And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume XI, Number 52 November 30, 2008
In this issue:
“Pay attention!” “Listen to me!”
“Your mind is somewhere out in left field!”
“Did you hear what I said?” “What did I say?”
“If you were listening…You would know what I said!”
“Pay attention in class…There will be a quiz later!”
“Listen to the preacher!”
“May I have your undivided attention, please?”
“Take heed to My Words!”
“Watch out, now!”
Do you give the speaker (preacher) your undivided attention when he stands before you and proclaims the Word of God? After all, that is what he has dedicated his life to doing, just as the Apostle Paul did as he traveled on his missionary journeys and wrote in his epistles to the saints. Paul felt the obligation to preach the word because Christ had called him to be a chosen vessel to bear the name of Christ to the Gentiles… (Acts 9:15-16; 1 Cor. 9:16)
A call for “undivided attention” is a call for the individual and congregation’s singular focus and consciousness to be on listening, hearing and understanding what is being said in order to learn and make application of what is being delivered by a speaker. It is the disciplining of one’s self as part of his/her reasonable service as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1-2). Failure to discipline and make yourself ready for worship is sinful, shows immaturity, disrespect for God and the speaker, and is an interruption and a bad influence to others (and people do observe and see).
Worship on the first day of the week is the time set aside for us to gather together for singing, praying, giving, hearing the word preached, and observing the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 16:1-2; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:17-18; 1 Cor. 14:26). It is a time of fellowship between each one of us, individually, and as a congregation and God. We willingly and reverently engage in our spiritual sacrifice to God; singing, praying, giving, remembering our Savior Jesus Christ as we partake of the bread and fruit of the vine, and listening attentively to the prepared sermon so we can agree and say the “Amen” to the teaching. We meditate on what we have heard, and study to see if what is heard is so (Acts 17:11), and make application of it in our lives where needful.
I can remember (in the near/distant past) when I was in school that it was what we now call a “zero-tolerance level” for just about anything that would be considered a hindrance and/or disruption to the class. That included, but was not limited to: chewing gum, eating candy, talking/whispering to your neighbor, sleeping, not raising your hand before speaking, passing notes around, breaking line, frequent requests for restroom visits, spit wads, making noises, cleanliness, tacky clothes and being late (tardy) to class.
Any of these violations most likely resulted in a trip to the Principal’s Office, licks, or assigned time in detention hall…usually with a letter of apology from the offender---signed by Mom and Dad! I can remember many times, as we left our classroom, the teacher checked our paperwork and notes to see if we were following along. I can remember the teacher tearing many pieces of paper out of notebooks and saving them for the parent-teacher meetings. Sometimes the teacher even called-out the guilty ones to tell the class what they were doing…how humiliating was that? Why was this wrong then? Is it because it showed a lack of respect for the teacher and showed an indifferent attitude on the part of the student? Surely it did!
My, my, how times have changed, or have they? These days, the schools still deal with the same problems, but a new set of hindrances have been introduced including the use of cell phones, text/pix messaging, playing games, etc. These problems occur not only at schools, colleges, and secular jobs, but during the worship of God on the first day of the week, and specifically, at the Mt. Baker church of Christ. Brethren, I have seen people writing notes then laughing to the point of bending over so as not to be seen (which didn’t work, by the way), games being played, manicures being done, no participation in the singing, the week’s working schedule being written out, and giggling during the observance of the Lord’s Supper. Did I just say that…pretty blunt, wasn’t I? Is this what God purposed before the foundations of the world…worship in this manner? Where is your heart? Why have you come to services? This is not play-time! You are in the presence of God, gathered with the saints (Heb. 13:22-29).
