Praise: A Sacrifice?

I grew up singing “We bring a sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord” but I confess that I did not understand what a “sacrifice of praise” was until a few years ago. Praising God is fun … at least for me … so how could it be a sacrifice?

I am reading through the Book of Psalms right now, and it tells us a number of times to offer up a “sacrifice of praise” or a “sacrifice of thanksgiving.” Reading it translated as “thanksgiving” has caused me to ponder this even more.

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My family and I have entered a season of life recently that, honestly, I have been dreading. In it, I am going to have to die to self and forgo some of my plans this summer. That’s not easy for me but I know that, in this, God is performing His perfect work. Because of this, I do find myself thanking Him. I don’t always feel like it but, as I praise Him and thank Him for what He is doing in each of our lives, I feel more peace and more grace, and I know that, because of Him, I’ll never walk alone.

No matter what you are going through today, don’t stop praising Him. You may not always like the changes that God brings your way or the tasks He calls you to but, if you are willing to lay down your life and surrender to Him 100%, you will find that peace that passes understanding, and you will grow even closer to a God who loves you so much more than you can think or imagine.

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Christians Don’t Lie … Or Do They?

Christians don’t tell lies; they just go to church and sing them.
~A. W. Tozer

This quote came to mind a couple weeks ago as the congregation sang, “‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus.” As I looked around, I wondered how many were thinking about the words that were coming out of their mouths: “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His Word.” My own thoughts were full of how sweet that truly is and yet how much I need to grow in the area of trust.

For many who have grown up in church, it is easy to sing songs because we have memorized them and yet the words elude us. How many times have you sung “Here I raise my Ebenezer” and had no idea what an “Ebenezer” is. (A name for a goblet perhaps?) I know there are exceptions to the rule, but I see way too many people singing lifelessly, and I expect that it is because the words are lifeless to them.

Our songs should be sung from the heart. Our worship must be honest. If you cannot sing honestly, don’t be afraid to stop and ponder the words or pray that God will help you to grow in an area.

There may be times you should sing in faith, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,” but if you have not surrendered and are not willing to surrender all to Jesus, don’t sing, “I Surrender All.” God inhabits the praise of His people but, if that “praise” is done simply for show or merely out of rote, He will not bless it.

I do not want to discourage you from singing but I do want to inspire you to sing with your whole heart. Know what you are singing and let Him know that you mean it. You are not singing those words because you have to; you are singing because you want to, and you intend to live them. It’s possible that this simple act could be what it takes for revival to begin in our churches.

King of Kings, Majesty

As we prepare for times of worship through the weekend, may our focus be solely on our King of Kings, He who alone is our Majesty. If you are attending somewhere that Christ and Him crucified is not where the attention of each person is directed, then you are in the wrong place.

Parenting – Biological or Biblical? – Part 1

father-and-daughter-11291665285sopOne of my little enjoyments is sitting in a public location watching the faces of those who are around me. A person’s face often reveals a great deal about them. Are they sad, angry, glad, ecstatic, overwhelmed, discouraged, in love, or merely contemplating the world at large?

Many times, they can be so wrapped up in their own thoughts or their own little world that they probably do not even realize they are portraying a part of their soul for others to see.

In studying the faces of others, there is one factor missing – the personal factor. Most of those I see, I do not know. Are they sad because they have lost a loved one or a pet? Are they discouraged because of a job loss that same morning and they wonder how they will pay the bills? Are they overwhelmed because of all the turmoil in the world? If they show love to the person they are with, is it a true picture of what is in their heart or merely a façade? Do any of these people pretend to be something they are not in order to cover up what is deep inside?

As I observe evangelical Christianity today, there are many faces being portrayed to the world. A vast majority of the faces shown to the world seem to merely be a cover-up. We are reminded in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that when God changes us we become a brand new creation. All the old things pass away and we are in the process of having all things made new.

Sadly, much of what we observe today does not reflect a new creation. It reflects the cares of the world and a strong desire to look more and more like the world around us. The world does not look at most who claim the name of Christ and say of us, “They have been with Jesus!” More times than not, it seems that they look at us and are asking, “Why should we want what they offer since they are not any different than us?”

One of the areas that is a growing concern is the role of parenting. For far too long, the church has portrayed a face to the world that says all is well in our homes and with our children. The reality of what goes on behind closed doors is both shocking and overwhelming in its bleak outlook.

