Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Chapter 9.5: Spirit and Truth: Spirit

       My brother Arthur Criste, who is a worship leader for God's House Maui, has helped me author the last part of this chapter. In this chapter we have covered worshiping God in the truth and now we will look at what it means to worship in spirit.

       John 4:23, Gal 5:13-22, Romans 8:1, and 12:1. These are the first few verses we will be looking at when it comes to what it means to worship God in the spirit. First thing we must be is filled with the spirit but what does that mean? Well, being filled with spirit means having the fruit of the spirit manifest. Which are all connected to pleasing and honoring our Father through worship and praise. This is powerful because being filled with His spirit will allow the truth to operate the way God intended it. The truth of course is the word of God. His truth is the breath which brings forth life and life more abundantly. The Bible says the truth shall set you free!!! The only way you can truly be set free is through Jesus Christ and His spirit. Which is why I believe Jesus, the son of God, is the only way to please the father. God desires to be worshiped by His spirit and truth. We can't please God just by our earthly desires because it will always be tainted and misguided by our own desires but we can do this through the Holy Spirit. That is why it says in John 4:24: God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

John 14:6 truth John 6:63: Spirit

       The Bible says the He is the way the Truth and it also says that He is the light. The Bible goes on to say God is spirit which is why I believe God desires us to worship Him in spirit and in truth. One of the ways His spirit is described is a movement of air or in other words a gentle blast of the wind. Simply put He is a breath of fresh air. We need the spirit of God like we need the very air we breathe. Just one breath of God that is all it takes. The Spirit of God will bring life, comfort, peace, power to break any chain, it brings love, it brings hope, and takes us into that place of pureness where you are stripped down to nothing but yet feel so much more fulfilled because of His spirit. These two things cannot be separated because it is a unit He didn't want us to separate. We can not have one without the other because to have the fullness of worship you will need to have both. When you try to separate the two and only operate in one or hold one above the other you are not tapping into the fullness of what God has in store for you. It is like if you took the peanut butter away from a peanut butter jelly sandwich, it is stills good when it is on its own but they are best when they are put together.
       So, if we desire to give God our best worship we should have the desire to worship Him the way he would liked to be worshiped. A way of looking at is like this: I'm happily married to a wonderful beautiful wife and she has a certain way that she would like to be loved. She desires that I do some house work like wash the dishes, fold the laundry, throw out the trash, and etc. She also desires that I communicate with her better, like having conversations about our day, what is coming up, and etc. So these are just a couple examples of the way my wife feels loved. If I would just ignore some of these things and hardly ever did them, would she feel like I do not truly love her? No, but she would probably think that I am not listening to her and therefore do not really truly care about the way she would like to be loved. When you are in a relationship you are not trying to get what you want from them. Instead think of how you can best please the other person, which is what really makes for successful relationships, if you are only thinking about yourself and what you can get out of the relationship it will not flourish into all what that relationship can be. I believe this is the same way with God. When it comes to worship and loving our Father He makes it very clear on how He would like to be loved and worshiped. He is such a loving father He designed worship in the easiest most fulfilling way possible. You won't only please Him but you will learn to draw closer and closer to Him. The more you do this naturally your whole life will reflect the fruit of the spirit and you will have more love, joy peace, kindness, gentleness, meekness, and self control. Then through the spirit God's truth will be able to function the way He intended it to function with no ulterior motives just purity and truth.
       So I propose this as we end, how are you worshiping our father? As I expressed early, is it what our Father Desires? Lets really dig deep into His word and dive into the depths of His heart to find what He desires. All He wants is your yes, but lets really give Him our all by studying His word, spending time with Him in prayer, filling yourself with His songs, and most of all living this life as a worshiper of Him. As Eddie mentioned in the last chapter, lets serve others be it at work, at school, at home, with our family, and our friends as if we were serving Jesus himself. How much more would we respect one another, how much more would we give the shirt off of our own back, and how much more would we spend time with people we feel we can't stand. Lets make a difference in this world by living a life of services to our God by being that servant to all as we would serve Him. Let us all die to our selfish desires and look to Him.
       I love you all my brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us all link arms and represent Christ the way He intended us too. Lets not regard ourselves by race, culture, social status, denomination, church, or anything else society says instead lets be a people of who are lovers of God and His ways!!!! Being the most loving and encouraging people on this earth. We can only do all these things if we submit to the Holy Spirit which is the kind of worship the Father really desires.

