What do you want to be when you grow up?

I remember always having to answer that age-old question. The implication was that if I found the right career, life’s “calling” would follow. It resounded deeply in my generation. A career, a job, an occupation should be—will be—your passion. I transitioned from a psychologist to an economist to an engineer, but they all lacked that “passion.” I pursued and excelled in each, waiting patiently for the promised feeling to blossom.

Then Bella, my eldest daughter, was born. No one warned me that maybe, just maybe, my passion would not be a college major, wouldn’t have a syllabus, and wouldn’t require a degree. No one warned me that changing the world might mean neglecting my home and trying to find balance would be a daily struggle because excelling in one comes at the expense of the other.

Clarification Needed

No one clarified that my career might be the bread on the table, but it wouldn’t be my life calling. No one told me to expect to find joy in the simple things and in the people I get to share them with; the gentle breeze, a home cooked meal, and cuddles under the sheets. It was never hinted at that not owning a luxury car and not traveling around the world would be OK.

“Dream Big,” they said, failing to acknowledge the mesmerizing beauty of the small things, the small people that would tug on my clothes and give butterfly kisses. No one warned me that on most days I could be depleted but blessed, or that I could live weeks without 5 minutes to myself and still love every minute of it.

A Different Choice

I never imagined a life like this because it was rarely modeled and poorly advertised. Yet, an age-old book held this passion in high esteem and revealed to me the beauty that my previous worldview hid. It gave me the strength to pursue it with all my might and the will to make changes to my lifestyle and my wants. Tomorrow marks the beginning of a new season, new challenges, and new opportunities. Not everyone shares my journey, but oh, so many do. Many women, like me, were sold a life-calling very far from divine. Biblical motherhood is not a distraction to changing the world; it is the very catalyst that will bring forth the peace our society craves. It is my passion and my calling.

 

Marby Iglesias is a pastor’s wife in South Florida. You will find her on most days trying to keep up with her energetic toddler and baby. Her favourite pastime is sitting down for a good theology book with a cup of coffee.

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Through the Years of Tears I Have Come, by Christine Hoover

It is a delight to introduce Christine Hoover who blogs over at Grace Covers Me. Christine has graciously allowed me to share her post about her son.

Christine: Ten years ago I was crying different tears over this boy. They were bitter, desperate, pleading tears that soaked and salted my entire life. Like a broken faucet, I couldn’t restrain their constant dripping. I cried throughout worship at church, unable to sing the words and mean them. I cried while driving the car with my son in the backseat and another in my womb. I cried in my bed, clinging to my husband, broken at the sight of his tears mirroring my own. Always, I cried after interacting with other people’s children whose affront to me was simply being typical, everyday kids who were hitting all their milestones.

If you’ve cried similar tears for your children you’ll want to click here and read the rest of Christine’s story where she shares how God helped and healed not only her son, but also her own heart.

Author Christine Hoover: The grace of Christ upended my legalistic life over a decade ago and ever since, I’ve been passionate about exploring and sharing about how that grace impacts every inch of life. In addition to my blog and books, I regularly contribute to Desiring God, Flourish (an online resource for ministry wives), and For The Church. My work has also appeared on The Gospel Coalition, New Churches, Christianity Today, and Outreach.

The Next Billy Graham Might Be Drunk Right Now by Dr. Russell Moore

Whenever I start to get discouraged about the future of the church, I remember a conversation I had a few years ago with evangelical theologian Carl F. H. Henry on what would turn out to be his last visit to Southern Seminary before his death.
Several of us were lamenting the miserable shape of the church, about so much doctrinal vacuity, vapid preaching, non-existent discipleship. We asked Dr. Henry if he saw any hope in the coming generation of evangelicals.
And I will never forget his reply.
“Why, you speak as though Christianity were genetic,” he said. “Of course, there is hope for the next generation of evangelicals. But the leaders of the next generation might not be coming from the current evangelical establishment. They are probably still pagans.”
“Who knew that Saul of Tarsus was to be the great apostle to the Gentiles?” he asked us. “Who knew that God would raise up a C.S. Lewis, a Charles Colson? They were unbelievers who, once saved by the grace of God, were mighty warriors for the faith.”
Of course, the same principle applied to Henry himself. Who knew that God would raise up a newspaperman from a nominally Lutheran family to defend the Scriptures for generations of conservative evangelicals?