How could we become so blind in the West? Is it possible that we could not have seen this coming, or did we see it coming and just didn’t care enough to implement the procedures necessary to prevent it?

Let’s consider this problem a little deeper, first of all as it pertains to the local church. We start here because this, for all true believers, should be the first area of concern as it pertains to the public aspects of our own lives and that of our children.

Little Johnny and Susie give their parents nice little cards and gifts on the appropriate holidays like: Wedding Anniversary, Christmas, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day. The niceties of the card’s poetry is sweet but it often means little as the young people during the rest of the year disrespect their parents in just about every way imaginable. The face they are painting to the world is that they love the rebellion and depravity of their heart more than they love God and their parents. If our children truly loved us, they would be learning to respect our authority and learning how to be in submission as to the Lord.

But maybe this is part of the bigger picture. In our hurry to correct the problem, we want to “help” the young people put on a good face and often fail to realize the deeper problems that are at stake. Many of the children in our churches are hurting because of the attention they receive from their parents. Or, maybe we should say because of the lack of attention or the type of attention they receive from their parents.

For parents, the Scriptures are clear in Psalm 127:3, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward.” The face that many parents are putting on in front of others in their local congregations is one of bravado. They may indicate that all is well but beneath the surface, the waters are roiling as though it were a little paper sailboat caught in a typhoon.

Here is the average picture that seems to be prevalent in far too many churches no matter where we have ministered throughout both England and the USA.

Families do not worship together in a corporate setting on the Lord’s Day because there has been no true worship of God during the week. The family gets up late on a Sunday after spending hours the previous evening filling their heads with the rubbish of the world and stumble into church late more than they are on time.

Sunday mornings, instead of being a calm assurance of the wonder of being able to worship with other believers, is hectic and full of chaos. The ride to church is often a reflection of the worship of self rather than of God. The parents argue and bicker while the children do the same in the back seat.

I often remember an illustration used by Dr. Jim Berg about a smoker coming on the Bob Jones University campus which is smoke-free. The smoker would go into a restroom and take a few quick puffs. Within a few minutes, everybody in the building knew that a cigarette had been lit, but the smoker would not even notice the smell of the smoke. Why? Because they had been smoking for years and had grown immune to the smell.

The same is true within the lives of many parents and children. They are like the smoker and can no longer smell the “smoke” of their selfish lives. Instead of parents even noticing the smoke of their children, they are all arguing over what brand of flesh they are going to smoke. Parents want their way apart from Christ and the children learn from the parents.

On any given Sunday, families rush into church with fake plastic smiles, the words to beautiful hymns and choruses are barely mumbled because hearts are not in what is on the page. Most are hoping the pastor does not call on them to offer a prayer of thanksgiving, read a Scripture, or serve in some other capacity.

Many want to rush the children off to fun, games, and a wee little Bible story because it is too “difficult” to have them sit all the way through a service that the parents often do not even want to be in. The main reason there is little to no desire to train the children in the ways of worshiping and praising God in a corporate setting is because there is little to no desire to train them in these areas at home.

Prayer meetings and additional Bible studies are normally attended by less than 10% of most churches. Rarely will a child be seen in either one and the excuses will often include statements like, “Well, it is a school night and we need to get them in bed early.” What is amazing is that parents manage to say this with a straight face as their children merrily watch television, play electronic games, or surf the internet until well after the prayer meetings or Bible studies have concluded.

So, our children start in the nursery then spend time playing games and eating cookies at church from age 3-10. By the time they are ten or eleven, they are normally involved in all kinds of sports or various extracurricular activities. In a few short years, they become teenagers and they quickly want nothing to do with church anymore.

Now, Dad and Mom have to make a decision. Capitulate to the children and let them stay home, or insist that, as long as they are “in our home,” they will attend?

To insist they go, though, requires that parents not seem like hypocrites. In other words, why should they show respect and go to church when they can often see the charade put on for the benefit of others? They know when parents only go to church as a social event on the calendar and provided nothing else is more important.

Teenagers know when parents have a true desire to worship God because they will see our love for one another and for being together with other true believers, but when they see more love for the world, for the television, for sports activities, and for gathering excuses one more time to miss a prayer meeting or Bible study, then parents should not expect anything other than rebellion to our authority.

The problem is compounded then when the children grow up and begin to get in trouble. Johnny gets arrested or is involved with drugs. Susie is sleeping around and comes home pregnant one night. Then, the scene changes and parents go weeping to friends for support and wanting prayers to be offered for their wayward children, all the while wondering, “What happened? We don’t understand because they were raised in a good Christian home.”

