God’s Plan for Worship

Family in Church

‘Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth’” (John 4:20-24).

In this chapter, Jesus spoke with a Samaritan woman by a well. The discussion covered several topics, one of which was the issue of worship. After she “perceived” Jesus to be “a prophet” (John 4:19), she brought up a question about worship. In Jesus’ answer, He explained to her some basic principles about worship. These instructions are helpful for us as well.

In this article, we are going to look at what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman and what He teaches about God’s plan for worship. There are four basic points we can take from His instruction on this occasion.Continue Reading

The Reformation and the Restoration: A Tale of Two Movements

Martin Luther and Alexander Campbell

The New Testament repeatedly warns about drifting; in particular, drifting away from the faith. This can be done either individually or collectively.

  • The Hebrew writer warned the Christians to whom he wrote that they “must pay much closer attention to what [they had] heard, so that [they would] not drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:1).
  • The Lord Himself rebuked the church in Ephesus because they had “left [their] first love” (Revelation 2:4).

There is always a danger that any one of us – or any one of our churches – could drift away from the faith. However, Paul also warned about a great apostasy that was coming not long after his lifetime.

Let no one in any way deceive you, for it [the return of Christ, as] will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-5).

Paul explained that this “mystery of lawlessness [was] already at work” (2 Thessalonians 2:7). As he described this “man of lawlessness,” he was not referring to one person, but an attitude. This apostasy would take place over some period of time. It was a spirit of error, an attitude that led Christians to depart from the pattern revealed in the New Testament. It was “restrained” for a time (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7) by the persecution from the Roman authorities. However, once that opposition was removed, the departures from the faith would increase exponentially.Continue Reading

The Ancient Paths in a Digital Age

Man with Phone and Bible

Thus says the Lord, ‘Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls. But they said, “We will not walk in it”’” (Jeremiah 6:16).

In the context of the passage above, God’s people had departed from His ways; therefore, judgment was coming against them. However, God offered them an opportunity to repent and avoid calamity – to return to the “ancient paths.” Sadly though, they were not willing to do this.

Today, while so many have turned from God, there are still faithful individuals like Jeremiah who echo this call – to return to God and His word and to follow the Lord’s ways. Even with all of the changes and advancements that have taken place in our society, this message is still just as needed.

Regarding the changes and advancements we have seen in our time, perhaps the most significant is the rise of the internet and social media. It has been noted that we are living through “the biggest communication shift in the last 500 years.”* We are now able to communicate with people all around the world and do so instantly. We have access to more information than at any time in human history. The advent of the internet and social media has been as significant in our time as the invention of the printing press was in its time. Of course, not everyone was able to read then, just as not everyone uses the internet and social media today; but its impact is undeniable.

There are many potential uses for digital communication and social media – news, information, entertainment, sports, connecting with family and friends, and so on. However, what we want to focus on here is how we can potentially use these mediums for good and to help lead others to Christ.Continue Reading

Modern Methods of Giving

Texting

[Note: The following article was included in the updated edition of my study, Now Concerning the Collection: A Study of Giving. I am posting it here for the benefit of others who may be considering different methods of giving that have been made available by our modern technology.]

I wrote the original study, Now Concerning the Collection, in 2006 after preaching a lesson (by request) on the topic of giving. At that time, the standard practice for churches to take up the collection – at least the congregations where I had attended – was to pass a basket down each pew into which those in attendance would place their contribution, either in the form of cash or check. This was the way we took up the collection.

Over the fourteen years since then, we have seen many changes that have taken place in our world – including changes in how we use money and make transactions. Many churches now offer online giving that allows someone to give using a credit or debit card online. Other churches offer the option of text giving (via text message) or a mobile giving app.Continue Reading

The Christian and Conspiracy Theories

Conspiracy

Over the past few years, it seems that we are hearing more about “conspiracy theories.” A number of people have expressed increasing concern over Christians embracing such theories. Notice the following excerpt from an article from Lifeway Research. [Note: We discussed this on the podcast a couple of months ago, but I thought it would be good to deal it here as well.]

