Ehud & the Fat Man

25 Apr 2017 In: Sermons

Unlikely HeroesToday we get to start something brand new! Over the past several months we’ve spent most of our Sundays looking at the spiritual disciplines or the healthy habits of those who follow God. These are the things that we as Christians do on a regular basis to help us get to know God and to know how he wants us to live day by day. And if you’ve missed that but are interested in learning more about these healthy habits – you can find all of those messages on my website – davetrenholm.com

But like I said, today we are going to start something brand new. Over the next few weeks we’re going to look at one of the strangest, most disturbing, most violent, most graphic books of the Bible.

I’m reminded of the Grandpa in the Princess Bride movie when he’s describing the book he’s about to read to his grandson who is sick in bed…. The grandson is expecting this book to be pretty lame, and so the grandpa says, “Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monster, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…”

Now of course, we’re not doing a study on the Princess Bride, but it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to describe this book of the Bible in the exact same way… We will find fighting, torture, revenge, chases, escapes, true love, and even miracles! The big difference is that our story is true. The stuff that we’re going to read about actually happen and it shows just how messed up mankind can be and yet how gracious and merciful God is to love us anyway.

The book we’re going to look at is called the Book of Judges. When I was trying to come up with a title for this series, my first idea was to call it “The Book of Failures” because of how messed up most of these guys were. But in the end, I decided to go with “Unlikely Heroes” because even though these guys really were messed up, God loved them anyway and despite their failings, God used them to do some pretty amazing things. And what’s more, through all of that, God used their failings to show his power and his faithfulness – and I think that’s important for us to see.

Now before we get into our story, I want to give you a little bit of the background to the book of Judges and so to do that, I want to you show you a quick little video by the Bible Project guys. These guys have a video for every book of the Bible that briefly explains that the book is all about – if you haven’t seen these before, look them up on youtube. They’re really great. 

Bible Project – Book of Judges

So that’s what we’re going to look at over the next few weeks. Now we’re not going to do a systematic study of the book – in fact, we’re not even going to look at all the different judges and all the different stories. You’re certainly welcome to read through all those on your own, but our focus for these next few weeks is primarily going to be on a just handful of these unlikely heroes – These men and women who, despite their failings, end up being used by God in some pretty amazing ways – and through that, teach us about God’s power, God’s love and God’s faithfulness.

Now I know the video touched on this briefly, but I just wanted to read to you exactly how the Bible sets the stage for these judges. Joshua and those in his generation have now died and this is what we read in Judges 2:10….

After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel.  11 The Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight and served the images of Baal. 12 They abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They went after other gods, worshiping the gods of the people around them. And they angered the Lord. 13 They abandoned the Lord to serve Baal and the images of Ashtoreth. 14 This made the Lord burn with anger against Israel, so he handed them over to raiders who stole their possessions. He turned them over to their enemies all around, and they were no longer able to resist them. 15 Every time Israel went out to battle, the Lord fought against them, causing them to be defeated, just as he had warned. And the people were in great distress.

Judges 2:10-15

Of course, this is exactly what God had promised them. He had said way back in the days of Moses, if they obeyed God, He would bring them peace and prosperity. But if they refused to obey Him, He would cause their enemies to oppress them. And that was exactly what was happening. But even in the midst of all this, God showed them His great mercy and compassion by sending them a judge to rescue them. Verse 16.

Then the Lord raised up judges to rescue the Israelites from their attackers. 17 Yet Israel did not listen to the judges but prostituted themselves by worshiping other gods. How quickly they turned away from the path of their ancestors, who had walked in obedience to the Lord’s commands.

 18 Whenever the Lord raised up a judge over Israel, he was with that judge and rescued the people from their enemies throughout the judge’s lifetime. For the Lord took pity on his people, who were burdened by oppression and suffering. 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to their corrupt ways, behaving worse than those who had lived before them. They went after other gods, serving and worshiping them. And they refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.

Judge 2:16-19

And that’s the cycle we see throughout the book of Judges. Israel sins, God allows their enemies to oppress them, Israel cries out to God, God has compassion and sends them a deliverer (aka a judge), and as soon as their enemies are defeated, Israel goes right back into sinning again and we start the cycle all over.

And so that’s happening as we pick up our story in Judges 3:12-15.

12 Once again the Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight, and the Lord gave King Eglon of Moab control over Israel because of their evil. 13 Eglon enlisted the Ammonites and Amalekites as allies, and then he went out and defeated Israel, taking possession of Jericho, the city of palms. 14 And the Israelites served Eglon of Moab for eighteen years.

 15 But when the people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help, the Lord again raised up a rescuer to save them. His name was Ehud son of Gera, a left-handed man of the tribe of Benjamin.

Judges 3:12-15a

Now let’s pause here for a second. So here’s the first judge that we’re going to look at – this guy named Ehud – and the first thing that I noticed is that the Bible includes an unusual detail about this guy. Ehud was a left-handed man. Why do you suppose the Bible specifically mentions that He was a left-handed man? It doesn’t mention his height or his eye-color – why is it important that He was left-handed?

Well, when the Bible says “left-handed” – it doesn’t necessarily mean ‘left-handed’ as we know it. The term the Bible uses actually means “hindered in the right hand” or “bound up in the right hand”. So while it could be that his left-hand was simply the stronger dominate hand, but it could also mean that his right hand was actually restricted in some way.

Perhaps he was missing some fingers and couldn’t use his right hand. Or perhaps he had a childhood deformity. Perhaps there was some paralysis or nerve damage. We don’t really know… All we know is that he was somehow hindered in his right hand. And even if it was merely a case of having that dominate stronger left hand, in that ancient culture, to be left-handed was considered to be a handicap – a disability. It was a weakness. In fact, in some cultures, being left-handed was even considered to be a sign of some kind of evil. I found out this week that the word “Sinister” actually comes from the Latin word for ‘left-handed’.

So for all you left-handing folks, apparently, in Latin, you are sinister.

But because of this… disability… this apparent weakness… God was able to use Ehud in a unique way. Here’s why… look at verse 15

The Israelites sent Ehud to deliver their tribute money to King Eglon of Moab. 16 So Ehud made a double-edged dagger that was about a foot long, and he strapped it to his right thigh, keeping it hidden under his clothing.

Judges 3:15b-16

Here’s where Ehud has a unique advantage. Because of his left-handedness, he would be able to get past the king’s bodyguards with this concealed weapon. You see, a right-handed man would strap his sword on his left. So when someone went to see the king, the guards would naturally check for concealed weapons on the left – but not on the right. No one would keep a weapon on the right – it would be too awkward to get out – unless you were left-handed. So let’s see what happens next. verse 17

He brought the tribute money to Eglon, who was very fat.

Again, I love the details that the Bible throws in… I’m not sure how King Elgon’s being very fat impacts the bottom line of the story, but it certainly paints a vivid picture for us – especially as we see what happens next. verse 18

 18 After delivering the payment, Ehud started home with those who had helped carry the tribute. 19 But when Ehud reached the stone idols near Gilgal, he turned back. He came to Eglon and said, “I have a secret message for you.”

   So the king commanded his servants, “Be quiet!” and he sent them all out of the room.

 20 Ehud walked over to Eglon, who was sitting alone in a cool upstairs room. And Ehud said, “I have a message from God for you!”

(I’ll warn you – this is where it gets a little graphic…)

As King Eglon rose from his seat, 21 Ehud reached with his left hand, pulled out the dagger strapped to his right thigh, and plunged it into the king’s belly. 22 The dagger went so deep that the handle disappeared beneath the king’s fat. So Ehud did not pull out the dagger, and the king’s bowels emptied. 23 Then Ehud closed and locked the doors of the room and escaped down the latrine. Judges 3:17-23

Wow! Did you know that kind of stuff was in the Bible? That’s some gruesome stuff. But that’s what happened. The Bible is just telling it like it is. It doesn’t flower it up or make it all nice. It just says “Here’s what happened.” These are the facts – like it or lump it.

But that’s not the end of the story. There’s more. Verse 24.

24 After Ehud was gone, the king’s servants returned and found the doors to the upstairs room locked. They thought he might be using the latrine in the room, 25 so they waited. (In other words, they thought the king was in the bathroom, so they left him alone.)

But when the king didn’t come out after a long delay, they became concerned and got a key.

