Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What is Worship? -a deeper study


A number of years ago I read a newspaper account of a christening party in a wealthy Boston suburb. The parents had opened their palatial home to friends and relatives, who had come to celebrate the wonderful event. As the party was moving along and the people were having a wonderful time eating, drinking, celebrating and enjoying one another, somebody said, ''By the way; where is the baby?'' The heart of the mother jumped and she instantly left the room and rushed into the master bedroom, where she had left the baby asleep in the middle of the massive bed.

The baby was dead smothered by the coats of the guests.

I've often thought about that in reference to how the Lord Jesus Christ is treated in His own Church. We think we are celebrating Him, while in reality we're preoccupied with f'ulfilling our own selfish desires, unconcerned and uncaring about the real reason we're here. One of the great tragedies of contemporary Christianity is that we have allowed the concept of worship to degenerate so that Christ can be neglected or even opposed by those who think they are worshipping Him.

What is Worship? Many are not certain what worship is. Some Christians think of worship as sitting quietly and piously, dreamily contemplating some abstract and ethereal noumenon. Other Christians see worship as liturgy-a structured system to be followed at a certain time, in a specified place with the proper atmosphere and just the right words and music. Still others equate worship with motion or emotion or even volume. To them, intense feelings, loud noise or frenzied activity are essential to fervent worship. Modern Christianity as a whole tends to view worship as an activity that takes place usually in Church on Sunday and perhaps occasionally in the prayer closet during devotions or with a Bible study group. Consequently the spate of books and articles recently published on the subject has focused largely on the forms of worship-style, order of service and ritual-often missing the real point that worship is a life-style, consuming the whole being. Worship is not just mystical, it is intensely practical. It is not rigid, void of spontaneity, but neither is it mindless emotion and activity Worship is nothing if it is not continuous, deliberate, purposeful, active and dynamic. It is all that we are, reacting rightly to all that God is.

In the Old Testament: The first mention of the word worship in the Old Testament is by Abraham. Speaking to his servants, Abraham said, we both will go up that mountain and worship God and come back to you. Genesis 22:5. Here, actually Abraham was going to offer his only son Isaac as a burnt offering to God, in obedience to His command. The burnt sacrifice was meant to please God as a sweet smelling savor. For Abraham it was worship. The meaning for worship, is offering sacrifice to please God, laying on the altar that which is close to your heart, which you love so much!

The Hebrew word for worship in OT is ‘shaw- khaw’, meaning to prostrate, bow down to royalty or God, humbly beseech, do reverence or worship. It is more to do with external expression of respect to a superior being, by bowing down, prostrating oneself before the royalty. Since God manifested through His glory in the temple, Israelites prostrate in towards the temple.

Psalms are full of worship expressions, beautifully describing worship using these same words and adding more expressions like music and singing, etc. E.g. Psalm 95:6-7, Oh, come, let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker...” Also Psalm 96 and other worship Psalms.

Similarly, when the Wise men came from the East to visit the Lord Jesus when He was born, they said, they came to worship Him. In Matthew 2:11, we notice that they fell down and worshipped Him and presented to Him gold, frankincense and myrrh. So the worship involved outward expression and giving costly gifts. Thus, we see that the worship in the OT was mostly concerned with external expressions and offerings and animal sacrifices in the temple. Now let us see what the NT teaches us about worship.

In the New Testament: According to 1 Corinthians 6:19, every believer is a living, breathing temple in which God dwells. That means believers can worship anywhere, at any time-God goes with them in an abiding defense. A Christian can worship anywhere under any kind of circumstance or condition. The sphere of worship is unlimited and worship reaches its most sublime heights when the worshipper is living continuously in God's presence, in the glow of His glory, a life of worship. Biblically, worship is simply honour and adoration directed to God.

The New Testament uses several words for worship. Two of them particularly are noteworthy. The first is proskuneo, a commonly used term that literally means 'to kiss toward,' to kiss the hand,'' or to bow down.' It is the word for worship used to signify humble adoration. The second word is latreuo, which suggests rendering honour or paying homage. The Anglo-Saxon word from which we get our English word weorthscipe, which is tied to the concept of worthiness. That's appropriate, for worship is ascribing to God His worth, stating and affirming His supreme value. All of those terms carry the idea of giving and worship is what we give to God.