The next Jonathan Edwards might be the man driving in front of you with the Darwin Fish bumper decal. The next Charles Wesley might be a misogynist, profanity-spewing hip-hop artist right now. The next Billy Graham might be passed out drunk in a fraternity house right now. The next Charles Spurgeon might be making posters for a Gay Pride March right now. The next Mother Teresa might be managing an abortion clinic right now.

But the Spirit of God can turn all that around. And seems to delight to do so. The new birth doesn’t just transform lives, creating repentance and faith; it also provides new leadership to the church, and fulfills Jesus’ promise to gift his church with everything needed for her onward march through space and time (Eph. 4:8-16).
After all, while Phillip was leading the Ethiopian eunuch to Christ, Saul of Tarsus was still a murderer.
Most of the church in any generation comes along through the slow, patient discipleship of the next generation. But just to keep us from thinking Christianity is evolutionary and “natural” (or, to use Dr. Henry’s term “genetic”), Jesus shocks his church with leadership that seems to come like a Big Bang out of nowhere.
Whenever I’m tempted to despair about the shape of American Christianity, I’m reminded that Jesus never promised the triumph of the American church; he promised the triumph of the church. Most of the church, in heaven and on earth, isn’t American. Maybe the hope of the American church is right now in Nigeria or Laos or Indonesia.

Jesus will be King, and his church will flourish. And he’ll do it in the way he chooses, by exalting the humble and humbling the exalted, and by transforming cowards and thieves and murderers into the cornerstones of his New City.

So relax.

And, be kind to that atheist in front of you on the highway, the one who just shot you an obscene gesture. He might be the one who evangelizes your grandchildren.

 

Dr. Moore is the Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice-President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves as a preaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church, where he ministers weekly at the congregation’s Fegenbush location. Moore is the author of several books, including The Kingdom of Christ, Adopted for Life, and Tempted and Tried.
Used with permission

To Moms of One or Two Children, by Sarah Short

How do you do it? 

I’ve never counted, but I imagine the number of times I’ve been asked that question by Moms with one or two children is somewhere in the hundreds. I have five children, and judging by the look on the tired and weary faces that pose the question, that number seems simply impossible.How do you do it? 

Those are five loaded words. I suppose because the “it” behind that question is different for everyone.

How do you care for five little people?
How do you operate on little sleep?
How do you keep them safe?
How do you find time to do the laundry?
How do you afford them?
How do you keep from losing your ever-loving mind?

Mommas of one and two children – I understand every one of these questions. And, I understand just where you’re coming from.There are some things I want you to know about me. About children. About this journey through motherhood that we’re both on.

If no one has ever told you…
Read full article here, (and I highly recommend it!).
imageSarah lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with her husband, Jason, her four boys and her baby girl. She is really disorganized, she doesn’t make her bed, and she yells at her kids too much. She don’t garden, sew, craft, or read – so you’ll rarely find anything about those topics on her blog. She doesn’t do so many things, so when you read her stories, look at her photos, and bookmark her recipes, she hopes you’ll see a girl who shares what she does well, but is hopelessly flawed in many other ways.
Despite all that, she is loved – forever loved – by a God so big and beautiful that He came down to earth just to know her. She lives for Jesus – and her heart belongs to Him.

God Did Not Save Us On A Whim – Kevin DeYoung

 

Many Christians do not really grasp why God has forgiven us of our sins. It’s not as if God the Father woke up one crossmorning and was having a great day, just feeling terrific about being the Sovereign of the universe, then decided on a whim to have mercy on his elect and look past their iniquities. God did not save us because the loving part of him finally out balanced the justice part of him. We must not picture God up in heaven muttering: “You know your sin? And all your rebellion and failures and disobedience? You remember all that? Well fuhgettaboutit. It don’t bother me. I love youse guys and I ain’t gonna mention your sin no more.”

