Are You Praying to a False God?

Elijah and the 400

One of the most dramatic and exciting stories in the Scriptures is the account of the great contest between the 400 prophets of Baal and Elijah, the lone prophet of Jehovah on Mt. Carmel. The story is found in 1 Kings 18. For many hours the 400 prophets of Baal called to their god, danced about, cut themselves and generally, made a spectacle of themselves trying to evoke a response from their god. How they have been humiliated by Elijah. Their god, Baal, is the “storm” or weather god. Many representations of him depict him with a thunderbolt in his hand. Certainly, he can spare just one little flash of lightening to ignite their sacrifice and prove that he truly is a god. There is just one problem. He is NOT a god. He is the device and figment of human imagination embellished with graven images. He is a false god and would give no answer by fire or any other means.

Of course, we know this and chuckle to ourselves at the foolishness of these and any who would believe in Baal and behave so foolishly. I wonder, however, if we do not need to learn the lesson in this story. The lesson of the futility of praying to a false god. Certainly not! You reply. I attend worship regularly. I attend Bible class regularly. I certainly am no idolater. Perhaps all you say is true, but are you still praying to a false god by praying to a god of your own invention or imagination? I fear many are. Perhaps if one is wondering why God is not answering his prayers, he may need to ask the question, “Am I praying to the God of the Bible or a god of my own invention and imagination?”

If I asked you to close your Bible and tell me all that you know about God without your Bible, what could you tell me? Certainly, we know some about God from nature and His creation (Psa. 1:1-3, Rom. 1:20). Do we, however, learn enough from creation to pray to our God as our Father and our Savior? We do not. Do we know anything of His will so that we may pray accordingly? Again, the answer is no. Most of what we know of our gracious and loving Father in heaven, we know from Scripture.

False Ideas

Many hold false ideas of God in their hearts, ideas and imaginations that are not based upon scripture and contrary to Scripture. Consequently, when they pray, they are doing very close to what an idolater does, praying to a false god. Certainly, God is just and can mete out wrath and vengeance, but if I see God as always angry and never loving and gracious, I am not seeing Him rightly. Conversely, If I see God only as loving and gracious and never willing to exact punishment, once again, I am not seeing Him rightly. Do I perceive God as a glorified “Santa Clause” whose sole purpose in existence is to grant my every whim, wish or desire? If that is the case, I do not perceive God rightly. Some understand God to be aloof and disinterested in human affairs? This also is a wrong understanding of God.

To pray to the one true and living God, I must know Him accurately. I only know Him accurately from learning about Him through His Word. He is a loving God “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Yet He is a just God who will condemn those who reject Christ. He desires to bless us and provide our needs, but we must not see him only as a benevolent gift giver. He is supremely interested in the affairs of men to the extent that he became man in the form of Christ.

Know the true God. Pray to the true God.

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Is God A Priority In Your Life?

Most people would say finding a job when your unemployed becomes a priority. When you are in great pain, finding relief is a priority. If, in the middle of the night, your are awakened by water dripping in your face because of a roof that is in need of repair, repairing the roof becomes a priority. In life, those matters most important and urgent to us, are the ones to which we attend. How important is God to your? Is He a priority in your life?

Are You A Doer?

  • (James 1:22 NIV) “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
  • (Rom 2:13 NJKV) “for not the hearers of the Law are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.”

These verses indicate how important it is that we be an active participant in God’s church. Many churches today have too many members sitting on the sidelines. The big question is why do so many Christians try to just get by and just do the minimum? Unfortunately, to many Christians, God is not a priority in their life. Their actions indicate this very clearly. Therefore, we ought to ask the question, what is involved in being a Christian?

It is more than attending services a few times a week. It is more than remaining morally pure. It is imperative that we go beyond superficial perceptions of what a Christian is. To a Christian, God must be the most important thing in his/her life. To emphasize this, look at Mk. 12:30, “‘And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.” In order to better understand this, look at these illustrations:

  • A man who never wants to be with his family–Is his family a priority in this man’s life?
  • A man is constantly late for work, takes long breaks and lunches, and leaves early every day. Is this man wholly committed to his job?
  • A man one day a week speaks sweetly to his wife, tells her how much he loves her, takes her out to dinner and takes care of all her needs. But, the other six days a week he ignores her, refuses to take care of any of her needs and in many ways tries to act as if he isn’t married. Can it honestly be said this man loves his wife?

