Just across the street from the parsonage and the church where I pastor, there’s a house being built where an old one used to stand.
Every morning, and throughout the day, one can hear all kinds of noises coming from that direction, like hammers, saws, and a few unknown tongues. Theses are the common sounds associated with construction.
But what you will not be able to hear are the painters, the finishers, the electricians, and the plumbers doing their work. The loud noises made by the initial builders and framers might be signs something is happening, but much of what must be done before the house is usable happens on the inside … in the quiet.
Meditate on that truth for a while.
Sure, I don’t mind tackling controversial topics every now and then.
And when it comes to worship music, I’m a little more willing than normal to dive into the controversial pond.
Because Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus:
“Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them … For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine…” (2 Timothy 4:3a; 1 Timothy 4:16a)
“[Hold] fast the faithful word as [you] hath been taught, that [you] may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” (Titus 1:9)
“[Speak] thou the things which become sound doctrine:” (Titus 2:1)
And Jude wrote:
“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort [you] that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 1:3)
Therefore, I couldn’t help but laugh and say “AMEN!” when I watched the video below.
Folks, I love music of all kinds, but when it comes to worship music – the kind we sing in the “congregation” – the words should be weighty with meaning and do more than make us feel good; they should contain sound doctrine and be able to exhort and convince.
So, I think I can say that I agree with “Clint Eastwood” on this, but I especially like the way he says it.
Yet, I’ll try to avoid telling our Music Director, “Go ahead, punk, play Oceans.”
“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” – Matthew 2:11
Part of the Christmas story can be found in the book of Matthew, the first book in the New Testament. There, in chapter two, we read of several wise men, Magi, who followed the star till it rested over the place where the young Jesus was living.
But what most people fail to notice is that only the shepherds came to visit Jesus while he was still a baby in a manger. The Magi came later, once they were living “in the house” and Jesus was a “young child.” And, based on Herod’s decree that all male children 2 years old and younger should be killed (Matt. 2:16), Jesus could have been a toddler up and walking.
Simply put, generally every manger scene protested against by atheists is not a faithful representation of the Christmas story. How ironic is that? But I digress…
When the Magi came to Bethlehem in search of “he that is born King of the Jews” (Matt. 2:2), they brought with them three very rare and valuable gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They were not random gifts, but ones with specific political, spiritual, and practical importance; they were meant to recognize a literal, earthly, but also heavenly King.
Gold was a universally recognized precious metal, symbolic of all wealth. Frankincense was a substance primarily used as incense, but also mixed with other substances to create the holy anointing oil placed on high priests and kings. Myrrh was a substance used for things ranging all the way from cosmetics and antiseptics, to perfuming the living and embalming the dead.
According to Matthew 2:11, the Magi fell down before Jesus, which would have been an appropriate response when in the presence of royalty (and these men knew the difference). But the wise men did more than fall prostrate before royalty, they “worshiped him.” This young king was more than just “King of the Jews,” but the long-promised Messiah, and they offered their gift to the Son of God.
As long as I can remember there have been sermons preached during and before Christmas entitled, “Wise Men Still Seek Him.” The sermons focus primarily on the seeking leading up to Christmas, but rarely, if ever, on the gifts given after the celebration is over. But today is different.
Today, I am going to ask you to consider three gifts we should give, now that the birthday celebration is over.
For several days after Christmas people will stand in line to return and/or exchange unwanted gifts. Many will trade what others gave them for something they want more. Others will just ask for a refund or in-store credit.
Rest assured that when you give your gifts to Jesus, he will not return them, exchange them, or re-gift them next year. But will you, once you realize what you’ve given, want to take something back?
Don’t wait for a New Year’s resolution. Now that Christmas is over, be like the Magi and leave everything at Jesus’ feet, then “depart…another way.”
Once you give Jesus those three gifts, you’ll never be the same.
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.
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.”
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.
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?
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.
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?
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
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.