Modern Christianity seems committed instead to the idea that God should be giving to us. God does give to us abundantly but we need to understand that a consuming, selfless desire to give to God is the essence and the heart of worship. It begins with the giving first of ourselves and then of our attitudes and then of our possessions-until worship is a way of life...... Read more >>

Encouragement: Life is Unfair--when things don't go my way!

"Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming." (James 5:7)

Past few days I had been down, depressed and in despair because so many I loved, cared for and encouraged have left me and behave like strangers! I have to begin all the way to develop new relationships and friendships.
My experience is not unique. Others before me had, and I am sure others after me, will know the experience of losing people or things or things not going their way. The Bible is full of men sinking into despondency precisely for this reason. E.g. Peter and the other disciples after crucifixion of Christ. Elijah when he heard of the threats of Jezebel. David when his son Absalom pursued him. The list goes on. But why things happen like that?
Sometimes we experience adversities because of our own folly or sin. Part of maturity is to accept my mistakes, admit my sins and hopefully learn from the experience. That's what I realized. I should have been more careful and wise in choosing friends or whom I should be more closer to. Failure in relatioships do happen to all and it is painful.

Adversities as a result of our own folly are almost easier to bear. But not all setbacks can be attributed to personal sins or folly. And this presents the believer with a number of thorny epistemological questions: "How can an Omnipotent God let bad things happen to me unless He is powerless to preventing them and therefore protecting me?" "How can a loving God allow so many innocent children to perish in a fire at a care centre in Mexico recently, etc?" Such questions can not be satisfied even if one proposes that there may have been some greater purpose behind this disappointment or disaster. One could argue if God could not have chosen a less painful way of driving home His point. To take this argument to the extreme, what possible explanation can one have in response to the death of the millions, many of whom were innocent children, in the Second World War?

How to Respond to all this?
The inability to have a reasonable way of understanding such events led many to the conclusion that God must surely be dead. If not dead, then aloof and removed from intervening in human events. Or perhaps powerless. This was the very place God began in His response to Job (Job 38). Instead of explaining Himself or justifying His actions, God simply reasserted who He is. Thus whilst we are unable to understand God's actions, our lack of understanding does not mean that God is not who He proclaims Himself to be. It is our lack of wisdom, or more correctly our lack of faith that is on trial, not God. God does not require us to understand- only believe that He is who He said He is. Thus the response to events that go wrong or do not go our way should be to remain faithful to Him.
What we need to guard against is not being able to see the bigger picture and only focus on the immediacy of the loss. The bigger picture is reflected in the encouraging words, "be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming." (James 5:7) We are reminded that makind though lost and fallen is not doomed to repeat the follies of history. With every successive rise of oppressive regimes and wicked dictators, we are reminded that the Lord's Second Coming draws nearer. When that happens, everyone will be required to give an account for his actions. When He comes again, all our human striving and suffering will come to an end. Thus, as believers in God, our response should be to continue to acknowledge the supreme wisdom and power of God. And when our strong emotions are allowed to be experienced and given vent, we can then acknowledge the supremacy of God over all events including those that affect our lives.

How should we live in the face of adversities that were not of our making?
First, remind ourselves of who God is and chose to remain faithful to Him.
Second, grieve if we must.
And finally, remember that the Lord is coming when all wrongs will be made right.
If the wait seemed long to us, it is only because a thousand years is to the Lord as one day and one day as a thousand years.
In the meantime, don't let your experience go to waste. Comfort others with the comfort that you yourself have been comforted with. You know someone experiencing hardship? Be a supportive friend. Allow the aggrieved person the opportunity to be his or her true self. Let them express their feelings freely. We offer this type of supportive relationship by being available. Accepting and not judging nor condemning their actions is also helpful in showing support. We can also be helpful by being sensitive to the needs of the hurt individual.

Our Lord is coming back soon. And when He does, He will establish justice. His promise provides hope for the future and a balm for the present disappointments.

Be Encouraged.


><> Letter # 20 (14. 6. 2009) <><

Encouragement: Three "Don'ts" When Seeking Advice!

"For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advis­ers make victory sure" (Prov. 11:14 niv).