       Thank you very much brother. We must not get side tracked by tradition, which we love to call the spirit, but instead submit to what God has said in His word and is saying now to our hearts. To worship God in the way He desires is simple; being lead by the spirit and submitting to the truth. When we do this we make God look good. When we do not and say that we are, we are making God look bad. Let us no longer take for granted the freedom given to us through the death and resurrection of Christ but rather take that freedom to worship God the way He intended us to.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Chapter 9: Spirit and Truth: Truth

       Okay let us calm down a little from the last chapter, I know I sorta got on my soap box a bit, and lets look at something most of us have heard preached a lot. So, from the title you probably know what I am going to talk about. John 24:4, "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." I have pondered on this scripture for a very long time and I am not saying I have figured it all out but plan to give my thoughts on it so far. Like always I plan to tackle this in two parts but I plan to tackle this in reverse of what is said in the scripture. I feel like before we can really worship God in spirit we must know who he is and if we are truthfully worshiping him. So let us first look at the truth of the matter.
       I want to tackle the truth part of this chapter in two parts. First the truth of who we are worshiping and second if we are truthfully worshiping him. So lets look at who we are worshiping. Many of us say that we are worshiping the Lord but are we really? Let me put it this way. Let say you are dating someone for a while, how long does not really matter, and you say that you love that person. Then after a while that person starts showing you who they really are and you break up with them. Then, after all of that, someone asks you, "did you really love that person?" You respond with, "well the person that I fell in love with was not really who they were." Now, that may seem like a really odd analogy but let me ask a very serious question, are you worshiping the God of the Bible or a version of God that you have made up? I have heard of a lot of people who are now atheist say that they were raised in church but fell away when they got older. Why? you may ask. Well, they say because they were told about God but really did not know Him and when they did their own research it was not what they were raised with. So they just figured that it was all just false. See, many of us have a God in our mind that we have been taught about but is He the full version of God revealed to us in the Bible. We can not worship God in truth unless we truly know Him, just like we can not truly love someone if we only know one side of them. So lets go back to the basics of studying the word of God so we can truly worship Him in all of his glory because of who He is wholly.

