Thursday, December 27, 2012

Pagan Temple Discovered

I just noticed on that archaeologists have discovered an ancient temple west of Jerusalem in a site known to archaeologists as "Tel Motza."
The term Tel refers to a "mound created by human occupation and abandonment of a geographical site over many centuries." Just as the leaves of autumn accumulate over the course of many years, forming compost and enriching the forest floor, so also did ancient cities, over time, accumulate debris and thus deeper foundations.
So Tel Motza is the archaeological site of an ancient city known now as Motza. Motza is connected to the biblical city of "Mozah" which is mentioned by name in Joshua 18:26 and that existed in the borderlands of the tribal allotment of Benjamin...not far from Jerusalem.
Having defined these terms, not only is this recent archaeological find interesting, it seems to provide evidence for the timeline of the Scriptures. Check it out...
King Solomon lived and reigned about 3,000 years ago, and during his reign (as well as prior to his reign), the people were dedicated wholly to the Lord and thus alternative religions and rituals were banned (1 Kings 8:54-61). While Solomon did turn to pagan worship towards the latter end of his 40-year reign, it's inferred that the Temple in Jerusalem remained the only formal temple in the land of Israel (1 Kings 12:26-27).
However, following Solomon's reign, there was an apostasy in the southern kingdom of Judah. Some good kings reigned, but overall, there was a decline in the moral and religious leanings of the southern kingdom. Later, kings Hezekiah, Josiah and Uzziah (especially Josiah) instituted radical religious reform, but it's during that gap between Solomon and Josiah that this temple in Mozah allegedly existed (and was destroyed). Archaeologists have dated this pagan temple to about 2,750 years ago. Again, Solomon reigned 3,000 years ago and Jerusalem fell almost 2,600 years ago, so the temple existed between those dates...during the time of apostasy and decline in Israel.
It's always interesting when new sites are discovered, but it's especially interesting when discoveries are made that seem to confirm the Scriptures in some way.
For more on this discovery, read the article here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Praise for the Lord!

Here at the Queen Way church of Christ, we have two sets of hymnals that we use, and we switch from one to the other every six months or so. We're in that time of transition now. The "Hymns for Worship" books will soon be packed away and the "Praise for the Lord!" hymnals will come out of storage.

I don't have the best voice in the world. I don't sing bass or tenor (although I try from time to time). I'm not a skilled song-leader. But I love to sing, especially when I'm able to blend my voice with those of my brethren in praise for the Lord! Despite the poor quality of my voice (and I'm sure there are other members of Queen Way who feel the same way about their own voice), when 100+ God-fearing saints sing together, it is truly beautiful...but more than that, not only is God praised by our efforts, we are spiritually uplifted.

I have to admit to you that one of my pet-peeves (in the context of worship) is when brethren sing halfheartedly. There are some who don't like to sing (in general). Others say that they just don't have a good voice. Not only must we set aside our own desires and/or preferences and sing because it's the right thing to do...we must, as the elect, learn to LOVE to worship, and to sing.
"Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant and praise is becoming" (Psalm 147:5).
And if you'd like to know WHY it's good to sing praises to our God...if you are in need of motivation, simply read the rest of Psalm 147 as the psalmist outlines reason after reason after reason for WHY God is worthy of our praise, and why, as humble servants of this INCREDIBLE God, we ought to relish any and all opportunities to praise His most holy name.

As we here at Queen Way begin to use the "Praise for the Lord!" hymnals, let's live up to the name of the hymnal itself. Let our singing not be cold and formal; let our singing praise the Lord!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Accepting God's will - a Personal Story

In Matthew 6:10, Jesus taught the disciples to humbly pray for God's will to be done on earth. While praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will" (Mt. 26:39). And John reaffirms this message in 1 John 5:15 when he writes, "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us."

A few years ago, I started my own publishing company, Silver Falls Publishing, and was thereby able to publish a series of Young Adult novels I had written called the "Silver Falls Series." The process was incredibly exciting, and I remember praying that God would bless me with success as an author. I even told God that I could use my success to glorify Him and to share my faith with new contacts. I reasoned that with more name recognition, I could distribute spiritual literature to a much larger audience and thus use my success to more effectively broadcast His truth. And I told God that if I could make my living as a writer, the churches who provided me with financial support could use that money to help other preachers the world over.

I prayed for success daily, but every prayer that I uttered along these lines  included the following disclaimer: "Your will be done!" And I meant it. If God wasn't going to bless me with success, I was willing to accept that and move on with my life.

Well...I opened my online bookstore and marketed my books using social media. I did a couple of book signings and even set up a booth at an annual festival in eastern Kentucky (where I lived at the time). I sold a few hundred books all the while continuing to write new books - eventually writing seven novels and publishing a total of ten books.

But my sales didn't increase as I had hoped. In fact, I was selling fewer and fewer books as the months ticked by. While I had initially planned to write 12 books in the Silver Falls Series, I decided based upon low sales that there would be just five books in the series (I plan on writing the 5th and final book early next year). A few days ago, I removed my online bookstore, and just this morning, I removed my publishing website.

Again, 2-3 years ago, I prayed for success...but was willing to submit to God's will if He chose not to give me success (as a writer). But over time, as it became more apparent to me that I wasn't the next J.K. Rowling, I began to feel discouraged. I was still willing to accept God's will...but it wasn't easy. I had really, really hoped for success, and I had really thought that God would grant that request. He hasn't...and that's okay with me...but I sure wish that things had gone differently.

We always need to follow up our petitions and prayers with "Your will be done." After all, God knows what's best for us, and He knows what will most likely bring Him the glory and honor He deserves. But don't deceive yourself into thinking that God's will is always easy to accept.

It's not. Trust me.

But also trust me when I say this: God's plan is better than your plan!

I may not be a successful author. I may not have book signings scheduled all over the United States. My name may not be a household name. But God HAS blessed me with an incredible ministry in Sparks, Nevada, and an amazing spiritual family in the Queen Way church of Christ. I have a strong marriage and five beautiful children. Who am I to complain?
"Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. The young lions lack and suffer hunger; but those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing" (Ps. 34:8-10).