Church

Giving as Worship (Proverb 3:9)

The Monday feature of this blog will focus on a proverb from one of Solomon’s writings (e.g., Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon).

“Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce.” (Prov 3:9)

Everything we own is from God and is meant to be used for God’s will. There really isn’t anything of value that we have created on our own or thought of outside of God’s enabling. Every penny we have “earned” in our life is because God gave us the skill-set to earn it and provided a wage through the company or individual who paid us.

Thus, the principle of this proverb is simple: give to God what already belongs to Him.

When we give to God – through the means of tithes or offering – we are worshipping Him. Donald Whitney has written in his book Spiritual Disciplines within the Church,

“Giving is preeminently an act of worship. It ought then to be a focal point of thanksgiving and self-dedication in weekly worship…It’s worship because when you give to God through the church you are giving a part of yourself. You exchange a significant measure of your life and labor for salary or wages, and when you give some of that money to God you give that which represents you.” (pgs. 121-122)

Paul told the Philippians when he collected money from them their sacrificing was “a sweet-smelling aroma” to the Lord (Phil 4:18).

Don’t think of your tithes and offerings as simply going to pay the church’s bills or pastor’s salary but as an act of devotion to the Lord.

Think about the term “offering plate”: we call it that because this is what we are “offering” God as a form of our dedication to God. In fact, I would suggest when you give to the Lord in tithes or offerings, if you are not thinking of Him, you are no different than the person who sings hymns without thinking of the Lord or reading the Word without mediating upon it.

Give God what He deserves, what He has given you, and what pleases Him.

Philip Ryken on Praying for Sunday Morning

Image result for philip ryken“Most churchgoers assume that the sermon starts when the pastor opens his mouth on Sunday. However, listening to a sermon actually starts the week before. It starts when we pray for the minister, asking God to bless the time he spends studying the Bible as he prepares to preach. In addition to helping the preacher, our prayers create in us a sense of expectancy for the ministry of God’s Word. This is one of the reasons that when it comes to preaching, congregations generally get what they pray for.” (Philip Ryken, the President of Wheaton College, in a sermon entitled “How to Listen to a Sermon”)

 

Q/A Friday: How Can I Prepare My Heart for Corporate Worship?

First, be worshipping God on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Worship God when you eat that bowl of cheerios in the morning, when you are commuting to work, when you are mowing the lawn, etc. (I Corinthians 10:31)

Second, pray that you will be ready to receive what God will give you. How does God speak to us on Sundays? Through music, prayer, sermons, conversations. Pray that God will help you receive what He has to say. Think about the passage to be preached, read it, study it, pray about it, meditate on it, etc.

Third, pray that God will enable you to respond rightly to what you heard taught. When God speaks, we are to respond (Isaiah 6:1-8).

Fourth, think of how you are going to edify someone else (I Corinthians 14:26). Who will you speak to and what will you say? Are you going to bring someone close to Christ through your conversation? Think of who in your congregation will be in need of encouragement.

Fifth, get enough rest. Sunday morning starts Saturday night

Sixth, prepare your heart as much as you are able for corporate worship. Keep the morning as stress-free as possible. Listen to worship-aspiring music.

If you have a question you would like to submit to our blog to be answered in the future, please it to charlesheck@cox.net or pose your question in the comments section of this post.

Reflections on 15 Years of Church Ministry

About 15 years ago, right around this time, Andrea and I were on our way to Tulsa, OK to begin working in youth ministry. Today, I am the Teaching Pastor in Wichita, KS. A lifetime of experienced have been gathered in this 15-year span, and here is just a sample of lessons I have gained.