       Now in an earlier chapter I gave a handful of attributes of God that we should be like as His followers. (Chapter 2 What's In A Name) These are the same attributes that we all normally praise Him for but I want to add that I have heard God called perfect love and perfect justice. Now my question is do we just worship Him for His perfect love? I am a parent and at times I have to spank my kids and to be honest it is heartbreaking every time. After I spank my kids and they have calmed down I always tell them that I love them. I will hold them and wipe away their tears and wait for them to tell me that they love me back. (Some people may disagree with spanking and that is fine but I find it biblical just as long as it is a spanking not beating). With all of that, if God is perfect justice do we tell Him we love Him when He has to "spank" us? It says in Hebrews 12:5-6, "and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, "MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM; FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES." See the one we worship has to not only be the loving father but also the one who will call us out even if it hurts. On the flip side I want to add that at a Bible study I had once I asked people to describe God in one word. The over all answer was "smiter", I know that is not a word but you get the idea, and when asked to describe Jesus it was "love". The funny thing is that God the Father and Jesus are all part of the God head but we have polar opposite ideas of who they are. It is funny to me because God the Father, the smiter, sent Jesus, the one who loves us, to die for us because God the Father loved us so much. On top of all of that Jesus is the one who talked about hell and punishment more than He did about heaven. What gets me the most is that we have made this idea of God up in our minds that is either uneducated or we choose to overlook the hard things to swallow. I am completely okay with idea of God being full of mercy, love and grace but am also completely okay with the God who pours out wrath. If we are going to worship God we must do it knowing the truth about Him and the truth is that He is love but He is also jealous for our love so much that He will be hard on us to make sure He receives our love.
       Now, on to if we are truly worshiping God. Let me show another scenario: Lets say that there are a group of people worshiping from morning till noon. They dance and they shout. They sing praises the whole time. They do what their traditions are but get no answer. What went wrong? Well some may say that they were not really praising or maybe their heart was not in the worship but if you know the story then you might realize that I am talking about the prophets of Baal. What is really sad is it sounds like most churches today. See, somewhere we have lost what true worship looks like. We have made it a song or a service but to be honest that is not really what worship is all about. We are told what true worship is in Romans 12: 1-2, " And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice--the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." True worship to God is a heart that is given over to Him totally. See, a heart given over to God can bring songs about like in psalms but it is not the song that is the worship. We get so mixed up with the culture of worship now a days we forget what God has called worship in the Bible. That is why I did not end with verse 1. We must not just follow the way the world does things all the way to the way the world worships, be it to people or otherwise. There are many love songs out there to people and to be honest our worship at times can seem to be just like those songs. We must get back to a lifestyle of worship to God starting with our heart. The songs we sing is not the kind of worship that God wants it is the lifestyle of a person. Everything we do is worship to God. I always say this to people, "I can find out what kind of follower of Christ you are by simply asking your boss." That may sound weird but think about it. If I asked someones boss what kind of worker they are and I am told that they are lazy, undependable, and all around not a good employee then it is reasonable to believe that that same person would more than likely have a lukewarm relationship with God. Some people may disagree with me about this but are we not told to do everything as unto the Lord? The Bible goes as far as to tell slaves to obey their masters even if they are harsh ones so that they can show them the gospel. True worship to God is a lifestyle that brings Him glory all the time. It can not just be a song or service it must be something that comes from the heart that ultimately brings a change of lifestyle.
       So the truth is are we truly worshiping the true God of the Bible? We make God look bad when we do not worship Him in the way His word tells us to. We make him look powerless when the world sees us worship and nothing happens or when we talk about only a part of who He really is. We make him look bad when our worship looks no different than idol worship that the world does all the time. We make him look even worse when our worship for idols, be it sports, movies, or anything else that is worldly far surpasses our worship for God. I am not saying any of those things are blatantly bad but what I am saying is that when we can quote stats, movie lines, words from a song, or whatever else better than the word of God we might want to really look at what is important. Who is it that we are really worshiping and what is it that gets our highest worship? We can no longer just hobble by with this half hearted half given life to God and call it worship. We must get back to studying the Bible to find out who this God is that we claim to love and what kind of worship He really desires out of us. If we want to really worship Him in spirit and truth than maybe we need to start finding out what the truth of the matter is. 

       I think the main problem is that we love to say we worship with our heart but really never worship with our head. We must stop making worship just an emotional thing and learn to also worship him with our understanding also. Someone's personal style of worship does not bother me. What I am mainly trying to point out is that when worshiping God do we really worship Him in total truth. Truth through repentance, truth through forgiveness, truth through submission, truth through humbleness, and most of all truth through the grace given to us through Christ Jesus our Lord. I only have one question: Are we truly worshiping God?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Chapter 8.5 That Is In The Bible?!

