The following are things that you will never here a father say: “I’m lost. Let us ask for directions.” “Here is my credit card and the keys to my car. Go crazy!” “Your mother and I are going out for the evening. Feel free to throw a party.” “What do I want for Father’s Day? Do not worry about it. It’s no big deal!” However, I believe that the most reluctant thing that a father will ever say is, “I am imperfect.” As children, we believed that our fathers were invincible. We believed that they had the answers to every problem. However, after a while, we realized that they are human just like us. They make mistakes, and they are vulnerable! My father and stepfather are keen examples. I remember one summer when I was a child, my father believed that he was “Mr. fix-it” and attempted to change the oil in the family car subsequentially draining all the transmission fluid. Fast forwarding to my teenage years, my stepfather bought a cherry red T-bird convertible. Being the spry 16-year-old that I was, I earnestly begged him to let me park the car. With one thrust on the gas pedal, I almost crashed the car into a tree. Do not ever convince me that fathers are perfect!
Fathers are imperfect, but they were called to take on the most extraordinary task in existence, to be a parent through the moral example of our Heavenly Father. In that regard, our fathers are our greatest coaches. As Church of England Priest, George Herbert, eloquently stated, “One father is worth more than a hundred schoolmasters.” You see, mothers and fathers serve a mutual but distinct role in parenting. Both figures are integral in a child’s upbringing, but fathers are tasked to be the leaders of their family. They protect their family, and they are the predominant models of godly character in the family.
I would like to draw your attention to Proverbs 22:6 which I think encompasses the essence of a father’s wisdom over a child’s life. It says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” The phrase, “train up,” derives from the Hebrew word, Chanack, which literally translates, “To give to be tasted” (don’t sound this word out in public because you will sound like a hissing cat). This principle derives from the practice of Hebrew mothers inserting small pieces of meat into their infant’s mouths to assist them in their development of taste. To put this verse into perspective, when children are brought up with a godly influence, then it is likely that this impression will create a permanent effect on their lives, and they will reciprocate these values to their future family. How can fathers apply this wisdom in their own households to “train up” their children for Godly living?
How Fathers Impress Godly Living on Their Children
First, make God’s Word the center of your household. Every living room lampstand should be attired with a family Bible. In fact, many couples are presented with a family Bible by the minister who officiates their wedding. Scripture is the inspired word of God which encompasses the ultimate standards of truth and godly living (2 Tim. 3:16). Scripture must be the center of knowledge and discernment for every household because it serves as a detailed manual for leading a family, raising children, and dealing with crisis. I am reminded of an article about a Christian home builder who is famous for placing Bibles in the framing of the houses he builds. Often, he would place a soft cover Bible in the framing of the master bedroom where the “leaders of the house stay.” He also engraves Psalm 127 in the wooden framework of the children’s bedroom. So, the Bible is not just literally in the center of the home but in its
foundation! Fathers should always apply Scripture when leading their household. In fact, fathers should have a frequent Bible study with their family such as a designated quiet time reading Scripture with family. The more the Word of God is communicated in the household, the more it will impact the spiritual well-being of the family. God’s Word should be engraved on the mind of everyone in the household (see Ps. 1:1-2 & Josh. 1:8).
Second, make prayer a priority in the home. Prayer is our source for communicating with God, and it was one of the most mandated disciplines instructed by Jesus (Matt. 6:5 - “And when you pray…”). When prayer is established in the household, God’s favor and blessings are mobilized. When fathers initiate prayer, they invite the presence of God to permeate the household with His glory and honor. Jesus created a keen model for prayer for spiritual leaders, and this is an essential model for all families to follow (see Matt. 6:9-13). How many of you fathers were impacted in your leadership by having prayer in your childhood home? How often do you pray with your family? Do you pray for your spouse that she will be encouraged and grow further into the image of Christ? Do you pray for your kids both living at home and away that they will be good stewards of Christ in the world? Do you pray that God will continue to equip you to be a better leader? St Augustine famously wrote, "Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God's thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him.”
Third, do not be afraid to show vulnerability to your children. Many fathers believe that one of the best ways to raise children is never letting them see their weaknesses. Father’s do not always have to portray themselves as invincible or Super Dad. Even Superman had Kryptonite. To an extent, when fathers display their humanity in the presence of their children, it will teach them better self-esteem. It shows children the appropriateness of expressing healthy emotions and vulnerabilities. Sometimes, fathers do not always have the superhero image! I first discovered this at eight-years-old after my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Fathers are not robots or the Terminator. They are human beings; they hurt, they cry, they mourn, and they feel pain (have you ever watched your father miss a nail with a hammer and hit his thumb)? Fathers may not be perfect, but they have a perfect Savior who empathizes with every human weakness in existence but did not sin (Heb. 4:15).
