God has Feasts?

Many of us have seen the movie, The Ten Commandments.  If we haven’t seen the movie, we have at least heard that phrase.  Moses was given the 10 Commandments of God after he led the Israelites out of Egypt.  What many of us don’t realize is that God spoke with Moses for 40 days and gave him all of His Laws.  They can all be found in the books of Exodus and Leviticus if you’d like to check them out.

God’s law is divided into three parts. The 10 Commandments were the base and they relate to how to live spiritual and moral lives before God.  The civil law relates to governing the people and the ceremonial law describes the building of the tabernacle and how to worship God. 

What we want to look at today is a ceremonial law.  In Leviticus 23 God sets forth specific times of the year that He wants His people to stop everything and come before Him.  There are 7 of these times and they are often referred to as Feasts of the Lord.  The 7th of these is called The Feast of Tabernacles.  Tabernacle, in the historic sense, is simply a temporary dwelling, much like what the Israelites may have lived in as they sojourned in the desert those long 40 years.  He asked the Israelites to build these small booth like huts and dwell in them once a year for 7 days. 

Why would God want us to do that?  He wanted Israel to remember that it was Him who brought them out of Egypt.  He wanted them … and us … to celebrate and rejoice that He is the God who loves us.  He loved the Israelites enough to rescue them from Egyptian bondage.  He loves us enough to rescue us from sin and eternal damnation.

So I don’t know about y’all, but to me that’s worth setting aside a specific week every year to really consider all that He has done for me, all that He has blessed me with and all that He has promised me.  Let’s celebrate our God this year! If any of this sparked your interest, we sincerely invite you to join us on Sunday morning at 10:55 a.m. in the sanctuary (964 W. Hwy 190) or on Facebook for our live-stream of Pastor Ann’s message.  She’ll explain it much better than this, I promise!

Life’s Entanglements

“No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer . . . Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.”— 2 Tim. 2:4, 7

Growing up, I had a deeply ingrained mental list of all the things I wasn’t supposed to do. I was not allowed to swear or use other “questionable” words. Even though I knew swearing wasn’t allowed, I was seriously reprimanded when my mom heard me utter a bad word after missing a shot in the neighborhood basketball game. I also knew that I was not allowed to smoke. I was told, and really believed, that God would strike me with a lightning bolt if I even tried a cigarette. I had a clear understanding of curfew and knew that good grades were a priority. A strong understanding of right and wrong was a major part of my growing up years.

Most of us have a well-established list of things we would never dream of doing. We know where our moral line is, and there is little chance that we would ever cross that line. If this is true, then we should never have to worry about walking away from our faith, right? If we know the difference between right and wrong, then we should have nothing to worry about.

There is a problem with this theory, and it is one that Paul seems to recognize.

The things in life that tempt Christians the most are typically not on any list of things that are objectively wrong. Rather, problems arise when anything pulls us away from Christ.

Often, the things that distract us from Him are not immoral on their own. We pursue the next promotion with a singular focus. The travel soccer team in which our child participates demands all of our time and attention. Trips to our lake home become a priority. We can rightfully ask, “what is wrong with playing soccer or trying to earn more money?” The answer is “nothing,” unless the love for those things nudges us away from our love of Christ.

When Paul reminds us that no military leader entangles himself in civilian affairs, he seems to bring up a similar point. In this passage, notice that Paul does not speak in terms of good and evil or even right and wrong. There is nothing evil about civilian affairs, but they are not important for the military leader. There is also nothing wrong with a promotion, a vacation, or a travel soccer team. Yet, any of these things has the potential to distract us and slowly pull us away from our love of Christ.

When Christians walk away from their faith, it is rarely because they went from faithfulness to visible failure in a single day. It is almost always the result of a long, imperceptible drift that started long ago. Perhaps the standard for Christians is not a well-developed right vs. wrong list. Instead, the standard should be, first and foremost, faithfulness to our leader. Avoiding wrong things is good, but it is not the primary task of the Christian life. We have a higher standard.

Prayer for the week: Almighty God, thank You for filling our lives with good things. We are so undeserving of all you have blessed us with. Help us to see the value of the things around us in a holy and proper way so that we don’t pursue the less valuable and lose focus on the thing most valuable: our faith in Christ. Amen.

Doug Ward is the senior pastor of Mundelein Church of the Nazarene in Mundelein, Illinois, USA, and teaches at Olivet Nazarene University.

Written for Coffee Break.

Crosses

You may have heard someone say, “It’s just my cross to bear.”  What does that mean?  For most of the folks in this culture it means they have something difficult in their lives that seems to have no end or cure.  But biblically it has a different meaning altogether.

In Matthew 16 verse 24 Jesus said this: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”  Jesus was telling us that if we truly want to be his follower, we must examine our lives for anything that doesn’t agree with His teachings. This thing (or these things) are to be gotten rid of, to make us acceptable in God’s sight. 

