Am I Blending My Worship of God With Things That Don’t Honor Him?

Does God care how we worship Him? Some Christians today say (or act) as if He does not. Too many people today ignore parts of the Bible, try to over-rule God’s laws, and adopt extra-Biblical practices in worship. And they really don’t think He’ll mind.

The problem is, God actually does care how you worship Him. If you’re not following Him the way He says to, then you’re not really following Him at all. He is “a jealous God” and He does not accept half-hearted or divided affection. You can’t honor Him by worshiping in ways He does not approve or if you’re also trying to worship something else. It’s not good for us to have divided loyalties or identities. We need to find wholeness in seeking our Lord the way He desires us to seek Him.

Really Get To Know God

Paul tells us that all the things which happened to ancient Israel “were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor. 10:11, WEB). One place where the story of Israel is recorded is the book of Hosea. God used Hosea to warn Israel what would happen to them if they continued to break covenant with Him by blending pagan religions with their worship of the One True God, or “Yahweh” to use His proper name (Ex. 3:14-15). Unfortunately, it’s a message that’s relevant for churches today.

I’m not saying all churches, and certainly not every Christian, is deliberately blending other religions with their faith. But I do think it’s something we should be aware of, and on-guard to avoid. We need to make sure we’re not ignoring parts of His inspired word, rejecting His law, or blending pagan religious practices with our worship. Read more

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Hands of Praise

How do you use your hands to praise God? Maybe you lift your hands in worship, or use them to minister to God’s people. Or maybe you haven’t really thought about there being a connection between hands and praise, so this seems like an odd question.

Idioms involving hands abound in the Hebrew language. Being in someone’s hands is to be in their power. Putting one’s hand to something means you’re working on it. Raising your hand against someone is rebellion. Open hands express giving, and closed hands withholding, something.

Hands were lifted when making an oath to God, as Abraham did (Gen. 14:22-23). God lifts His hand when He delivers His people (Ps. 10:12). Priests stretch their hands out when they bless the people and people lift their hands when they bless God (Lev. 9:22; Neh. 8:6). Hands, and specifically lifted hands, can mean different things depending on the context.

Last week, we talked about the Hebrew word yadah (H3034), which means to confess or acknowledge as well as to praise and thank. There’s one other meaning we didn’t touch on, though. Yadah also means to throw or cast (Zodhiates’ dictionary). It’s connected with the Hebrew word for hand, yad (H3027), and as such yadah is considered the Hebrew word which “means to worship with extended hands” (see “8 Hebrew Words for ‘Praise’ Every Christian Needs to Know”).

We can think of yadah as a type of praise we “throw” to God with lifted hands as we declare how wonderful He is and confess that we follow Him. Today, we’re going to look at the ways we petition, pray to, and praise God with our hands. Read more

Where Do You Find Your Self-Value?

Before we can become the best versions of ourselves and have a right view of ourselves, we have to recognize our true value. The world will tell you that your relationship with yourself is the most important relationship you have, and that increasing your self-esteem will correct any problems you have with feeling like you’re not enough in some way. But following that advice isn’t deeply satisfying because I think deep down we all realize that we can’t assign value to ourselves.

That begs the question, “Who can assign value to you?” Other people, society, or impersonal metrics aren’t good measures either. The only satisfactory answer is God. Only the Creator can assign value to His creation. He knows what He created you for and who He created you to be, and therefore only He can declare how valuable you truly are.

Testing Where To Look For Value

We’ve been talking about Ecclesiastes here on this blog for a couple week now (click here to read “Crash Course in Ecclesiastes” and here for “Letting Death Give Us Perspective On Life“). One of the things that Solomon does in this book is present an in-depth analysis of all the different places that we can look for value.

Solomon experiments with finding value in his own wisdom, in pleasure, in wealth, in fine works, in great power, and in the legacy you leave for future generations. But he describes it all as “vanity” (hebel, H1892) — a transitory, unsatisfactory thing. As we modern people read through Ecclesiastes, we often label Solomon as depressed (probably accurate) and having low self-esteem. But Solomon himself doesn’t describe the problem as not esteeming himself enough. He knows the self isn’t a good place to look for value, and he wants something or someone else to give life meaning and tell him his purpose.

