John T. Willis

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Majoring in Minors--Part 1

Through the centuries, all churches have been plagued by focusing on matters which are of no significance to God. People always support their views by quoting various texts or explain texts away from what the Bible actually says. The Church of Christ denomination is no exception. In the next few blogs, we will briefly address only some of these issues in which we "major in minors."

I. Wealth.
    a. Like all churches, WEALTH has always played a huge role in the hearts and lives of our churches and institutions. We desire BIG churches. The bigger the church, the better the church. Yes, we explain all this away, using this argument or that argument. But Jesus taught us very clearly that wealth is meaningless in the eyes of God. For example, Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:19-21:
     Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your HEART will be also.
     Universities cater to the wealthy. Their real concern is not in focusing on God, learning and following the Bible seriously, and engaging in difficult issues, but in keeping their constituents content and satisfied. Administration, faculty, and staff meetings rarely discuss difficult heart issues of life. The concern is to have bigger and better buildings, a well-kept campus, plenty of entertainment, food, supplies, etc. But where is the serious thinking and praying and living in the lives of all who attend?
   b. Paul teaches in 1 Timothy 6:6-10:
       Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

II. Beauty.
     a. Beauty attracts all people. God is the giver of every beautiful person and thing. But it is very easy for all people to focus on external beauty rather than on the heart. When Yahweh told Samuel to go to Bethlehem and anoint one of the sons of Jesse to be the next king of Israel, Samuel brought out the sons of Jesse. The oldest son, Eliab, was tall and handsome, a very good looking individual. Samuel immediately said:
         "Surely the Lord's anointed is now before the Lord. But the Lord said to Samuel, Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart."
     b. A clear example of this principle is the existence of divorces in the United States, and in all the churches. A person often marries another person because that person is handsome or beautiful physically or externally. If one will just take time to learn the heart of that person, many marriages will be averted. God's picture of marriage is Jesus and the church in Ephesians 5:22-33. One must carefully restudy all the aspects of that relationship in this text.

Share YOUR insights and concerns and relationships and shortcomings and thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The King of Glory--Psalm 24

The superscription over Psalm 24 is very brief: "Of David. A Psalm." Obviously, this give no information about the background or purpose of this poem. Psalms 24 is very brief; it contains only ten verses. It naturally falls into three parts. The fundamental theme is "Yahweh is the King of Glory."

I. Everything in the Universe belongs to Yahweh. Psalm 24:1-2.
    a. The poet begins with the proclamation: "The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it, the world and those who live in it. This psalm assumes [like the rest of the Hebrew Bible] that Yahweh rules not just over the people of Israel but over all the earth, including all nations. 24:1.
    b. The proof that everything belongs to God is that Yahweh founded the universe on the seas, and established it on the rivers. This calls to mind the account of creation in Genesis 1. 24:2.

II. Preparing Hearts for Worship. Psalm 24:3-6.
     a. As pilgrims wind their way from their homes to gather at the Jerusalem temple and worship Yahweh, when they approach the gates or doors of the temple, they ask the official priest: "Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand on his holy place?" The Jerusalem temple was built on Mount Moriah at the Threshing Floor of Araunah (2 Samuel 24:18-25; 2 Chronicles 3:1; cf. Genesis 22:1-18). So, all the worshippers had to walk UP the mountain to get to the temple. 24:3.
     b. The priest responds with THREE comprehensive necessities for all worshippers:
         1. Worshippers must have clean hands and pure hearts. A person's heart lies at the center of all life. Proverbs 4:23 says: "Keep your HEART with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life." The hand is the God-given means of carrying out what the heart directs. James 4:8 highlights this truth: "Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. CLEANSE YOUR HANDS, you sinners, and PURIFY YOUR HEARTS, you double-minded."
         2. Worshippers must not lift up their souls to what is false. There are many enticements to lure godly people away from focusing on God alone. All such enticements and allurements are false. They lead to nowhere and accomplish nothing. Thus, true followers of God must avoid all such temptations at all cost.
         3. Worshippers must not swear deceitfully. Making promises to God is important and solemn. Each worshipper must choose carefully the decisions he/she makes in life. One must follow true and honest opportunities and  guidelines. 24:4.
     c. When worshippers follow these three powerful, simple instructions, they will receive blessing from Yahweh and vindication for God our Father. This is the company of those who seek Yahweh. 24:5-6.

III. Exalting the King of Glory. Psalm 24:7-10.
      a. As companies of pilgrims carry the ark of the covenant as a symbol if Yahweh's presence as king, they beckon the Most Holy Place of the temple: "Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in." A more detailed picture of this approach of worshippers appears in 1 Kings 8:1-13 [note especially verse 11]. 24:7, 9.
     b. Finally, the worshippers reflect on the identity of Yahweh, saying: "Who is the King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle," and again: "Who is the King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory." This gives the picture of Yahweh as King as commander of the hosts or armies of Israel as they boldly move forward against any enemies to be victorious under the leadership of their heavenly King and Lord. See the similar picture in Numbers 10:35-36;
1 Samuel 4:3-4. 24:8, 10.

Share YOUR experiences and concepts and reversals and aspirations and dreams with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis