Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bad Worship

Praising God can be a bad thing. 

 Yes, I know that seems strange, but it’s true.  There are many examples in the bible of people who were praising Yahweh, and it was a bad thing. 

  •  Sometimes they did it in the wrong way, or at the wrong time, or in the wrong place.  This is bad because if God asks for something specific, He wants exactly that – not something else.    

  • At least once they worshipped “God” by making an image of Him and putting His Name on it (Gold Calf). 

  • Several times they did the rituals of worship in the right way, at the right time, and in the right place … but God wouldn’t listen and in fact was disgusted by it – because their lives were not obedient to God.  This is especially true of acts of injustice … when they weren’t helping the poor, the widow and orphan. 

  • Sometimes they worshipped insincerely – they just went through the motions, or they were more tuned-in to the meal that came from the sacrifice or the fun they were having than being focused on the supposed object of worship (God). 


This picture is from a page in a great commentary on the Minor Prophets (The College Press NIV Commentary – Minor Prophets, Volume 1; by Harold Shank):

 Dr. Shank observes here that God’s complaint with them wasn’t about their “wrong methods of worship but about wrong goals for worship.” 

 Today (Sunday) in churches all over the USA, people will sing praises to God, they’ll think they’re meeting on the right day, and doing the right stuff in the right way, and even with sincere hearts.  Some of them are making God sick, and they don’t even know it because their church leaders are not telling them the whole story about worship. 

 Worshipping God is doing what God wants, God’s way, and in God’s time.  It’s serving, loving, caring, healing and teaching.  It’s helping the foolish, warning the sinner, and giving grace to the repentant.  Worship is rarely ever done in a modern church building the way God has asked! 

 Consider your life: are you doing what God wants, God’s way, and nothing else?  WHY are you doing so, if you are?  Because it’s fun, makes you feel good, or because you like to imagine yourself doing God a favor?  If so, you should spend some time in the word and learn from the mistakes of others. 
"I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies.  Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I won't accept them; and I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings.   Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps.  But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Amos 5:21-24

Monday, April 23, 2012

When God Preaches

What would it be like if God took human form and came to your church and gave a sermon?  What things might He say to you and your friends at church?  What sort of things might He say to churches in general, your nation, state, county, or even to your family?  If God came as a preacher … that’s what the prophets are in the bible.  They’re preachers, who say and do what God told them to say and do. 

 Angels are messengers who live in the spirit-realm, and prophets are God’s messengers who live on earth and have human form.  Preachers and teachers today should function like prophets, but unfortunately we wouldn’t hire any real prophets.  Most prophets were pretty harsh, none were popular.  Even when a prophet was popular for a while (like Moses), eventually the people rebelled.  Of course they always saw themselves as rebelling against a man, but when the man speaks for God, they’re actually rebelling against the Creator of heaven and earth.  So most of the prophets lived miserable lives and were wildly unpopular.  Most were eventually murdered, just like our Lord who was also a prophet. 

 Open your bible to the Old Testament, and you’ll see that all of the books after the Song of Solomon are written by prophets – God’s preachers.  Do you know the stories of these prophets and read them regularly and study them deeply?  Most of us don’t.  Most “Christians” barely read their bibles at all, but if they study anything, it’s almost never the prophets, except to “prove” some prediction or to pull a quote from here or there that seems encouraging.  This is true generally for two reasons: First, the prophets are hard to understand – it takes a fair amount of work to get to the point of the prophets.  And second, because the prophets are unpopular, even today. 

 I’ve been working through Hosea for the past couple of days.  One one hand it’s interesting, because God asks a man to marry a hooker.  But we quickly see why He made this awful command: Being God with His people feels much like being a man married to a whore.  The message is harsh and full of feeling.  Have you considered that it’s possible to hurt God?  We cannot harm Him, really, but in this text He makes it clear that He is deeply saddened and very angry by the way Israel has neglected Him and begun to credit other gods for things Yahweh has done. 

 Another thing makes it hard to read the prophets.  It’s when we see ourselves in them as the bad guys.  Consider the situation Israel was experiencing when Hosea prophesied.  Many of the people were rich, and they celebrated worship to God and offered sacrifices, and built nice buildings:
Israel is a luxuriant vine; he produces fruit for himself.  The more his fruit, the more altars he made; the richer his land, the better he made the sacred pillars. 

As they had their pasture, they became satisfied, & being satisfied, their heart became proud …

 They also were dishonest, didn’t look out for the poor, and when they did cry out to God, it was from desperation to have things fixed, not to really repent and be God’s people. 

 Hosea is painful to read, if you understand it.  It makes it plain that God has loved His people, and often they didn’t even recognize that it was Him.  They took pride in their own work, and their own efforts.  And their repentance seems never to be completely genuine.  So the result is that God is going to bring about the destruction of Israel.  He will use a foreign power (Assyria) to completely destroy them. 

 How about you?  Would you forgive your spouse if he or she behaved like a prostitute?  Would you keep forgiving her?  Would you welcome him home every time he said he was sorry?  How often will you allow your spouse to cheat on you, and then you continue to welcome him/her home? 

 When we fail to be pure, when we fail to credit God for our blessings, when we worship ourselves, our self-interests, our pride, our self-esteem … we are God’s prostitute wives. 

 I hope you’ll take some time and start studying the prophets.  Soon I hope to have some helps up online for us, but until then … don’t wait for me.  And when you study them, respond to the invitation of God’s preachers!  Your “church” will never hire men like this – but you and I need to hear their messages! 
“I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice and in the knowledge of God rather than worship services”  

(Paraphrased from Hosea 6)

Saturday, April 21, 2012


I love almost everything I see from TED.  Tonight I was blessed to see the video that's here, and I hope you'll take a few minutes to watch it.  It's best on a big, sharp screen.  It's not a "Christian" thing, but I wish it were.  I wish I were known more for how grateful I am to our Creator for all our blessings.  Now it's time for me to grow in that direction.

Oddly, just as I was beginning to watch this video tonight, I got a call from a disciple in Huntington Beach.  Tomorrow his son will be born again!  Talk about grateful!  I was shocked and filled with wonder as I consider how great all the things are in this video, and yet how much greater is the gift of forgiveness, love, mercy, rebirth and the resulting eternal life given to us by our Lord.

I hope you'll join me in a prayer of gratitude to our Father for His many gifts - and especially for the greatest of all - His love.