Fourth, always practice forgiveness. The most devasting thing that could happen between and father and son/daughter is conflict that results in relational separation. When conflict occurs in the home, it is the duty of the father to always practice forgiveness and pursue reconciliation. When a father exhibits forgiveness (and repentance), he is modeling the character of Christ’s humility. Remember the Bible story of the Prodigal Son? Here is a recap: The youngest of two sons blatantly insists to his father on receiving his inheritance (basically saying, “I wish you were dead”). The son quickly squanders his inheritance on fleshly pleasures to the point where he was feeding out of a pig’s trough. After hitting rock bottom, the son scurried home to receive his father’s forgiveness. Without hesitation, the father ran to embrace his son who did not even get the chance to verbalize his sorrow. The father then celebrated his son’s return by giving him the best commodities in the land (the oldest son was not too happy about this). Our sin caused a great conflict between us and our Heavenly Father which resulted in eternal separation. However, through the giving of His only begotten Son, Jesus, we have become reconciled with Him. This was the ultimate act of forgiveness ever displayed! We might find ourselves missing the mark at times, but our Father, through the work of His son, is always ready and eager to welcome us into his fellowship with open arms. Fathers are called to reciprocate these actions! Because Christ has forgiven him, he should forgive his own children unconditionally (1 Jn. 1:9).
Lastly, above all, be exceptional imitators of God. Fathers are direct representatives of godly character to their family. When they display leadership and godly character, they are representing God Himself to their family. Ephesians 5:1-2 says, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” The word, “imitators” comes from the Greek, Mimetes, which literally means to “mimic.” The Apostle Paul teaches that we ought to “mimic” Christ. How many of you remember mimicking your father doing something? I remember that as a child, I always watched my father shave in the bathroom. In response, I grabbed a razor with the safety cap still on it, put on shaving cream all over my face, and I pretended to shave. I also used to watch him mow the lawn, and I would follow him using my toy lawn mower that blew bubbles for smoke. Imitation is contagious! When you do something enough in front of someone, chances are they will pick up on the behavior after a while. This slightly aligned with the law of classical conditioning (see 1 Cor. 11:1). Fathers, in everything you do, mimic the character of Jesus, so it will spread to your children.
Fathers are the primitive role models of God in the household. This Sunday, we celebrate fathers, but, most importantly, we celebrate our Father in Heaven who deserves praise and glory every day! As family leaders, fathers should exhibit the characteristics of God because He is the pure essence of holiness. Solomon in Proverbs provides a deep reminder that parents are key in their child’s development. Training up a child is coaching them through the development of their maturity (“give to be tasted”). When fathers assist in the child’s “tasteful” development of Scripture and imitating God, then hopefully they will grow into the godly patrons we all desire our children to be and make a difference in the world.
If you would like to become connected with First Baptist Church of Ridgecrest (1350 S. Downs Street), please reach out to us at (760) 375-2503 or visit us at fbcridgecrest.com or Facebook: “First Baptist Church of Ridgecrest” for streamed Sunday services at 10:30, Bible studies, and weekly updates. Please reach out any time if we can serve you.
Pastor Mat Pope, M.Div.
According to a recent poll proposed by Franklin Graham, over 50% of Christians are not voting. Thus, I find it deeply perplexing when I hear Christians protest the current status and occupants of multiple political offices both locally and federally, yet they refuse to cast their voices to potentially fix these issues. Understanding the dichotomy between God and government for Christians is alarming because many of them fail to realize that God has given them power to impact their societies. God gave these people power to proclaim the Gospel to the nations (Act 1:8), but this power is inclusive in their voices to seek political change, which mobilizes the advancement of God’s kingdom. The Great commission is more than just simply witnessing the Gospel of God’s grace and mercy to individuals; it is about taking the Gospel to the polls and allowing its values to influence the masses because our God is unceasingly faithful, loving, sovereign, and just; therefore he is control of all things.
