Category Archives: worship

Guaranteed With Blood

Let it never be forgotten that although our freedoms – our true freedoms – are given by God, those who would suppress them are always on the offense and must be defended against.

Therefore, every freedom that we as Americans enjoy are freedoms which have been preserved, at one time or another, with blood. From the first drops shed by those brave souls in our fight for independence, to Maj. Brent R. Taylor, a reservist in the Army National Guard and the mayor of North Ogden, Utah who died on November 3 in Afghanistan, blood will always be the price.

Blood is the price of freedom. The truth is the same for Christians. Our freedoms as Americans have been secured by the blood of its patriots, while the freedom of the Believer has been bought by the blood of Jesus Christ.

That being said, the rights affirmed in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution – particularly that of the freedom of religion and the free exercise thereof – is one that is being taken advantage of less and less. A growing number of those who say they believe in God rarely take advantage of the freedom to assemble for worship without fear of government retribution.

In other words, on Veteran’s Day, a day when we remember and honor those who have fought for our country and for our freedom, one of the most important freedoms for which they fought will be treated like last week’s trash and thrown to the curb. And to think, it was bought with blood!

But even more, what about the blood of Jesus Christ? Our freedom from the bondage of sin and death was bought with His blood – blood that should have been ours – yet, how many of those who’ve been set free will gather together to celebrate the One who freed them?

Your freedoms have been guaranteed with blood, so why not treat them with the respect they are due? Exercise your right.

Photo taken today in front of the Catoosa County Courthouse in Ringgold, Georgia.

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Just Stomp Me. Selah.

“Let the enemy persecute my soul, and take [it]; yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth, and lay mine honour in the dust. Selah.” – Psalm 7:5

FullSizeRender (1)Selah. A musical notation calling us to pause, to rest for moment and consider what has just been said. In this verse David asks God to let his enemy “persecute” him and essentially pound him into the earth! Why? Let’s think about it.

Out of Context

Should we read this verse as a stand-alone statement, apart from the context in which it was written, David would appear to have some serious mental problems. Is that what he is telling us to think about?

In this one verse there are three separate actions for which David is asking God to allow.

  1. Let the enemy persecute and take my soul.
  2. Let the enemy tread down (walk all over and stomp on) my life.
  3. Let the enemy lay my honour in the dust.

Why would David ask God to allow these things? Was he crazy? Not hardly.

In Proper Context

When we examine the full context of Psalm 7,  what we see is David crying out to God for deliverance from another one of his enemies, Cush the Benjamite. Evidently Cush had made some serious accusations concerning David’s actions, accusing him of some very bad things.

“O LORD my God, if I have done this: If there is iniquity in my hands, If I have repaid evil to him who was at peace with me, Or have plundered my enemy without cause…” – Psalm 7:3-4 NKJV

Iniquity…doing evil to the one with whom he was at peace…plundering his enemy without cause… What in the world did Cush think David did? We may never know.

However, David was so confident that whatever Cush was accusing him of was a fabrication – a lie – that he was willing to suggest his own destruction should the accusation be true.

Making Application

Are you living in such a way that you could pray with confidence: “Lord, let my enemy destroy me, even drag my soul to hell, should I actually be guilty of whatever he’s accusing me of.”

If not, then maybe we should pray another prayer, one in which David asked God to show him anything that needed changing.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if [there be any] wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalm 139:23-24 KJV

I’d say it’s far better to let God do a work on us before our enemy does a number on us.

 

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We’re All Sinners. Selah.

“Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.” – Psalm 4:4

FullSizeRender (1)Selah. A musical notation calling us to pause, to rest for a moment and consider what has just been said. In this verse, we are told to “commune” with our own hearts upon our beds. What about? Let’s think about it.

How Long?

Before, in the previous selah in Psalm 4:2, David was asking the question “How long?” How long would those whom he had once trusted betray him? How long would his former friends treat him like an enemy? How long would they promote lies over truth, and turn his “glory into shame?”

You and I may not be kings in exile, or have former commanders in our personal guard out for our head. However, there may be people who lie about you; spread untruths about you at work; misrepresent you to your children, or withhold that little bit of evidence just to win their case against you. How long will they get away with it?

You observe the culture. You watch the news and see the movies. You shake your head with disgust as you witness sin and shame, practically every deviancy known to man, promoted like it was the new gospel. You narrow your eyes and grit your teeth and whisper under your breath, “They should be glad I’m not God.” How long will God let them get away with it?

Awful Angry

Stand in awe, and sin not…” The Septuagint renders it “Be ye angry, and sin not…” The same is repeated by the Apostle Paul in Eph. 4:26 when he says, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” So why awe in one and angry in the other?

The word translated both as “awe” and “angry” is an interesting one. Consider Strong’s treatment of it:

רָגַז râgaz, raw-gaz’; a primitive root; to quiver (with any violent emotion, especially anger or fear):—be afraid, stand in awe, disquiet, fall out, fret, move, provoke, quake, rage, shake, tremble, trouble, be wroth.