       You are right "this too shall pass" is not in the Bible but when times are rough bro remember what it says in Jeremiah 29:11 "for I know the plans I have for you". Wait, what? That's not what that scripture is talking about. You can not just pull scriptures out of context and apply them to what you are going through. Another thing that really bothers me is when we, as followers of Christ, pull scriptures out of context. In the second part of this chapter, like always read the first one to get CONTEXT (lol), I plan to show how we take scriptures out of context and make them something that they are not. There are a lot of scriptures that get pulled out of context that people make a whole theology off of. Again I do not plan to tackle the prosperity gospel or the "hyper grace" gospel in this chapter and trust me there are many scriptures pulled out of context to make up those theologies.
       Context is the key to understanding the word of God properly. Just like anything else, when something is taken out of context it can mean something totally different. Lets say you told somebody something like, "I do not like to hang out with my brother/sister when they are acting stupid", but when quoted back to your brother/sister someone says that you said, "I really do not like to hang out with my brother/sister". At that time you would say, "Hold on, that is not all that I said, you are taking that out of context". No one likes to be taken out of context so why do we so readily and easily take the Bible out of context? Well the answer is easy, we do it because either it makes us feel better somehow or we do not know the whole context. This goes back to simply studying the Bible for ourselves and not just being hearers of the word. Like the earlier part of this chapter I am only going to cover three scriptures (the list is a lot longer than that, I promise) that are taken out of context by a lot of people.
       Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope". Now this is one of those scriptures that brings a lot of people hope and I really hope that it does not hurt to many feelings but I do plan to talk about it. I want to say first that I am not against quoting promises from the Bible for us and I think that there are many promises for us but not this one. Let us look at this scripture in its context.
First, we must look at who is saying this and then who it is being said to. The book of Jeremiah is Prophetic Oracle and Narrative History, although not completely in chronological order. The prophet Jeremiah wrote it sometime during his ministry about 626-586 B.C. Key personalities are the many kings Judah, Baruch, Ebdemelech, King Nebuchadnezzar, and the Rechabites. Its purpose was to warn of the destruction that they were about to face and to urge Judah to return and submit to God. Jeremiah was a priest who God calls to be His prophet. Jeremiah identifies their sins and treachery, as he wants them to realize the serious condition of their sinful ways. He then gives prophecies of the coming king and the New Covenant that would be made. Now more specifically whom is Jeremiah writing to in chapter 29? Well let us look at the first verse: "Jeremiah wrote a letter from Jerusalem to the elders, priests, prophets, and all the people who had been exiled to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar". So now in context we see that what is written is for a specific group. Who is this group? Well, the exiles of Jerusalem. See, even though I do believe that God does know the plans He has for us I also see that we can not just assume that those plans are for us to prosper but at times go through hard times. If we just simply take this scripture  out of context then we have to contend with many o
ther verses (that Christ himself said) that tell us otherwise. Christ tells us that we will be hated and even killed because we are His followers. This is in stark contrast to the idea of prospering, having good, and not having evil happen to us. This scripture is a hard one for me to talk on because I know many people will say that I might be saying that God only wants us to suffer but that is not at all what I am saying. What I am saying is that we can not simply quote scriptures out of context to give ourselves false hope. We must always rest in the strength of God and know that even if His plan for us is hard times we must be content with that. Paul on many occasions tells us exactly that. The last thing with Jeremiah chapter 29 is that later in that chapter there is another promise God makes that I never hear anyone quote. In verse 17 it says: "This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: “I will send war, famine, and disease upon them and make them like bad figs, too rotten to eat". Now I never hear this quoted but it is in the same chapter. Many will say, "well there is a direct group he is talking to", exactly my point. Context, context, context, we must read the Bible in context and not pull out things and say that one promise is for us and the other bad stuff isn't.
       On to the next one; Matthew 7:1, "Do not judge others, and you will not be judged". Oh this one really gets me. I have heard this from believers and nonbelievers alike. This scripture seems to be almost as well known as John 3:16. The funny thing is that the reason this one bothers me is because it does not take much research, not as much as the last one at least, to see how it is taken out of context. In context it would look like this: "Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. And why worry about a speck in your friend's eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, 'Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,' when you can't see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend's eye". (Matthew 7:1-5) Lets look at it like this: If one person is on drugs and tells another person on drugs that they should stop doing drugs then they are in the wrong for judging but if the first person gets off drugs and goes to the second person and says, "hey I use to be on drugs too but I have found a better way, you should try it", then the first person is well within his/her rights, biblicaly, to say that. We do not like to see that scripture like this because we think it is a get out of jail free card to any rebuke brought to us. Well it isn't. If someone comes to you to rebuke you in a subject that they have went through and overcame it through the power of Christ then they have all right to lovingly call you out. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 5: 12, "It isn't my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning". It is simple. If someone is inside the church and sinning then we have a right to openly and lovingly rebuke them for that sin. We need to stop taking scriptures out of context to make ourselves look like we are being attacked when we get rebuked and realize that, at times, an open rebuke is just what we need.
       This last scripture will get a little hairy because it is an issue that is very big for our time. I want to give a disclaimer before I go on. I whole heartily believe that homosexuality is a sin and that in no way does the Bible say otherwise. I believe the word of God is very clear on this subject and that we should always stand in line with the Bible. With all of that, one of the scriptures that gets quoted on this subject, out of context of course, is Leviticus 20:13-"If a man practices homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman, both men have committed a detestable act. They must both be put to death, for they are guilty of a capital offense". Now, before you go off the deep end on me with this one let me explain. See, first the book of Leviticus is the of laws for the tribes of Israel, more specifically the Levites hence the name Leviticus. Second, in this book there are a lot of things that we do today that it calls unholy yet we do them and say that it is okay. Finally, there are better scriptures to use that are in the new testament that we should use to make our point. Let me show you why I say this. So yes Leviticus 20:13 said that but right before that verse it says in 20:9, "Anyone who dishonors father or mother must be put to death. Such a person is guilty of a capital offense". I do not hear a lot of people quote this one, why? Well because it is common place for disrespect from child to parent, we just call it teenage years, and even though it is wrong we still do not think that they should be put to death. How about 20:10, "If a man commits adultery with his neighbor's wife, both the man and the woman who have committed adultery must be put to death". This happens a lot in our day in age, sadly probably more in the church then we like to admit, but again we do not quote this scripture at them. We must make sure what scripture we use to stand for or against things can not be simply dismissed by just looking at surrounding verses. So if you are going to stand against homosexuality, as I believe we should as believers, then how about use this verse instead: "That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved." (Romans 1:26,27)
       Like I said in the first part of this chapter there is nothing that gets to me more than the misuse of scriptures. We must study to show ourselves approved just like the Bible tells us to. We can no longer hear scriptures from the stage, TV, or anywhere else and just take that at face value. We must hear the word, read the word, and most of all study the word. I would like to say after all that I have just written I may still be wrong on some of these scriptures so please go and do your own homework and see if what I have said is in context of the Bible. I am just a man and I can make mistakes but I will say that not only do I study before I write any chapter I also study any time I read the word of God. We must get back to making sure what we believe what the word says is really what the word is saying. We can not just rip things out of context and plug it in to our lives like it really is the whole truth of the word of God. We must be diligent with our studies so when faced with things we do not just look stupid or give ourselves a false sense of reality. Please, can we stop making God look bad, or at worst bipolar, by taking things out of context to suit our lifestyles. Instead we should be changing our lifestyles to fit in to the word of God.
       Finally I will ask some questions. What have you believed was in the word of God that really was just out of context? Do you study enough to be able to tell when something is misquoted? Are you making God look bad by twisting the Bible to suit how you live? Are you making God look bad by simply not knowing what is in the Bible?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Chapter 8: That's Not In The Bible?!