And you’ve got to wonder how long they waited? An hour? Two hours? You sure don’t want to barge in on the king, but how long do you wait? Well, after a LONG delay, they became concerned and got a key.

And when they opened the doors, they found their master dead on the floor.

 26 While the servants were waiting, Ehud escaped, passing the stone idols on his way to Seirah. 27 When he arrived in the hill country of Ephraim, Ehud sounded a call to arms. Then he led a band of Israelites down from the hills.

 28 “Follow me,” he said, “for the Lord has given you victory over Moab your enemy.” So they followed him. And the Israelites took control of the shallow crossings of the Jordan River across from Moab, preventing anyone from crossing.

 29 They attacked the Moabites and killed about 10,000 of their strongest and most able-bodied warriors. Not one of them escaped. 30 So Moab was conquered by Israel that day, and there was peace in the land for eighty years.

Now that is an incredible story. Wouldn’t that make a great movie? The underdog – the guy with a disability, uses his disability to his advantage, takes out the fat evil king and makes a dramatic escape while the kings servants wait for their master to come out of the bathroom! Then, in all the confusion that followed the kings death, Ehud calls together the army and it all ends with a great battle – the hero is victorious and there is peace once again in the land. Man, I can’t wait until that comes out on DVD!

But I guess the real question is, why is this story in the Bible? I mean, it’s a great story but it’s kinda gruesome and a little bit odd. What’s the lesson in there? What do we learn about God?

Well, I think there are a few things. Certainly we can see how God had mercy on the Isrealites by sending them this deliverer. Perhaps that’s even a foreshadowing of how Jesus would be our deliverer on day. But one of the less obvious things that I learn from this story, is that God can do great things through anybody. He turns zeros into heroes. He takes weaknesses and turns them into strengths.

We don’t know much about Ehud’s life or how severe his “left-handedness” was – whether it was an actual disability or merely a perceived weakness, but regardless, his “weakness” was exactly what God used to bring about the victory.

God had prepared Ehud to be exactly the way he was so that He could carry out the task that God had given him. His “weakness” was exactly what God used to make Him an unlikely hero.

And He does the same thing with us. God loves to take the weak things of this world and He uses them to show his strength. Paul talks about this in 2 Corinthians 12. He talks about how he had a “thorn in the flesh”, some kind of weakness or disability that he struggled with. We don’t know exactly what it was that was such a thorn in his flesh, but whatever it was, Paul begged God to change his situation, but God had different plans in mind. Paul says…

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

2 Corinthians 12:8-9

Imagine that?! Paul boasted about his weaknesses. He pointed out his disabilities. He wanted people to see where He fell short – because it was in those weakness, those disabilities, those short-comings… where the power of God could work through Him.

What weaknesses do you have? What makes you feel unqualified or unable to serve God? What short-comings do you have that you think prevent you from being valuable to God? Well, guess what? It’s those very things that often give you opportunity to serve God in ways that you never imagined possible.

I have a friend with cerebral palsy. I first met him out at camp when he was about 10 years old. He can probably relate very well with Ehud. He’s left-handed out of necessity. His right hand really is bound up and he just can’t use it like you and I. And while I don’t expect Him to stab any fat, evil kings, I do expect that his “disability” is exactly what God will use to do some cool things through his life.

Because of his disability, he’s had the opportunity to go places and meet people that the rest of us won’t. He can talk to and relate with certain people that you and I just can’t. Throughout his life, he’ll have unique opportunities to share His testimony and tell others about the love and the power and the faithfulness of God. What we might see as a weakness, through God, will actually be perhaps his greatest strength.

What’s your weakness? What are your disabilities? Maybe you think your past discounts you from serving God. Maybe you’ve made a lot of foolish choices in your life or maybe you grew up in a less-than-ideal family situation. Does that disqualify you from being used by God? No way. Those things that you went through – other people people are going through them too. And if they can see how God helped you through it – how God has changed your life – then they can have hope that God can do that for them too. God can use you in unique ways because of your past.

You see, it doesn’t matter what your weakness are. It doesn’t matter what character flaws you have or what foolish mistakes you’ve made. Jesus still loves you like crazy and He wants to transform you into a most unlikely hero. His strength is more than enough to make up for any weakness you may have.