If it is our “cross” then it is probably something we really like or value.  Some of us struggle with addictive types of behaviors.  Some of us struggle with too great a fondness for inappropriate entertainment or maybe its money that we love.  It might be our pride or an anger issue.  If we look into ourselves with honesty, we’ll see that there is something that doesn’t belong.  These are the things that would make us squirm if we were doing them with God standing in front of us.

So what if we don’t want to get rid of those things?  God has given us free will, the ability to choose what we want in our lives and who we want to be.  We are free to be His or to go our own way.  Every choice has a consequence.  As adults, we know if we break the law, we pay a penalty.  This applies to God’s laws also.  The consequences for breaking His laws though, have everlasting consequences.  

Sunday morning Gordon Smith will be bringing us a message about what this means.  Please join us at 10:55 a.m. in the sanctuary or on Facebook’s live-stream.  We look forward to seeing you then!  We encourage you to come as you are if you’re in town!

The Day of Atonement

In Leviticus 23 God called His people to seven appointed times.  Passover is one of these.  God called for four of these times to be celebrated in the spring and three to be celebrated in the fall.  Each time is represents a specific purpose and every appointed time ties into Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and return.

Last Sunday, at sunset, began the time of the Lord’s fall appointments.  It is commonly known as the Feast of Trumpets.  Trumpets are blown to call the people to worship and to praise God with a loud noise.  This day is all about celebrating all the goodness and blessings that God has poured out in the past year.

Following this are 10 days of reflection.  Called the Days of Awe, this is a time to look back and realize where we have fallen short.  Whether it is within ourselves or involves others, this is a time to seek a way to mend what may be broken in our lives.  On the 10th day, we are called before God to humble our souls (Lev. 23:27) and atone for our sins.

Because Jesus died for us, He became the burden bearer for our sins.  At the moment His soul was released from His body, we believe that He also became our High Priest.  He sits at the right hand of God and intervenes for us now. 

Yet, this is not the end of the story.  If you are curious about the rest of it, please join us this Sunday morning at 10:55 a.m.  Pastor Ann will be bringing the Lord’s message about this appointed time and what we still need to be watching for.  See you then!

Praise God Challenge

Praise God!  If you live in the South, you’ve heard this term many times.  It has become a common by-word that is often used when things go well for someone, whether or not they are Christian.  There are other words we’ve all heard when things don’t go so well.

As our culture has changed and moved its center away from the Lord, it’s those other words we now hear most often.  Praising God is no longer a common practice in this country.  If you think about that for just a moment, you may realize how sad that is.

But, you say…………. WHY would I want to praise God when He lets bad stuff happen to me?    My life is difficult.  I can’t pay all my bills.  My car broke down and now I can’t get to work.  I lost my job.  My spouse left me.  The bank is foreclosing on my house or the landlord just evicted me.  My child has an incurable disease.  The list goes on.

Praise Him and thank Him for what is RIGHT in your life.  Sometimes this is the most difficult part of praising and worshipping Him.  When everything seems to be going wrong, its so hard to see what is right in our lives.  But there are always right things in our lives, when we pause to consider.  We are after all, alive, breathing, thinking.

Praising God is part and parcel of worshipping Him.  It can be simple or elaborate.  Praise can be done by an individual or a group.  It encompasses any human effort to demonstrate to Our Lord that He is recognized as the one true God and that He is honored and appreciated for that.

Praise can be a whispered thank you when a child’s fever breaks.  It can be the shout of a thousand voices singing “hallelujah.”  However praise is offered, it is integral to a real relationship with God.  How we praise God varies from person to person and culture to culture.  What we need to learn is to DO IT.

If this isn’t a habit you’ve already developed, begin today.  Look around you and say thank you God for even the smallest detail in your life that is right.  Give Him the credit that it is as it should be.  That’s it.  That’s all you need to do to praise Him. 

If you will try this for the next 30 days, God will begin to help you see your life in an entirely new light.  And you will begin to see Him in a completely different way.

If you would like to learn more about Praising God please join us this Sunday.  Pastor Ann’s message will focus on Praise at 10:55 a.m. We will be meeting again at 6:30 p.m. for a people’s praise time.  Anyone who wishes is allowed 3 minutes to get up and share whatever is on their heart that is a praise to God.  We’ll have food and fellowship afterwards and you are MOST welcome to join us.

QUICK REMINDER

September is our month of missions emphasis. Please work on filling your Alabaster boxes to assist in building or rebuilding our churches and schools around the world. We also need to be gathering the supplies needed for our “Crisis Care Kits.” If you don’t have a list of items for this, please see Gary Hohner.

What do You Say When…?

“Moses also said, ‘You will know that it was the Lord . . . because He has heard your grumbling against Him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.’” —Exodus 16:8

While attending seminary, I also had the opportunity to work for a large company. I was paired with an experienced senior employee who was bright, outgoing, kind, and humorous. She was well-liked by everyone and helped me with my job.