       Hey bro I know that times are rough right now but like it says in the Bible, "this too shall pass." Well actually no that is not in the Bible! WHAT? IT'S NOT??? So, one way that we really make God look bad is not knowing what is said by God. Now I am not saying I know everything that is written in the Bible but I do know that we, as the body of Christ, misquote or even say things that are not in the Bible. We must make sure what we say God has said is really something that God said. There are many things that are said that people believe that is in the Bible but in reality it is not. In this chapter we are going to cover not only things not in the Bible but also things that are in the Bible that we forget.
       Before we get into the meat of this chapter I want to say that before we start quoting anything it is good to go and make sure we are quoting it correctly. How upset would you be if someone put words in your mouth, even if those words might be good. One of my favorite memes on the internet is the one that says, "you can not trust everything you see on the internet"- Abraham Lincoln. Now I know this is very funny but it highlights what I am saying perfectly. I do not plan to tackle all the things said by people that are not in the Bible, that would take to long, just three that I think are interesting. I will not be dealing with stuff like the misuses of scripture in the prosperity gospel, I plan to talk about that in a chapter all by itself later.
       So back to "this too shall pass". Now as much as this sounds like it may very well be in the Bible; it is not. This quote, like many others, can be found in a round about way. What I mean by this is even though it may not say those words exactly there is some scriptural things that can mean basically the same thing. Okay so first where did the saying come from? This saying is believed to come from an old Persian poem. This story, Attar of Nishapur, records one fable of a powerful king who asks assembled wise men to create a ring that will make him happy when he is sad, and vice versa. After debating, the sages hand him a simple ring with the words “This too will pass” etched on it, which has the desired effect. So how about what the Bible says? Well we know that the Bible says, "So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today." (Matthew 6:34) Also the Bible says, “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever. So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” (2 Corinthians 4: 17-18). This is one of the quotes I do not personally mind so much but do not like people saying that it is plainly in the Bible when it is not.