Another important aspect of being a Christian is being willing to serve others. It is interesting to note, the criteria for judgment found in Matt. 25:31-46 is serving others. From this, it would appear God places a very high value on service.

Do you find Bible study a delight or drudgery? Notice what David said in Psa 1:2 (NKJV) “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.” People use many excuses to justify their failure to study the Bible. “I don’t have the time.” I don’t understand what I read.” “It’s boring.” Friends, it all comes down to a matter of motivation. Let me illustrate this point. Your boss calls you into his office and offers you a huge promotion. Your salary will increase significantly. The only question your boss asks is would you be willing to attend a special night class that would take about a year to complete. You respond by saying, “Certainly.” You see; motivation is everything.

In 1 Pet. 2:21, we are instructed to follow in Christ’s footsteps. In Matt. 16:24, Jesus says, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” One little mental exercise that often helps to determine if I should do something or not, is asking my self the question, “What would Jesus do?” To fully understand this, let’s take a look some different scenarios.

  • Your tired, you’ve had a hard day, you would like to stay home and not attend mid-week Bible study. What would Jesus do?
  • Some one approaches you and begins to tell you about the terrible things someone you know has done. You know this is gossip, but it sure is interesting. What would Jesus do?
  • Someone has hurt you terribly and you have hard feelings for that person. This person comes to you and seeks forgiveness. However, you don’t know if you can forgive them. What would Jesus do?
  • Young people: You’re at one of your friend’s houses. You didn’t know there would be alcohol and other drugs at the party. It seems as if all your friend are drinking and having a good time. One of your friends hands you a beer and says, “Here, have some fun. One beer isn’t going to hurt you.” You begin to think your friend is right. What would Jesus do?

We all know the reaction of Jesus would be to do His Father’s will. What about you? Are you a Christian? Is God a priority in your life?

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A TIME TO REFLECT

Another Year is upon us. And, once again, we are faced with the idea of “What shall we do with this new year?” What will we do different in 2019 than we did in 2018, or the years before that? What will this year bring? Joy and happiness, or sadness and sorrow? Some of this will depend on us and our plans for the year!

We also know that there are some things that will happen that we have no control over. But, we also know that how we respond will make a difference. We can control our attitude and response to these things, or we can allow the problems to affect our attitudes. Which will it be?

One of the ideas we find in scripture is the that we have more control over our thoughts and emotions than perhaps we think. Consider again how Paul and Silas rejoiced in prison and sing psalms and hymns to God (Acts 16:23-26; esp. v. 25). Or how Job, with all of his problems, kept his faith in God, even though he would have liked an explanation as to WHY he had to suffer.

New Year’s gives us an opportunity to engage in introspection and reflection. Can we look honestly at this last year and say that we have improved spiritually? Have we learned some new things that will help us in our jobs or in our relationships in our family? What about our relationship with Jesus? What about our relationships with our brethren at South Cobb? Is the church better today because we are better and stronger Christians? Have we helped to build, or become a tool of Satan and tear down?

What did you do wrong this year? What did you do right?

Did you start off with good intentions – such as being a daily Bible reader? Did you allow the things of the world to cause you to lose focus on eternity? Did you accomplish anything this year that brought you closer to God and His Son? What would you have done differently? What will you DO differently this year that might cause you to become a better Christian?

Paul stressed constantly that Christians should live a certain way to exemplify Christ in them. One example is in Ephesians 4:1-3, where he emphasized that that we are to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” I’m not sure about what you think, but just these verses will keep me busy this year. How about you? What are your goals this year?

WILL YOU HELP ME BE A BETTER CHRISTIAN THIS YEAR? Will you ask me how I am doing spiritually? Will I offend you if I asked you the same thing?

We live life one day at a time – we need to break down what we plan to do for the year one day at a time. We need to make a list of what we will do and then go from there! So, what will you do TOMORROW (if God grants us tomorrow) to be a better Christian? And how will you build on that the day after, and the day after, and the day after . . .

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Courage and Conviction

It requires deep loyalty to be committed to God in these ungodly times. We face a world devoid of Bible ethics and spiritual standards. Society is filled with compromise and shallow ideas that war against purity, truth and morality. It takes courage to speak out for the Lord and against the trends of popularity. We do not see many folks, even in the Lord’s church, who are willing to manifest backbone in the quest for righteousness.