Christians, if you voted this week, how did your decisions reflect your faith? Were you confidant in your decisions? Were you discouraged by your decisions? Based on the policies you studied in preparation for your vote, how did you decisions further point you to Christ? It’s not rocket science to conclude that we live in world filled with unrest and civil conflict between our governments, which has significantly divided our unity as a nation. Furthermore, we as citizens of the most blessed country on earth, are cursing out one another simply because we voted for opposing candidates. In a technological savvy world, these disputes are more apparent now than ever. Diversity is everywhere! Jesus does not condone such behavior. If Christians are called to be the body of Christ, we are to promote unity amongst ourselves and in our government. I encourage you to read the Apostle Paul’s discourse on this principle in Philippians 2:2-3. To simply paraphrase Paul, he said, the body of Christ is called to be, think, act, and humble themselves like Jesus. As a result, they will have the same attitude and mindset of Jesus. We are not above Christ’s authority, and when He exhibited His authority, He did so by providing the path to greatness by acting as a servant, one who “made Himself nothing…” (see Phil. 2:7).
As a body and nation, the most strategic way we can promote unity is by acting in a manner that glorifies God, being like-minded with Christ in humility. How can we specifically unite as a body and nation? There are three principles to consider: First, know that God is in full control. Second, submit to and pray for our government. Third, realize that we live in a finite universe awaiting an infinite home, which is the Kingdom of God.
God Is in Full Control
A popular country tune that resonates with the general population today is “Jesus, take the Wheel.” This statement has evolved into a cliched cultural ideal, but, at the same time, it is greatly undermined. With all the diversity occurring in our nation between the people and government, people have become power hungry where they dismiss God from the picture. It is a tremendous blessing to live in a society ruled by democracy and free speech with the privilege of peaceful protest but not when it undermines God’s authority. God is king; therefore, he is in control of everything. We know He is in control because He has sovereign power over creation (Ps. 22:27-28; Ps. 115:1-3), and we know He is in control when we adhere to the mission of God’s kingdom, which is to be disciples, make disciples, and be world changers for Christ (Matt. 28:18-20).
Submission to Governing Authorities
The second way to promote unity in our nation and church is by submitting to and praying for our governing authorities. Holy Scripture instructs that “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exists are established by God” (Rom. 13:1). Furthermore, Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account…” Everyone who sits in a position of authority over this country was permitted by God to fulfill a purpose, whether these individuals were pleasant or unpleasant to the public. However, God instructs that we pray for all leaders, so that they will work effectively for His glory (2 Tim. 2:1-4).
A Kingdom Unshaken
The final way we promote unity in our nation and the church is recognizing that God’s Kingdom stands forever, and it will not be shaken. Evangelist, John Piper once quoted, “One day, America, with all her brief history and all of her presidents, is going to be a footnote in the history of the world, and the Kingdom of Jesus will go unshaken forever.” The world is finite; therefore, compared to the Kingdom, this earth and our nation will only be a footnote-just a few lines of text compared to the comprehensive pages of Scripture. As a result, all suffering and conflict will fade away. Christians belong to a kingdom that stands forever, and it cannot be shaken. It cannot be moved. It stands like a solid rock (Matt 24:35; 2 Pet. 3:10).
It’s time for Christians to unite and be the voice that God commands us to be and promote the Kingdom of God through our church and in our governing bodies.
New and great things are happening at FBC Ridgecrest! We’d love for you to join us and become a part of a family (1350 S. Downs Street) at 10:30 on Sundays. Check out our website (www.fbcridgecrest.com) and our Facebook site (First Baptist Church of Ridgecrest).
Pastor Mathew B. Pope, M.Div.
“Exonerated” is a word of the utmost sincerity and enlightenment because it literally means declared not guilty over a transgression or set free from condemnation. Many Christians often wrestle with this word because it almost seems “too good to be true.” Although Christians recognize that they have been saved from their sins because of their faith in Jesus, a part of them still feels penalized with overwhelming guilt. It’s as if they feel that their faith is insufficient to be accepted by God. This mentality has prompted many Christians to develop a works-based mentality where they labor to acquire more favor with God. This isn’t possible. Jesus died once on the cross. Therefore, Jesus took upon himself the eternal guilt of all humanity, so that whoever believes in Him alone will achieve salvation and favor with God (Rom 6:10 cf. Jn. 3:16).
The Apostle Paul was the proprietor of the teachings regarding being set free by faith in Christ. He was the one who bridged the ecclesial gap between the Gentiles and the Jews (Gal. 3:28). He was the one who emphasized a salvation unwarranted by works (Eph. 2:8-9). He was the one who veiled the legalistic teachings of the Law (Rom. 7). In conjunction with these teachings, Paul introduced one of his most profound declarations: “There is, therefore, no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). In other words, Paul said that all who have Jesus in their heart are completely and sufficiently guilt free from all condemnation. In fact, if you study the passage based on its grammatical structure in Greek, it will read along the lines of, “There is no no no nocondemnation…” The repetition in the text emphasizes God’s infinite forgiveness over sinners who are in Christ.