What happened?

The answer is actually quite simple. Parenting has been relegated more times than not to a mere biological process instead of a Biblical one. The parents raise their children by providing food, clothing, a roof over their head but have little to no desire to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
While they gladly meet the medical, educational, and personal needs and wants of their offspring, they have failed in the area that is the most important. Paul said in Acts 17:28, “For in Him (God), we live and move and have our being.”

Parents, if you fail to teach AND show this Biblical truth to your children, you will have failed as far as God is concerned. The children of Israel were commanded to teach their children every day of the law of God. It will not matter if your child grows up to be another Bill Gates or General of the Army or President of the USA or Prime Minister of the UK.

If they do not know the Lord, you are the one God will hold accountable for your words and actions. To do less than honor God by only keeping Him prominent and not pre-eminent, you are practicing idolatry. Yet, God is clear that His glory and honor He will NOT give to another.

The eyes of many parents have been blinded to the truth and the reality of what is transpiring because they have been smoking so long that they are immune to the smoke, that is, until it appears in a different format in the lives of their children. When they see it, instead of confessing their own sin, the end result becomes a battle of the wills. In the end, everybody still smokes and simply agrees to disagree over which brand they will each smoke.

Parents, there is an answer to the problem, but it will not be an easy fix. If you are in any of the situations I have described, the first step to change is to humble yourself before God. Confess your sin and repent before Him. Then, make the time to humble yourself before your children. Parents, your children already see your failures but will gain respect for you if you will humble yourself in this way. Admit your sin to them and ask for their forgiveness where you have failed in your God-given responsibility to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Lord willing, in future articles, we will consider other areas where we are called to be parents who serve the Lord and we’ll evaluate what we can do to change our focus. We will also consider how we can make a difference in our homes and in our churches.

“Teach Your Children the Fear of the LORD” by Geoff Kirkland

TeachChildren There is perhaps no greater duty in the life of a Christian parent than to raise one’s children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. It is our first and most important ministry, for God has placed these little ones in our care. If we fail to evangelize and catechize our children, yet diligently share the gospel with the world, we have failed to be obedient to Lord we proclaim as Savior. To that end, I would like to share a wonderful article I read from Pastor Geoff Kirkland who author’s the blog Vassal of the King. Please take time to read through what I believe are biblical and practical steps to raising up your children to fear and love the Savior.

Teach Your Children to Fear the LORD
The primary teachers that God gives to children to teach them the words, ways, and works of God is their parents. One of the highest duties that parents have is the delightful privilege and lofty duty to teach their children the fear of the LORD.

It should be noted that in Psalm 34:11, the psalmist gathers the children (“come”) and then commits to teaching them verbally (“listen to me”). This here lays forth a helpful model for parental instruction of children. Parents should gather the children and verbally instruct the children daily.

The book of Proverbs reveals why this is so important as it is the fear of the LORD that is wisdom (1:7-8). If a child stores up the words of God within him then he will know the fear of the LORD (2:1, 5; 3:1, 7). Wisdom calls out and begs for the naive to understand wisdom (8:4-5).To know God is understanding and to fear God is wisdom and this is the fundamental building block of all biblical wisdom, knowledge, and learning that parents must instill in their children’s hearts and minds (9:10).

So the question is asked, how do you teach a child to fear God? Here are a few practical suggestions to help.”

Read the rest of the article here.

Is Jesus Culture Just Another Christian Band?

Following one of our recent posts on the Passion 2013 conference, one of the issues that came to light is the concern over the worship group “Jesus Culture.” This group has grown immensely in popularity among evangelical youth. Yet many are not aware of the fact that they originate out of the Bethel Church in Redding, California which is known for its false teachings about signs and wonders and is part of the heretical “New Apostolic Reformation” movement. The following video does a very good job exposing the background of Jesus Culture and why discerning Christians should be very concerned about them. Please take the time to watch and learn.

I Want to Start Sharing the Gospel, But Now What?

If you have been reading my articles lately, you have probably noticed a very consistent theme, that being that Christians are commanded to share the gospel with the lost. I have been writing these articles for the very purpose of awakening the church to the desperate need in our world for the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ to be preached. It has been my sincere hope and prayer that these articles may have caused even a small number of Christians to stop and evaluate whether they have been obedient to the command of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. If you are one that has realized he or she has not been doing so, but realize you need to be, you may be asking, “What do I do now? Just how do I go about doing this?” It is my hope and prayer that over the next few articles I can answer these questions and help equip you to biblically share the great and glorious message that Jesus Christ came to save sinners. Today, there are three things I want to encourage you to do as you go about preparing yourself to evangelize the lost.