As Solomon works though his existential crisis, he concludes that meaning can only be found in God. God is the one who sets everything in motion and the only one with an accurate perspective on His plan (Ecc. 3:1-15). He’s in heaven and we’re on earth, so we need to be wary of jumping to conclusions about things we know nothing about (Ecc. 5:1-7). In the end, everything boils down to our duty to fear God and keep His commandments (Ecc. 12:13-14). That’s the key to understanding who we are and where our value lies. Read more

Exchanging Your Foundation Stones

Some people today treat identity as fluid, easy to change or choose. Whatever you “identify as” in the moment is what matters, and the rest of us are supposed to play along. But identity — the answer to “who are you?” — is actually something formed over time. All our experiences, our personality traits, our choices build who/what you are. There are parts of identity that we can’t change, and if you want to change the other parts it requires hard work and a fundamental shift in how we think and behave.

The word “fundamental” comes from the same root as “foundation” (Latin fundare “to found/lay a base for”). Many of our foundations are laid when we’re young. We ask questions like “Who am I?” and “What do I value?” and we figure out answers that stick with us as we grow. We might not be using those words, but nevertheless we pick up things that become part of our identities and create the lenses through which we see the world.

Building Blocks of Self

Let’s think of each of the things making up our identity as blocks that go into our foundations. Someone who grew up in a good, healthy family might have blocks like “I am loved,” “It is safe to trust other people,” and “I am allowed to have healthy boundaries.” Or they might have grown up in a good family, but still incorporated blocks like, “I am loved, but I’m not worthy of it” or “I can only trust people in my family.” Others, who perhaps didn’t grow up in a good situation at all, have blocks like, “I am not worth loving,” “Trusting other people always leads to me getting hurt,” or “My needs and wants will never be honored.”

These foundational ideas don’t always stay the same. You can swap some out or re-write them as more experiences happen and you make choices about how to live your life. You might lose good foundations as you grow and pick up new blocks that aren’t healthy and supportive. On the other hand, you can also over-write bad foundations and put more positive ideas into your identity. Read more

Do You Value The Gifts From Your Bridegroom?

God has invited us to become part of the greatest love story ever told. As Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man — a king — who gave a wedding feast for his son” (Matt. 22:2), LEB). That’s what God the Father is doing. He’s inviting us to be part of the marriage He’s planing for His son in the key role of the bride.

The people listening as Jesus spoke this parable would have known about all the wedding customs implied by this comparison. If you want to learn more about what was involved in a father planning his son’s marriage, I recommend “The Ancient Jewish Wedding” by Jamie Lash (click to read). There’s a lot of incredible things in these traditions that point to Jesus, but we’ll just focus on one for today.

A Jewish bridegroom would give his bride gifts as part of the betrothal process. He’d seal the betrothal agreement and then go away for a while to prepare their new home, leaving a gift along with his pledge to return. The gift(s) were meant to remind the bride of her groom. Think of it like an engagement ring. It’s no surprise, then, that our bridegroom Jesus Christ also “gave gifts to people” (Eph. 4:7-8, WEB).

Gift Of the Spirit

As we talked about in my Pentecost post earlier this year, the holy spirit is the chief of our bridal gifts.

in whom you also, having heard the word of the truth, the Good News of your salvation—in whom, having also believed, you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, [which] is a pledge of our inheritance, to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory. (Eph. 1:13-14, WEB with “who” corrected to “which.” See article, “What Is The Holy Spirit?”)

The holy spirit wasn’t given until after Jesus was glorified and had fulfilled the other parts of establishing the marriage covenant (John 7:39). Only then did He and His father give “the gift of the holy spirit” (Acts 2:38). Each time God gives the holy spirit to a new believer, He’s marking us as belonging to the Bridegroom and pledging that He will come back and fulfill all His promises. Read more

God Wants The Real You

Unless you’re listening to a branch of Christianity that teaches God doesn’t expect anything from you, Christians talk about change quite a bit. We change our lives when we commit to leaving sin behind and following Jesus. We change how we think as we put on the mind of Christ. We change from being outside the faith to being grafted into God’s chosen people.

There are some things, though, that God doesn’t want to change about you. Or at least, that’s not quite the best way to describe what He’s doing. Rather, He wants to reveal the “you” that He created you to be. He doesn’t want us to get rid of our individuality, our gifts, or our true personalities (though it might feel that way at times).

The way God transforms us often involved quite a bit of change. But it’s not about turning you into someone you’re not. It’s more of a revelation of the truest, best version of you.

He Sees All Of You

God wants a relationship with the real you. I’ve been reading Captivating by John and Stasi

Eldrege, and this quote caught my eye:

He wants your deep heart, that center place within that is the truest you. He is not interested in intimacy with the woman you think you are supposed to be. He wants intimacy with the real you (p. 123)

Though this book is specifically written to women, what I just quoted applies to both genders. Throughout the ages, God calls to our hearts. He longs for a relationship with people who aren’t going to hide themselves from Him. Read more