The Bible is full of messed up, weak people that God transformed and through His power, they do some amazing things. I mean, think about it!

• Abraham – Was old.

• Naomi – Was a widow.

• Elijah – Was depressed and suicidal.

• Jonah – was a racist.

• Joseph – Was abused.

• Job – Went bankrupt and lost everything he had, including his kids.

• Moses – Had a speech problem and he murdered a guy.

• Rahab – Was a prostitute.

• Samaritan Woman at the well – Had been divorced five times.

• Noah – Was a drunk.

• Jacob – Was a liar and a cheater.

• David – Slept with his friend’s wife and then had his friend murdered.

• Peter – (supposedly one of Jesus best friends) publicly denied that he even knew Jesus

• Zacchaeus – Was greedy and dishonest.

• Paul –  made it his life goal to imprison and kill Christians

And yet, God transformed everyone of these people into unlikely heroes – people who made a huge impact on the world around them.

And God can do that with you too. God doesn’t require that you get your life all straightened out before you come to him. He doesn’t require that you clean up your act and get all perfect. Because – let’s face it – none of us would qualify if that was the case.

No, God takes us just as we are – with our mess, with our weakness, with our disabilities – and he’s the one who transforms us.

If you look around this room today, you’re not going to find any perfect people. We’re all pretty messed up. The difference is that through Jesus – we can be forgiven. We can have hope and joy and peace. We can be transformed to become, more and more every day, like our Saviour – Jesus Christ – who, by the way, is probably the most unlikely hero of them all. We’ll talk more about that next week, but for today, I just want to encourage you that it doesn’t matter where you are in life – what weakness your have or what issues you still have to work through, our God is mighty to save. He is mighty to transform your life. He is mighty to take your weakness and turn then into strengths.

Table of contents for Unlikely Heroes

  1. Ehud & the Fat Man

Silence & Solitude

3 Apr 2017 In: Sermons

Have you ever noticed that your life is run almost entirely by habits? They can be good habits. Bad habits. Inconsequential habits. Habits that you began intentionally. Habits that just sorta happened over time. We all have all kinds of habits… And the majority of what we do every day is done out of habit!

I noticed this the other day when I was driving to Red Deer. As I was driving along, I realized that I wasn’t thinking about driving at all, but there I was – driving 110 km an hour down the QE2. There were cars in front of me, cars beside me, cars behind me – but my mind wasn’t thinking about any of that stuff. There was not a single conscious thought that went into my driving, but yet, my hands automatically turned the steering wheel so that my vehicle stayed within the white lines at all time. My foot automatically adjusted ever-so-slightly as necessary to make sure that I stayed at an appropriate speed. Everything was done automatically. The motions of driving had become a habit.

Of course, it wasn’t always that way. I can remember when I first started to learn to drive, I had to be completely focused and very deliberate in my driving. I had to consciously think – slow down, speed up, don’t forget to signal, watch out for that other guy…. Everything had to be done very intentionally – and it was very easy to forget to do certain things like signalling or shoulder checking. But the more I did it, the more automatic driving became. It became a habit. Today, I no longer think about putting on my seatbelt or signalling when I turn or even shoulder checking – that’s all automatic. It’s a habit now.

And most of what we do in life, we’ve done so often that its now just a habit. Getting dressed in the morning, brushing our teeth, tying our shoes, riding our bike, driving our car, reading a book – these are all things that – at one time we struggled with. It was a lot of work to learn to tie your shoe or ride a bike. It took focus and determination – but now you don’t even think about it. Those things have just become everyday habits.

And you’ve probably had a similar experience when it comes to spiritual disciplines. Over the past three months, we’ve being talking about spiritual disciplines or the Healthy Habits of Christians who want to grow deeper in their relationship with God.

And like all habits, it’s a process to develop these spiritual disciplines to the point where they just become automatic – where they’re just a natural part of your life.

And I don’t know where you are in the process of developing these habits. Maybe for some of you, these are all brand new things. Maybe you’ve never fasted before. Maybe reading your Bible on a daily basis is just not something you’ve ever done. And maybe you’re trying to get into the habit, but it’s a struggle. It’s not easy. We’ll let me encourage you to stick with it. Some of these habits are tough to develop, but they are sooo worth it!

I mean, can you imagine if you never developed the habit of tying your own shoes? Or feeding yourself? As a toddler, it can be frustration to try to work that fork and spoon – to try to stab those little peas or successfully get that spoonful of jello to your mouth. Honestly, it would sure be a lot easier to just let mom or dad feed you!

But aren’t you glad today that you learned to feed yourself? It would be pretty awkward for me as a 37 year old to depend on my mom to feed me every time I got hungry.

Well, the same thing is true spiritually speaking. These habits that we’ve been talking about – prayer, reading our Bibles, fasting, worship – these are all things that maturing Christians do in order to “grow up” so to speak. Read the rest of this entry »

Worship in Song

27 Mar 2017 In: Sermons

For the last couple of weeks we’ve been trying to wrap our heads around the idea of worship. I think for most of us – if we’re sitting in church this morning – we understand that worshipping God is central to the Christian life, but we may not understand exactly what that means.

And so we’ve spent the last two weeks defining worship. We started off by looking the old english word for worship – “weorthscipe” – which basically means to declare the worth of something. So by simple definition, we worship God by declaring His worth. And we can do that both in word and deed – intentionally or without even thinking about it.

In fact, every person on earth worships something – although they may not ever realize it. We worship whatever it is that is most important to us. And we declare it’s worth by our actions. In fact, you can tell what people worship by their actions. It might be our own egos, the approval of others, money, relationships, career – but what we worship quickly become evident in the choices we make every day – that’s really how we declare the worth of these things.

How we spend our time, where we focus our energies, what consumes our thoughts, even how we spend our money – that all reveals what we truly worship. And if we truly do worship God – if we consider His worth to be above all else – we are actually worshipping God every time we choose to obey and honour Him. Our worship is evident in the choices we make.

Then last week we filled out that idea a little more as we looked at the Hebrew word for worship and found that the Hebrew word could be translated either as to worship or to serve. Worshipping God and serving God were basically the same thing to the Hebrews. And we talked about how we worship God by serving Him – by doing the things were were created to do.

We talked about how we need to have an on-going relationship with our Creator so that we can know what we are created to do – to know his will. And when we do that – when we are reading his Word and talking to God in prayer – listening to the prompts of the Holy Spirit throughout our day – then really, everything we do (no matter how big or how insignificant) can be an act of worship as we seek to obey God and bring Him glory through every little thing that we do.

But of course, all of that still doesn’t answer the question that we’ve been trying to answer. The whole reason we’re talking about worship right now is because for the last three months, we’ve been talking about spiritual disciplines.

And if you’ve been with us very often, you’ll know that these spiritual disciplines – or these Healthy Habits as we’ve called them – are the practices of Christians over the centuries that help us draw close to God – they help us stay connected to Him and to know Him more and to grow in our faith in Him.

We’ve based this whole series on the passage in John 15 where Jesus tells us that He is the vine and we are the branches and we need to stay connected to Him.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

And so we’ve been looking at the practices and the healthy habits that help us remain in Him. And worship is one of those practices.

But of course, in how we’ve defined worship so far, worship seems more like a way of life rather than a specific habit to develop. And that’s true – we need to live a life of worship – but at the same time, a regular habit of expressing worship is also very important in staying connected to God.

And maybe that’s a good distinction to make. There are acts of worship – and there are expressions of worship. And I realize those might seem like they could be the same thing, but let me see if I can clarify.

So far, we’ve really be talking about acts of worship. Acts of worship are the things we do, the choices we make in obedience to God, that show we want to honour and please God. This is worshipping God by serving God.

We mentioned last week how changing your baby’s diaper can be an act of worship. If that’s a job that God has given to you to do as caretaker of that little baby, then obeying God in doing that is an act of worship.

However, I probably wouldn’t say that changing a diaper is an expression of worship. We wouldn’t all gather together to change baby’s diapers to express our love and adoration for God.

And part of our difficulty in understanding the difference between acts of worship and expressions of worship is that in English, we have a limited vocabulary when it comes to worship. Read the rest of this entry »

Changing Diapers for the Glory of God

20 Mar 2017 In: Sermons

It was an unusual service last week. We played “The Price Is Right” right in the middle of the message and we had a quick round of “Balderdash” – but it was all to help us understand what it means to worship.