So, when David is telling us to stand in “awe,” he is not telling us to do something like look up to the stars and go, “WOW!” No, David is giving us permission, as Paul did, to be angry; angry to the point of violently shaking, full of emotion and rage.

Just without sin.

Go to Bed?

So, just to make it clear, it’s OK to get angry, just as long as it’s a righteous anger (the last thing we want to be found guilty of is a lack of emotion when confronted with perversion and injustice; apathy is its own sin).  But in an apparent contrast with the later writing of Paul, what does King David suggest we do?

Go to bed and think about it? He said, “…commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.

But wait! I thought the Apostle Paul said we shouldn’t go to bed angry? What’s the difference?

The difference is GRACE, pure and simple. And hallelujah for that!

Humble Communion

Go ahead, get angry at the sin of the world. Go ahead, tremble with indignant anger at the way the glory of God is impugned on a day-to-day basis. Go ahead, quiver and shake with anger over the way people have been treating you – you have that right. But there’s something else you need to do: Remember the grace of God.

No, David is not telling us to go to bed angry and stew on it; he is encouraging us to remember that we are sinners, also.

To “commune with your own heart” means to reflect on yourself and your own condition. And when we add to that the words “be still” (דָּמַם [dā·mǎm]), which according to some* carries with it the idea of wailing and lamenting, along with being silent, what we have is the suggestion to be angry, but to remember we are sinners, too.

When David was treated horribly, he got angry, but he also remembered that if it wasn’t for God’s mercy he would suffer the same fate as the wicked. So, although we should get angry, at times, it is important for us to remember that although God is righteous, He is also gracious and good.

Thank Him for His mercy as you commune with your soul, and let Him handle those other people. Selah.

 


 

*William Lee Holladay and Ludwig Köhler, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 72.

*James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

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Barriers to Church Growth #9 (Despising God’s Name)

A very revealing study was done, leading to a book detailing how 300 churches went from declining or dying, to growing. In Comeback Churches, written by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson, there is a list of 30 different barriers to church growth. Having received permission from the publisher (B&H Publishing Group), I would like to discuss a different barrier each week.

Traditional practices are done without a heart for God (Malachi 1:6ff).

A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name? – Malachi 1:6 NIV

In a reading of Malachi 1:6-14 it is obvious that God is greatly offended by priests who care little about the One to whom the sacrifices are being made. They offer “polluted” and “blind” offerings, and for what? To gain His approval?

In verse six God was saying, “Look, you give more honor and respect to men than Me. Am I not greater than mere men?” Of course He is, so what was their problem? Did they not care what God would think of inferior offerings?

Essentially, God views giving anything less than one’s best nothing more than an insult to Who He is. God deserves better than the best we would give as a present on Father’s Day. He deserves far, far better than we would give to an employer on Boss’s Day. He is God.  We should give Him our best. Period.

But how have we despised your name?

Maybe we should ask the same question. Are our churches not growing? It might be because we “despise His name” with our poorly executed traditions, our just-getting-by attempts at worship, or our whatever’s-in-my-pocket-besides-the-big-bill offerings.

Notice that Stetzer and Dodson are not putting down traditional practices, only those which are done “without a heart for God.” For many in the church, these practices are only a list to check off, not a means to express appreciation to our Father and LORD. And without true worship, traditional practices suffer the neglect associated with only doing what is necessary to get by. Our God deserves so much better.

Who gets the best effort?

Just take a moment and compare they way we do things on the job, or at school, as compared with worship. What if God gave a paycheck each Sunday based on the way we fulfill our worship duties? What if he gave a grade for how well we listened to and studied His word? Would we even care if poor performance would result in getting fired or expelled?

We say, “God is good – He wouldn’t do such a thing!” And that is one reason why many churches don’t grow. We do enough, we give enough, we sacrifice enough to get by; but without a real heart for God. We never stop to consider that He might be offended…angered…hurt.

What a shame. Why would He want us to multiply?

 

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Your Little Church On the Web

Where Do You Go?

Do you have a place where you regularly worship? In other words, do you regularly go to church anywhere?

If you do, that’s awesome! But if you don’t, I would encourage you to find a place to go, even if it’s not perfect – is any place?

But if you don’t go somewhere…maybe you live too far away, or maybe you have a legitimate issue with crowds…I would like to encourage you to check out the website of the little church where I pastor: SouthSoddyBaptist.org.

If you don’t have a regular place to worship, and if you don’t like or don’t trust the megachurch places or internet ministries, our little church would like to help fill a void in your life. Maybe, just maybe, we could be your “Little Church On the Web.”

The Little Church

Believe me, churches don’t get much smaller than South Soddy Baptist, but we are a legitimate congregation of believers on mission from God.

We don’t have a lot to offer by way of flashy worship music. We don’t have a cool stage with lumber on the wall and mood lighting. Heck, we don’t even have a projection screen!

But what we DO have is a love for each other and a heart for God. We believe in genuine, caring fellowship and friendship. We care about what’s going on in each other’s lives.

