Why do you attend church? Is it because of your sincere desire to worship and to praise God? Hopefully so, yet far too many people attend worship services because they believe they are “supposed to go to church.” Still others go to church for “social” reasons. But the best reason it attend church is out of a sincere desire to please God, to praise God, to experience God, and to discern God’s will for your life.
Some people may tell you that they do not engage in worship, do not believe them. All of mankind is engaged in worship. The question is not whether we worship, but what we worship. Wise men choose to worship God. When they do, they are blessed with joy, peace, and abundance. Other people choose to distance themselves for God by worshiping things that are intended to bring personal gratification but not spiritual gratification. Sometimes this choice has tragic consequences.
If we place our love for material possessions or social status above our love for God, or if we yield to the countless temptations of this world, we find ourselves engaged in a struggle between good and evil, in a clash between God and Satan. Our responses to these struggles have implications that echo throughout our families and throughout our communities.
How can we ensure that we cast our portion with God? We do so, in part, by the character-building practice of regular, purposeful worship in the company of fellow believers. When we worship God faithfully and fervently, we are blessed. When we fail to worship God, for whatever reason, we forfeit the spiritual gifts that might otherwise be ours.
We must worship our Heavenly Father, not just with our words, but also with deeds. We must honor Him, praise Him, and obey Him. As we seek to find purpose and meaning for our lives, we must first seek His purpose and His will. For believers, God comes first.
When God is at the center of your life, you worship.
When he is not, you worry.
The journey toward spiritual maturity lasts a lifetime. As Christians, we can and should continue to grow in the love and knowledge of our Savior for as long as we live.
When we cease to grow, either emotionally or spiritually, we do ourselves a profound disservice. But, if we study God’s Word, if we obey His commandments, and if we live in the focus of His will, we will not be “stagnant” believers, we will, instead, be growing Christians, and that is exactly what God intends for us to be.
Our lives and our characters are constructed by the countless thoughts and choices we make every day. Each day, we make decisions that can strengthen our characters, or not. When we choose to honor the Creator with our thoughts, our prayers, and our actions, we keep growing day by day, and that is precisely what each of us should do. (See Eph. 4:11-16, II Thess. 1:3-7)
On two occasions in scripture, the phrase, "Going the way of all the earth" is used in reference to a person preparing to cross from this life into eternity. Joshua used the phrase near the end of his life, shortly before his famous challenge to his people to "Choose" who they would serve (Joshua 23:14). And in the closing moments of David's life, the great king told his son, Solomon, that his death was near with this same phrase (1 Kings 2:2).
Reading the statements of these two good men leads us to ponder what was on their minds as they saw their time on earth ending. And, this is one of those occasions wherein we don't have to "really" wonder for the Holy Spirit has revealed to us exactly what they were thinking.
Joshua used his parting words to remind those who heard him to never forget the kindness of the Lord and that He had never, ever failed them. He reiterated that, with obedience to the Lord's commands, great blessings would come. And, with disobedience to those same commands would come God's anger (Joshua 23:15-16). The great leader went on to challenge the people to remember their pledge to serve the Lord and only Him. In fact, Joshua said to them that they were, "Witnesses against yourselves" (Joshua 24:2).
David closed out his life by challenging his son to make a similar choice and commitment to the Creator by saying, "Prove yourself a man" (1 Kings 2:2). To accomplish this task, Solomon's father told him to be mindful of the Lord's ways and statutes, reinforcing the timeless, biblical truth that with an adherence to the Lord's commands comes His blessings and care.
Like Joshua and David, each of us will one day, "Go the way of the earth." Of course, we are not granted the knowledge of when or how that will be. What we can do is to make sure that each day is one in which we live with the spirit of Joshua and David, being mindful of the power of our words.
When we depart from one another, even if not for eternity, it's a fitting time for us to reflect on what we could say and what we would say for the final time to those that we care so much about. Perhaps the answer to such an inquiry would be different for different people. But for each of us as saints, it certainly must echo the thoughts of these two great men.
The best "parting advice" that any of us can give to others is to remind each other of the holy pledge we've made to serve God and Him alone. And, let us prove ourselves to be true, wholesome men and women of God by being ever mindful of His ways and statutes, dutifully following our Lord who has done more for us than we've ever deserved. Praise Be To God!