To fully understand the meaning of Romans 8:1, it is wise to cover the thematic elements of Paul’s epistle and the surrounding context complimenting the passage. First, the epistle of Romans thematically serves to answer the following inquiry: “What are Christians saved from?” Fundamentally, this epistle serves as a practical outline of the Gospel message, which navigates the answers to this essential question. In Romans 1-3, Paul begins by blatantly instructing the people (believers) on the harsh reality of their sins before knowing Christ. These chapters are filled with condemnation validating the reality of man’s insubordination against God. However, beginning in v. 3:21, Paul blossoms the following encouraging discourse, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Prophets bear witness to it.” Notice that Paul mentions the Law to identify his believing Jewish audience.
Skipping to chapter 7 in Romans, Paul expounds on the judicial context of the Mosaic Law by explaining its origin, which includes the following: First the Law was initiated to remind people that they were sinners under just condemnation (Rom. 4:15). On a human level, perfect obedience to the Law was impossible. Second, the Law served to magnify God’s holiness and man’s unholiness. For the Jews, obeying the Law meant procuring salvation and a hierarchy status of holiness. Paul dealt extensively with people with this mindset, but in chapter 7, he clearly explains that because of sinful nature, humans are anatomically inclined to fall away from God’s standards of holiness. Sin is immanent, penetrative, and unavoidable. Again, Paul is addressing believers, namely, Christians still in the infancy of their conversion, and he explains that though they have been set free from sin through Christ, the flesh will still prompt people to sin. In other words, Paul verifies that just because someone believes in Christ does not mean that sin has ceased from their lives (this won’t happen until they go to Heaven). Therefore, Paul reasons in Romans 8:1 (notice “therefore” in the text) that even though his audience will continue to sin, Jesus still paid the price. Jesus paid the price for all sin past, present, and future. It is unwarranted for another sacrifice to be made for sins following one’s conversion (Heb. 9:26). Christians are perfectly and completely exonerated from all further condemnation.
Now, for the sake of transparency, Paul voiced, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? BY NO MEANS” (Rom. 6:1, emphasis mine). Paul’s teaching on exoneration does not condone sin. Christians, although vulnerable to sin, are called to live according to God’s holy standards (Eph 5:1; 2 Cor. 7:1). Christians can merely find extraordinary encouragement in exoneration by realizing that if they are struggling with sin, God is willing to gracefully forgive them for all transgressions vacant from further punitive condemnation (see 1 Jn. 1:9).
Christians, observe the following truths about exoneration: First, you are no longer God’s enemy (Rom. 5:10). Second, you are a child of God (Eph. 3:20). Third, there is no statute of limitations to God’s forgiveness (Ps. 103:12). Fourth, your own self-condemnation and insecurity are Satan’s indictments over you to keep you from growing in Christ (1 Pet. 5:8-9). Stop trying to earn forgiveness. If you know Christ as your Lord and Savior, the work has already been done for you, and Jesus paid it all!
If you are looking for a home church, you are welcome to visit us at First Baptist Church of Ridgecrest (1350 S. Downs Street) at 10:30 on Sundays.
Pastor Mathew B. Pope, M.Div.
Contentment is the key to a can-do attitude. Thus, it's the factor, which provides the most motivation.
Most people are acquainted with the verse Philippians 4:13, which says, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Paul wrote this epistle to the church in Philippi to generally instruct them on how to live an effective and productive Christian life. Thus, as a model church (see Phil. 1:3-6), Paul empowered the Philippian congregation to magnify their efforts for Christ, so they could be equipped to teach others the appropriate methods for being His disciples. Now, Philippians 4:13, perhaps, is one of the most misunderstood texts in the Bible (especially from a prosperous Westernized perspective), and this mistranslation is an indictment on teachers who have severely miscommunicated the essence of what Paul was trying to communicate. At first glance to these teachers, it is apparent that Paul was teaching about Christians possessing infinite power to accomplish materialistic tasks, such as winning a football game, having the best job, or making the most money. However, this interpretation is lightyears away from Paul’s context. Unfortunately, the modern church in Western society has been seduced by materialism, and it has corrupted many congregations to the point where the Bible has become treated as an enterprise manual for happy living rather than being treated as the holy Word of God.