These activities are being watched by several people, some young---very young, some older, some who are visitors. Our actions influence those who are around us and those who visit and worship with us. What type of message does this congregation send to our visitors, let alone their friends? I realize that our congregation is not unique in having these problems. But that does not excuse these types of behavior. It must end. Turn your phone off or on vibrate (as you do in meetings at work), put down the paper and pen (unless you are legitimately taking notes), and listen attentively to the sermon and engage with your brothers and sisters in the worship of God. If your neighbor wants to play, encourage him/her to worship instead. If they comply, you have used your influence for good and covered a multitude of sins.
I am reminded of the passage of scripture in Nehemiah 8:1-9:
1) And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the broad place that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which Jehovah had commanded to Israel. 2) And Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly, both men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. 3) And he read therein before the broad place that was before the water gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women, and of those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law. 4) And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, and Anaiah, and Uriah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pedaiah, and Mishael, and Malchijah, and Hashum, and Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam. 5) And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people (for he was above all the people); and when he opened it, all the people stood up: 6) and Ezra blessed Jehovah, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with the lifting up of their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped Jehovah with their faces to the ground. 7) Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place. 8) And they read in the book, in the law of God, distinctly; and they gave the sense, so that they understood the reading. 9) And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto Jehovah your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law.
We can learn much from this passage of scripture (Rom. 15:4). They gathered together as one man (unity); heard with understanding (ears were attentive) the reading of the law for a length of time (5-6 hours?); stood when the book was opened (respect); bowed their heads and worshipped with faces to the ground (reverence/ humility); the law was read distinctly with sense given for understanding (teaching technique); and they wept when they heard the words of the law (convicted). We can apply these principles in our worship to God. Let’s turn our minds “on” to what is being said by the speaker, and not our neighbor. Joe, or whoever stands before us, endeavors to speak distinctly, and give the sense of the passages that they present. They have spent hours in preparation to address us. We owe them respect in giving them our “undivided attention” as they proclaim God’s Word. Let’s resolve to show more reverence, honor and give praise to God in our service together as we learn His Word. This is pleasing in His sight.
You can find the complete outline of this sermon at BIBLE ANSWERS
Scripture Reading: 1 Kings 12:26-33
1. We must
correctly approach God in worship, Jno. 4:23-24 (Heb. 11:4; Lev. 10:1-3;
I. PRINCIPLES OF ACCEPTABLE WORSHIP.
A. Approved Worship
is Regulated by the Will of God; Matt. 15:7-9 (Lev. 10:1-2; Num. 3:5-10; 1
II. RESPECTING CHRIST’S AUTHORITY, Matt. 17:5; 28:18.
A. We Must Look to
Christ and His Apostles Alone for Authorized and Approved Worship, Col. 3:17
(Acts 2:42); 1 Pet. 4:11.
No Place to Go?
The following caught my eye:
“Monroe, LA (AP): An arrest affidavit says the 32-year-old Monroe man was dropped off around 2:30 a.m. at an Ouachita Correctional Center guard shack by a woman in a car who then drove away. He was arrested and booked with criminal trespass after saying he had no place to go and allegedly refusing repeated requests to leave.
“His bail was set at $200.” (Man Arrested for Refusing to Leave Jail, FoxNews.com)
1) We all need somewhere to go. A blessing of God’s people is our relationship with brethren of like precious faith. This tragedy should never be so among Christians. “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’ Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.” (1 Pet. 4:8-9)
2) Some people think they have no where to go, so they stay in sin. The comfort zone of sin’s familiarity deceives people into believing they can never change. Once they have plunged into sin they convince themselves they cannot correct their errors. That is not true. The saving and converting power of the gospel is real. “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, not adulterers nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:10-11; Acts 18:8) Go to Jesus; he will save you (Matt. 11:28-30). Then, live a new life in Christ (Rom. 6:4-5).
3) Christians must fill their lives with righteousness and shun sin. The “place” to go when you become a Christian is a new life of holy living (Eph. 4:17-24). Otherwise, sin will return. Your life is not a vacuum. If you return to committing sin then “the last state of that man is worse than the first.” (Matt. 12:45; see 2 Pet. 2:20-22)
Created by Chuck Sibbing. 11/30/2008
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA