His name, He is there in their midst. (Matthew 18:20)”

Really?

When it’s my church, my comfort, my pew, my ministry that nobody else better touch, my style of music, my opinion about how long the sermon should be, my feelings that got hurt, my idea of how things should operate, what I got out of the service, are we really gathering in His name?

Welcome, Lord. Are You sure You want to come in?

The Ten (10 Commandments Bible Study)

The Ten: Lesson 6

the-ten

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Exodus 20:8-11

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Exodus 31:13-17

“You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you.14 You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. 15 Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. 16 Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. 17 It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’”


Matthew 12:1-14

At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

(And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27- This verse is included in Mark’s account of the grain story.)

He went on from there and entered their synagogue. 10 And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. 11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

Luke 13:10-17

Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself.12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.”13 And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. 14 But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” 17 As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.


Colossians 2:16-17

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

Acts 2:42,44

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers…44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common.

Hebrews 10:24-25

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider:

1. Examine the two Exodus passages. What was the purpose of the Sabbath for humans? (15) What did God mean by “labor” and “work”? (9-10, 14-15) What was the penalty for breaking the Sabbath? (14-15) What two things was the Sabbath to remind Israel of? (11,17; 13) How would remembering these two things lead the people to worship and honor God? Which word do verses 8, 11, and 14 use to characterize the Sabbath day itself? How would having a holy day of rest and worship, a reminder of God as Creator and that Israel was specially set apart by God, be a witness to the one true God to the pagan nations surrounding Israel?

2. Study the Matthew and Luke passages. Jesus was frequently called on the carpet by the Pharisees for “working” on the Sabbath. Most of the Old Testament verses regarding the Sabbath don’t specify what constitutes “work,” but a few do. The Pharisees had made many additional and burdensome rules about what constituted “work”- you could only walk a certain number of steps, you couldn’t drag a chair across a dirt floor (it would create a furrow, and that was plowing), etc. Considering the verses linked above and the Exodus passages, was Jesus really “working” on the Sabbath in the Matthew and Luke passages? Whose rules was Jesus breaking- man’s or God’s? What did Jesus say it was lawful to do on the Sabbath? (Matt. 12:12)

3. Review the purposes of the Sabbath in question 1. What did Jesus mean when He said the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath? (Mark 2:27) How might this idea relate to overextending yourself with church activities? How busy are your Sundays?

4. In the Matthew and Luke passages, Jesus gives two examples of how the Pharisees care for their animals on the Sabbath. What are those examples? What message was He trying to get across to them? Would you say the Pharisees cared more for rule-keeping or people? How might Jesus’ “breaking” of the Sabbath in such a public way have been a threat to the Pharisees power and position?

5. What does the Colossians passage tell us about the Old Testament feasts and the Sabbath? (17) If Christ is the fulfillment of these foreshadowings, must Christians still observe the Jewish Sabbath?

6. Which day of the week was the Old Testament Sabbath? (Ex. 31:15) Why? (Ex. 20:11) Which day of the week do Christians worship on? Why? Compare and contrast the Sabbath pointing to God as Creator and Christians’ Sunday worship pointing to Christ as Savior.

7. What components should characterize Christian worship, according to the Acts and Hebrews passages? What can we glean from God’s Old Testament instructions about the Sabbath about things like rest, worship, and holiness that still apply to our Christian worship today?

What does “not neglecting to meet together” mean? Why does God say it is important that we regularly meet together? What is the heart attitude of a “non-neglector”?
a) I love my church family, worship, serving, and being taught God’s word. Why would I want to miss all that?
b) I like church. I’ll go if nothing more important pops up. I’m there about half the time.
c) Church is OK. I go when I wake up on time and feel like it. That’s about once a month or so.
d) You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian, so I don’t really need it. Maybe on Christmas and Easter, but that’s about it.

Which of these most closely matches your heart attitude about attending church? Is your attitude about faithful church attendance pleasing to God?


Homework:

If you were to keep a calendar of your church attendance, what would it look like? Are you at church each week unless Providentially hindered (emergencies, illness, etc.)?

  • If you know your attendance could be better in God’s eyes, repent and commit to being at church every week. What are some practical, proactive steps you could take (setting an earlier alarm, laying your clothes out Saturday night, etc.) to set yourself up for success?
  • If you are already faithful in your church attendance, are there any areas of service at your church that you could fill?
  • Are you faithful in your church attendance, and overextending yourself in serving? Consider the importance God placed on the Sabbath being a day of rest. Do you need to cut back on the number of church activities you’re committed to?
Idolatry, Sunday School, Worship

Worship Gone Wrong, Worship Gone Right ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 2-16-14

sunday school

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 7 ~ Feb. 9-15
Exodus 30-Leviticus 10
Worship Gone Wrong ~ Worship Gone Right

Think about the last time you were invited over to someone’s house for dinner or a visit. Even if it was your closest friend’s house, did you go into her kitchen and start rearranging her cabinets so the dishes would be the way you like them? Refold her towels into thirds instead of halves? Insist on fried chicken when she had planned baked? Would you like it if your closest friend came to your house and started doing things like that?