“A new study from Nashville-based Lifeway Research finds 49% of U.S. Protestant pastors say they frequently hear members of their congregation repeating conspiracy theories they have heard about why something is happening in our country. Around 1 in 8 (13%) strongly agree their congregants are sharing conspiracy theories, defined by Merriam-Webster as ‘a theory that explains an event or set of circumstances as the result of a secret plot by usually powerful conspirators.’” (Lifeway Research)

The article contrasts “conspiracy theories” with “truth,” assuming that they must be opposites. Yet that will not always be the case. What conspiracy theories were these pastors hearing? We are not told in the article. However, there is an assumption – not just from the author of the article, but an assumption that is held by many – that whatever has been labeled as a “conspiracy theory” must necessarily be false. (Keep this in mind and we will revisit this point later.)

Again, the article did not mention any specific conspiracy theories that were being spread by church-goers. And in this article, I will not be discussing any specific conspiracy theories either, whether they are about the pandemic, the recent Presidential election, or anything else. However, I do want us to consider some general principles. There are some who are very quick to believe any conspiracy theory that comes along. Others are very quick to dismiss all “conspiracy theories.” As Christians, we should not take either of these approaches.

So what are some Biblical principles we need to remember about “conspiracy theories”? In this article, we are going to consider six points.Continue Reading

Purity, Temptation, and Sexual Fulfillment

Man praying in the forest

Recently a young man was arrested and charged with killing eight people after opening fire on three Atlanta-area massage parlors. Naturally, this horrific tragedy made national news. As is typical in cases like this, investigators, reporters, and news commentators have sought to determine the motive of the killer. According to the Cherokee County sheriff’s Captain, this man claimed to have a “sex addiction” and “wanted to eliminate” the temptation that existed for him in these locations.

Predictably, many were quick to use this tragedy as an opportunity to push certain talking points. Rather than simply condemning the one who committed the murders, blame was spread to the denomination to which he belonged; this then turned into charges of “racism and sexism” in churches. There have even been claims that “purity culture” in churches (which has been described in part as an emphasis on modesty in women in order to not cause a temptation for men to lust) would lead religious people – especially those who are socially conservative – to blame this crime on the victims and not the gunman.

Every reasonable person – Christian or non-Christian – should be able to immediately agree that what this man did in murdering these eight women was wrong and that the authorities should see to it that he is tried, convicted, and strongly punished for this. Yet this tragedy has been turned into an opportunity by some to attack religion, Biblical morals, and modesty.

I will not defend the reprehensible actions of the young man who murdered these women, regardless of his motive. It is also not my intention here to defend the denomination of which he was a member or any group with which his church was reportedly affiliated. However, I do believe it is important for us to understand what the Bible teaches about purity, temptation, and sexual fulfillment. This story, along with the reactions to it, make it evident that many do not understand these topics.Continue Reading

Unlikely Converts

Men on the subway

In the following passage, James described a scenario in which two individuals visited the assembly of the church. After they arrived, the brethren treated them differently based upon their appearances.

My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?” (James 2:1-4).

James warned these brethren that they were not to treat others differently based upon their appearances. He explained in the next verse that “God [chose] the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom” (James 2:5). Yet they treated the poor as if they were unimportant. By this kind of treatment, they were putting a barrier between these individuals and the salvation that the Lord offered to them – all because they made a judgment about them based upon their appearance.

Sometimes when we think of evangelism and converting the lost, we might have a picture in our minds of the type of person we could see being receptive to the gospel. However, if we are not careful we could subconsciously reject or overlook some who might have otherwise been interested (the single mother, the person with tattoos, the immigrant who speaks broken English, or, in the example given by James, the poor man who cannot afford nice clothes to wear to the assembly of the church). Sometimes the ones who are converted to Christ are not the ones we would expect.

The New Testament contains several examples of individuals who would have been unlikely converts because they did not fit the mold of one who might be considered a good prospect. Yet they obeyed the gospel and became disciples of Christ. Let us notice some of these in this article.Continue Reading