  1. God’s designed the church to be a kaleidoscope not a collection of clones. While we are all made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and are one in the body of Christ (Romans 12:5), there is a variety of maturity levels and areas of giftedness in the local church. Some struggle in the same sins that others have continual victory over. Some people value a particular author that others don’t enjoy. Some grew up a few miles from the church; others moved to the United States just a few years ago. Some are wrestling with questions like, “Where does evil come from” and others are working on the question, “Does God love me”? God loves variety in the local church.
  2. If you preach the Word, it will do what it promises to do. I have learned to live with many things (that are not essentials) in church ministry and seen the Word of God change hearts. The Word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). It will soften hearts. It will move people in a specific direction when taught accurately and applied rightly. Trust God’s Word and preach it when people want to hear it and not hear it (II Timothy 4:2).
  3. I am not as dumb or as smart as I think. Just when I think I “nailed it”, I am reminded of how far I need to go. And just when I think I completely bombed, God uses me to bless someone else.
  4. God can and does use me for His pleasure despite my sins, inconsistencies and weaknesses. That is the beauty of God’s sovereignty. He uses us, but doesn’t NEED us. His ways are always perfect; our ways are always flawed. If God can use a talking donkey for His pleasure, He can certainly use this jar of clay (II Corinthians 4:7-9).
  5. Sanctification is a community project. When God saved me, He didn’t save me to myself. He put me into the body of Christ. I need my church to help me become holy. Their encouragements, criticisms, gratitude, “push backs”, praise, invitations, emails, handshakes, etc. all help develop me into the man of God I need to be. I won’t become holy without them (I Corinthians 12).
  6. Senior Christians are undervalued. Too often, and to our shame, we don’t expect our senior saints to contribute to the local body. We encourage them to hit cruise control, lean back in their pew (or chair) in the service, be a spiritual sponge, and keep all their wisdom and spiritual insight to themselves. We need our older Christians if we want to be more faithful in disciple-making (Titus 2:2-8).
  7. Home is my Sabbath rest. I love coming home. Even when I open the door and hear the boys running circles in the living room with their light sabers and see Annie hiding in another room with her ear plugs in – I love coming home. Home is an escape from the pressures and stresses of ministry. Home is where my heart enjoys being and my family rejuvenates me in all kinds of ways to serve the church.
  8. God has never disappointed. Sure, there are times when I have asked him, “Why did you let that elder die when we needed him” or “Why did you allow that church to split?” But I have never been disappointed in His sovereignty. He knows what He is doing (Romans 8:29-30).
  9. Prayer is my fuel. Without prayer, I am apathetic, slow, impatient, harsh, and critical. When I see Paul showing thanks to God for a church like Corinth, I get fired up to pray for others.
  10. The whole counsel of God needs preaching. It’s easy to preach a Gospel or a short book like Philemon or Jude, but there is tremendous value (II Timothy 3:16-17) in preaching a series in the Minor Prophets – which I have yet to do. There needs to be teaching on the book of Deuteronomy – which I have done. There needs to be preaching from the Song of Solomon – which would be an interesting experience. All of it needs to be taught (Acts 20:27).
  11. I read to know that I am not alone. Ministry can be incredibly lonely. Even if you serve with a great team of elders, which I do, ministry is often one-way. There is a lot of shepherding and equipping of others, but few take the time to shepherd and equip you. That’s why I love to read. Some of my shepherds sit on my shelves in my office, and I value their speaking of life to me (II Timothy 4:13).
  12. What I think about God is the most important thing about me. Tozer gave me that thought about 20 years ago when I read The Knowledge of the Holy. My view of God changes everything about me – how I approach each and every one of my own sins, how I husband, how I father, how I preach, how I show hospitality, how I vacation, etc. I want to know more about God today than I did when I first placed by faith in Him (Philippians 3:10).
  13. I am still in the classroom. Just because no professor is overseeing my assignments doesn’t mean that school is over. Church ministry is more of a school than seminary or college ever was. There are tests and quizzes every day. There are questions and answers. There is dialogue and debate. There is non-stop learning.
  14. Criticism is inevitable. Leadership invites a bull’s-eye on your back. When you stand in front of others, you are, at best, a sinful, imperfect leader. I have made unwise decisions; I have said erroneous and foolish things. I will continue to fall short in my communication the rest of my life. On the other hand, I have said what needs to be said. I have preached hard truths. There will always be people in ministry that won’t like how you lead. How I respond to criticism (Ephesians 4:29) says more about me than the fact that I actually receive criticism.
  15. God does not need me. He is all-powerful; I have limitations. He is everywhere; I am in one place. He knows all; I forget stuff every day. He is eternal; I had a beginning. He created the world I live in. He gave me spiritual gifts I didn’t earn or deserve. He softens the hearts I preach to. He gave me words to impart. He is doing just fine without me.

Q/A Friday: How Does One Take the Lord’s Supper Unworthily?

I Corinthians 11:27 says, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.”

If we are honest, there is a sense in which we will always be unworthy to be objects of God’s grace. The one who feels unworthy is the one person whose posture is in the right place for the Lord’s Supper. We are never 100% perfectly righteous.