Worship is the fifth spiritual discipline that we’ve looked at since we began this series on Healthy Habits, but its a little bit different from the other spiritual disciplines in that, while most spiritual disciplines are specific activities that Christians do in order to help us grow in our understanding and in our faith in God, worship is not necessarily a particular activity. We can worship in almost everything we do.

We learned that while you might envision worship as singing or bowing down or bringing an offering or sacrifice, worship is really much more than all those kinds of activities.

To help us define worship, we looked at the old English word “Weorthscipe” – which is where we get our modern word “Worship.” And weorthscipe means to declare the value or the worth of something.  It’s worth-ship.

So when we worship God, we can certainly declare God’s worth through singing for example – but really, we worship God (that is, we declare His worth through our actions) anytime we choose to honour and please Him above everything else. When knowing and pleasing God is more important to us than anything else, then we are worshiping God. And on the flip side of that, anytime anything else is more important to us than knowing and pleasing God – that becomes an idol to us and we worship that other thing rather than God.

So that, in a nutshell, was what we talked about last week. All of us worship something – the real question is “What do we worship? What do we value more than anything? Do we worship God or do we worship something else?” And I hope that’s a question that you’ve wrestled with over this past week.

Now this week, I want to build on our definition of worship. What we’ve looked at so far is what I’d call our “unintentional worship”. It’s not necessarily specific activities that we do, it’s more of an attitude. It’s simply what we value. Because like we said… What we value the most is what we worship. We don’t even have to put thought into it. If we worship money, for example, that just becomes evident in how we live our lives. We just automatically arrange our priorities so that money is given the greatest consideration in any circumstance.

It’s not like we go physically go and bow before our piggy banks or pray to our wallets. Not literally anyway…  So that’s why I would classify this kind of worship as “unintentional worship”. We just kinda do it automatically.

But when it comes to worshipping God, in addition to our unintentional worship, there should also be an element of intentional worship as well. There are things that we intentionally do to express our worship. And the Bible is full of statements and commands and examples of intentional acts of worship. Read the rest of this entry »

Defining Worship

14 Mar 2017 In: Sermons

How many of you have ever played the game “Balderdash”? Its a simple game where the basic idea is that you get a word – a real word – but its a word that is so uncommon that no body really knows what it means. Maybe it’s a medical term or some old English word that’s gone out of use. But the idea is that everyone tries to come up with a plausible definition of that word. Then you read out all the definitions and everyone votes for the definition that they believe is the real one.

Well, we’re going to play that game today. Sort of. I’m going to give you a word and I want you to see if you can come up with a definition. It’s not actually a competition – just a fun little exercise to get your minds in gear this morning. Here is the word… Weorthscipe. Any guesses what that word means?

“Weorthscipe” is an old English word which really means to declare the worth of something. If you break it into two parts, you can start to see our modern english words hidden within the old….

The first part “Weorth” – means value or worth. You can see that – just drop the ‘e’ and the is the modern word “worth”. That’s pretty straight forward….

The second part is “scipe” and that means which means the condition of. We see this bit in modern english quite often today, although we spell it now SHIP.  It still means, the condition of… We add it to the end of word… as in friendship – the condition of being friends. Or leadership – the condition of being a leader.

Weorthscipe is the condition of having worth. 

That word is important to us today because it’s from this word “weorthscipe” that we get the modern idea of “worth-ship” or “worship” – and worship, of course, is absolutely central to everything we do as Christians…

As most of you know, through most of 2017 so far, we’ve been working our way through this series called Healthy Habits – A Guide to the Spiritual Disciplines. And basically, we’ve been talking through the practices of Christians that help us draw closer to God – they help us know Him more and they strengthen our faith in Him.

Worship is the next spiritual discipline that we want to look at. And I wanted to start with this old word – weorthscipe – because it really helps us understand exactly what we’re talking about when we’re talking about worship.

Because I think for a lot of us, when we hear the word worship, we often get incorrect or at least incomplete ideas of what worship is.

For a lot of us, perhaps based on what Hollywood has shown us, worship is bowing down before some person or idol. We envision these tribal or ancient people gathering around this big stone statue – all bowing low before it with their faces to the ground. Maybe we envision them chanting something or performing some strange ritual. Perhaps we even see them offering some kind of sacrifice to this god made of stone – in hopes that their god will accept their worship and bless their crops and their families.