There are times when we are unsure which option is best, what to do next, or where the Lord wants us go. We feel stressed as we consider the consequences of a possible mistake. Is it time to seek advice?
But finding good advice is not easy. Some advisors are self-centered. Some avoid anything new or risky. Some have hidden agendas- Some are manipulative, even controlling. Can't the Lord lead His children directly without the use of human advisors?
Solomon wrote, "For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advis­ers make victory sure" (Prov. 11:14 niv). Clearly, good advice is very useful. "Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to take warning" (Eccl. 4:1 3).
He who doesn't seek advice is either arrogant or foolish. First Kings 12-14 contains three important "don'ts" when seeking advice.

1 Kings 12: Don't Under-Value Experience
When Solomon died, his son Rehoboam, age 41, inherited the kingdom, and immediately faced a dilemma - to raise or reduce taxes. Being the son of a wise man, Rehoboam was pretty bright himself, and, to his credit, fol­lowed his father's proverb and sought advice. First he "consulted the elders who had served Solomon during his lifetime" (12:6). They recommended he lower taxes. Then he "consulted the young men who had grown up with him" (12:8). They recom­mended an increase. He decided to increase taxes, and that deci­sion led to the death of the chief tax collector and the kingdom's division (12:18-19).
What can we learn from Rehoboam's unwise choice? Is it simply a matter of choosing the advice of older advisors over younger? No. It has to do with valuing what has been learned from experience- Solomon and his advisors had built up Israel to the admiration of neighboring na­tions. What supported the advice of the elders? A series of wise choices. What lay behind the advice of the younger men? At best a set of theories; at worst, a hunger for power.
Be careful where you seek advice. It you want advice on marriage or on raising children, ask happy Christian families. If you are looking for advice on career choicer, seek counsel from Christians whose life is a healthy balance of work, family and serv­ice. It is much easier to talk, write books and create impressive websites about God's truth than it is to live by it. Don't under-value experi­ence.

1 Kings 13: Don't Over-Rate Spirituality
As the kingdom divided, Reho-boam remained king of the two southern tribes, and the talented and upstanding Jeroboam became king of the ten northern tribes. Both kings promoted idolatry, and displeased the Lord. As Jeroboam began to deviate, the Lord called a "man of God" from the southern kingdom to rebuke him. This man of God bravely did so, and then, as the Lord instruct­ed, returned by a different route, without eating and drinking. An "old prophet" from the northern kingdom heard what had been done, caught up with the man of God and asked him to return. The old man gave his spiritual creden­tials: "I too am a prophet, as, you are." Then he lied: "An angel said to me . •. 'Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and drink water'" (13:18). The man of God returned with the old prophet, disobeying the Lord. A few hours later, as he resumed his journey, he was killed by a lion (13:24).
Why was the man of God punished for listening to the old prophet? What can we learn from this sad event? What could have motivated an experienced old prophet to lie to the younger prophet? Did he consider the northern kingdom his ministerial area? Was he hurt that a southern prophet was used without his being consulted? Was it jealousy? Did the old prophet feel displaced by the new generation of godly men? What is clear is that the man of Cod over-rated the spiritual condition of the old prophet. This is easily done,
Every Christian community has a mental model of what a spiritual person should look like. In some, spiritual leaders are those who wear suits, preach long and loud, travel a lot and write books. In others, spiritual people are those who don't laugh, don't like sports, and don't watch TV. Maybe the spiritual are those who always weep when singing, or fall to the ground in prayer meetings. Don't be misled.
We can all appear "closer to God" than we really are- While we strongly recommend seeking advice from godly men and women, don't let an "old prophet" decide for you. Present all advice and other evidence to the Lord, and ask Him to lead you (Ps. 73:23-24). Remember, the lion killed the younger, not the older prophet. The Lord holds vou responsible for your decisions.