But, the warning here from Paul is about knowingly participating in the Lord’s Supper when there you are not spiritual ready to do so. Let me give you just two categorical answers to that question:

  1. We can take the Lord’s Supper “unworthily” when we fail to engage mentally. The Lord’s Supper is to be a time filled with meditating, pondering, and remembering. So, if we are not engaged at all mentally on Jesus Christ, we are not even doing what he commanded – “in remembrance of Me.” When we do this, we come to the Lord’s Supper with an attitude of indifference and communicating to God that it means very little to us what He did on our behalf. One of the ways you know this is happening is if see yourself just going through the motions and not allowing any of your emotions come to the forefront. We never want to come to His table like the Corinthians who were looked at it with too much triviality. Their gluttony and drunkenness was the byproduct of not being mentally engaged even in activities leading up to it. Perhaps setting aside time on a Saturday night or Sunday morning before you come and read through the account of the crucifixion or other selected passages in the N.T. would help combat having a mental vacation during the Lord’s Supper or a book like The Passion of Jesus Christ by John Piper.
  2. We can take the Lord’s Supper “unworthily” when we come unreconciled with another believer. The Lord’s Supper is a place for commonness and for illustrating fellowship with the body of Christ. Jesus went as far to say that in any context of worship, keep this mind: “23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24). It’s quite simple – if you have an issue of sin needing to be reconciled with another believer, deal with it before you take the bread and cup. Give them a call on Saturday night or Sunday morning if you need to. If it is something where you are responsibility to own up to the sin, then the responsibility is on you to deal with it. Before you remember Christ’s reconciling you and God, do what needs to be done to bring about reconciliation between you and another.

When someone takes the Lord’s Supper’ unworthily, he is “guilty … of the body and blood.” It’s like tramping on a flag – a symbolic way of mocking what Christ did and being indifferent towards it.

If you have a question you would like to submit to our blog to be answered in the future, please it to charlesheck@cox.net or pose your question in the comments section of this post.

Q/A Friday: Must Women Cover Their Heads in Church?

I Corinthians 11:3 reads, “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.”

Paul is clear that he wants Christians to understand the premise of headship. The word “head” means “authority.” Paul wants us to understand that authority exists, not just in the family structure, but the Godhead as well. So he gives three examples of headship: Christ, the husband, and God the Father. The trinity (or Godhead) sets the example of headship and submission.

The premise of headship is critical to answering the question about head coverings. There is intended structure, headship and submission in the universe. The answer about head coverings is about reflecting what we already see around us in God Himself. It is about submitting to the consciences and preferences of others around us (I Cor 8-10).

Vs. 4-10 is the application of this headship premise.

The Culture

In vs. 4-6, we read, “Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head.”

Corinth had three primary influences in their city: Roman, Greek and Jewish. And each one of these three cultural influences had a different view when it came to covering your head.

  1. Greeks required head coverings of their women in religious practices and sacrifices.
  2. Romans never required head coverings of their women in religions practices and sacrifices.
  3. Jews did both depending on the situation.

Corinth had the cultural practices of each of these three influences and we can safely conclude the Corinthian church had the same variety or diversity of views.

Paul won’t address each cultural influence but give principles applying to everyone. In vs. 4-5, the targeted audience is women who ought to be covering their head but aren’t; in vs. 6, Paul refers to women who don’t need to cover their heads.

Culture is something that we need to be sensitive to. To the woman who ought to be wearing a head covering because of her culture, she shouldn’t parade around dishonoring herself like a pagan prophetess or prostitute. She ought to be prudent and simply cover her head. To the woman who doesn’t need to wear that head covering , she ought to stay consistent in that practice.

In fact, one of the points of these verses is this: just be consistent. Paul says here, “Be aware of the norm. Be aware of your responsibility to live within that culture and not offend another. If you are expected to cover your head, do so. If not, don’t worry about it. Consider the effects with the people around you with what you are wearing.”

The Creation Order

We read in vs. 7-10, “For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.”

When woman was taken from man, she shares in his nature and reflects God’s “glory.” While man and women are different beings, they both reflect God’s image and “glory.” She manifests the “glory” and authority of man. Paul adds she was created out of necessity (Gen 1:18, 23). Eve was created from Adam’s rib (Gen 2:9-23). She was created because he needed her. Woman was created FOR man. She supports Him, backs him up, stands behind him, etc. She gives herself to him.

And, because of the created order, a “wife” should “have a symbol of authority” she wears. But notice, Paul doesn’t say, “Therefore, she should always wear a head covering.” She ought to have some outward acknowledgement of submission to her husband. Whatever the “symbol” she should do that.

Finally, to answer the question, “Does the Bible require that all women wear head coverings in the assembly or the church” – the answer is “yes, and no.

YES– If your husband asks you to, then wear it. Wives are responsible to submit to their husbands

NO– If the husband doesn’t have a preference or if a woman is unmarried or widowed, she isn’t required to wear a covering for the following four reasons.