 Next one is "God will not put on you more than you can handle". I will admit that I may have said this one in my youth, when I did not know the Bible as well, but none the less it is not in the Bible. This quote, like the last one, is one of those quotes meant to help people in hard times. I am not against using the Bible, properly of course, to help people when times are tough but we first must make sure we are quoting the Bible and second not give people false hope. This quote does not have a cool back story like the other one it is simply a misquote form the Bible. The verse that people are using is 1 Corinthians 10:13 and it is actually referring to dealing with temptation, not problems in life. The verse says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” I will say that I can sorta see, if I tilt my head a bit and squint real hard, how this scripture can be used improperly. My main point is when using the Bible make sure you use verses in context and do not try to twist them so you can simply ease someone's troubled mind.
       Now on to one of my favorite ones. "Love the sinner, not the sin." I will once again admit that I have said this, A LOT and not more than a year ago, but this quote is not in the Bible either. This one, unlike the others, I have heard people even give credit to Jesus. Not only is this one not in the Bible it is definitely no where in red letters. This quote sounds so good that it is easy for almost any believer to think that it comes straight out of the Bible but it actually comes from St. Augustine’s letters, which contains the phrase “Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum,” translated to “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.” Now an argument can be made that in a round about way the Bible actually says this. Things like, "love your neighbor as yourself", and "God does not delight in wickedness" are just two scriptures that we could use to make such an argument. The best scripture that could be used is Romans 12:9 "Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good." I am not saying that we should not love people and hate sin but what I am saying is before saying that the Bible says that directly we should make sure it does.
       The whole reason I started this blog was to bring to light things that we as followers of Christ do to make God look bad. I have spent the last four months going through many things that either has been done or is currently happening that does exactly that. I have talked on many different things in a wide variety of subjects and plan to continue. The reason I am saying all of this is because I hold very dear the Bible and the things said in it. Many others and myself have talked about subject from the Bible that we can do better at but the thing that bothers me the most is the simple fact that the "average Christian" just does not study let alone even read the Bible. I have heard the Bible referred to as "the handbook for life" but it is so much more than that. The Bible is the very life blood of our life. The Bible contains the very Gospel that saves us. It contains the truth about life, death, and everything in between. We can not just simple treat it like a book with good ideas or great proverbs for life. The Bible is more than just powerful words it is the power in word form. This is the reason that when we, as believers, misquote or even say that the Bible says something it does not I get very upset. The Bible should be treated with great respect and never just used flippantly. Worshiping God, learning about God, and understanding God can all be found in that book. So as believers we must get back to not just reading it but, instead, studying it. We must stop hearing things and going along with them. Instead, we should study what we hear so that we will not fall in to the trap of repeating something that may not be true.
       I normally end with a series of questions that would go something like this: What quotes have you heard that you think are in the Bible? or When is the last time you really studied the Bible? Both good questions but instead I will ask just one question. Do you treat the Bible with the importance it deserves? In your reading, when you hear it talked about, and in your life.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Chapter 7.5 Why Are You Still Sitting There?

My Brother in Christ, Pastor Dwayne Dunning, has put together another great chapter. Here is the second part of this chapter, like always please read the first one to get the full understanding of what is being said.

Pastors preach and the congregation just needs to sit there and listen. Don’t do anything with what is being said, just sit back and enjoy the nice speaker and his beautiful voice. Please just be entertained by all of it. Isn't that what it is all about anyway? Isn't this what Jesus wanted from His “followers”, a bunch of “hearers” not listeners or doers? Let me ask you, does this sound at all correct? Of course not.

While thinking about this dilemma, the problem of obesity came to mind. “Why obesity?” you may ask. Well, let me explain. I can remember many Sundays when I was young, leaving the church and my dad saying, “I am so tired of all of the overweight Christians in the world”. As a boy I thought he meant this literally. I mean obesity is a major problem in America, isn't it? People are dying more often of complications from being overweight. Kids are bigger now than they ever have been. We get lazier and lazier. So I just thought he meant it literally. I mean, I saw Mr. So and So that could barely stand up to pray without almost killing over. I saw large people at the church every time we went. But he was saying nothing about the physical weight or size of the people’s bodies. He was speaking about their spiritual condition. My dad was upset because of the lack of willingness to be a true follower of Christ. My dad saw their lack of concern and desire to get off their rear ends and do something for the Kingdom.

This intrigued me, so I sat down one day and asked my dad more about this thought. After the conversation I saw his correlation. Too many people come in to services on Sunday, partake of the word, and then just let it sit there. They do nothing with it. It is no different than sitting down at the dinner table every night, consuming everything that is in front of you, and then going straight to bed. We all know what happens then. It goes straight to our hips and we get fat! If we never exercise, we will just get fat and be out of shape.

The word that is given by pastors is like the meat and milk for our spiritual lives, it is the food that we need so badly for our health. It is part of our spiritual nourishment. Just like our meals are our physical nourishment. But there has to be a time of working it off. We can’t just sit back and take it all in or we are just fat, sloppy, lazy Christians.

Most of us are like babies, we have to be spoon fed. We aren't responsible enough to feed ourselves. We don’t dig into the meat of our word enough on our own and we need that person to feed us. Not saying this is the way it should be. We should get into the word on our own, but God has given us pastors to also feed us the word. Ephesians 4:11- It was he who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers. We need what God is feeding us through them. But we have to get out and work it off or we will get fat and useless.

Pastors get the word, study it, and put time into the message, just as a mother that cares for her family spends time in the kitchen preparing a great meal for her family. This message or meal is not for you to just hear but to apply it and actually begin to use it in life. As pastors, they want legs put to the words and they want healthy energetic Christians.

After a meal has been eaten and we are full, we need to then take the time to exercise and work off the weight. We need to take the nourishment we have been given and work it off and make it count. When God has given a word to the pastor that leads you, you need to partake of it and then exercise it in your life. By doing this, it helps lead you to a healthy spiritual life. It causes you to begin to do and be what God wants.

Pastors take what they have been called to do very seriously, at least they better. I know that there are those men that pull off a Saturday night special and just get up in the pulpit and spout off whatever they have thrown together, but most seek God and put all that they are into every message that is spoken. Why? Because they want us to live it out. They don’t just want people that sit in the pew and hear the words, but people that will listen to the words of God and then become doers of that word.

In his book The Lost Art of Listening, Michael Nichols writes, "Listening is so basic that we take it for granted. Unfortunately, most of us think of ourselves as better listeners than we really are." In other words, most people are no more than “hearers”. They aren't really paying much attention to what is being said. They are taking it in, but it really isn't doing much. Sort of like a child sitting down and just inhaling the plate of food that is in front them. We have to listen, really listen to the words that have been given by God to the pastors that are over our lives. If not, there is failure.