Without giving it much thought, many of us picture the atonement as nothing but undeserved mercy from a loving God. We forget that the mercy we receive is a mercy merited on the cross. God has not saved us by the removal of justice, but by the satisfaction of it.

Justice is shot through the entire plan of redemption. God never once set aside his justice. There is a hell because God is just. And people go to heaven because God is just. Our sins are counted to Christ, so that he died in our place. His life and his death counted to us, that we might live.

We are not forgiven and given eternal life because God waved a magic wand and decided he would just overlook our sins. He has not overlooked the smallest speck of your sin. The good news of the cross is that the tiniest little speck of your sin, and all of the great big sins as well, have been paid for by the perfect and final sacrifice.

We were not saved on a whim because God decided one day he might as well have mercy on sinners. We are saved because God sent his Son to become the curse for us. Every last lustful look, every proud thought, every gossiping tongue, God demands justice for all of it. And the resurrection of Jesus bears witness to the glorious good news that all the demands of justice have been met so that Christ would be the first to conquer death, but not the last. Divine satisfaction through divine self-substitution.

ABOUT KEVIN DEYOUNG

I am the Senior Pastor at University Reformed Church(RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. Married to Trisha with five young children.
*Used with permission

Dear Moms, Jesus Wants You To Chill Out, by Stephen Altrogge

FACT: If your children can’t read by age four there is a 95% chance they will end up homeless and on drugs.

FACT: If your children eat any processed food there is an 85% chance they will contract a rare, most likely incurable disease, by age 12.

FACT: If  you’re not up at dawn reading the Bible to your children, you are most likely a pagan caught in the clutches of witchcraft.

FACT: If your children watch more than 10 minutes of television a day there is 75% chance they will end up in a violent street gang by age 17.

Obviously, the “facts” listed above are not true (at least, I don’t think they are). But, I’ve noticed that the Internet has made it much easier for people, and moms in particular, to compare themselves to each other. Now, just to be clear, this is not a post against “mom blogs”, or whatever they’re called. If you write a mom blog, that’s cool with me. This is a post to encourage the moms who tend to freak out and feel like complete failures when they read the mom blogs and mom Facebook posts.

Moms, Jesus wants you to chill out about being a mom. You don’t have to make homemade bread to be a faithful mom. You don’t have to sew you children’s clothing to be a faithful mom. You don’t have to coupon, buy all organic produce, keep a journal, scrapbook, plant a garden, or make your own babyfood to be a faithful mom. There’s nothing wrong with these things, but they’re also not in your biblical job description.

Your job description is as follows:

  • Love God. This simply means finding some time during the day to meet with the Lord. It doesn’t have to be before all the kids are awake. It doesn’t have to be in the pre-dawn stillness. Your job is to love God. How you make that happen can look a million different ways.
  • Love your husband (unless you’re a single mom, of course). Your second job is to love and serve your husband. Husbands are to do the same for their wives, but that’s for a different post. If your husband really likes homemade bread, maybe you could make it for him. But don’t make homemade bread simply because you see other moms posting pictures of their homemade bread on Facebook.
  • Love your kids. Your calling as mom is to love your kids and teach them to follow the Lord. They don’t need to know Latin by age six. If they do, more power to you. But that’s a bonus, not part of the job description. Your job is simply to love your kids with all your exhausted heart, and to teach them to love Jesus. That’s a high calling. Don’t go throwing in other, extraneous things to make your life more difficult. If you want to teach your kids to sew, great. But don’t be crushed by guilt if your kids aren’t making stylish blazers by the age of 10.

Moms, Jesus want you to rest in him. He wants you to chill out. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. Don’t compare yourself to other moms. Don’t try to be something God hasn’t called you to be. If the mom blogs are making you feel guilty, stop reading them. Be faithful to what he has truly called you to do, and know that he is pleased with you. When your kids are resting, don’t feel guilty about watching an episode of “Lost”, or whatever your favorite show may happen to be.

Love God, love your husband, love your kids. Keep it simple and chill out.

