SPIRITUAL “Sclerosis”

Before going on in this POST, I thought it important to give you first, definitions of the word “Sclerosis” –then, explain how it fits in with our spirituality in life and in the Church as a whole.

“SCLEROSIS” or “hardening”:  (See Footnotes [i] and [ii])

#1.  Medical Definition – A pathological hardening of tissue, especially from overgrowth of fibrous tissue or increase in interstitial tissue.

In the GREEK, “hardening or “to harden” – 

#2.  porosis denotes “a hardening,” a covering with a poros, a kind of stone, indicating “a process” and is used metaphorically of dulled spiritual perception.

With the above definitions in mind, lets take a deep look into God’s Word and investigate a principle set forth for us all to ponder in our Christian service.

CAUGHT UP IN “RITUALISM”?  (Zechariah 7:1-7 AMP Bible)–

[1] AND IN the fourth year of the reign of King darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, Chislev.

[2] Now the people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and regem-melech and their men to pray and entreat the favor of the Lord.  [3] And to speak to the priests of the house of the Lord of hosts and to the prophets, saying,  [Now that I am returned from exile] should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself as I have done these so many years [in Babylon]?

[4] Then came the word of the Lord of hosts to me [Zechariah], saying,

[5] Speak to all the people of the land and to the priests, saying,  When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months, even those seventy years you were in exile, was it for Me that you fasted, for Me?  [6] And when you ate and when you drank, did you not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves?

[7] Should you not hear the words the Lord cried by the former prophets when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity with her cities round about her, and the South (the Negev) and the lowlands were inhabited?

According to the Scofield Bible, “Religious Externalism”:  “The whole matter, like much in modern pseudo-Christianity, was extra-Biblical, formal and futile.”   RITUALISM appeals to the FLESH and helps people feel “religious.”  

In my opinion, I don’t think Christianity needs any help in being “religious” in today’s society and I find it a sign of spiritual decline.

How so?

Zechariah 7:1-3 – “What about FASTING?”

The question seems to imply a readiness to discontinue the practice, the ritual of THE FAST.  That question may have been going through their heads at the time, but was not asked…”Would discontinuing the FAST be evidence of a false sense of security or would it add to the displeasure of the LORD?  All good questions.

In their present SPIRITUALITY, the people were still in distress, under the Lord’s displeasure.  From the human viewpoint, there might be something said in favor of discontinuing the fasts–and in case you’re wondering by now, is this blog-Post about “FASTING”?  Yes and no. I’ll get to that as we move along

The LORD has changed His method of dealing with His people; returning to them in the way of MERCY!  So, would it not be proper to change their method of performing their duties?  [NOT just “fasting” as required by the clergy].

It seems as if the MAIN CONCERN of the delegation was the FAST held on the fifth month; the remembrance of the burning of the first TEMPLE.  At this point in time, the NEW TEMPLE was almost completely restored [See picture below of model].

So why FAST?

Having kept the ritual of fasting for 70+ years in exile, the delegation members felt it wouldn’t be a good idea to discontinue something they had grown accustomed to without approval from the PRIESTS and the PROPHETS.

The 2nd Temple Model
The 2nd Temple Model

 Some Questions Arise…

Should a good and productive method of RELIGIOUS SERVICES, which we find beneficial to ourselves and others, be simply abandoned or altered because of the changes taking place in society and the world?

What then, should OUR PURPOSE be in coming to church on Sunday, or during the week in “service”?

In this portion of Scripture,  Zechariah 7, the delegation’s PURPOSE for coming was to PRAY and SEEK God’s will in the matter of the continuance of the FASTS.

Our PURPOSE for coming to the House of the Lord…

It should be to pray and seek the LORD’s will for our lives; to WORSHIP HIM.  It’s NOT for entertainment.

When we present our requests, our petitions to the LORD, we should be in a READINESS TO RECEIVE instructions from Him.  If we refuse to listen, we can’t expect the LORD to accept our prayers.

The QUESTION we should bring before our LORD and Savior is not, what will You do for me, but what can I do for You, even though You don’t need my help.

In God’s answer to the LORD of hosts asked question,  “When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months, even those seventy years…was it for Me that you fasted, for Me?”  – (verse 5).

“CONSIDER YOUR WAYS”  

Consider what you’re doing and why; WORSHIP WITH PRAISE AND THANKSGIVING, PRAYING IN PUBLIC, TITHING IN CHURCH, SERVING IN MINISTRY, etc., etc.

The question posed in VERSE 5, not only does it involve the delegation, but to ALL the priests and the people of the land.  And in case you are wondering…we too are included in the answer…”was it for Me…, for Me?”.

The LORD of hosts asked this question because the delegation’s question seemed to be more concerned about the ceremony, the ritual, than about the SUBSTANCE or the spirit of it.  They seemed to be BOASTING of their fasting, believing they should have been returned to the LORD’s MERCY sooner than it did.

A similar question was asked by the people in the prophet Isaiah’s day:

“Why have we fasted, they say, and You do not see it? Why have we afflicted ourselves, and You take no knowledge  [of it]? Behold [O Israel], on the day of your fast [when you should be grieving for your sins], you find profit in your business, and [instead of stopping all work, as the law implies you and your workmen should do]  you extort from your hired servants a full amount of labor”  (Isaiah 58:3 ).

What the priests and people were doing wasn’t bad, not done in the right way.  The LORD wasn’t charging them with OMISSION or NEGLECT of their duty.  He was charging them of WRONG INTENT!

He was saying,  those who come with a good intent, to SEEK GOD’s MERCY, must be willing to admit their FAULTS, a hard thing to do.  We can sometimes be so zealous in our approach, in performance of our worship on Sundays, we set aside our need to faithfully examine our attitude or motives for even being there.  Don’t wait for the Worship & Praise team to motivate you on Sundays!

We should ask ourselves in service and duty,  “WHY AM I DOING WHAT I’M DOING?”

The LORD appeals to the conscience…

If the people had not been sincere in the performance of duty and their worship, they needed to understand, we need to understand, there is One who is far greater than their consciences.

PhotoBucket
PhotoBucket

In their FASTING and WORSHIP, a form of godliness, they lacked life, soul, and power.  The stress of their doing was laid upon the REPETITION of the rituals, instead of upon the worship of the LORD.  Even those who were seeking to please their heavenly Father, to obtain His favor, who are sincere in their intentions, were wanting.  This is why, in the sight of the LORD, their FASTS were a mockery.  They were using FASTS as a covering; a covering for their SIN, as Jezebel’s fast, or as the Pharisees’ fasts, resting in outward expressions of humiliation [false humility], while in the process, their hearts were unhumbled.

Nothing New in Zechariah 7:7:

The people and priests are told what the LORD of hosts has said, and it’s nothing new.  The question seems to imply they have forgotten.  The GOOD THING the Captives should have done…was left undone!

On their FAST DAYS, the captives went and separated themselves from daily activities; being a sign of their sorrow for the judgment they were under.  This wasn’t enough.  What they should have done was to search the Scriptures and they would have seen what was the reason for God’s controversy with their fathers, taking a warning by their miseries, not going down the same pathway.

The AFFLICTION that rested on their shoulders was to WAKE THEM UP!  Bring them to REPENTANCE!

A Warning!!!

The disobedience of others and the consequences should be a WARNING to us!  God’s judgements upon Israel of old for their sins were written for a CAUTION to Christians today:

“Now these things befell them by the way of a figure [as an example and warning to us]; they were written to admonish and fit us for right action by good instruction, we in whose days the ages have reached their climax (their consummation and concluding period)”  (1 Corinthians 10:11).

So Church, Why do we do what we do on Sundays?

In my reading for this study, I ran across a story that directed my thoughts to the above question.

A story is told about a wife who was cooking a roast.  She cuts the end off of the roast, puts it on a pan, then into the oven.  The husband asks,  “Why did you cut the end off?”

She replies  “Because my mom always did.”

The next day the wife asks her mom  “Why did you cut the end off of the roast before putting it in the oven?”  Mom replies  “Because my mom always did.”

So both of them went to Grandma and asked the same question.  “Grandma, why do you cut the end of the roast off before cooking it?”

Grandma replies  “So it would fit in the pan!”

Mark Batterson says  “All of us develop hypotheses about everything all the time.  Then we look for evidence to support our hypotheses and ignore evidence to the contrary.”    GUILTY! 

Questions to ask ourselves before, during and after the Sunday Service–it’s more than about “fasting”:

Why do we take COMMUNION–How many of us are partaking in the way God desires us to participate in the Lord’s supper?  What is it that you WORSHIP?  What is it that you get excited about?  Why do we TITHE, why do we FELLOWSHIP (meet and greet time) right after worship and praise?  Why our we FASTING?  Does GOD want me to, or is it just at the pastor’s request?  Why do we do what we do?

And the answer to the many questions…”Was it for Me?”

“WAS IT FOR ME that you fasted, for Me?  (Zechariah 7:5 b.)

“WAS IT FOR ME” that you are taking the Lord’s Supper?

“WAS IT FOR ME” that you are singing and worshiping?

“WAS IT FOR ME” you put in your tithe and offering?

Or is the condition of our SPIRITUALITY in a state of “Sclerosis”?  You’ll have to answer that question.

 

 

Photo Credits:  2nd Temple – Wikipedia Israel Museum;  “Sorry I’m Fasting” T-Shirt–PhotoBucket

Footnote References:

[i] – Merriam Webster Dictionary

[ii] –  Expository Dictionary of Bible Words–page  466 NT Words.

 

 

 

 

How Confession Begins–With “Old Camel Knees”!

How Confession Begins

“OLD CAMEL KNEES”

In an article by Jon Peterson, “Writing in the 4th Century by Jerome records that ‘James, the half-brother of Jesus…prayed in behalf of the people, insomuch that his knees were reputed to have acquired the hardness of camel’s knees’.”  Thus, the nickname stuck!  Therefore, what better place to begin the blog on confession through prayer but The Letter of James.

THE THREE QUESTIONS

“Is anyone among you afflicted? He should pray. Is anyone glad at heart? He should sing praise (to God). Is anyone among you sick?”  (James 5:13, 14).

1.  WHO’S AFFLICTED?

2.  WHO’S MERRY; GLAD AT HEART?

3.  WHO’S SICK?

AFFLICTION

“Affliction” doesn’t refer to a sickness or illness; that topic is referred to in verse 14.  The word means “to be attacked or persecuted for the sake of the gospel. A by-product would be poor choices we’ve made that go against the Word of God. A Scriptural example can be found in The Book of Romans, where Paul says;

“Do you not know that if you continually surrender yourselves to anyone to do his will, you are slaves of him whom you obey, whether that be to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience which leads to righteousness (right doing and right standing with God)?”  (Rom. 6:16).

That’s “reaping what we’ve sown”.  Remember, “Words Determine Your Thinking”; that’s right words and wrong words.  In Creflo Dollar’s “8 Steps to Your Destination”, he starts the conversation by, YOU determine your words that you say. Either God’s words or the worlds.  “Your words then, determine your thinking; your thinking determines your emotions; your emotions determine your decisions or choices”.  WRONG choices will lead to “affliction”.

THE REMEDY

It always starts with your prayer life; that doesn’t necessarily mean to petition God. Prayer is the “vehicle” of our relationship with God; asking for wisdom, studying/reading His word; enjoying quiet time with Him without saying a word. All of those thoughts are prayer (fellowship). Relief of affliction comes through your relationship with God.

“Relationships last a lifetime!”

I heard a pastor one morning, start his sermon with this quotation: “I don’t want to KNOW ABOUT God.  I want to KNOW God”.  

It’s personal and it ALL starts with a loving relationship with Jesus. 

“And the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend”. 

With social networks, smart phones, computer email, it seems we are never involved in a face to face relationship anymore. We are even finding a future spouse via on-line dating. What has happen to the relationships in our lives?

“MERRY” OR “GLAD OF HEART”

When was the last time you could say to yourself, “Boy, I am sure feeling “merry”; “glad of heart” lately?  Scripture says we should be making “a joyful noise unto the Lord”  (Psalm 66:1; Psalm 81:1; Psalm 95:1-12; Psalm 98:4-6; Psalm 100:1). 

I sang with a worship team on Sundays for about two years.  I looked at some of the faces singing and it was hard seeing people who were singing without “joyful noises”, without “thanksgiving”, without expressions of praise in their singing.

Looking back now at the experiences, knowing I wasn’t aware of what they might be going through, perhaps a time of experiencing  affliction as they stood singing. 

James is telling us in verse 13, no matter what our affliction might be, we are to be “glad at heart” IN… our affliction.

“I CAN’T BE HAPPY WHILE I AM GOING THROUGH ‘STUFF’…”

Paul and Silas clothes were torn off, beaten with rods, struck with many blows to the face and thrown into jail with their feet fastened in the stocks (Acts 16:22-24). Now that’s affliction!

“But about midnight, as Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God”  (Acts 16:25).

