Monday, August 25, 2008

"Free Bible Study"

It is that third word that gets most people. As I was assigning this title to the church marquee I though about how many responses I would get if I just posted "Free Bible." Most people would take a free Bible. I am even confident that I would run out of free Bibles pretty quickly. But the third word involves several things that makes the call much tougher:

1. Commitment. How committed are you to Bible study? I made myself a promise earlier this month that I would ready Ephesians every day for a month. I have already missed some days. Beyond this is what most preachers and missionaries have dealt with for years - people say they will study, and then they drop you. People commit to a time, and something comes up. I have had more cancellations than studies. "Next time" is Satan's favorite phrase and he offers it to people in ready supply.

2. Submission. Most folks can see the difference in having a Bible they study alone and actually studying with someone who is experienced. They are afraid they will be challenged to do things they don't want to do. They are afraid of being "indoctrinated." They have a hard time being told they are wrong about spiritual matters. The key to this is to let people know that as we study we let the Bible speak. There is an humble art to studying with someone and leading them to the truth so they can draw their own conclusions.

3. Worldliness. When a person says they are ready to begin studying the Bible, what they are really admitting is that the world is not working for them. They know very well the difference between what God offers and what the world has going. But people who are entrenched in worldliness are completely satisfied with temporal pleasures and false hope. As long as things are going well, they will probably not be ready to study. A free Bible? Sure, why not? But a Bible thanks. They have already made their choice.

Ironically, we would appreciate help and our opportunity to study the Bible without persecution if such freedoms were not available. We need to remember that we have a God who speaks to us freely all of the time. We just need to open up His word and listen.

"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." ~ 2 Timothy 2:15

Monday, August 18, 2008

Keeping Worship Simple

Many people today are struggling with something that is really quite simple. The controversy concerning the instrument continues, because instruments and their use in worship are becoming more mainstream. Even in churches that still affiliate themselves with the churches of Christ, instrumental music not only is coming up, but it is now becoming more accepted. For example, one church of Christ in a neighboring county explains it this way on their website - "The singing is a cappella, meaning that we worship without instruments. This is by choice, rather than doctrine. We find nothing wrong with instrumental worship, but believe that the voice alone is a simple & beatiuful way to worship God."

What a sad state of affairs.

What God wants us to know with regard to worship is quite simple. There is commandment, example, and authorization for singing in the New Testament church. None of these exist with regard to instrumental worship.The use of instruments in the worship of the church is not authorized by God. One can lament all they want to about it. One can dream about unity with denominational people. By taking the focus off of God and the Bible and putting the emphasis on human wishes, the correct view of Scripture becomes skewed by opinion.

Instrumental worship is unauthorized worship. Whether it be offered by Cain, Nadab and Abihu, or any Christian today, unauthorized worship is displeasing to God. God is the object of worship and we are the worshipers. Why speculate when God has already told us what to do in His Word? Why not honor God and His word? Why not worship Him in spirit and in truth?

What sets the church apart from the world and its religion is our love for God and one another so as to completely follow the Bible. Let's continue to be different and worship God the way God wants to be worshiped. This is worship that will both sanctify us and glorify our Creator.

"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." ~ John 4:23

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Marriage Question

I have been fortunate enough to have been raised in the church. I have been in the church for 35 years now, and while I know I am young compared to many, I have seen my share of comings and goings within the membership.

One of the issues that has continually been difficult for families and individuals is that of marriage, divorce, and remarriage. The Bible teaches that we are married for life in the eyes of God (Rom. 7:2-3), and that except for sexual immorality, one is not to divorce their spouse and marry another (Matt. 19:9). But despite these simple teachings, as with any sin, people stray from God's will and make a mess of their marriage relationships.

I have been in counsel with several regarding marital situations since I began to preach. I have seen many couples attempt to get around the Bible in order to justify their relationships. What has always seemed incongruent about these matters is that people want to be accepted as they are, but will not accept God's word as it is. As one who works with people daily regarding spiritual matters, who is trying to help the church grow, I can tell you that my heart breaks over some of these marital situations. But at the same time, the real problem is that people struggle with their selfish will, personal desires and wants, and often find it hard to submit to God.

As long as the earth remains and the church continues to make every effort follow the Bible, this question of scriptural marriage relationships will have to be dealt with. It is my hope and prayer that we will always love God and His will first, that we will obey and defend His truth, and that we will love every individual and couple so as to help them have the relationships that will glorify God.

If we will submit to God, He will help us. If we will follow His will for the marriage relationship, He will bless us. If we will stand for the truth, He will keep us. If we will love one another, He will unite us.

"Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge." ~ Hebrews 13:4

Monday, August 4, 2008

On Behalf of Summer

Amber and I asked Luke the other day what he wanted to do on his last day before school started. He thought about it for a while, and just before bed he joked, "I would like to say a word on behalf of summer." So I am taking a page out of the book of Luke for this one. Here is my, pardon the expression "summery":

1. We had a great Vacation Bible School. I was very thankful for the good attendance and participation. This may have been our best VBS ever. Our community and surrounding churches attended this event well. I was very proud of our congregation for the spirit of cooperation and the sacrifices that were made by so many.

2. We were blessed with Will Sharp this year. Jeremy said it well that people probably don't know what an intern does. But I know he spent many hours with our teenagers and college kids late at night. He visited many of our members. He went to the nursing homes, preached, taught, went on the mission trip, and yes, he played golf and did other fun activities. I really appreciate the fact that he wants to work for the church. He cares about the church. We need more young men to have passion for the church like he does.

3. We have been guarded by God in many ways. Although we have been entrenched in international conflict, experienced high gas prices, and been concerned about our political future, God has continually blessed and sustained us. We have not gone without. Many of our members have enjoyed vacations with their families. Some of us have overcome surgeries and loss. But God has been with us and strengthened us in these endeavors.

As we close out the summer, I am thankful for the reset button. We are now hoping to get back into somewhat of a routine. With this in mind I believe if we will put God first, we may be able to make this year at Pulaski St. the best one yet. It can happen if we will love one another, be kind to each other, and always be encouraging. Let's be positive, rejoice in Christ, and realize that an everlasting season with our God awaits us.

"Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: let such as love thy salvation say continually, the Lord be magnified." ~ Psalm 40:16