1 Kings 14: Don't Hide Relevant Facts
King Jeroboam ignored the prophecy, the miraculous healing of his hand (13:4-6), the circum­stances surrounding the death of the man of God - and he contin­ued his decadent behavior. But, as is common with us humans, a cri­sis made him think about God again.
His young son Abijah became seriously ill. Would he recover? Jeroboam decided to make con­tact with Ahijah, the prophet who had earlier prophesied that he would become king (11:28-31). But instead of going himself, he sent his wife- Furthermore, he told her, "Disguise yourself, so that you won't be recognized" (14:1). Jeroboam knew that his lifestyle offended God. He thought a request for information associated with his name would reduce the likelihood of "good news." But his strategy didn't work. The Lord told the prophet of the disguised visitor, and the boy died. Sometimes we seek advice to justify our preferred course of action. We provide selected infor­mation in order to "direct" the advice in our direction. Don't waste God's time' For advice to have any value, we must supply all the relevant facts. The Lord only leads those who really want His leading (Ps. 143:10). Tb "choose to do God's will" before we know it, is a prerequisite to divine revelation (Jn, 7:17). We can easily deceive men and make ourselves look spiritual. But why bother? The goal in Christian liv­ing is not to impress men but to please God (1 Th. 4:1).

It is good to seek advice from experienced, godly men and women. It is a resource given by God for our benefit. Good advice helps us think through the impli­cations of our proposed actions-Good advice may provide rele­vant information we had not yet considered. Good advice shines the light of Scripture on the options available. Get good advice, but never delegate to others your need to decide. Each of us will give an account of our life to the Lord. We cannot hide behind others, however wise and spiritual they may appear. King Solomon's 3000 year-old proverb still stands: "Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise" (Prov. 19:20).

Be Encouraged.


><> Letter # 19 (7. 6. 2009) <><
><> More encouragement at : www.ctouch.org.in/encouragement.html

Encouragement:How To Overcome Disappointment

You have been disappointed, haven’t you? I have been several times. Of course you have, again and again. Does it hurt very much when things do not go as you have planned and hoped? Does it seem as if you “just can’t stand it?” Some people can bear disappointment; they seem to have learned the secret of taking off the keen edge so that it does not hurt so much. Have you learned that secret yet? I fancy I hear some one say, “Oh! I wish I knew that secret.” There is more than one part to the secret. You may learn it if you will; you may get where you can bear disappointment and keep sweet all the time.

Many people prepare themselves to be disappointed; they arrange things so that they are certain to be disappointed. They set their heart so fully upon the thing they wish to have or do, whatever it may be, that they make no provision whatever, except to carry out their plans exactly as they have devised them. They do not provide for any contingencies that may arise. Their plans fill their whole horizon. They can see nothing else; they can think of nothing else; they wasn’t it just that way and no other way. Thus they prepare themselves to suffer keen disappointment should anything happen different from what they expect. This is what puts the sting in disappointment. Always make provision in your plans for whatever may happen.Always make your promises to yourself with the provision,“If nothing prevents.” If you are going on a journey, say, “If it does not rain, or if I am well, or if this or that does not prevent.” Keep the thought in your mind that something may prevent, and do not get it too much settled as a fact, that you will do, what you have planned. Take into consideration that you are a servant, not the master; do not forget to put in, “If the Lord wills.”

If disappointment comes, it may be necessary for us to repress our feelings of dissatisfaction. If we begin pitying ourselves and saying, “Oh, it is too bad! It is just too bad!” We shall only feel the more keenly the hurt; and the more we cultivate the habit of self-pity, the more power it exercises over us. Some people have so yielded to the power of self-pity that whole days are darkened by little trifling disappointments that they ought to throw off in a few minutes. Nine tenths of the suffering that comes from disappointment has its root in self-pity. You have better qualities in you; use them. When you are disappointed, take hold of yourself and say, “Here, you cannot afford to be miserable all day because of this.” Repress those feelings of self-pity, lift up your head, get your eyes on something else, begin making some new plans. Your old plans are like a broken dish and you cannot us them any longer. All your fretting and brooding over them will not make them work out right. Take a new start, smile whether you feel like it or not. You have many other things to enjoy; do not let this one thing spoil them all. Refuse to think of your unpleasant feelings; resolutely shut the door against them. God will help you if you try.

Another thing to learn is to submit the will and desires to God. When our plans fail, we must submit to circumstances, whether we want to or not. If we rebel, that will not change the circumstances, but it will change our feelings. The more we rebel, the more we shall suffer. The way to rid of the suffering is to get rid of the rebellion. We must submit; therefore, why not do it gracefully? Many times we cannot change circumstances, not matter how much we dislike them. Resentment will not hurt circumstances, but it will hurt us. We need to learn the lesson of submission without rebellion-submission to circumstances and to God.

