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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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

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

Preparing For The Bridegroom To Come Back

In Christ’s day, a Jewish bride-to-be had to be ready for her bridegroom to arrive at any moment. She prepared herself, and listened for the trumpet blasts and shouts signaling his eminent arrival. Jesus’ first coming followed a similar pattern, with a “friend of the bridegroom” telling people he was on His way. Scripture indicates His return will also follow a pattern like this.

As we approach the fall holy days of Yom Teruah (Feast of Trumpets), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), my mind has been on Jesus’ return. These days picture parts of God’s plan that have not yet been fulfilled, including Messiah’s second coming.

Here on this blog, we’ve often talked about how Jesus’ relationship with the church is like that of a Jewish bridegroom with his bride (you can read more about this in my posts “The Bridegroom’s Pledge” and “The Bridegroom Cometh!“). After the betrothal, the bride wouldn’t know exactly when the groom was going to come back for the wedding. She had to be ready, listening for the trumpet blasts and shouts signaling his eminent arrival. In much the same way, we don’t know when Christ will return and it’s very important that we get ready and keep watching for Him to come back. Read more

Immanuel: The Lord’s Incredible Response To Dealing With A Sinful People

The name Immanuel means “God with us.” It’s part of a beautiful Messianic prophesy that God delivered to a sinful king. When confronted by people who wouldn’t do as they were told, who thought they didn’t need God, and wanted to do their own thing, God’s response was to promise He would come and visit them. He followed through on that promise by coming to live on our plane of existence, getting as close to us as He could so He could relate to us and save us in a uniquely vulnerable way.

For Christians today, there’s a temptation to look at the stories of the Old Testament as just that — stories. These include the stories about all the bad kings of ancient Israel and Judah, which might not seem particularly relevant to us. King Ahaz of Judah was just one in a long list. He committed idolatry, sacrificed his own children, and tore valuables out of the Lord’s temple to pay-off his neighbors (2 Kings 16).

When Jerusalem was attacked during Ahaz’s reign, the Lord sent Isaiah to him with a message. Isaiah tells Ahaz, “Be careful, and keep calm. Don’t be afraid, neither let your heart be faint” because the Lord will not let enemy plots against His people succeed (Is. 7:3-9, WEB). Even though Ahaz was actively practicing evil, God was still concerned with Judah and He still held open a door for Ahaz to repent.

What happens next leads to one of the most famous prophesies in the Old Testament. But rather than just skip ahead to the Immanuel prophecy, let’s take a close look at the conversation God had with Azah that led up to this incredible promise. Read more