To understand the true context behind Philippians 4:13, we must utilize a major principle associated with the essential steps in biblical interpretation called surrounding context. Surrounding context is the fourth of five vital tools for navigating Scripture appropriately (key words, immediate context, historical context, surrounding context, and application…KIHSA). Surrounding context generally abides by a statute of “five.” This means that when an expositor of Scripture analyses a text, he must read at least five (or more) verses prior and following the text, so he can grasp the author’s “entire train of thought” without cutting him off midsentence and missing the point of what is being communicated in the text. Thus, when analyzing Philippians 4:13, it is essential that we begin reading Paul’s thoughts in verse ten. Here, Paul is communicating thankfulness to his congregation for supporting him in his ministry. For those of you unaware, Paul’s journey as a missionary was, to suitably put it, difficult. When preaching the Gospel, Paul was met with severe oppression against the Jewish rejectors of Christianity (who were once his cohorts when he was known as the Pharisee Saul of Tarsus) and the Romans Empire (Paul went to a Roman Prison and was later beheaded by Emperor Nero). Paul was beaten, tortured, imprisoned, and later sentenced to death because of his faith in Jesus (most Christians in our society cannot relate to such a sacrifice in the name of Jesus). Therefore, we see a key phrase in verse eleven, which provides the context to verse thirteen. It says, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstance.” The main word here is “contentment.” To put the entire context together, Paul is saying that even through his trials in ministry, he has learned to be content in these situations because he recognizes that Christ will give him the necessary strength to persevere and be victorious! Christians can learn a lot about their faith through Paul!
Contentment gives Christians a can-do attitude in the following ways.
First, contentment reminds them that it is an honor and privilege to suffer for the name of Jesus (see Phil. 1:29; Act. 5:41; Rom. 8:17; 1 Pet. 3:14; Matt. 5:11). Jesus never said that being a Christian was going to be an easy task. Christianity comes with a cost to experience trials and trials, but Jesus promised that he would help them during trials (Rom. 8:35-39).
Second, contentment reminds Christians that their strength is in Christ and not within themselves (Isa. 41:10; Eph. 3:16; 2 Cor. 12:10). In a materialistic context, people believe that they can overcome trials on their own, but it is Christ who is their strength who will take the victory when overcoming obstacles.
Third, contentment reminds Christians to pursue faithfully in their walk with Christ when facing oppositions (Jas. 1:3; Jas. 1:12; 1 Cor. 15:58; 1 Cor. 16:13; Heb. 10:35-36; Rom. 5:3-5). The Christian walk is a long and, sometimes, grueling process. It is not a path of convenience or material prosperity. It is path of spiritual prosperity and joy (see Jas. 1:2-3) exhibited by heartfelt devotion to Jesus (see Act.1:8. The word “witness” comes from Greek, which gives us the word for martyr. Thus, being a witness for Christ means being willing to suffer for his sake).
Christian, if you are facing an obstacle, you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength!
If you are looking for a home church family to worship with, please visit us at First Baptist Church of Ridgecrest (1350 S. Downs St.). We pledge to make you feel right at home! (Visit www.fbcridgecrest.com and our Facebook site “First Baptist Church of Ridgecrest”).
Mathew B. Pope, M.Div.
I am excited to announce that revival is coming to Ridgecrest where God’s love will be declared over the city! It is time for revival! As many know, in total, there are countless churches in Ridgecrest alone, and, together, they have reached a plethora of people for Christ. However, there are still many who have not been reached for the Gospel. There are people who have never known God’s love in our city. There are those who have turned their hearts from God provoked by past negative experiences in church. There are those who might have a misleading insight on what the Gospel is about. It is time for revival, and I pray that “God’s Love Unleashed” this weekend (Friday through Sunday) at the Ker McGee Center will establish a new awakening for our citizens and that they will know God’s unceasing love for them through His Son Jesus. Let us observe three ways God desires revival.
First, God seeks to restore a fallen and broken world. God created a perfect world, which became tainted by sin. With perfect justice, God declared all human beings guilty; thus, we have become separated from His presence. However, with perfect love, God sent His only begotten Son Jesus to come to earth and take our punishment on the cross at Calvary. By faith alone in that Savior, restoration between God and man has begun, and this restoration will be fully manifested when we enter the Kingdom of God.
Second, God seeks to heal the broken and destitute. The Bible describes God as just, holy, merciful, wise, gracious, and loving. In fact, love encapsulates the essence of God’s character because God’s love in manifested in every attribute. There are many in our city who are suffering from many ailments including poverty, addiction, and spiritual affliction. God, through His love, desires to heal those who seek His goodness. We habitually accuse God of all the evil and suffering we see in the world, but how many of these people have ever pondered the reality that it was us (human beings) who initiated this suffering by disobedience? God is not a proponent of evil nor suffering because these are facets, which contradict His holiness. God seeks to bring healing to those who are under Satan’s oppression and bring them into His presence through Christ.