  1. There is no direct command in Scripture for women to cover their heads. In this passage, there is no “thou shalt” statement. And you will not find any other passage in the O.T. or N.T. that even covers head coverings in this way.
  2. There are other symbols of submission (e.g., clothing, male elders, husbands, etc.). There are a variety of symbols for “authority.” It doesn’t have to be a head covering. Culture can produce a myriad of symbols.
  3. Head coverings are a cultural symbol. Today, hats or scarves are fashion accessories. They aren’t viewed as some in the Ancient Near East might view them. And even without the Corinthian culture, there was a wide variety of practice and acceptance on. Culture changes and adapts, and we should to.
  4. It would seem odd given Paul’s discussion of Christian liberties and “gray areas” (I Cor 8-10) that he would be so strict about head coverings now. Why would Paul give Corinthians freedom to eat “idol food” but then in the near context say, “Now the big issue in life this this: head coverings!” Paul wasn’t restricting Christians but making them more accessible.

We have the freedom, based on culture and lack of Biblical restriction, to allow women to have uncovered heads in church … unless her husband or even her church asks her to.

If you have a question you would like to submit to our blog to be answered in the future, please it to charlesheck@cox.net or pose your question in the comments section of this post.

Q/A Friday: How Can I Identify a False Teacher?

Here is a series of questions you can ask to determine whether or not someone is a false teacher?

Are they preaching the Lordship of Christ? What are they saying about Christ? What is the Gospel they are articulating? Does their Gospel glorify God or give man a better, easier life?” Paul wrote in Philippians 1:15-18, “Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” Paul could put up with men who were even breaking the Tenth Commandment, as long as the biblical Gospel was being preached.

Are they twisting the Scripture? Peter says, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, …” (II Pet 1:16). He says in II Peter 2:3 that false teachers just make up stories from Scripture. The false teacher relies on his own creativity. He makes up his own message. He twists Scripture to fit his message. Some examples of how people can twist Scripture are as follows: teaching the Bible’s authority but referring to a man’s writings more often (e.g., heroes of their own stories), building monumental truth out of obscure phrases or verses (e.g., lifestyle diets out of Daniel’s vegetable fasting), ignoring context and reading into Scripture what is not there, etc.

Are they adding or subtracting from the Scripture? We see this in the novelty of people saying they had visions from God revealing to them truth that is to be considered equal to God’s Word. There are many who claim some revelation outside of Scripture. To add or subtract from Scripture is to attack the sufficiency of Scripture.

Are they promoting themselves? False teachers believe in their own brand. They are not into downplaying themselves; they want the attention. They want the notoriety; they want to be noticed. They build their church kingdoms around themselves. Jesus said, “The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood” (John 7:18).

Are they lying? False teachers revel in their deceptions (II Pet 2:13). The very fact that they dress like sheep but are wolves indicates everything coming from their lips is untruth. They bring about deceitful schemes that toss people around like children (Eph 4:14). The Gospel they preach is a lie; their hypocritical life is a lie. What they say in the pulpit is not who they are, what they believe or what God would say or believe. The very fact that God calls them “false” teachers means their lying is the essence of who they really are. You can’t trust anything they say. They speak out both sides of their mouth.

Are they smooth with their words? Some of the best orators today are false teachers (e.g., Joel Osteen). They are spreading a blend of error that some have called “cotton candy Christianity.” They don’t offend anyone, won’t say anything dogmatic, share “lovey-dovey” stories, tell lots of jokes and are nothing more than motivational speakers calling themselves Christian leaders. They might use rhetoric to convince people of their cause, and they draw people away from the Word with their smooth talk.

Are they in love with the world? Jets, luxurious houses, 5-star hotels, first class seats on airplanes – these are not just perks for celebrities with money. These perks are also embraced by almost every false teacher out there. We have TV channels devoted to showing the lifestyles of the rich and famous false teachers. Remember what John said: “They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them” (I John 4:5). They do things for money and love to serve … if there is a payoff that follows. They look at the appearance of godliness as an opportunity for gain … materially. When you preach this with your lifestyle and you seek to win people, you don’t win them to the Gospel. You win them to the opposite: you win them to worldliness.

Are they quick to gripe and complain? Remember what Jude said about these men? He called them “grumblers” and “malcontents” (Jude 16). They complain to God because He demands they adjust to Him. They are never satisfied with God’s demands for their life. They can’t do anything but murmur and murmur and murmur some more. False teachers do not joyfully embrace God’s demands; they find ways around them.

Are they manipulative? Remember in Matthew 7 when God condemns the group of people who said they were casting out demons in Jesus’ name and prophesying in Jesus’ name and doing great works in Jesus’ name? These are the manipulative false teachers. Paul talks about this in Colossians 2:23 – “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” These men delight in looking like they are humble or spiritual. They love the praise while they defraud people. Their external religion seems legitimate, but their hypocrisy is nothing more than manipulation. Thus, their rituals are empty.

Questions

If you have a question you would like to submit to our blog to be answered in the future, please it to charlesheck@cox.net or pose your question in the comments section of this post.