1. Jesus said, “For ye have the poor always with you” (Matthew 26:11). What are some proper and improper ways to react to this verse?
We may see the poor as lazy and apathetic. Sometimes that is true (compare 2 Thessalonians3:10), but often it is not true. In reality, it may be that we have become lazy and apathetic in carrying out the teachings of Scripture concerning ministry to the poor!
We make a mistake when we use Matthew 26:11 to justify that there is no use bothering to minister to the poor since there’s so many of them. That interpretation violates James 5:27. Some have neglected to minister to the poor because they think that the poor deserve what they are getting. We fear also that someone who presents himself as poor is conning us, and we don’t want to be taken advantage of. Therefore, we allow fear to restrict us from taking care of some who may have real needs.
2. Why do you find it difficult at times to hate the evil and love the good? How do you overcome this difficulty?
The issue may have to do with what is ingrained in our nature. As prince of this world, Satan deludes our minds. Our eyes see the pleasures of the world, and this tends to override the greater spiritual reality that is unseen. At times that which is evil seems to provide the most pleasure, so we follow our feelings instead of the principles of God’s Word. We try to stand for that which is morally right, but the tide of evil against us makes us think, “What’s the use?” Thus godly, countercultural behavior often seems to fail us.
3. If God were to come walking through the garden of your life or your church life, in what areas would He find you lamenting your state of affairs? What would you confess to Him? How do you think He would respond?
Often we get our priorities out of order. Instead of seeking the kingdom of God first (Matthew 6:33), we pursue those things that give us the greatest pleasure or meet our “felt needs.” In the church we can be so focused on attaining numbers that we fail to make true, spiritually deep disciples.
The use of money on wrong priorities, both individually and as a church, can be an area where we may be convicted if God were to come into our midst. The important thing to remember, though, is that God is continually walking among us, and the conviction of sin is to be a continual part of our lives.
4. In what ways do our twenty-first century offerings and assemblies please and displease God? How can we do better?
Sometimes we are guilty of bringing to God gifts that are more of a legalistic act than a love offering. We can also be very rigid in the conduct of our worship assemblies, while failing to express love to those gathered. We may present our offerings or gather for our worship for the purpose of trying to gain favor with God rather than trying to glorify God. Also, our worship and giving may be done simply to absolve our conscience rather than to advance the kingdom’s. When this is the attitude, we have failed to realize the true purpose of our giving and our assembling. God is not pleased as a result.
Here’s a very practical idea for making your Sunday morning worship more meaningful to both God and you: make sure you get enough sleep the night before. To stay up “all hours” on Saturday night only to drag your sleepy self to worship on Sunday morning is quite pointless!
5. How will your songs offer worship that is acceptable to God?
Churches continue to experience battles over music styles, volume, and the use of various kinds of instruments. The problem with these “worship wars” is that they begin at the wrong starting point.
Worship that is acceptable to God does not start with the outer aspects of the worship but with the heart of the worshiper. Worship music that is acceptable to God comes from a heart that is dedicated to God and to accomplishing His will. It is music that focuses on glorifying and honoring God. It is also music that is for edification as we teach and admonish “one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:16)