Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Have you ever been asked if you believe in something or someone… oh, say, Satan? What do you answer? I answer, “Absolutely not.” (Does this mean that I do not believe that Satan exists? Not even close.) I go on to say that I believe IN Jesus Christ and since Jesus told me that Satan exists, I believe that he does exist and that he is battling Jesus for the throne of God. I believe that he is a power to be reckoned with and that there is war going on between his principality and Christ’s. I also believe that Jesus Christ has won and will always and forever win that battle. I do not believe IN Satan. I do believe IN Jesus Christ.
One very interesting person found in the books of Kings is not of Judah or Israel. He is the King of Aram, Ben-hadad. He was the totally loyal, generous, giving friend and treaty partner of Solomon. He is the one whom Solomon betrayed near the end of his life. And, though Ben-Hadad was hurt and angry with Solomon, he continued to believe certain things about the God of Israel.
Through experience he had come to realize that the God of Israel was absolutely in charge of the destiny of kings and of nations. AND he believed that no other God had the powers to control history the way the God of Israel did. Yet, he continued to worship his own false God and tried to win control of Israel through constant raids on the cities of Israel.
In chapter 5 of 2 Kings, we meet one of Ben-hadad’s loyal commanders and servant, Naaman. Naaman had leprosy. Naaman’s wife had an Israelite slave girl who had been captured on one of these raids. She had been bold about her faith in the God of Israel and boldly suggested that perhaps Naaman could be healed if he would go to see the man of God, Elisha. The wife told her husband what the girl had said and he went to the King to ask permission. The King said, “By all means, go.” Then he wrote a letter of introduction to the King of Israel (Joram) because King Ben-hadad assumed that this prophet was subject to the king. :)
And I smile because we know that to be far from true. “As soon as the King of Israel read the letter, he said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a fight with me!” :) Fortunately for both, Elisha was fully aware of what was going on and quickly sent word that the king should send the man to him. Sometimes God at work can actually bring us a giggle or even an LOL.
To make a long story short, after a struggle with his pride, the man was healed and he proclaimed, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel!” He also swore off kneeling to or making sacrifices to any other God.
Now, if we compare Ben-Hadad and Naaman, who believed that God exists and who believed IN God? Naamans heart ruled over his head and he threw himself to God. Ben-Hadad never did. Believe? Believe IN? Huge difference. Eternal difference. And a powerful reminder that we can NOT play the game of Political Correctness in our walk, talk or answers to the questions we are asked. We must not avoid answering the world’s questions. We must speak boldly about our beliefs. And to do that we must know what we believe.
Again? Know what we believe? YES. Feast on the Word that we believe IN. Read it thoroughly. We must not get caught up in reading through the Bible in 90 Days, or even one year and think that we have covered it. We must read it thoroughly, cover to cover, many times in our lives, stopping to make notes and observations as we go. We must not depend on other people to feed us. We must feed ourselves. And we absolutely must “overeat.”
May God bless us all with a hungry heart and a determination to feed it. We will find joy if we do.
Monday, August 6, 2012
…in the church. OUCH! Bummer. It’s a good thing that I strongly believe that Paul had every right and prompting to say that or I would erase it from my Bible. But having an NIV Study Bible has given me great hope here. Fortunately I have been taught to always consider context and never, ever take a verse out of context and run with it to make a new doctrine. And I have also been told that the culture of the people in the church is also important.
This whole thing started for me when I went back to 1Corinthians 15:1-4 to review a Sunday sermon and decided to read the entire portion in order to get a better look at the context. Paul is admonishing the church to stick to the preaching and teaching of the true Gospel and basically quit messing with it. And he made it very clear what that Gospel was and still is. Excellent reading and well worth remembering.
However, the next verses are never enough for me so… I read back in chapter 14. Near the end of that chapter Paul actually says:
…. 33b As in all congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
1 Corinthians 14:33-35
Fortunately, this passage is found in the middle of an exhortation to have order in the church, “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace’ (vs. 33a…)
Apparently it can be considered in three different ways, at least according the NIV Study guide. And in his book, 20 Hot Potatoes Christians are Afraid to Touch, Tony Campolo goes on to say that “Church was not the place to teach their husbands what husbands should not do.” From both sources there seems to be agreement that order in the church service was the order of business for chapter 14. Earlier, men and women were admonished to keep the confusion down and limit themselves in how many times they spoke in tongues or prophesied (plain teaching) and to do more of the latter to the benefit of new comers in the church. And so it was paramount that women respect the service and the men and women leading the service by not asking publicly every question that came to their minds. It did not suggest that women could not speak in tongues or prophecy because Paul had just admonished them in proper ways to go about that. He was setting a precedent against disorderly and unnecessary speaking of all kinds. And, apparently the disorderly speaking often led to miss management of the truth of the Gospel so he followed up with a clear definition of the Gospel which was to be preached and followed by the church. (Chapter 15) Everyone had a lot to learn and no one could learn anything helpful when everything was presented in noisy disorder.
For us the trick may be to decide what is disorder and what is not. It seems that many can be shocked at the behavior of others as they worship, perhaps for something as simple as saying “Amen” out loud in the midst of a sermon being preached. Others are worshipping regularly under the leadership of a preacher who constantly encourages such positive reaction to the truth. Some preachers even sing and dance their sermons to the delight and joy of the congregations, while others never move from the pulpit the entire time of their sermons. Is one wrong and one right? Apparently the only truly wrong thing is to preach a false gospel. Keeping a straight face or dancing with joy is definitely a personal congregational choice.
I will never forget the delightful experience of being led in worship by a group of young men from Rwanda who drummed and danced and shouted for joy with each and every song. We couldn’t always understand their words but we definitely understood their joy for the Lord. It was contagious. One song actually repeated many times that we should “move our bodies,” But many Baptist feet and bodies just couldn’t do it. :) As for me, I couldn’t stand still. I am a bouncy, hand-raising praise singer and love it when there is a lot of hand clapping going on. (I am not able to clap along because I am an old fashioned 1-3 beat person who cannot sing and clap with a 2-4 beat). So I just bounce a lot and sing too loud and enjoy the offering of praise and thanksgiving to our God. :)
I guess where I am going is that it is our job to participate in worship with all our heart and mind and to keep our eyes and ears open for the truth being taught. No matter what the service is like, if the truth is not taught and the fruit of the Spirit is not being lived out, it is not the place to be. And it is a responsibility for women as well as men to know the truth so that they can discern it and they can teach it and share it however God leads them to do that.
May we all keep singing ‘til the songs run out… fat chance of that, right?