First and foremost, before we ever wade out into the world to share the gospel, we need to be about the business of praying to God. A Christian must pray that God would give him wisdom, boldness and an unquenching thirst to preach the gospel to the lost. Christians must pray for humility, confessing their sins and repenting of them, and praying that they would not seek their own recognition and glory. Rather, Christians should pray that they would seek only to glorify the Lord by preaching His truth, not seeking to persuade with our own vain philosophies, but by speaking His revealed Word. Christians must pray for the Lord to break through the hardened, stony hearts of sinners and that He would reveal their need for Christ as their Savior. That He would cause the scales to fall from the eyes of the lost and cause them to see Christ in all His glory. Christians should also pray for steadfastness, an unwavering desire to preach the true gospel, no matter the opposition, or even persecution, that they may face. We must pray that we never become weary in doing good even when the world seeks to shut us up, when our friends and family tell us to stop being “so preachy” and even when our local churches refuse to support us because we are “judgmental.” We must pray that we would never stop sharing the gospel because we seek to please God alone and desire to bring a lost and dying world to Him. Prayer is one of our most potent and valuable weapons because it causes us to come to the throne of grace, seeking the power and equipping of our sovereign Lord. Never seek to accomplish the task of evangelism under your own “power.” Rather seek the power of God Himself to do the work.

Secondly, Christians need to become thoroughly equipped in the study of the scriptures. Human wisdom and philosophy can accomplish precious little when it comes to proclamation of the gospel. Remember that those who are lost are slaves to sin and are spiritually dead. Our words alone will never penetrate the rocky soil of an unregenerate heart. Only the Words of God Himself can break up that stone and make the heart into fertile soil. Therefore, we must be diligent to study the Bible daily, but not just to find scriptures that bolster our arguments. Such study accomplishes little because we are not seeking the actual context and application of God’s Word. If we fail to discern the true meaning of a passage, we may end up ripping scriptures out of context and doing damage to the message itself. Rather, we should study that we might grow in all wisdom and understanding. We should study so that our lives are so impacted by the Word, that every aspect of how we live changes to reflect the image of our Savior. In doing so, not only will we gain the words necessary to share with the lost, we will actually demonstrate that we believe them because our lives will reflect it. All the objections and obstacles that man can offer against God find their demise in the very words of our Lord. Study, memorize and learn to apply all of the scriptures on a daily basis.

Third, remember that you were once a lost and condemned sinner too. Remember that you had sinned against the very Creator who gave you life and breath through your wicked works. Remember that you had broken His laws, that you had been a liar, a thief, an idolator, a blashpember, one who lusted and fornicated, who harbored unjust anger in your heart, one who had sought only to please himself above all others. That in your sinned darkened stated, had you died and stood before God, who is perfectly righteous and holy, you would have been judged guilty and rightly condemned to an eternity it Hell. Yet, while you were still a sinner, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for you on the cross. That Christ lived the life of perfect obedience to the law that you could not. That He willingly went to the cross to suffer a brutal and humiliating death, the one that you deserved. That three days later, He rose again, defeating death and giving you a promise of eternal life. Remember that one day, God sent someone to you to share this glorious message of salvation. That He opened your eyes and softened your heart. That God miraculously granted you repentance and faith and caused you to be born again. And as you remember these things, glorify the Lord through worship and praise. Remember that you were once dead and He made you alive. Rejoice that God took an unworthy sinner like you (and me) and adopted you as His child. Then, in your praise and adoration of Him, seek to obey His command to preach this glorious message to others.

By equipping ourselves in these three areas – prayer, study and worship – we prepare ourselves for the spiritual warfare of saving souls. We are equipped with God’s power rather than our own and we are using His weapons in this battle. The preaching of the gospel is not an effort to improve lives, change minds or rescue the culture. The preaching of the gospel is two things: first, it is the glorification of our great God and Savior; second, it is a rescue mission to save souls on a path to Hell. Therefore, we dare not treat this lightly. Let us be fully prepared, with all God has to offer us, before we step foot onto the battlefied.

In my next article, I intend to speak on the biblical presentation of the gospel and to point out the errors of modern evangelical “evangelism.”