Third, God seeks to establish more ambassadors of His Kingdom. Matthew 28:19-20 discloses that Christians are called to reveal God’s grace and mercy to the world through the Gospel, and through revival, we will see more people come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and they will be added to the many in number who will spread the “Good News” to the world. All Christians are called to ministry, and through revival, God wants to see more people come to know Him through Christ, so that they can share their experiences with others and draw them into God’s family.
This weekend let us pray that God’s Love will be Unleashed over all people in Ridgecrest. Let us pray and encourage the leaders from over the 22 churches involved and the speaker of this event, so they will be equipped to serve others and draw people to Christ! For more information on “God’s Love Unleashed,” please consult fbcridgecrest.com under “events” page.
If you are looking for a home church family to worship with, please visit us at First Baptist Church of Ridgecrest (1350 S. Downs St.). We pledge to make you feel right at home! (Visit fbcridgecrest.com and our Facebook site “First Baptist Church of Ridgecrest”).
Mathew B. Pope, M.Div.
Today’s church has a very nuanced view of worship. Worship, for some, consists of the style of music you play. For others, it is about an emotional response. Churches today have complimented their view of worship by implementing traditional styles into their ordinances to express their understanding of this concept. In more traditional churches, you might see people stand, close their eyes, and sing softly accompanied with a hymnal. In more contemporary churches, you might see people raise their hands and sing loudly. In charismatic congregations, you might see dancing and loud cheering. Every church has its own unique style of worship. However, have we ever asked ourselves what worship is? What is the DNA of worship? Does this concept extend further beyond our conventional understanding of this principle and practice?
Worship, I believe, stands at the center of our relationship with God because the greatest of God’s holy commandments says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). In other words, Jesus said to love God holistically- to love God with every particle of our anatomy. To love God is to worship Him gladly. The prophet Isaiah declared, “Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things” (Isa. 25:1). Worship cannot be omitted from love because one provokes the other. If we love God, we should be inclined to worship Him. With this understanding of love in mind, let’s review several examples of how worship exceeds beyond our conventional understanding of the concept.
First, worship is not just limited to singing praises. In most churches, when you walk through the doors and the service begins, you might see a guy holding an instrument and immediately announce, “Let’s all stand and worship together.” This announcement is followed by a series of songs, and people sing together in unison. However, the word worship is never again mentioned in any other church ordinance. The singers use this word constantly, but when it’s time for the minister to approach the pulpit or people get up and greet one another, we never hear this word. The Bible speaks of worship in song saying, “Praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals” (Ps. 150:5; see also 1 Chron.16:23-25). However, the Bible also says, “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:2). To delight in something practically means to hold something so close that you covet it. Thus, to covet implies to worship that of which is coveted. We must worship God through the reading and teaching of Scripture (we must hold God’s Word close to our hearts). Furthermore, Scripture says, “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.” (Ps.95:6-7). This means we are called to congregate and worship in community. Therefore, worship is evident in every church ordinance. When you sing, preach, or fellowship, the heart of worship is always there. Thus, I challenge you to always begin every church activity with, “Let’s worship the Lord though_________.”
Second, worship is not about rituals. There are numerous ritualistic styles of worship mostly in the Old Testament (i.e. sacrifices). However, the proponents of these rituals understood worship at a deeper level. Worship for us should not be about if you are a hand lifting church or a hymnal church or a contemporary music church; worship is about the sole condition of the heart and reverence of devotion to the Lord. Thus, like in the previous section, worship lies in every activity we do. We must worship God in our occupations, in our families, in our daily decisions, and, of course, in our meditation of Scripture. It’s ok to accommodate these practices with a ritual, but don’t allow rituals to take the place of what true worship looks like.
Third, worship is not limited to the local church. Have you ever heard someone say, “I am going to worship?” Why not start worshiping on your way to go to worship? It’s unconventional to limit worship once a week going to church. Let’s not forget Paul’s words, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Cor. 12:27). If you know Christ as your Lord and Savior, then you are a part of a spiritual family companioned by other believers. Thus, you are the church! Furthermore, you are a permanent sanctuary of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16). The true sanctuary is you, not your local building (although it is essential to go to your local church and worship with others). Psalm 113:3 says, “From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised.” We are called to worship God unceasingly because those who know Christ are God’s temple!
Let us come back to heart or worship, and let it reflect your character development in Christ!