+photo by pedrosimoes7

First posted October 12, 2012 at www.theblazingcenter.com

Used with permission

A Christmas Prayer (Max Lucado)

December 14, 2012

Dear Jesus,

It’s a good thing you were born at night. This world sure seems dark. I have a good eye for silver linings. But they seem dimmer lately.

These killings, Lord.  These children, Lord.  Innocence violated.  Raw evil demonstrated.

The whole world seems on edge. Trigger-happy. Ticked off. We hear threats of chemical weapons and nuclear bombs. Are we one button-push away from annihilation?

Your world seems a bit darker this Christmas.  But you were born in the dark, right? You came at night. The shepherds were nightshift workers. The Wise Men followed a star. Your first cries were heard in the shadows. To see your face, Mary and Joseph needed a candle flame. It was dark. Dark with Herod’s jealousy. Dark with Roman oppression. Dark with poverty.  Dark with violence.

Herod went on a rampage, killing babies. Joseph took you and your mom into Egypt. You were an immigrant before you were a Nazarene.

Oh, Lord Jesus, you entered the dark world of your day. Won’t you enter ours? We are weary of bloodshed. We, like the wise men, are looking for a star. We, like the shepherds, are kneeling at a manger.

This Christmas, we ask you, heal us, help us, be born anew in us.

Hopefully,

Your Children


© 2012 Max Lucado

[A Christmas Prayer] Max Lucado

 Copyright [UpWords Ministries, 2012]

 Used by permission

Visit Max Lucado’s blog here

max

Simple Yet Profound (by Kevin Weeks)

It’s been said that life is not about the breaths you take, but about the moments that take your breath away. An amazing sunset. A first kiss. A walk down the aisle. They all qualify. For our family, a stretch in time about two years ago contained a series of moments that took our breath away.

One of those moments has found a permanent home in my memory. It was the day we met our boys, Jonathan and Nicholas, for the first time. We had just finished an hour-long meeting with our caseworker that had given us their brief life history. Their story was fleshed out with some background details about their parents, grandparents, and a few aunts and uncles.

When that part of the meeting ended, she led us down a hallway and through a door. And that’s when it happened, a sort of surreal moment that seemed to be crawling in slow motion. About thirty feet away, in a different room, we saw our boys for the first time through a glass wall. I was supposed to be listening to our caseworker give us some final instructions before meeting them, but I didn’t hear a word she said. My eyes were fixed on my boys, a knot in my stomach, and a lump in my throat. The moment took my breath away.

In Psalm 139, the Bible says that God knows every one of our days before they came to be. The larger context of the passage tells us that not only does God know every one of our days, but he has known about them since before the creation of the world.

That means God knew about July 18, 2005 long before I did. He knew that on a blistering hot summer day in a crowded hotel in mainland China, we would get to hold our little girl for the first time. He knew that on a cold rainy day on November 22, 2010, we would get to meet our boys for the first time. Psalm 139 means that before any of what we see around us even came to be, God knew the day I would be born. He even knows the day that he will call me home to be with him forever. And he knows the same about you.

But this night I realized something pretty amazing. On the way home from our visit with the boys, Stacey said that had we not moved to Niagara years ago, our lives wouldn’t be changing in the ways they are right now. That’s not what amazes me; even in my limited understanding, I was able to put that together. Nor does it amaze me that Jonathan was born on July 11, 2007, and only three weeks later we moved to Niagara.

What amazes me is that God knew all of that before it came to be. He knows the beginning from the end. What amazes me is that God is the grand orchestrator of all things, and in the midst of weaving together his perfect plan, he is gracious enough to give us these simple yet profound moments that take our breath away.

A visit at the boy’s foster home ended by putting them to bed, Jonathan in his Thomas the Tank bed, and Nicholas in his racecar bed. As soon as we got home, Katie was off to bed, too.

Only then did I realize something else pretty amazing. That night was the first night that I got ‘good nights’ from all three of my kids. First from Nicholas. Then from Jonathan. Then, from my little girl and new big-sister, Katie.

And it took my breath away all over again.

