A TRUE STORY
A few weeks ago I saw a strange and brilliant display of color and watched for a minute or two as lovely pastel colors floated in perfect circles in a row across my vision. Most of my vision was blocked by the display except for a slice along the bottom portion.
I could just make out the lower part of the computer screen. I was keying an email to a niece who is a nurse at the time, so I added a brief description of what had happened and the words, “What should I do?”
“Call a doctor!” she wrote immediately. The the display turned dark and slowly faded away. I called the doctor, and soon afterwards I was undergoing an MRI. In the written report that followed I saw “loss,” “abnormal,” “severe,” “prominent” and similar words.
My doctor kidded me a bit about exercise and set me up to see him again in three months. At home I got on the Web and learned that brain cells never reproduce themselves. And I had already lost millions of them. I was sure I was on Death Row and begin informing people one by one, people I love the most like my brothers and my only surviving aunt, that I would die soon. I spent hours in prayer. I prayed to be healed by a miracle. Old hymns came to mind. I read Romans 8 over and over. I made arrangements to give my body to science.
Now I’ve learned that I had over-estimated the calamitous effects of microscopic blood vessels in my brain being blocked. I assumed my brain was being destroyed. Well, it was, but not to the extent that death was imminent.
Instead, my doctor says I should be good for another 5-25 years on top of the 70 I already have.
Would you say that the hours and hours I spent in prayer and contemplation were a form of worship?
What kind of worship benefits us most when we are sick? Frightened?
Do you think that some of God’s people in the desert worshipped God because they were terrified about judgments God might pour upon His disobedient people?
What is the only acceptable reason to worship God?
1. Apostasy step by step. Just as with heart disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer, apostasy doesn’t usually appear in us all at once. Have you ever been to a museum and seen antique stones with carved images you can barely make out? How long has that stone been an antique? Has its message changed through time? Is the Adventist church aging and wearing out? Or is it growing fast and strong in the love of God? Some people are convinced that the Seventh-day Adventist church has apostasized, and that’s why Jesus hasn’t come yet. What do you think?
2. Rationalizing. Have you ever done something you knew was wrong but convinced yourself that it was okay just this once or that it might be wrong, but not very wrong, or that God always forgives, so why not let Him? What if you knew you’d be sentenced to life in prison if you refused to show respect to a pagan symbol? What if all you had to do to escape the sentence was to fall on your knees with your heart lifted in prayer to God while everyone else was worshipping the pagan god? Nobody would know what you were thinking. Wouldn’t that be okay? Isn’t your heart all that matters to God?
3. Worshipping the image. Follow this rationale: [Worshiping the image is keeping Sunday as if it is holy. I do not keep Sunday. Therefore I do not worship the image and will be saved.] How many examples of rationalization are in those statements? How do you think God feels when we try to put ourselves beyond reproach because we hold a certain belief to be true? What about people who believe in evolution as the explanation for life? I believe that God created everything that was made. Does my belief in Creation set me apart as one of God’s special children whom He will take to live with Him? If not, what is the spiritual reward of believing in creation by God and His infinite power?
4. Priorities. Why does God seem to be both angry and jealous when he scolds the Hebrew people for planting gardens and building houses while the temple of the Lord lies in decay and ruin? Does his stern message have any bearing on us today? Do you and I ever set our personal priorities ahead of the work God has for us to do where He has placed us? How does God feel when we make our choices for our own advancement first, and then consider God’s mission for us? What should we do when we observe in our midst a person we feel is not putting God first? Is correcting others my most important task as a Christian? Is it ever my task?
5. Conditional prophecies. Have you ever talked with a person who is upset about conditional prophecies in the Bible? “Conditional, conditional, conditional,” the person may sputter. “If the prophecy fails we just call it conditional and move along.” (Conditional: not to be completed until all requirements are met.) What would a Bible containing no conditional prophecies do to the concept of free will? What is more important to God—our ability to choose for ourselves?—or life free from sin due to our own determination? What does God promise us if we worship Him with an attitude of trust and obedience? Are you eager to meet the conditions?
6. Nehemiah. Was Nehemiah a man of sin? Then why did he say, “we” have disobeyed, “we” have not listened,” “we are covered with shame?” Shouldn’t he have said, “they (children of Israel) have disobeyed;” “they have not listened, but I have,” or “they are covered with shame?” Have you ever identified with sinners in the church like the prophet Nehemiah did? If we come close to sinners, aren’t we in danger of sinning along with them? What is Nehemiah’s final anguished plea to God (Nehemiah 9:19). Should you and I lift our hearts in a similar prayer to God? Why?
7. One God. Is there any danger that people in your church or your family would ever believe that there is more than one God? Have you ever heard a fellow member say, “We can worship any god we please?” Since we all agree that there is only one God, why does God warn us not to follow other gods? How big is the difference between worshipping pagan gods and admiring the costliest of possessions? Do you know a church member who is wealthy? Two to five million US dollars or more wealthy? Can we look at that member and “know” that he or she has more than one god? Is it possible for a member of ordinary means to place more value on earthly possessions than the wealthy member? How can we make sure there is only one God ruling our lives? Is it easy? Is it possible?