Confession, Repentance, and Prayer

Here is a simple outline for our Wednesday Evening Bible class.  We have been alternating between nights solely of prayer and evenings studying prayer and prayers in the Bible.

“He who conceals his sin does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” —Proverbs 28:13

The physical and emotional consequences of not confessing

Psalm 32:1-7; Psalm 38

Vs 18—“I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.”

How much sickness and illness in our society today comes from guilt and sin?

Psalm 51—David’s guilt with Bathsheba

Have mercy, Blot out transgressions, Wash, Cleanse, create anew heart, let me hear joy and gladness, Restore, Save

Is our repentance usually connected to a desire for change and growth?

Ezra 9-10—Sin of Intermarriage

9:2—the problem
9:3-5–Ezra’s reaction
9:6-15—Ezra’s prayer
10:1-4—the people follow  Ezra’s example

Have you ever seen one person’s example of repentance influence many others?

Nehemiah 9—Public, Communal Confession

Result of reading the Law-Nehemiah 8:9

9:3—read “for a quarter of a day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshipping the Lord their God”

Nehemiah 1:4-7—Nehemiah mourning and weeping for the sins and their consequences

In what ways can and should we incorporate repentance into our times of worship?

Luke 18:9-14—Prayers of Pharisee and Tax Collector

How can we learn to understand repentance as a way of life and not just an occasional act?

James 5:16—Praying for Each Other

We have a responsibility to pray for each others’ sins as well as our own

Is there a difference in confessing “sin” vs “sins?”  For the confessor? For the person praying?

One Solitary Life (author unknown)

He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman.

He grew up in still another village, where he worked in a carpenter shop until he was 30.

Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher.

He never wrote a book.

He never held an office.

He never married or owned a home.

He didn’t go to college.

He never put his foot inside a big city.

He never traveled 200 miles from the place where he was born.

He did none of the things one usually associates with greatness.

He had no credentials by today’s standards.

He was only 33 when public opinion turned against him.

His friends ran away.

He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial.

He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.

While he was dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth.

When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race, the leader of mankind’s progress.

All the armies that ever marched,

All the navies that ever sailed,

All the parliaments that ever sat,

All the kings that ever reigned,

put together,

Have not affected the life of man upon earth as much as that…One Solitary Life

Annual Area-Wide Singing Fellowship

For 18 years, my congregation has hosted a singing fellowship on the second Sunday in December.  The crowd ranges from 150-200 in attendance, which is big for NJ.  We craft a program of hymns, readings (mostly scripture, but also other), and prayers for a worship assembly that lasts a couple of hours and involves men from 8-12 congregations of churches of Christ in New Jersey.  It’s a great time.  This year we only tweaked last year’s program.

Here is the program:

Welcome    &     Prayer

Amazing Grace

Readings:        Genesis 1:1, 26-27; 2:7-8;  Genesis 2:15-22; Genesis 3:1-24

From Glorious Ruler to Lowly Servant

Ivory Palaces

If that Isn’t Love

What Wondrous Love is This?

Tell Me the Story of Jesus

Reading: Galatians 4:4-7; John 1:1-3, 14; Luke 2:1-20

Prayer-The Miraculous Birth of Jesus

Born of Mary, Laid in a Manger

Hark, the Herald Angel Sings

Angels We Have Heard on High

Silent Night! Holy Night!

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear

O Come, All Ye Faithful

Joy to the World

Reading: John 3:14-18; Colossians 1:15-20; Luke 7:11-17

Friend and Companion on this Earth

It is Well with My Soul

I Come to the Garden Alone

Just a Closer Walk with Thee

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Reading: Revelation 4:1-11; Revelation 5:12-14; Revelation 21:1-4, 22:1-5

Prayer of Praise

The Gift of Eternal Life

When We All Get to Heaven

There is Coming a Day

He Has Made Me Glad

God is So Good

Reading: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; John 14:1-4;

Lord’s Supper

Reading: “One Solitary Life”

In Loving-Kindness Jesus Came

Closing Prayer

Christians Against Christmas-GA, November 2009

I feel a little more emotional about this one because it involves people forbidding worship.  I can understand concerns about how to worship but can’t relate to issues of when.

I do understand that there are degrees, while some are against singing “Happy Birthday, Jesus” with a full-scale pageant, others would be okay with simply preaching on the incarnation in December.

Barry Baggott, in his article, “‘Tis the Season” gives these reasons not to celebrate Christmas:

We are not told to do so

Do we need to be told to worship Jesus?  I understand he is dealing with specifics.  We were not told to emphasize the birth/incarnation on December 25th or on any particular day.  But why does that exclude doing what we are expected/commanded to do whenever we do it.  Just because some are doing it annually, why must we refrain at that particular moment?

Couldn’t the “expediency” argument enter in here?

We have no Apostolic Example

(see above)  We have examples for worshipping Jesus.  Where does the Bible teach that it is right sometimes and wrong sometimes?

This section which includes the Reformation leaders reaction to Catholicism many holy days.