We were blessed to be able to start our website so that we could minister to those not only in our community but around the world. Even though it’s not a huge website, like our little church it offers the basics, and sometimes that’s what is missing in other places.

Join Us

Look, if I had my preferences, I would like for you to attend a real worship service in a real brick-and-mortar building. But if that’s not where you are right now, why not make SouthSoddyBaptist.org your Little Church On the Web?

Read the blog posts. Listen to the sermons. Send your prayer requests – which we will absolutely pray for – through either email, text, or by phone. Go to our Facebook and YouTube pages as we begin to publish more content that’s simple and helpful.

We are a real church in a real city with real people who care about the Truth of God’s word and want to love people like Jesus would.

Would you join us?

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Sometimes I Feel Like a Failure

I am going to be very honest, as I’m sure you will appreciate: Sometimes I feel like a total failure.

You may have some impression of me, and that impression might be a good one. However, sometimes I see myself as a failure for not having accomplished a fraction of my stated goals, thereby leaving myself wondering, “Will I ever be able to do this?”

This morning has been difficult. It’s been a long time since any regular income has come in. And even though I felt sure I was supposed to be doing what I’m doing career-wise, it’s not put much money in the bank as of yet. I’m not talking about ministry; I’m talking about my work outside the pastorate (I’m bi-vocational).

So, I went to Blueletterbible.com and did a word search for “fail.” There were over 60 occurrences of the word, but two of them stood out to me.

The first one spoke of how David understood pain and doubt. He had questions about God’s compassion and promises.

Is his mercy clean gone forever? doth his promise fail for evermore? – Psalm 77:8

But then David went on to answer his own question by remembering what God has done and said:

Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people. – Psalm 77:14

Then I came to the following verse:

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. – Isaiah 41:17

I am poor and needy. We have more than a water bill. I can’t do this on my own! Much of the help that should come from man is missing, but I have a God who hears my plea and has not forsaken me!

All I have to do is cry out to him!

I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me. – Psalm 57:2

Lord, I am not a failure as long as there is still breath in my lungs and an opportunity for me to step forward to my Goliaths. My strength is small; my abilities are few; my vision is limited to the horizon, but You will not forsake me, and Your presence will go before me. You will get the credit for my successes, for Your name will be glorified as You help me stand, fight, conquer, and provide for my family (Deut. 8:18). I am not a failure because You are not.

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Some Thoughts On Work (Labor)

Labor Day

I am sure I’m not the only one who finds it a little odd that we celebrate a day by not doing what the day honors. Yet, on the very day we are supposed to give honor to labor, or work, we take a day off.

Oh, but you say, “It’s not about the celebration of work; it’s about celebrating the worker.” Yeah, if that’s true, then why not call it Laborer Day?

Nevertheless, I don’t really think there’s 1 in a hundred who will actually do anything to celebrate labor, employment, the worker, or anything of the sort. Even though every one of us should be thanking God if we have a job, our 9-5 will be the last thing on our minds as we enjoy our time off.

A Holy Day

But what if we Christians did things differently? What if, like with Christmas and Easter, we take a pagan holiday and turn it into a Christian holy day?

Celebrating the birth of Christ is a good thing, so we read Scripture about it, sing carols, and dress up like barn animals in church plays. Easter is the highest holy day because it’s the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave – without which our faith would be in vain.

Why not celebrate work, labor, our jobs, with a day that focuses on the spiritual and biblical truths relating to it? Why not celebrate and proclaim the holy aspects of labor?

A Holy Thing

It may be hard to get your mind around it, but work is a good thing. As a matter of fact, even in Heaven, there will be work to do (Revelation 22:3). The reason is that God is the one who created work (Genesis 2:15), and it was meant for our good.

Some people call what they do in the workplace secular. They tend to separate what they do at their job from what they might do at church or on the mission field. However, all work is holy if we are children of God, and all of our labor should be for His glory (Ephesians 6:5-9).

“The maid who sweeps the kitchen floor is doing the will of God just as much as the monk who prays – not because she may sing a Christian hymn while she sweeps, but because God loves clean floors. The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.” – Martin Luther

Working Together

It may sound a little odd, but God is still at work, today. Yes, He rested on the seventh day after Creation, but He’s been at work in the hearts of men and women ever since. And what’s awesome is that for some reason He has chosen us to have a part in His work – not in the saving part, but in the gathering.

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. “Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.” – Matthew 9:37-38 CSB

No matter what kind of work you do, you work for the Lord. No matter where you labor, you are in the fields for the Lord. And, no matter what kind of product you produce or service you provide, if Jesus is with you, the ultimate aim is to collect the produce of heaven – the souls of men.

It may be on the kitchen floor,

Or in a busy store,

Or teaching, nursing, day be day

Till limb and brain almost give way;

Yet if, just there, by Jesus thou art found

The place thou standest is Holy Ground.

 – M. Colley (1939)

Labor is a holy thing, so let’s celebrate it with a holy day.

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