First posted Nov 29th, 2010

***

Check out Kevin’s blog at 22:30

These are the ladies in my life for whom I will gladly stand in the gap. And these are the young warriors I will gladly train to stand in the gap for their God.

I’m a pastor at a church in southern Ontario, Canada, and I love what I do. Like most guys, I want my life to count for something and I want to help other guys learn how that can happen for them, too.

I love Jesus, my wife, my kids, my friends, the Bible, the Toronto Maple Leafs, preaching and teaching, writing, a good cup of java, being bald (kinda), a free cup of java, saying java, beautiful sunsets, romantic dinners, long walks on the beach . . . wait . . . what?

The Next Billy Graham Might Be Drunk Right Now by Dr. Russell Moore

Whenever I start to get discouraged about the future of the church, I remember a conversation I had a few years ago with evangelical theologian Carl F. H. Henry on what would turn out to be his last visit to Southern Seminary before his death.

Several of us were lamenting the miserable shape of the church, about so much doctrinal vacuity, vapid preaching, non-existent discipleship. We asked Dr. Henry if he saw any hope in the coming generation of evangelicals.

And I will never forget his reply.

“Why, you speak as though Christianity were genetic,” he said. “Of course, there is hope for the next generation of evangelicals. But the leaders of the next generation might not be coming from the current evangelical establishment. They are probably still pagans.”

“Who knew that Saul of Tarsus was to be the great apostle to the Gentiles?” he asked us. “Who knew that God would raise up a C.S. Lewis, a Charles Colson? They were unbelievers who, once saved by the grace of God, were mighty warriors for the faith.”

Of course, the same principle applied to Henry himself. Who knew that God would raise up a newspaperman from a nominally Lutheran family to defend the Scriptures for generations of conservative evangelicals?

The next Jonathan Edwards might be the man driving in front of you with the Darwin Fish bumper decal. The next Charles Wesley might be a misogynist, profanity-spewing hip-hop artist right now. The next Billy Graham might be passed out drunk in a fraternity house right now. The next Charles Spurgeon might be making posters for a Gay Pride March right now. The next Mother Teresa might be managing an abortion clinic right now.

But the Spirit of God can turn all that around. And seems to delight to do so. The new birth doesn’t just transform lives, creating repentance and faith; it also provides new leadership to the church, and fulfills Jesus’ promise to gift his church with everything needed for her onward march through space and time (Eph. 4:8-16).

After all, while Phillip was leading the Ethiopian eunuch to Christ, Saul of Tarsus was still a murderer.

Most of the church in any generation comes along through the slow, patient discipleship of the next generation. But just to keep us from thinking Christianity is evolutionary and “natural” (or, to use Dr. Henry’s term “genetic”), Jesus shocks his church with leadership that seems to come like a Big Bang out of nowhere.

Whenever I’m tempted to despair about the shape of American Christianity, I’m reminded that Jesus never promised the triumph of the American church; he promised the triumph of the church. Most of the church, in heaven and on earth, isn’t American. Maybe the hope of the American church is right now in Nigeria or Laos or Indonesia.

Jesus will be King, and his church will flourish. And he’ll do it in the way he chooses, by exalting the humble and humbling the exalted, and by transforming cowards and thieves and murderers into the cornerstones of his New City.

So relax.

And, be kind to that atheist in front of you on the highway, the one who just shot you an obscene gesture. He might be the one who evangelizes your grandchildren.

Dr. Moore is the Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice-President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves as a preaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church, where he ministers weekly at the congregation’s Fegenbush location. Moore is the author of several books, including The Kingdom of ChristAdopted for Life, andTempted and Tried.

Used with permission

Three Questions About Worship You’ve Not Asked by Dr. Joe McKeever

Someone once said the unexamined life is not worth living. I imagine that’s right. In the same vein, I would like to propose that the unexamined worship is not worth offering.

Worship that is not examined tends to sink to the lowest common denominator.

Being retired now and in a different church almost every Sunday, I see every kind of worship service you can imagine. Some give evidence of much thought, serious planning, and loving attention. Others appear to be the same form that congregation has followed since the Second World War, with even the hymns being unchanged.

Once or twice the thought has popped into my mind that it would be interesting to stop that deacon in the middle of his prayer or the song-leader in the midst of his/her exercise and say, “Hey! What is this all about? Why are you doing this?”

Those are good questions. I suggest anyone involved in worship leadership pose them (and a few others) to himself.

Why are we doing church this way? Why do we sing these hymns and not those? Why do our prayers sound the same week after week? What would happen if we changed the format? Why would I want to do that? What are we doing here on Sunday mornings? What is our purpose? What do we expect to get out of this?

Worship that is not examined tends to become routine quickly.

By “routine,” I mean the worship service is characterized by a sameness in form, a dullness in expression, a pointlessness in purpose.

C. S. Lewis once said something to the effect that he could worship in any kind of format so long as it was unchanging and unvarying from week to week. He clearly liked the sameness and predictability of his worship service. I expect he has plenty of company, but I’m equally certain this is not good.

The human mind needs to be awakened and challenged in church, not sedated. It needs to be redeemed and focused, not lulled into a lethargy.

When Hosea and later Jeremiah called on God’s people to “break up the fallow ground,” they were calling for a personal humbling and repentance before a Holy God. However, that command pertains to worship also. So easily do we fall into our ruts, offering up hymns and prayers mindlessly, giving offerings thoughtlessly, hearing sermons passively.

Worship that is not examined soon ceases to focus on God and turns its attention to man.

Listen to the congregation as they exit the worship facility. “I got a lot out of that today.” “I didn’t get anything out of that sermon today.”

Man-centered. The object of worship deteriorated into meeting the needs of the worshipers, a task no human agency on earth (the pastor, the staff, the choir) can meet. Only God can meet people’s needs at the deepest level. And those needs are met best through worship.

Recently, in an article on this website, I suggested many in our churches are going about worship all wrong. They go to church for what they can get out of it, rather than to “give unto the Lord the glory due to His name” (Ps. 29:2).

The reaction to that article was divided. Some sent notes of appreciation for awakening them to how they had been worshiping wrongly–coming to ‘get’ instead of to ‘give,’ putting too great a burden on their minister, and then blaming him when they were not fed adequately.

Others treated that line of thought as though it were blasphemy. One person (who did not write me; I found his blog accidentally) called it “utter nonsense.” The very idea that we do not “go to church to be fed spiritually.” I left a response, but have had no communication from him.

At no point did I suggest that we do not need to be spiritually fed. We all need to have our minds awakened and our hearts moved in worship. We all want to leave church different from the way we entered. However–and this is the point–it should be something God did, not the preacher. Something God gave us, not something we worked up. Something God chose to bless us with of His own will and for His own pleasure, not some kind of bargain we made with Him.

Examining our worship means to ask the right questions of ourselves.

1. Why am I here?

Today, as we enter God’s house for the umpteenth time, we will be doing much the same things we have done all those other times. We will sing the same songs, voice prayers similar to countless others we have offered, give offerings, hear sermons–most of them undistinguishable from thousands of others throughout our lifetime. Why?

How we answer that tells worlds about us.

If our answer does not center in God (the Father, the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit), then we are giving the wrong answer.

Here are three wrong answers to the question “Why am I in God’s house today?”

  • “I’m going through a hard time and need the Lord.” (So, once you get through this and back on easy street, you’ll not need Him any more, right? And we’ll miss you in church.)
  • “I’m facing a tough decision and need some guidance.” (The Lord is your counselor? That’s good. But when do you NOT need guidance?)
  • “I feel bad over what I’ve done and need God’s forgiveness.” (That’s good, too, as far as it goes. It’s just not enough. You’re treating the Lord like a confessional: get forgiveness, then you’re off to sin again?)

Any answer to the question “Why am I in church today?” that does not center in God Himself is inadequate.

2. Why am I doing what I’m doing?

Why sing these songs, pray these prayers, bring this offering, participate in this Lord’s Supper, hear this sermon? (Or, in the case of the pastor, why preach this sermon?)

Asking “why?” has a glorious tradition. God likes it when His children raise that question. Again and again He told Israel, “So it shall be when your son asks you in time to come ‘What is this?’ that you shall say to him, ‘By strength of hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.'” (Exodus 13:14)

(Other places where God says children will be asking these questions include Exodus 12:26; 13:8; Deuteronomy 6:20; and Joshua 4:6,21. You’d think we would figure it out by now, that it’s normal for them to ask and important for us to answer.)

Children have a way of asking pertinent questions. “Why do we have to go to church again this Sunday?” “Why is the sermon so long?” “Why is it so boring?” Rather than rebuking the little one, we should give a well-thought out answer.

If we have one.

The person participating in unexamined worship has no answer other than “this is how we do it in our family.” That sloppy response accounts for children growing up with a disrespect for the religious faith of their youth. They deserve an answer.

And that starts with your finding your own answer. Why do you bring offerings? Why do you sing hymns (and those particular ones)? Why do you sit and hear sermons? Why do the sermons last so long? And why is church pretty much the same every week?

3. What does our kind of worship say about God?

As a Southern Baptist living in New Orleans, I find myself wondering about people who pray so many “Hail Marys” every day. Bumper stickers urge worshipers to “Pray the Rosary.” What, I wonder, does this kind of mindless repetition say about God in the minds of those reciting such prayers? And does the Lord’s comment that “the heathen think they will be heard for their much speaking” (also called “vain repetitions”) apply here (Matthew 6:7)?

If it does, does that caution also apply to my prayers which have a way of sounding fairly like all the prayers of former days? Am I guilty of vain repetitions? And if so, what does that say about how I see God?

The Old Testament book of Malachi deals with this very issue. God in Heaven looked down at the sick offerings worshipers were bringing, the casual attitudes with which they went about His service, the boredom in their minds, and the impurities in their personal lives, and He announced He had just about enough of it. You have wearied the Lord with your words. (Mal. 2:17)

You priests despise my Name, God said (1:6). By offering defiled food on the altar, they were dishonoring the Almighty. When you offer the blind as a sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? (1:8)

The overall thrust of Scripture from start to finish is that acceptable worshp to our God is not an interruption of our daily lives but a continuation of the holiness that characterized our daily walk. Here is the prophet Micah: With what shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings? With calves a year old? Is that what God wants?

Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams? With ten thousand rivers of oil? A lot of people in that day thought so.

Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? What could be a greater expression of devotion that offering up one’s own child as a sacrifice to God. That’s how pagans thought, and to their everlasting shame, a number of God’s own people bought into that heresy .

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you,
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
 (Mal. 6:6-8)

Our worship activities should be an outgrowth of our daily life of devoted obedience to the Father, otherwise we are playing at worship and wasting our time.

When King Saul decided to do things his way instead of obeying the Lord–he was so sure that since he “meant well” the details did not matter–the Prophet Samuel announced, Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. (I Samuel 15:22)

A similar theme is sounded after David’s sin with Bathsheba and the forgiveness he received with the Prophet Nathan in the wonderful 51st Psalm. For you do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; you do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart–These, O God, you will not despise. (Ps. 51:16-17)

Does God want our hymns and offerings? Our prayers and our sermons? Does the Father in Heaven desire our worship? The answer is: He does, so long as these are expressions of our love and faithfulness. He does, so long as they are not attempts to buy His favor. He does, so long as we are making ourselves available to Him–for whatever His will may be–and not seeking His approval on our disobedience.

A well-known preacher of a previous generation used to tell of the time when he was ten years old and experimenting with smoking. On a downtown street, he was puffing on a cigar butt he had found. At that moment, he looked up and saw his father coming down the sidewalk toward him. Thinking quickly, he stashed the burning tobacco into his pocket and rushed forward. “Father,” he said, “Did you see the posters? The circus is coming to town? Can we go? Please?” His father said, “Son, never ask your father for a favor when you are hiding a smoldering disobedience from him.”

Dr. Joe McKeever is a retired Baptist pastor who lives in New Orleans. His articles and cartoons can be seen at joemckeever.com