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Wordwise Insight, Issue #001 -- Why go to church?
January 14, 2005
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BIBLE INSIGHT

Why Go to Church?

Solomon's sermon (Ecc. 1:1), which makes up the book of Ecclesiastes, is oriented to Israel under the Law, but it is possible to make a New Testament application of its truth.

Ecclesiastes 5:1 says, "Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear, rather than to give the sacrifice of fools." Though it is the Jewish temple Solomon has in mind, the principles can be applied to believers todayon this side of the cross, gathering in the meeting place of the local church.

1) Go to church BECAUSE IT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO, as an integral part of your life and service for Christ. Hypocrisy is a sin. Religious ceremony as a veneer dressing up a wayward life is an abomination to God. Literally, "guard your feet;" give attention to how you live and act, each day of the week. Don't be just a Sunday-go-to-meetin' Christian!

2) Go to church TO LEARN. "Draw near to hear." Go with the intention of hearing and obeying the Word of God. (The biblical use of the word "hear" often includes heeding what is heard, cf. Matt. 13:9.)

3) Go to church TO GIVE (to God and others). The "sacrifice" spoken of seems to be the Peace [or Fellowship] Offering, based on the Hebrew word used. This was the one offering of which the offerer got to partake. The "fool" is one who focuses on his own indulgence, rather than on offering worship to God. Thus he represents those who attend church to be entertained (euphemistically called "being blessed"). They focus on what they can get, rather than on what they can give. (There is a New Testament parallel in the abuse of the Lord's Table by the Corinthian church, I Cor. 11:20-21.)

It was John Milton who wrote, "Loneliness is the first thing which God's eye named not good" (from Topical Encyclopedia of Living Quotations ). Conversely, there is a mutual advantage in getting together.

Consider Solomon's reminder, in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, about the value of a cooperative effort and a pooling of resources. His words have relevance for today. Hebrews exhorts us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Heb. 10:25). Why? Why attend a church? Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 suggests several more benefits.

4) Go to church in order TO DO MORE FOR THE LORD. On our own, we will accomplish less in our service for Christ, and the local church may be weakened by our lack of involvement (vs. 9);

5) Go to church FOR HELP IN CHRISTIAN LIVING. In times of temptation, or when we stumble into sin, we need our brothers and sisters in Christ to exhort us and ultimately to restore us (vs. 10; cf. Prov. 27:17);

6) Go to church TO BE MOTIVATED. We need the encouragement others can provide, as they stir up faith, hope and love, and spur us on to live for Christ (vs. 11--"warmth" can be used as a metaphor for encouragement and inspiration);

7) Go to church FOR PROTECTION. Satan, the enemy of our souls is strong, and this godless world opposes the cause of Christ. Christians need to stand shoulder to shoulder, and aid one another in the fight (vs. 12).


READER Q & A...

If you ask a BIBLE question, we'll do our best to answer it! Or if you have a question about a traditional HYMN, we may be able to provide some information. (A box to submit your questions can be found on our website.)

Q: What was the first hymn to be written in the English language?

A: Actually, there are three possible answers to this question!

1) The first hymn ever written in English is considered to be Caedmon's Hymn. Written some time between 658 and 680 AD, it has the distinction of being the earliest English literature of any kind for which we know the author. However, the language has changed so much in over a thousand years, that Caedmon's poem is unreadable today. It begins, "Nu sculon herigean heonfonrices weard," or in modern English, "Now must we praise the Keeper of heaven's kingdom."

2) The first hymn written in modern English was given to us by Thomas Ken (1637-1711). It begins, "Glory to Thee, my God, this night, / For all the blessings of the light; / Keep me, O keep me, King of kings, / Beneath Thine own almighty wings." The problem is, Bishop Ken lived at a time when many believed only the Scriptures should be sung in church (specifically, the Psalms). He sent this hymn (and some others) to Winchester Boys School, in England, with stern instructions that the hymns should never be sung in public! Ironically, the last verse of his hymn has been sung more times in more churches than any other. The song concludes, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow; / Praise Him, all creatures here below; / Praise Him above, ye heavenly host: / Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost."

3) Isaac Watts (1674-1748) is sometimes called the Father of English Hymnody. While still in his teens, he argued with his father that the church was missing a great deal of New Testament truth by singing only the Psalms. Finally his father said, "If you think you can write something better, go ahead and try." He did, composing a new hymn each week for a number of years. His first, and the first English hymn to actually be used in church, was prophetic in its promise of more to come. It begins "Behold, the glories of the Lamb, / Amidst His Father's throne; / Prepare new honours for His name, / And songs before unknown."


IDEAS FOR YOUR CHURCH

If you have programming suggestions that worked for you, why not share them with us?

THE DATE OF EASTER
Easter does not fall on the same day each year, as Christmas does. But there is a way to calculate when it will occur. It always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon following March 21st. This year (2005), that date is March 27th.

How About a Christmas-Easter Service?
It is important to show that Christmas is more than the sentimental celebration of a birth. It involves the incarnation of the Son of God, who came to give His life as a ransom for lost sinners. Thus there is an important tie between the crib and the cross. So, why not have a service, mid-way between the two events, which brings the two together?

This year, a suitable date would be February 6th or 13th. (If you use the latter, perhaps a link could be made to the love theme of Valentine's.) When we did this in our church, there were simple decorations representing both occasions. The hymns (carols) and Scriptures (etc.) in the first half of the service revolved around Christmas. In the second half, the focus was on Easter. The Bible message emphasized the relationship between the two. The program was greatly appreciated by all in attendance.


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