One thing I noticed about her was that, despite having many great qualities, she was often highly critical of her church. In passing, she would criticize her church and the people with whom she worshipped.

After a few years of listening to her periodic negative comments, I finally told her that it sounded like she might be ready to try a new church. She quickly rebuked me, asking, “Why would you say that?” I sheepishly responded by pointing out some of the specific “concerns” she had shared with me about her church during the time we had worked together. Even though she listened to what I had to say, she defensively responded, “I love my church and could never leave it.” 

Over time, I have never forgotten this incident. My coworker was respected in my office and had many good qualities. I couldn’t figure out why she attended church when she was so highly critical of it. After listening to her comments, I wondered why anyone would desire to attend her church. There must have been something that kept her from wanting to make a change. Perhaps her church wasn’t that bad after all, but she never said anything positive or redeeming about it.

What do you say about your church around others?

Throughout my life, I have heard many people speak negatively about their churches—not because there is nothing good to say, but rather because they have decided to be critical instead of sharing a good word to listening ears. I’m sure I have been guilty of this at some point in my life, too.

While no church is perfect, the hope is that everyone would work together to make strides towards positive change and growth. Congregations are the biggest promoters of their church. If they don’t have anything positive to say, why would anyone want to come?

This is something I wish I had asked my coworker years ago. What did she love most about her church? What kept her going back Sunday after Sunday? I wish she would have shared her positive thoughts with others. Sometimes a kind or positive word is all it takes to make a life-changing difference that will last forever. You never know who may be listening.

Prayer for the week:

Lord Jesus, may I be the Christian ambassador that You would have me be. May I be prepared to say a good word about You and the Body of Christ (my church). Forgive me for the times I have fallen short of this standard. Help me to look for opportunities to encourage my pastor and other leaders. Help me to understand that You can use my positive and sincere words to help others draw closer to You. Amen.

Bob Buck is senior pastor of Liberty Church of the Nazarene in Liberty, MO, USA.

Written for Coffee Break with Holiness Today.

Defining Praise and Worship

Praise and worship are words that are used frequently in churches.  Have you ever wondered what they really mean?  Are they different or are they two words meaning the same thing?  They are related, but they are not the same. 

We are called to praise Him over 100 times in the NASB version of the bible.  These verses frequently include references to music, but not all do.  They do maintain the common theme of celebrating and glorifying God.   We can praise God with our voices by sharing stories of answered prayer also.  Whenever we celebrate His grace, pay tribute to His actions or glorify His name we are praising Him.

Worship is the act of acknowledging God and humbling ourselves before Him.  Many verses speak of bowing low before Him.  If we are not aware of who He is and who we are in relation to Him, that type of humility won’t occur to us.  Worship is the acknowledgement of His Kingship, His Godhood. 

Pastor Ann is going to take us deeper into the meanings of these words and how they apply to our lives on Sunday morning.  We encourage you to join us on our journey.  We’ll be live-streaming on Facebook if you can’t meet us in the sanctuary at 10:55 a.m.

Just in case

Just in case you missed the live-feeds of Dr. Warrick yesterday, here’s a brief synopsis…..

Reverend Warrick began our REVIVAL services yesterday with a simple question. 

“How big is your God?” 

That seemed like a relatively easy question to answer, until we started to think about and he continued talking.  How big IS your God?  Is He big enough to handle the day to day problems you face?  What about the crises that come into your life?  Is He big enough to change your life?  That one is up to you.

Rev. Warrick reminded us that we serve a God who is immeasurable.  There is no one greater!  He is the God of the impossible.  He created everything! 

The next statement that grabbed everyone’s attention was even bolder.

“We are all exactly where we want to be in our walk with God.”

WHAT?  How is that possible?  Dr. Warrick went on to explain using Matt. 5:6 –

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” 

Are you hungry?  Are you thirsty?  Then you are on the right path.

If you have lost your appetite then Dr. Warrick maintains you are one of three things.  You are: 

                        1.  Sick

                        2.  Dying

                        3.  Dead

If you are “all good with God” then you belong in one of those three categories.  You are sick, dying or already dead in the Lord.  You have hardened your heart, closed your ears, your eyes and your mind to God.  You have sealed off your soul.  While this might be a comfortable place to be right now, today, it’s not a wise place to be when weighed against eternity.

The wise place to be is that in which God is first in all things.  First in your thoughts when you wake, first in your conversation each day and first in your mind as you go out into the world for whatever your schedule holds.  When God is first, all else will follow.  He has promised that in His Word and He never ever breaks His Word.

If you want MORE of what God has for you, if you want Him to have MORE of you, please join us tonight at 6:30 p.m. as Dr. Warrick continues his message of REVIVAL for Cove Church of the Nazarene.