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Understanding the Concept of Worship

by Richard Mansel

Worship is an innate human trait. We will worship something even if it is ourselves, wealth, or fame. Whether we will worship is not the issue, but whom, and with what goal.

Worship is a centerpiece of the Christian life. Scripture is filled with admonitions to worship. In 1 Chronicles 16:29 we read, "Give to the Lord the glory due His name. Bring an offering, and come before Him. Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!" (NKJV). Jesus said, "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24). Worship was joyously praised by David in Psalm 122:1 when he rejoiced, "I was glad when they said to me, 'Let us go into the house of the LORD.'"

Understanding the concept of worship will be well served by examining the three main words used in the New Testament for worship. In doing so, we will discover some important truths and realities about worship.

The most often used word is "proskuneo," which is defined as "kissing the hand, to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence."/1 "When the New Testament uses (proskuneo), the object is always something, truly or supposedly, divine."/2

Usage of this word does not mean that we must worship on our knees, but that we should have the same attitude expressed here.

The second most often used is "latrueo," which is to "render religious service or homage, to worship; to perform sacred services; to offer gifts; to worship God in the observance of rites instituted for worship."/3

The third most often used word is "sebomai" which stresses the "feeling of awe or devotion" toward the object of our worship./4

From these studies we learn that worship always involves action and reverence.

First, worship involves action. This stands in stark contrast to the attitudes of many during worship. Elton Trueblood said that "worship may be the greatest spectator sport in the world." Someone else has said, "Most evidently people do not enjoy coming to worship: they are so late in coming, so early in leaving, and so bored while there."

Worship cannot be boring if we are performing it as the New Testament prescribes. Worship always involves participation. We are not a theatrical audience surveying the scene with a critical eye. We are to be actively involved on a personal level.

Yet, this is rare, as evidenced by the frequent complaint, "I don't get anything out of worship." The studies above powerfully show that we must be fully engaged mentally, emotionally, and spiritually in order to worship properly. This disallows boredom.

We must plan for worship and be ready to begin, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. We are coming before God when we worship him. Attendance must never be equated with worship. We draw near to God, not the building (Matthew 15:8).

Second, worship involves reverence, which means "an attitude of deep respect, honor and deference."/5 A reverent attitude also involves "obedient actions that naturally flow from it."/6

Reverence literally means, "to turn in upon oneself."/7 It requires deep thought and soul-searching. It is, therefore, never passive. We must seek to become a better person through worship, as we open our hearts and minds to God. We give God the respect due his Lordship, and nothing less.

/ 1. Joseph Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 548. / 2. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament 6:763. / 3. Thayer, 373. / 4. W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, 4:235-236 / 5. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia 4:177. / 6. Ibid. / 7. Vines, 3:293.

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Taking Responsibility for Our Actions

by Richard Mansel

In Genesis 3, Satan tempted Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She ate and gave some to Adam to eat. Realizing the sin they had committed, they hid from God. When God challenged them, Eve blamed Satan and Adam blamed Eve. We have been blaming others for our sins ever since. As Solomon said, "there is nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9, NKJV).

In Luke 14:16-24, Jesus related a parable where he established the futility of excuses before the face of God. People were invited to a great supper, but each person who had been invited had an excuse why they were unable to attend. The host of the feast was so infuriated that he revoked their invitations and said that "none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper" (14:24).

At the heart of many excuses lies a clever sleight of hand. We are looking for someone or something that relieves us of what we wish to avoid.

Excuses are useless in the ears of an all-knowing God. He can never be fooled or distracted. As Galatians 6:7 says, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked." The writer of Hebrews says, "And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account" (Hebrews 4:13).

There will be a judgment where "each of us shall give an account of himself to God" (Romans 14:12) because "we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ" (Romans 14:10). John later wrote, "And the dead were judged according to their works" (Revelation 20:12).

Taking responsibility for our own sins is one thing we most abhor and yet God requires. We must all stand ready to face the consequences of our sins. No one else will stand at the judgment for us. No one else will be blamed for our actions or thoughts. They have their own problems before God.

When we sin, there are contributing factors, such as the influence of others, circumstances, opportunities, and the like. Ultimately, none of these factors has any bearing on our responsibilities before God.

Immodest clothes fill clothing stores, but that does not remove the responsibility to dress modestly (1 Timothy 2:9). Profanity is now considered normal, but that does not alter my responsibility to have pure speech (Proverbs 17:20).