The Lord is our Master. It is right for him to order our lives as he sees best. Sometimes it is he who changes our plans for his own purpose; and when he does this, the outcome is always better than the thing of our own choosing. If we rebel, we are rebelling against God, and right there, lies the danger. If we are so determined to have our own way that we do not willingly submit to God’s way, he may have to let us suffer. But when we submit and commit our ways to him, then we shall have the consolation and comfort of his Holy Spirit. If we will just learn to change a single letter in disappointment, and spell it with an “h” instead of a “d,” it will help take the sting out. Try it once This is what we have: His appointment. Now, does not that make it quite different?

"Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established." Proverbs 16:3.

Be Encouraged.

><> Letter # 18 (31. 5. 2009) <><
><> More encouragement at : www.ctouch.org.in/encouragement.html

Encouragement: The Love You Don't Need

“True love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth" (1 Cor. 13:6).

"All You Need is Love"
So said the Beatles. If they'd been singing about God's love, the statement would have a grain of truth in it. But what usually goes by the name love in popular culture is not authentic love at all; it's a deadly fraud.
Far from being "all you need," it's something you desperately need to avoid.
The apostle Paul makes that very point in Ephesians 5:1-3. He writes. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God- But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints."
The simple command of verse 2 ('walk in love, as Christ loved us') sums up the whole moral obligation of mankind. After all, God's love is the single, central principle that defines man’s entire duty.
This kind of love is really "all you need." Romans 13:8-10 says, "The one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments ... are summed up in this word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." Galatians 5:14 echoes that selfsame truth: 'The whole law is fulfilled in one word: 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.'"
Jesus likewise taught that all the law and the prophets hang on two simple principles about love—the First and Second Great Commandments (Matt. 22:38-40). In other words, 'love ... is the bond of perfection" (Colossians 3:14, NKjV).

To walk in love is to be kind, tender­hearted, and forgiving one another (Ephesians 4:32). The model for such self-less love is Christ, who gave His life to ',save His people from their sins. 'Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends" (lohn 15:13). And 'if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another" (1 John 4:1]).
In other words, true love is always sacrificial, self-giving, merciful, compassionate, sympathetic, kind, generous, and patient. These and many other positive, benevolent qualities (cf 1 Cor. 13:4-6) are what Scripture associates with divine love.

when love Is bad
But notice the negative side as well, also seen in the context of Ephesians 5. The person who truly loves others as Christ loves us must refuse every kind of counterfeit love. Some of these satanic forgeries include immorality, impurity, and covetousness. The passage continues:
Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not associate with them. (vv. 4-7)
Immorality is perhaps our generation's favourite substitute for love. Paul uses the Creek word porneia. which includes every kind of sexual sin. Popular culture desperately tries to blur the line between genuine love and immoral passion. But all such immorality is a total perversion of genuine love, because it seeks self-gratification rather than the good of others.
Such sins, Paul says, "must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints* (v. 3). Of those who practice such things, he tells us, *Do not associate with them' (v. 7).
In other words, we are not showing authentic love unless we are intolerant of all the popular perversions of love.

Most of the talk about love these days ignores this principle. 'Love" has been redefined as a broad tolerance that overlooks sin and embraces good and evil alike. That's not love; it's apathy.
Cod's love is not at all like that- Remember, the supreme manifestation of God's love is the cross, where Christ "loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God' (v. 2). Thus Scripture explains the love of God in terms of sacrifice, atonement for sin, and propitiation: "In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins'(1 John 4:10). In other words Christ made Himself a sacrifice to turn away the wrath of an offended deity. Far from dismissing our sins with a benign tolerance. God gave His Son as an offering for sin, to satisfy His own wrath and justice in the salvation of sinners.
That is the very heart of the gospel. God manifests his love in a way that upheld His holiness. Justice, and righteousness without compromise. True love "does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth" (1 Cor. 13:6).
That's the kind of love we are called to walk in. Its a love that is 'first pure, then peaceable' (cf. James 3:17).

Be Encouraged.


><> Letter # 17 (24. 5. 2009) <><