What’s your favorite flower? Mine is pink roses, and my husband knows this very well. Would it have been loving for my husband to give me a cactus for Valentine’s Day—even though he knows I can’t stand them –because that’s the plant he likes best?

We all have a certain way we like things done at our own homes for certain reasons. We have all been given gifts that make us feel loved and cherished (and some gifts that haven’t). God is no different. When we come into His house to worship Him, we abide by His “house rules” out of love and respect for Him. We are to offer Him the worship He desires, not because it makes us happy or comfortable, but because that’s what makes Him “feel loved.”

This week’s reading was all about worship. Worship done the right way – God’s way, and worship done the wrong way – man’s way.

Worship Gone Wrong: Man’s Way (Exodus 32)

32:1-2: Worship goes wrong when we take our focus off God.
Moses didn’t bring them out of Egypt, God did. But the people’s focus was only on the temporal and tangible. They hounded Aaron to give them a god they could see and worship their own way rather than an invisible God whose ways were holy and different from theirs. They were not thinking about what God wanted but what they wanted.

32:2-14: Worship goes wrong when the pastor is more interested in pleasing the people (or himself) than pleasing God.
Rather than leading the people and holding up God’s standard for them, Aaron gave in to their base desires. Contrast this with Moses who was more interested in God’s glory, His name being honored among the heathens, and His covenant promises, than Moses’ own self interest of being made a “great nation”.

32:4-6: Worship goes wrong when we paste God’s name on man made rituals.
Notice that they essentially called the golden calf “God” and claimed that worshiping it was actually worshiping God. This was not a situation in which they were inventing a new god to worship.

32:15-19: Worship goes wrong when we break God’s law (Exodus 19-20:21).
The people had heard from the very mouth of God himself, “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them…” Those are the first and second Commandments! They knew God’s Law and intentionally broke it. Our worship is unacceptable to God (indeed, it isn’t worship at all) when we do it while knowingly disobeying Him. (Naked church, homosexuality affirming “churches”, female pastors.)

32:25: Worship goes wrong when we give unbelievers the opportunity to mock God.
When the people “break loose” from doing things biblically with the pastor leading the way (as in the New Apostolic Reformation movement, for example), the world rightly mocks them. As a result, many unbelievers understandably take the position, “If that’s what Christianity is, I don’t want any part of it.” This is to our shame. (This is different, however, from being mocked for upholding biblical standards, such as standing against abortion or homosexuality.)

32:26-28: Worship goes wrong when people refuse to repent of their sin (Matthew 18:15-17, 1 Corinthians 5:11-13).
The three thousand men who refused to repent of their idol worship were the problem here, not the Levites. They were given every opportunity to repent and refused. This compounded their sin by forcing their brothers into a horrific situation of having to kill them.

Today, when church members refuse to repent of their sin, God has instructed us to put them outside the fellowship (after due process). This is painful for all involved, and puts brothers and sisters who are trying to faithfully follow God’s word in the awful position of having to confront and discipline people they may dearly love. It often causes a deep wound that necessarily hinders worship.


Worship Gone Right: God’s Way

God cares about the smallest details of how we approach Him in worship. (Exodus 30, 39)
He’s not an “anything goes” God. We see this in the detailed instructions about the construction of the ark, the tabernacle, and all its accessories, right down to the recipe for the anointing oil (30) and the little pomegranates on the hems of the priestly garments (39). (We’ll also see His instructions about worship to the church in the New Testament.) If God cares this much about the little details of worship, what are some things in our worship services and other church activities that we need to think about as to whether or not they’re pleasing to God?

God takes worship seriously, and so should His people (Exodus 32, Leviticus 10, Acts 5:1-11, 1 Corinthians 11:29-30).
The results of the golden calf incident (32), the strange fire incident (10), as well as situations in the New Testament show us that the way we worship and conduct activities in the church is no trivial matter to God. When He gives instructions about worship, He means what He says. It is just as wrong for us in the New Testament church to disregard God’s instructions about the Lord’s supper, giving offerings, qualifications for pastors/teachers, etc., as it was for Nadab and Abihu to offer “strange fire” before the Lord.

This doesn’t mean we can’t experience and express joy during worship—God wants us to! But there are also times to weep over our sin, listen intently to God’s word, and pray fervently. What are some things that show that a church/church members take worship seriously?

The men who lead God’s people have a grave responsibility to lead biblically, and God’s people have the responsibility to follow them biblically. (Exodus 32, Leviticus 10, 2 Timothy 4:1-5)
Pastors are to be faithful to God and His requirements for worship regardless of what the people clamor for. When pastors give in to the sinful desires of their people, they both endorse and give their people the opportunity to sin. So long as the pastor is standing by Scripture, we are to follow his leadership and support him.

The results of worship gone right (Leviticus 9:22-24)
When worship is done biblically, the pastor is in right relationship with God. He’s in the right position spiritually to be a blessing to God’s people. God blesses the people, they see His glory, He is pleased with their worship, His presence is with them, and it generates more worship.