Friday, June 21, 2013

True Worship

I had some pretty sad kids today.  One of our neighbors was having a tree cut down in their yard.  It was a huge old oak, and it took the crew most of the day, cutting branch by branch until it was compact enough to fell safely.  The tree was pretty close to our yard, and to my children it was like an old friend.

This was also the summer solstice in our part of the world.  We just call it "the first day of summer," which to my kids means more fun and less work!  However, there were, and in fact still are, plenty of religions which use this day as a day of worship, or a holy day.  They mostly focus on the sun,because this is the day that the sun remains in the sky for the longest time in the year.  
Here comes the sun!

How has this happened?  How have people begun putting more importance on the creation than the creator?  And why?

I suspect it has to do with our flesh selves.  We tend to focus on things we can perceive with our five senses.  Natural things are easy to worship.  We know that no human being made those things, but we can see, smell, feel, taste, and hear them.  This gives them a sort of mystery, and a sort of power.  Things like the sun, moon, and stars are especially easy to worship, because they are so far away and so mysterious, that we can't imagine how they got there.  We also know that without the sun our planet would die.  There would be no light or heat.  In the dead of winter, we shiver to think that the sun might stay away forever, leaving us to slowly freeze to death in a place without light.

But is this true?  Are we dependent on the closest star for our existence?  Maybe not.

First of all, God created light on the first day of creation, and didn't create the sun, moon, and stars until the fourth day.  In between, he created the seas, and put the plants on the earth (Genesis 1:1-19).  So what was making the light and the dark, the day and the night for those first few days?  Hmm.  It may be that we have to go all the way to the end of the Bible to discover the answer.  Revelation 21:1,3 states:  
"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea...And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.  
And chapter 22:3-5 proclaims: 
 And there shall be no more curse:  but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him:  And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.  And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light:  and they shall reign for ever and ever.

God has already proven himself to have power over the sun.  In Joshua, chapter 10, we find the army of Israel in a huge battle with the kings of the Amorites.  In verse 12, Joshua asked that the sun stay up so they could continue to fight.  
"And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies.  Is not this written in the book of Jasher?  So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about the whole day.  And there was no day like that before or after it, that the LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man:  for the LORD fought for Israel (vs. 13-14).

And for a sign to Hezekiah, God made the sun go backward in the sky
And Hezekiah said unto Isaiah, What shall be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of the LORD the third day?  And Isaiah said, This sign shalt thou have of the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that he hath spoken:  shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees?  And Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees:  nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees.  And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the LORD:  and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz (2 Kings 20:8-11).
Can you imagine such things?  The sun staying in one place in the sky for hour after hour?  Or actually moving backward, to make the sundial reverse the time?  It doesn't sound to me like the sun is in control.  

Jesus said "I am the light of the world:  he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life (John 8:12).  And again:  "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day:  the night cometh, when no man can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world (John 9:4-5).

And what is the light, now that Jesus is in heaven?  He told his disciples:  "Ye are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.  Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick:  and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).  

And no, doing good works does not get you into heaven.  But it may bring a glimpse of heaven to someone here on earth.  

So what is true worship?  Is it having a holiday (or holy day)?  Is it going to church and singing songs?  Is it a meal?  A parade?  A ritual?  Bowing down?  Lifting hands?  Fun and games?  Solemn faces?  Face paint?  Balloons?  Sunday School?  Sermons?  Offerings?  Are these things any different, really, than the pagans who are worshiping the sun today?  I don't think so.  This is not truly the worship of God.  It is not what God asks us for.  He asks us for work.  What we do really matters.  It brings glory to God.

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.  For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:  For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.  But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.  If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.  Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world...For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also (James 1:22-27, 2:26).

Brothers and sisters, WHAT WE DO REALLY MATTERS!  Saying that we're Christians and acting like everybody who is not only brings dishonor to God.  We cannot spend our lives going after the things of the world.  It is not a long slide between admiring those things, and worshiping them.  Even churches can fall into this, trying to be "relevant" to the masses.  People don't need more entertainment in life.  There is really too much of that already.  They need plain talk.  They need the plain, unadulterated Bread of Life, not some fancy gourmet meal.  And hiding out in our comfy, happy churches is not helping anyone.  We go to be fed, so that we can work.  If we're just eating the meal, and not going out and working it off, we're just going to get lazy and fat.  And taking the nourishing food for ourselves and giving out junk food to the neighbors is not going to bring anyone to God's kingdom.  It will just make for a bunch of sick, malnourished people who don't know what spiritual health is.  

Time is running out.  Someday the sun will be gone, and it will not bode well for those who were worshiping it.  The god of this world will be defeated, and thrown into the fire, and all of his followers with him.  There isn't much time.  So, think about it.  What will you do?

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