If you are looking for a home church family to worship with, please visit us at First Baptist Church of Ridgecrest - “Together a Family, Witnesses of Truth” (1350 S. Downs St.). We pledge to make you feel right at home! (Visit fbcridgecrest.com and our Facebook site “First Baptist Church of Ridgecrest”).
Mathew B. Pope, M.Div.
God walks the line.
God walks the line. It is a line, which connects our sinful brokenness with God’s holiness. It is the line of living the straight and narrow path. Therefore, it is a line no man can cross alone without Christ in his heart because personal righteousness is unachievable without grace. In the story you are about to read about the great patriarch, Abraham, you will receive a grand illustration about what it looks like when God walks the line.
I have always been a great admirer of the musical legend Johnny Cash. In fact, I consider him my greatest personal influence in my music and pastoral ministry. For a man who aroused audiences with his “rebel with a cause” façade was a man who, deep down and publicly, embodied himself as a keen proponent of God and the Gospel. Despite his near ill-fated decades battle with drug addiction, it was his faith, which delved him out of this ailment. From Sun Records in the 50’s to American Records in the latter part of his life, Cash recorded countless songs ranging from Gospel, love, prison empathy, protest, to patriotism. Of all his tunes, I believe that “I Walk the Line” ranks pinnacle mostly because I believe it reflects his life struggles and his devotion to please God. “I Walk the Line” was a ballad of love and marital commitment from Cash to his then wife Vivian. However, according to psychology professor, Richard Beck, who wrote a worthy novel about Cash’s enthusiasm for God, this song was really about his perseverance to walk God’s line. However, Beck noted that the words in the song “I Walk the Line” are intangible simply because humans cannot walk the line of pure righteousness without divine intervention. Only God can walk the line, and Cash learned this the hard way (Beck, Trains, Jesus, and Murder).
Asking Jesus into our heart is the ultimate expression of allowing God to walk the line because it is the admittance of our powerlessness to meet God’s perfect standards. Therefore, we have grace, which alone by faith is the only way we can be accepted in God’s eyes. Genesis 15 talks about God’s unconditional covenant with Abraham. Long before the Law was established, this covenant deeply foreshadowed God’s work of grace in every believer, so that in the end, it is not us who walks the line of righteousness, but it is God who does on our behalf (See Eph. 2:8-9 & Heb. 11:6). Let’s examine how God walks the straight and narrow in Abraham’s story. As always, the following expository will not be written here due to lack of space. Feel free to follow along in your Bible.
God Walks the Straight and Narrow on Our Behalf
First, God walks the straight and narrow for us without personal responsibility.Observe Genesis 15:12. Abraham was a man of faith; therefore, he was counted as righteousness (Gen. 15:6). By faith, Abraham left his homeland with his family to sojourn to a foreign “promised land,’ which would later become Israel. Israel was essentially the hub where all nations would be drawn into the presence of God through their ordained example of faithful living (see Isa. 49:6). God made a covenant with Abraham that he would take this land and would then become the “Father of many nations.” In the first part of our text, God reassures Abraham of this covenant by putting him in a deep sleep. This sleep represents God’s eternal rest for His children- a rest signifying one’s release from personal responsibility to achieve what only God can (Macarthur, Macarthur Study Bible). Illustrate a father who assists his helpless child when he is in a bind. The son is powerless to do anything to be freed. Therefore, the father implores to his son, “It’s ok. I have it under control. You rest, and I will take the load.” Receiving God’s grace is the ultimate experience of rest. Many of us have spent countless years trying to do it all ourselves (breaking addiction; fighting depression and anxiety; overcoming animosity or resentment). Then God appeared to you and said, “Let me take the load.” The purpose of the Mosaic Law was to reveal the restlessness of the people to meet God’s standards of holiness. The purpose of grace through Jesus was to reveal God’s ultimate gift of rest to the restless. Hebrews 4:10 says, “For whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.” This is a picture of the Sabbath rest of the New Heaven and New Earth, which are transposed into the eternity of God, and we can partake in His unending rest (Hughes, Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews). Thus, when we rest in Christ, we can trust Him!