If you have thought it was hard for you to sing praises in YOUR affliction on Sunday mornings, remind yourself of Paul’s and Silas’ circumstances and sing as loud as you can in gladness the next time. “Sing praise to God”. It becomes your intent to please Him; not to please yourself and looking like ‘road kill’ while trying to please God in your affliction.

IS ANYONE SICK?

Scripture teaches other means by which healing is brought to a person. 

In James 5:14,  any sick person should call the elders of the church; assuming the elders BELIEVE in the laying on of hands to heal any sickness and praying over the sick person of the anointing with oil. 

Verse 15 says you must have “the prayer [that is] of faith will save him who is sick”.  In other words, if you ask someone in the church who doesn’t believe that prayer can heal, your are not going to see results. 

A GOOD definition of FAITH is, “A practical expression of the confidence in God and His Word”.  And FAITH continues in HOPE’s definition: “is a heartfelt expectation of a thing with an out-stretched neck”.

If you call upon someone to pray for your sickness that doesn’t exhibit the “prayer of faith”, your sickness won’t go away. That’s not the WORD detective telling you, it’s God’s Word giving you the remedy. The prayer of faith shall save the sick! NO FAITH, NO HEALING!

THE “ELDERS”

The word “Elders” isn’t necessarily referring to the position within a local body; although it is likely during the years of the early church when everyone believed in healing this would be so. I’ll leave it at that.

Most churches that I know don’t make a regular practice of laying on hands to heal the sick. They simply refer people to a doctor they know of that you can seek out.

An “elder” was translated in the Greek language, “prosbuteros“; translated to English the word is “presbyter” or senior member of the church.  NOTE the fact, that a person is an elder, that fits the requirement; it’s whether they know how to pray the “prayer of faith”.

“THE PRAYER OF FAITH” AS TAUGHT BY JESUS

“And Jesus, replying, said to them [His disciples],  Have faith in God [constantly].  Truly I tell you, whoever says to the mountain, Be lifted up and thrown into the sea! and does not doubt at all in his heart but believes that what he says will take place, it wilL be done for him.  For this reason I am telling you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe (trust and be confident) that it is granted to you, and you will [get it]”  (Mark 11:22-24 Amplified).

SPEAKING TO THE MOUNTAIN

If sickness is the mountain, command it to be removed (healed); in the Name (Authority), using the word “SHALL” or “IT WILL” gives absolute certainty to what you’re asking for.  “I believe that I receive that I possess it, I confess it” That simple confession is the root of all prayer.

If a person isn’t healed, 1 or 2 things occurred and neither have to do with God or His will:

1.  Didn’t call the elders in faith but by religious practice.

2.  The request of others who were believing, or the elders present, didn’t make “the prayer of faith”.

DEALING WITH RELATIONSHIPS; Confessing your faults to one another:

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed”  (James 5:16 in King James).

We are to confess our sins to God but our faults one to another.  If I have injured you, then I should confess that to you.  BUT I will not confess my sins to you, and I don’t want you confessing your sins to me. You are to confess that to the Lord.

“If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action]”  (I John 1:9).

I cannot forgive sins; neither can any clergyman forgive sins–only God can do that.

Confessing your faults to one another doesn’t mean to grab a stranger next Sunday in church and start telling them your deficiencies, your character make-up; “I’m always late” or “I can’t thank God for anything anymore.”  It starts by developing a relationship first.

Also, a clergyman shouldn’t ask someone in the fellowship to come up to the platform and admit their faults; to make them feel better; getting rid of their burden.  You should know the “one another” before spilling your guts about what a critical person you are.  Remember, confession isn’t an apology; “I am sorry for the way I am”.  Repentance goes with confession; turning 180 degrees from where you’ve been. If you choose the wrong person to confess your faults too, that’s how gossip starts in churches.

CONFESSING YOUR FAULTS:

It means you confess or “I admit it,” what you did wrong.  Leave the other person’s mistake or fault to them–For THEM to confess.  Too often, we confess the other persons faults instead of our own.

“Old Camel Knees” says,  “confess your faults” and pray for each other “that you to be healed”. 

James isn’t referring to sickness, he has already dealt with illness in verse 14.  Rather, this “HEALING” refers to the reconciliation of relationships and healing any conflict among people.

I have covered but a few aspects of an effectual prayer life.  It all starts with our relationship with Our heavenly Father; for He is love.  And believers in His Son, we are the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Confessing that Jesus is your Saviour and Lord, is admitting who He is and by faith your ‘are sticking with it’.