As a Christian, if I attend a congregation with a terrible song leader, that does not negate my command to sing (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). If the only place to worship is a congregation where no one speaks to me, that does not remove my responsibility to attend worship in the Lord's church (Hebrews 10:25). If the building always has extreme temperatures, that does not change my requirement to worship. A Christian who is rude does not remove my responsibility to be kind (Ephesians 4:32).

In our modern times, we spend billions of dollars trying to remove the consequences of sins. Moreover, we are seeking to label sins as diseases and the result of genetics which contribute to our refusal to hold ourselves responsible for our actions.

Admittedly, this will be against our nature and will require great effort. God knew that. That is why he told us that we should follow him and not the world (Ephesians 4:1; 5:1). Moreover, our companions will be even more important because they can lead us away from God very rapidly (1 Corinthians 15:33).

Let us begin taking responsibility for our actions before it is too late.

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Jesus Is the Light of the World

by Richard Mansel

Are you scared of the dark? In the light we can move about our neighborhoods without fear. Yet as night falls around us the same surroundings develop an ominous appearance.

Our natural fear of darkness is a necessity, because so much evil lurks in the darkness. Those whose feet run to evil are invigorated when night falls. They hit the streets to perform all forms of mischief. As a result, we lock our doors and turn on all the lights to settle our fears.

In John 8:12, Christ says that he is the "light of the world" (NKJV). Light is associated with goodness and righteousness, while darkness is where evil resides. On the paths of life, we are either on the lighted path or wandering in the dark woods. As Solomon says in Proverbs 4:19, the sinner does not know "over what he stumbles" because the holes and traps are smothered in the darkness of sin.

This darkness leads people to seek answers in the wrong places and things. The child who, in his dark bedroom, mistakes a coat on a door for a monster is no different than a sinner looking for answers in the bottom of a whiskey bottle. Both have been misled by the darkness. In the light, both would have seen that these objects had no power over them, unless they had empowered them.

Isaiah 5:20 says, "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil. Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness." Darkness leads us to mistake the dangerous for the useful.

Light is the most powerful force in the world. Have you ever considered the power of light? A candle can be placed in a room that is so intensely dark that it appears to latch onto you. Yet the darkness, no matter how powerful, cannot extinguish the candle. We can find extraordinary comfort in that fact. Satan cannot, no matter how hard he tries, make us be lost. The choice resides with us. We have the choice of selecting the path to salvation or the path to destruction (1 Peter 5:9; Acts 2:37,38).

So often we hear people say that they cannot find happiness or the answers to the big questions of life. They are far away from God, and darkness is not only about sin, but confusion. When their world is illuminated by God's light, everything becomes clearer, and better decisions can be made. John assures us that God is good and that no darkness resides in him (1 John 1:5). Additionally, he is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

Sinners are lost in darkness and cannot find the lighted path that leads to heaven. Christians must take their light into the world to reach out to the lost so that they can find the right path.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:15,16 that Christians are to be "lights to the world." Can we be a light like Jesus? Not exactly. Jesus is the true light of the world. Instead, we become lights when we stay close to Christ, letting his light reflect off of us. When we move away from Christ, our light is no longer seen and our influence brings only darkness.

If you want to find the light of the world, turn to Scripture and a Christian who is truly reflecting the light of the Savior. Christ will then be easy to find (Matthew 11:28-30).

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The Glorious Name of God

by Richard Mansel

Scripture is filled with names for God such as Father and Creator. Scripture tells us that his name "is above every name" (Philippians 2:9, NKJV). God demands that we respect his name because it is sacred (Exodus 20:7). God was serious about his name being treated reverently. He says, "whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death" (Leviticus 24:16).

In the New Testament we do not have such a warning, but we must still revere and respect his name. Yet people toss the name of God around like rubbage with no thought for their irreverence.

God calls Moses from a burning bush in Exodus 3. Moses is told that he will lead God's people out of bondage. He asks God what name he should give to the Egyptians when they ask who sent him. God says, "I AM WHO I AM" (Exodus 3:14). The "I AM" is an astounding name that has most often been translated as Yahweh or Jehovah.

Maimonides writes, "It is everywhere a proper name denoting the person of God, and Him only. The Hebrews may say the Elohim, the true God, in opposition to all false gods; but he never says the Jehovah, for Jehovah is the name of the true God only. He says again and again, my God or my Elohim, but never my Jehovah. He speaks of the God (Elohim) of Israel but never of the Jehovah of Israel, for there is no other Jehovah. He speaks of the living God, but never of the living Jehovah, because he cannot conceive of Jehovah as other than living."/1

John Piper writes, "Yahweh is used three times as often as the simple words for 'God.' What this shows is that God aims to be known not as a generic deity, but as a specific Person with a name that carries his unique character and mission."/2

When we are told that God's name is "I AM," we are given many lessons to consider.

First, God is eternal in existence. The "I AM" is always in the present. No matter the place, time, age, or circumstance, he is the "I AM." He exceeds our feeble human minds. He never changes and exists solely outside of time (James 1:17; 2 Peter 3:8). All of our so-called wisdom and gods are frivolous compared to Jehovah.

Second, God transcends empathy. He is one of a kind and exceeds the greatest human minds and imagination (Psalm 139:7-12). Empathy means "the identification and understanding of another's situation." Specifically, God is above our understanding. We can never empathize with God because we can never understand him. We are told that "God's ways are not man's ways" (Isaiah 55:8).

Third, God is inexhaustible in energy. He is the source of everything and all plug into him. Jesus is our path to God and our resource of salvation and life that will never fail. God is accessible only through Christ (John 14:6).

The name of God is beyond our understanding, but God is still before us as a loving, personal, and giving Father. God used his son to reach down to us if we will only extend our hand and heart to him, we will find the glorious blessings of our Lord (John 3:16; Revelation 3:20; Philippians 4:7).

/ 1. Girdlestone, Old Testament Synonyms, p. 62. / 2. www.desiringgod.org

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What About God and Disasters?

by Richard Mansel

The Tsunami in Southeast Asia shook the world physically and emotionally. The death toll, at present, has exceeded 200,000. Australian researchers say, "We can still see a steady signal of the earth vibrating as a result of that earthquake two weeks later. From what it looks like, it appears it will probably continue to oscillate for several more weeks."/1

Generations will pass before the remains of this disaster fade into history. Worldwide, questions are being asked about the nature of a God who would allow such horrors.

Before answers are provided, we must acknowledge that people are confused and angry at God over this disaster.

Heather MacDonald sums up these feelings when she writes, "Centuries of uncritical worship have clearly produced a monster. God knows that he can sit passively by while human life is wantonly mowed down, and the next day, churches, synagogues, and mosques will be filled with believers thanking him for allowing the survivors to survive. The faithful will ask him to heal the wounded, while ignoring his failure to prevent the disaster in the first place."/2

Writers such as MacDonald never take the time to understand God. Instead, they seek to reduce him to human size. Cal Thomas wisely writes, "Rather than attempt to bring mankind up to God's level, many skeptics try to bring God down to man's level, remaking Him in a human image and thus encouraging the false view that God is someone who is supposed to make us happy and prosperous."/3

Man exists for God, not God for man. He is the Creator; we are the Creation. Paul rhetorically asks, "does the potter have power over the clay?" (Romans 9:21, NKJV). When Job loses everything he has, he demands an explanation from God concerning his suffering. In Job 38-41, God speaks and demonstrates his power and majesty as creator and sovereign king of the universe.

Answers do not come easily when obscured by pain. Our human eyes see from a different perspective than an omnipotent God. We look around in a narrow sense and God looks down on the world as a whole. He understands everything on a scale we cannot.

His wisdom is everlasting and is "not willing that any should perish" spiritually "but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). He created a beautiful world and has showered us with all spiritual and physical blessings. Only a good God would do such things (Psalm 33:5). If he were evil, we would no longer be alive anyway.

In Luke 13, some came before Jesus to ask about the "Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices" (Luke 13:1, NKJV). Jesus said, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:2,3).

Disasters have always been with us and will continue until the world ends. No amount of care, concern or legislation can erase that fact. We can only ensure that our souls are prepared for them (Hebrews 9:27).

Life is a tenuous thread that we must treat with care (James 4:13,14). While disasters turn people into critics of God, it should instead turn them into pursuers of God.

This world is our temporary abode, and we must be preparing for the next life where there will be no pain, suffering, or death (Revelation 21:1-7). Ultimately, heaven is the answer. This world is painful and filled with hardships and grief. Only by entering heaven for all eternity will we find the peace we all desire and an end to pain, suffering, and death.

/ 1. www.stuff.co.nz / 2. slate.msn.com / 3. www.townhall.com

For further study on this subject, I refer you to my previous article, "Who is Responsible for Suffering?" found at forthright.antville.org

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Forthright Magazine continues, more dynamic than ever! We have groups created for FMag on Facebook and the Churches of Christ Network. Announcement blog is up and going on Preachers Files. Email lists about FMag and FPress are available both on Yahoo and GoogleGroups. And, to top it all off, we're twittering for both on Twitter.com.
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