To be accepted by those about us has always been man’s desire, and that creates a problem and a challenge for humanity. King Saul failed miserably to obey God, and spoke thus of his weakness, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice” (1 Sam 15:24). He was not the first, nor the last, to fall into that trap. Paul reminds us that it is a constant problem in Galatians 1:10. He said, “For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” James labels such foolish conduct as spiritual adultery (James 4:4). Truth is of pristine character and cannot be compromised. The conviction which truth demands is well worth the effort.

If preachers, parents, elders, and Bible class teachers had the steady courage of the prophets of the Old Testament, we could solve most of the problems in the church and in the world of our day. Rather than trying to be popular with their children, parents would always strive to be in accord with the scriptures in order to turn their offspring toward heaven and away from the carnal appetites and sensual pleasures that never satisfy. Preachers and elders would not be enamored by cathedrals, money and attendance, but rather be devoted to developing the depth and loyalty of members to the soul-searching edification that genuine Christianity produces for time and eternity.

It takes fortitude to teach the old Jerusalem gospel in an age that clamors for ease and comfort and our image among the elite. But the Lord’s admonitions to Laodicea and Sardis ought to tell the abject vanity of such putrid emphasis (Rev. 3:1-15). In Genesis 11, we clearly learn what happens to those who strive to make a name for themselves.

Let us, “with purpose of heart, continue with the Lord” as we depart from iniquity. We surely owe to the people of our own day a courageous stand for holiness and godly demeanor: “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,” (Titus 2:12 NKJV). If we could raise up a generation that put the Lord first absolutely, with approval always upon the more excellent way (Phil. 1:10), we could overcome Satan, self and sin and come over to walk with the Lord. May this be our consuming passion.


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Some Things Never Change

Nostalgia is based upon memories that bring to mind things of the past that are dear to us. We may not recall with accuracy all of the details, but we find joy in moments of yesterday that take us back to home and hearth. We might even change a few scenarios to fit our idealism and secret wishes for a better ending than the one that really transpired. However, there are some things that never change, things unchanging and unchangeable, and we need to be grateful for that. Such things include, God’s gracious love; the high cost of sin; the hope of heaven; and the integrity of the Bible. These points show the balance, challenge and heart of Christianity in the battles of life as we strive to maintain purity and contentment while in a carnal world of shameful licentiousness.
The apostle Paul wrote, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,” (Titus 2:11). Sadly, though, many fail to respond properly to such majestic mercy and infinite live. Some just will not come to the fount of blessing and redemption for cleansing and peace. Nevertheless, Rom. 10:21 informs us that God still extends outstretched arms to grant shelter to those wise enough to seek His provision.

“There is a place of quiet rest,
Near to the heart of God,
A place where sin cannot molest,
Near to the heart of God.
There is a place of comfort sweet,
Near to the heart of God,
A place where we our savior meet,
Near to the heart of God.
There is a place of full release,
Near to the heart of God,
A place where all is joy and peace,
Near to the heart of God.”

Sin cannot molest and constant rest from worldly cares does await those who lean upon the everlasting arms of our Creator. We need to change our ways in order to be blessed by God who never changes. The wages of sin has never changed either. Sin and death – separation from the Lord – have always sorrowfully gone hand in hand (Rom. 6:23). Only the power of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary could triumph over Satan’s hold on the human race (Mk. 3:27). What happened that day at Golgotha can never be changed. Hope for humanity echoes down through time in a message of unchanging beauty and glory. Sin is very persistent, powerful, popular, pitiful and personal. But Christ paid an enormous price to make it possible for us to persevere in righteousness. Paul expressed our gratitude best, I believe, in 2 Cor.9:15, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” Our tears of gladness for such monumental grace should flow freely as we partake of the Lord’s Supper each first day of the week in memory of our Savior’s death.
Scripture does not change. We shall be judged by the word of God (Jn. 12:48). The Bible cannot be broken by the changeable whims of men (Jn. 10:35). God said long ago, “So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” (Isa 55:11). We do not need a new or updated message for modern times. The old Gospel, preached first on Pentecost in Jerusalem long ago, is to last until the end of the world (Matt. 28:20; Jude 3). We need to leave the ancient landmarks alone (Hos. 5:10). The integrity of the Bible and the hope of heaven belong together: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away…on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.” (Matt. 24:35; Rom. 2:16). Let us never forget that Christ is our refuge (Heb. 6:18). Therefore, let us seek to please Him in unchanging loyalty, at all times and in every way.

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