And that’s not entirely foreign to what we see in the Bible – particularly in the Old Testament. In the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – we see the King commanding them to bow down before his giant golden statue of himself. In the story of Elisha, we see the prophets of Baal dancing around their sacrifice to their god – shouting and cutting themselves with knives and swords in hopes that their god would notice them. Even the Israelites – when they first came out of Egypt, molded a golden calf and made sacrifices and offerings to it.

But of course, that was thousands of years ago. That type of worship is completely foreign to us today – especially in our western culture. I mean, in places like India, they still have stone or wooden idols that they pray to or make offerings to – but for most of us here today – that kind of worship is totally foreign.

In fact, for us today, our image of worship – in Christian circles anyway – typically involves a certain type of music.

In our churches we might have a worship leader that leads us in singing. Sometimes we have a worship team that might get together for a worship practice as they go through their songs. If you go to the Christian bookstore, they have a whole genre of music classified as ‘worship music’. In fact, this very event that you’ve come to this morning is often referred to as a worship service. So it’s pretty easy to see why Christians today might equate worship with singing a certain type of songs.

But is that really worship? What does it really mean to worship God? Read the rest of this entry »

The Humbling Element of Fasting

19 Feb 2017 In: Sermons

Well, this week our church did something a little bit unusual – something that has never done in this church before. In fact, as far as I can remember, I’ve never been part of a church that did anything like this. But on Wednesday over the lunch hour, together as a church family, we fasted. Instead of eating our normal Wednesday lunch, we instead, spent that time fasting and  praying for our community. Which was really pretty cool, and if you didn’t get a chance to join us this time, I’m sure we’re going to be doing this again… But for those of you are just joining us today, let me give you some quick background to all this.

Over the past couple of months we have been looking at the spiritual disciplines – or the healthy habits of Christians that help us draw near to God and that help us grow deeper in our relationship with Him. They change our understanding of who God is and how He’s working in our world.

We looked first of all, at how we can see glimpses of God in Creation. God’s fingerprints are everywhere around us – in the vastness of the galaxies or the complexity of our DNA or in the wonder of a baby being born or simply in the beauty of a sunset. We see the evidence of God everywhere.

But of course, while the heaven’s do declare the glory of God, His creation doesn’t tell us everything we need to know about what He has done. That’s why God has given us His Word – the Bible. And so we spent several weeks looking at how we know that the Bible really is God’s Word and how reading and understanding it changes us as we learn more about who God really is and what He’s really like.

And while God communicates to us primarily through His Word, He has given us the ability to communicate with Him primarily through prayer. And so we spend a few weeks looking at why would should pray. Why pray to a God who already knows everything we need and who has already promised to provide it? We saw how prayer is an invitation for God to be active and involved and sovereign in our lives. It’s actually an act of worship when we pray.

And then most recently, for the last two Sundays, we’ve been talking about fasting. And fasting isn’t nearly as common-place these days as prayer or Bible reading – although I think it should be because it is an excellent way for us to draw close to God.  Fasting is a way for us to focus on the most important things in life – not just the urgent things in life. When we give up food for a certain amount of time, to instead focus on God and our relationship with Him, our hunger reminds us how desperate we are for Him – and how much we depend on Him every moment of every day. It also reminds us that this life here and now is not all there is! We are looking forward to the day when this life is over and we can see Jesus face-to-face and can spend the rest of eternity with Him – feasting and celebrating and being fully satisfied for the rest of all time! Fasting is such a good reminder of that.

And so that’s why on Wednesday, we decided to fast together as a church. I know that many Christians have never fasted before. It’s a relatively new practice for me as well. And so this was really an experiment in fasting and I hope you’ll continue to experiment with it!

Now today I want us to look at one more aspect of prayer and fasting. And by no means, have we covered it all! The more I learn about fasting, the more I realize how little I know. So far, we’ve spent quite a bit of time looking at how fasting impacts us – how it changes our perspectives and reminds of things that we are usually quick to forget. But today I want to focus on how fasting impacts our prayers. Read the rest of this entry »

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