Second, God walks the straight and narrow for us with unwavering reassurance. Continue in Genesis 15:13-16. Despite persistent doubt from Abraham that God would bless him, God continually reassured him of His promises. God provides evidence for this by providing glimpses of Israel’s following history. For instance, God mentions, “Sojourners in a land not theirs.” This implies the large enemies who had to be defeated for the land to be taken. Second, God said, “And you will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.” This refers to Israel’s Egyptian captivity in Exodus. Third, God said, “But I will bring judgement.” This means that God will defeat Israel’s enemies! These promises required great trust from Abraham! I am reminded of a story my father used to tell me when I was a child. My father survived a major house fire when he was a child. His father (my grandfather) bravely saved five people in the house. My father was the last one to be rescued. He recalled having to jump from a second story window to escape because the fire was closing in on him. My grandfather was outside at the bottom reassuring my dad that he would catch him. Despite his doubts, my dad jumped, and my grandfather caught him with his flesh-peeled hands from the massive 3rd degree burns he sustained. Our God is not a god of “I may,” “I might,” or “I’m uncertain.” Our God is a god of “I will,” “I shall,” and “I’m certain.” Thus, when God speaks, He speaks irrevocable law (Munroe). This resonates with His sovereignty. Having a sovereign nature should procure our trust in Him. When the trials hit and when the flames are closing in around us, God promises to be there at the bottom, and we will be caught by the nail-scarred hands of our Savior, Jesus Christ (see Ps. 91:4). We must trust in a God who walks the line.
Third, God walks the straight and narrow for us with a designated path. Let’s look at Genesis 15:17-18. The word, which describes God’s faithfulness in the Hebrew Old Testament is hesed, which refers to God’s covenantal loyalty, kindness, and fidelity to His people (Beck, Trains, Jesus, and Murder). There are two covenants in the Hebrew Old Testament. The first is the covenant God made with Israel on Mount Sinai with the Law. This was a covenant of rewards and punishment (Deut. 30:19). It was Moses’ description of the people’s choice to follow God or not follow Him. “If we are faithful to God, if we walk the line, there will be trouble to pay” (Beck). Choices equal consequences in this covenant, and to their demise, Israel found themselves at the short end of the stick with their constant disobedience. This disobedience led to exile; thus, for the Israelites, the story appears to be over just like if we sin big time, then it appears to be over for us. But then grace appears! The second covenant, which preceded this one was the deeper, primordial covenant God made with Abraham (Beck). Contrary to the first covenant mentioned, God alone initiated, created, and assumed the burden of this one. In this covenant, God promised Abraham to bless him and make him a great nation. To seal this agreement, the tradition in this time-period was to cut animals in half and then have the two parties walk the path between them- literally walking the line between the animals (Beck)! The idea posits, “Let this happen to me or let me be cut in two if I break my covenant with you.” To prepare for the covenantal ceremony, God instructed Abraham to gather a heifer, goat, ram, dove, and a pigeon (Gen. 15:9-11). Abraham divided the animals and laid them out. Now, the sun then sets, Abraham is asleep, and God appears in the form of a light- a flaming torch. The light then proceeds to move down the path walking the covenant line between the animals. However, notice that only God walks the line instead of both Himself and Abraham according to the custom. Unlike Mt. Sinai where Israel was mandated to hold up their end of the bargain, this covenant was one-sided. Abraham nor Israel had the ability or responsibility to maintain this covenant (Beck). You know, according to this passage, as sinners, attempting to walk the line is like taking a sobriety test while hammered. During this test, an officer will instruct you to walk a straight line with one foot in front of the other, but before you take that first step, in drunken state, you will fall on your face.
The deeper covenant lies in hesed, a love that will never lose its grip on you no matter how bad you have sinned (Beck). God walked the line for Abraham, and through that promise, He walked the line for us by sending Jesus to the cross who took the sins of all mankind on His shoulders (2 Cor. 5:21). As Christians, we are called to live righteously, but it is not our righteousness, which God notices. It is always the work of His Son in those who believe in Him He notices alone (see Isa. 64:6; Phil. 2:13). Therefore, if Cash entitled his popular song “God walks the Line,” it should read as followed: “God keeps a close watch on this heart of mine. He keeps my eyes wide open all the time. He keeps the ends out for the tie that binds. Because He is mine, He walks the line.”
If you are someone who keeps trying to walk the line and have never allowed God to take your place, then release all authority and power to Him. Long before the Law arrived, Abraham’s faith in God proved that our works are futile to please Him. God has cut the ties between sin and bondage through Christ. Therefore, He has walked the line through the animals; the chanting crowds shouting, “Crucify Him; death row up the mountains of Golgotha; and the gates of Hell itself, so we could rest in God’s presence!
If you are looking for a home family church, you are welcome to visit us at First Baptist Church of Ridgecrest - “Together a Family, Witnesses of Truth” (1350 S. Downs Street, fbcridegcrest.com, (760) 375-2503)at 10:30 on Sunday morning.
Pastor Mathew B. Pope, M.Div.
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