We are following human tradition

The root of this concept bothers me:  “We shouldn’t do something because the denominations do it.”  We talk big about having the Bible as our only guide, yet so much of our teaching/practice seems to be based on not being like the denominations, or reactionary as some of you commenters have pointed out.  Baggott refers to “the world” but means denominations, I assume.

Here is a general truism that we have to learn:

Something is not wrong just because the Baptists do it.

I have a hard time understanding and accepting this reasoning, can some one help me out?

“Another argument one hears is simply: ‘the birth of Christ is in the Bible, so that means celebrating Christmas is biblical.’  That same line of reasoning would allow one to say that “the Bible tells about the virgin Mary, so that means it is biblical to pray to her.’

There is no example of praying to Mary.  There are numerous examples of worshipping Baby Jesus.

So, I am among those who feel that Matthew 2:10-11 and Luke 2 are example enough to make a big deal about the incarnation, whether that is in December or any other time of the year.  I don’t understand why it is wrong on any given day. It’s the refraining that I can’t comprehend.

Then, Brother Baggott deals with Romans chapter 14.

His first point suggests that while the context talks about Jewish holy days (agreed) there can be no application to future Christian holy days (why not?).  off topic–More irony here is that wine comes up again as a matter of opinion in chapter 14.

His second point is that Romans 14 deals with personal/private matters and not assemblies/congregational matters.    He concedes that an individual Christian can observe such a holiday as Christmas and Easter but it becomes wrong when a church does it because it will be forced on others.

Okay, but….what about congregational autonomy?  There are some congregations in which no one has a problem with it.

We have an area-wide singing each December that is not intended to be a Holiday/Christmas program, but a time for fellowship and worship.  We do usually sing a few nativity hymns, as well as hymns dealing with every part of Jesus’ life.  Some don’t come.  Some accuse us or assume it is a “traditional” Christmas program.   They miss out.  That’s okay.  No one is forced to come.

We received a phone call the first December we lived here from a small, conservative group of brethren who are near us.  I had unknowingly sent them a flier/invite to our singing fellowship.  Unfortunately, my wife picked up the phone that day and received a tirade about our “Christmas program.”

I will never understand Christians being mad about other Christians worshipping Jesus at the “wrong time”.

—————————–

Questions I would like answered:

When–what months–is it okay to “celebrate” the birth of Jesus?

By celebrate, I simply mean sing the hymns, study the texts, meditate on implications, be in awe at what God and Jesus have done.

Would it be okay to focus on the birth every July?

Is it okay to do it regularly, just not on the same day or month every year so that people won’t think we have made it a holiday?

If you are against focusing on the birth of Jesus the same time of each year, do you participate in Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Thanksgiving themed services annually?

I intend no sarcasm or mean-spiritedness in these questions.  I realize the questions and my blogging habits might confuse, but I sincerely would like to hear more than a couple of passages such as Galatians 4:10-11 to condemn this practice.

From the Vault-Scripture Abuse, Part 1

(This was a bulletin article from a couple of years ago that also appeared on the http://www.preacherspen.org site before it got eaten.)

We have societies and organizations to defend animals. Child abuse cases have been in the local and national news constantly of late. I wonder, though, if anyone cares about Scripture abuse. The Bible is abused, misused, neglected, and forced to say and do things it really shouldn’t all the time (preachers are the guiltiest of this). Neglect may be the most common form of Scripture abuse but the others are bad, too. I would like to point out some passages that, in my opinion, are abused often.

Whenever we talk about the worship assembly, two passages are used to back up whatever opinions we have. John 4:24 (“His worshippers must worship in spirit and truth”) and 1 Corinthians 14:40 (“fitting and orderly way, decent and in order”) are often quoted when discussing how our assemblies should be. I find it interesting that if you have 10 different people with 10 different opinions about what “in spirit and in truth” and “fitting and orderly way” actually mean, instead of seeking to understand what each other means, they think it is sufficient to quote these verses and all others must back down. We have made these passages say what we want them to say.

Sometimes our opinions might be correct but we use the wrong scripture to back it up. Proverbs 29:18 in the KJV says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish”. This is often quoted to say we must have great vision, in the sense of leadership, planning, great ideas for God. These things are great; but Proverbs 29:18 is saying something else. Here, it is talking about revelation or prophecy, from God, not vision in the sense of planning ahead. Even by reading the full verse in the KJV, we see that one who “keepeth the law” is happy. The law is revelation from God. This passage is clearer in more recent translations. It sounds good, but we should look elsewhere to support the idea.

In 1 Peter 2:9, some translations say that we are a “peculiar people”. You and I have heard preachers talk about how the world will look at us as weird or different because we follow Jesus. Well, the concept is true but isn’t found in that word. Fortunately, though, it is found in the same verse. Merriam Webster tells us that he word “peculiar” comes from the Latin meaning “private property.” That is the sense of the word which is also translated, “a people for God’s own possession” (NAS). Much of the comments made about being different are rooted in the concept of being “Holy,” or “set apart.”

These are just a few examples of many ways we abuse scripture. Just because the Bible says, “God is love,” doesn’t mean we can define “God” and “love” however we want to. Most of us at one time or another bring our personal opinions to the Bible and find passages that seem to back them up. That is very different than studying the Word and seeking to submit to It.