Submitted by Don Case
Often we hear religious leaders referred to as pastor or priest. Are these biblical names that should be applied to the religious leader today? Is it right for a man to wear these names?
In the New Testament, the word pastor is used exclusively in reference to the work and office of an elder. For example, the word for pastor, overseer, and shepherd is found in Acts 20:28 and I Peter 5:2-4. In both cases, it is used to describe the work and office of elders. The New Testament church did not have a single pastor; it is not authorized in the Bible. In every case where pastors are spoken of it is always a plurality of men (I Peter 5:1, Acts 20:17). In the New Testament, there is not a single pastor ruling the church. The one case we have of a man trying to rule the church by himself is condemned by God. A common misconception many have is that the preacher is the pastor which is not a biblical concept. Nowhere in the Bible will you find a preacher referred to as the pastor. In fact, most of them could not be a pastor, because they do not meet the qualifications for a pastor or elder. ( I Timothy 3). The churches of Christ do not have a head pastor, because it is not authorized in the Bible.
We do have pastors or elders as used in the biblical sense of men shepherding the church of God. (Acts 20:28)
Should any religious leader wear the title of Priest or Father? In the New Testament, Jesus is our High Priest who made one sacrifice forever for sins (Heb. 3:1, 8:1, 10:12). The purpose of the priest under the Law of Moses was to make sacrifices to God for the people's sins (Lev. 1:5). The New Testament teaches that we are no longer under the Old Law (Col. 2:14). Jesus Christ is our High Priest, and He has made one sacrifice for sins forever. The teachings of Scriptures illustrate for us the need to go back to the Bible and study the Word of God. It teaches us that we must not believe what we may have always heard instead we must search the Scriptures for ourselves.
Two Dangers Of Evil Men
Solomon warns of two dangers regarding evil men in Proverbs 24:1. First, he cautions us to never be envious of evil men. Satan will deceive us and make us believe that, in spite of their evil ways, these people have wonderfully pleasant and prosperous lives. Secondly, the wise man says that we should not desire to be with evil men. While being with sinners can have an appeal for various reasons, God knows there's no good that comes from allowing ourselves to be influenced by those whose priorities are anything but the Lord's!
Making a decision to serve God isn't one to take lightly. Becoming a Christian means putting off the old man and replacing him with a new man who's now dedicated to the cause of Christ (Colossians 3:9). The prophet Ezekiel seemed to talk of this when he counseled, "Get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit" as part of the recipe for dealing with Israel's transgressions (Ezekiel 18:31). The decision that we make to serve God must truly involve new hearts and new spirits. That ancient truth is valid today.
To have a new heart is to have new feelings. Ask an atheist-turned-Christian and he'll often describe his former life of one without much care or concern. The threat of hell or reward of heaven are nonexistent in the minds of those who don't believe in God, His Son, or His plan. In leaving sin, however, atheists and all involved in the transgression of God's laws must feel differently about life, right and wrong, and our own place in the world. The children of Israel who were the primary focus of Ezekiel's words had a history of no longer caring about their Deliverer and forsaking His sacred commands. They, along with each of us, needed a "wake up" call that reminds those who have pledged their lives to God have promised Him that our hearts and feelings about who we are and what we're about are going to be drastically different.
A new spirit, according to Ezekiel, is also required. The word spirit is the word used for life or breath in numerous locations throughout the Old Testament. What an amazing thought! God expects our very essence and our every breath to be considerate of our responsibilities to Him. Living in sin requires little care or preparation. Living for God, however, is something that should be a part of who we are automatically. Just as we breathe 24 hours each day without ever giving it a thought, so should our lives for Christ exist in natural ways. Of course, serving our Creator isn't natural and therein lies the great importance of what Ezekiel says. No servant of God has ever nor will ever be successful in pleasing Him unless serious thought is given to our spirits. It's essential to consider the importance of our hearts and spirits if we want to please our Father. Let us daily work to renew them and always make service to Him the single most important part of who we are and what we're about.
Let us dedicate ourselves to the "unnatural" life of serving God as our Master, ever-mindful of the great value that comes from New Hearts and New Spirits!