Why do many marriages thrive, while others fail to survive? Why do many families flourish, while others seem to falter? Why do many sermons inspire, while others lack fire? It often depends on how well people listen. For those of you that are pastors, consider your own pulpit ministry. As you actively listen and learn from God's Word and from God's people, your preaching becomes all the more vibrant and vital. Consider your congregation. As members actively listen to God's Word, as they hear and heed Christ's call, as they prayerfully respond to the Spirit's leading, they become all the more fruitful in fulfilling the mission that has been set before them.

Charles Swindoll suggests that Christians who study Scripture, hear the words of a pastor, but seldom put God's Word into practice are not followers at all. Rick Warren speaks of this kind of inactive listening among believers. Warren observes, "The Dead Sea is dead because it takes in water but doesn't give any out. When any Christian's schedule consists completely of receiving biblical input but has no planned outflow of ministry or evangelism, his spiritual growth will be limited. Study without service leads to stagnation.”

This is exactly what I am trying to get us to understand. All of us need to listen to the words that are spoken to us by our pastors, apply them to our lives and do something with them. If not, we become stagnant and fat. This in turn makes us useless to the Kingdom.

Look at what the writer of Hebrews sad about this. Hebrews 13:17- “Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”

According to what was written, we are called to submit to the words and authority of our pastors, those who lead us. The only biblical authority a pastor has comes from the Word of God and the Holy Spirit working through his teaching in the lives of his flock. In effect, he’s not a source of authority himself, but a vessel of it from the Lord to His people. That’s the authority God’s people need to submit to—the work of the Spirit through the faithful, consistent teaching of God’s Word through the pastor.

And how should believers respond to that kind of authority? It says to obey it and submit to it. Don’t just hear it but listen to it and begin to apply it to your life. Do something with the nourishment that is being fed to you. Listen to it and use it. According to the scripture, if you do not, “it would be unprofitable to you.” It would be worthless and pointless.

Think right now about your pastors and what they are asked to do. It’s a tremendous grief to try to shepherd a rebellious flock. Watching over the people of God is no easy task to begin with. Pastors are called to train, disciple, support, and serve you. They are called to guard your purity, and to lend insight and exercise oversight with you. They are also called to exhort, warn, admonish, reprove, rebuke, and discipline in the application of God’s Word in your lives—all for the sake of your spiritual growth. They are called to feed you.

That’s hard enough with believers who are eager, engaged, and hungry. It’s almost impossible with people who won’t be faithful and put legs to the words that have been fed to them. If you have a faithful pastor or church leader who exemplifies the qualities of a shepherd, let him know how much you appreciate his labor on your behalf (1 Thessalonians 5:12). It will be a great encouragement to him to know he’s making a spiritual difference in your life. Let them know that you appreciate the meal that is fed to you each week. Don’t do this through empty words. “Great message today pastor!”. Show your appreciation by getting up and exercising and working off the meal that was given. Put legs to the words of your pastor. Be doers and not just fat, overweight, stagnant, “Christians”.

And just to be brutally honest here in the end. If you’re a believer who rejects the biblical authority of the pastor and won’t submit to his leadership, you need to do a careful, thorough examination of your heart. What’s behind your rebellious spirit? What sin are you harboring that’s keeping you from submitting to godly authority? What’s keeping you from listening to the word God has given through your pastor and then doing something with that word? Why are you too stubborn to listen and do?

Let’s all begin today with a brand new work out plan. It will consist of daily listening to the word of the pastor, consuming it, and then going out and putting it to work. Let’s all try and stop the obesity problem in our churches. God bless.

Thank you again Pastor Dwayne and like always I am going to leave you with some questions. Are you an overweight christian? Do you put actions behind what you hear preached? Are you making God look bad by not obeying the words your authority is speaking to you?