Tag Archives: worship

Today’s Scripture – May 29, 2017

Matthew 28:8-10 (NIV) So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

This is the first of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to His followers – the first of many. The women, prepared for seeing Him alive again because of the angel’s announcement at the tomb, were not terrified by the sight of Him, but were filled with awe, and fell at His feet in worship.

All throughout Scripture, people, and even angels refused worship offered to them by people as completely inappropriate, redirecting people to worship God instead. But Jesus did not redirect the worship of these women. That is because worship of Jesus is actually entirely appropriate, because He is, in fact, God in the flesh. Jesus’ only response to the worship of these women was to tell them not to be afraid, and to reiterate the commission given to them by the angel: to remind the disciples to go up to Galilee for a meeting that had been arranged before Jesus had been arrested.

In all of this interaction with the women, note the swirling of intense feelings that ran through the whole event: fear, joy, and awe were intermixed, sometimes overlapping, as they often are when people are confronted with the Divine. But in it all, the emotions were overridden by the women’s devotion to Jesus, and their eager obedience to His commands.

Father, I see three things in this encounter that really stand out to me.  First, the women encountered the risen Jesus as they were already on their way to the disciples in obedience to the angel’s command. We, too will tend to encounter Jesus in the midst of obeying Your commands. Second, the appropriate response to Jesus’ presence is not to pull out our demands and our prayer lists, but to bow down in awe and worship. And finally, our actions need to be continually fed by our absolute devotion to Jesus, and our complete obedience to Your commands. Help me to keep all three of these truths at the center of my life, today and every day. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – September 3, 2016

Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV) “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar.  First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

Put in simplest terms, God will not accept an offering from someone who is at odds with their brother or sister in the kingdom of God.  It would be just as productive for that person, someone who considers their brother or sister worthless or a fool, or who harbors anger in their heart against them, to not make the sacrifice at all.  It will do absolutely nothing for them as long as their relationship is tainted, an attitude that betrays a heart vastly unlike God’s.

The better way is to go and be reconciled.  And we should never wait until the other person makes the first move.  If I know in my heart that there are hard feelings between me and another, that puts the burden on me, as a member of the kingdom of God, to take the first step in setting things right, no matter who I feel to be at fault.

Having a heart clear of anger, offense, and disdain of others is so vital that, even if I am in the middle of a worship service, even if I am fulfilling a commitment that I have made to God, He wants me to stop right then, to go to the person I have a strained relationship with, and make things right.  After I have sincerely done all that I need to do to make things right (the other person may or may not accept my overtures and apologies – if they don’t, then I need to keep working at it later on), then I can focus my praise, my worship, and my service to God, and they will be accepted.

We must never pooh-pooh the powerful impact disharmony with our brothers and sisters in Christ has on our prayers, and on our relationship with God.  Jesus prayed that we, the people of God’s kingdom, would be one, just as all of the persons of the Godhead are one (John 17:21), so that all of us can have an unbroken unity with Him.  This twofold unity, unity with each other and unity with God, lies at the core of the power that the Church may have, individually and collectively.  A lack of unity with each other will result in a lack of unity with God.  And a lack of unity with God will cut us off from the source of the power that we want and need to do the work of the kingdom.

Father, it is very easy to discount our conflicts with others, and to fail to see the very real consequences that lack of unity has on our power as Your people.  Open our eyes today, Lord, to see those places that are broken between us and a brother or sister.  Then help us to take the first steps to repair those rifts, no matter who we perceive as being at fault, so that our worship and service will be acceptable to You, and so that Your power can work in and through us.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 25, 2015

John 4:20-24 (NIV):  “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

Now that her shell has been broken through, the heart of this woman is starting to show.  She is a woman who has some serious questions about God, and here is a man, a prophet, perhaps, who might be able to give her some answers.

Sychar was located in the shadows of Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, two rises that played an important part in the history of the land.  When the Israelites had conquered Ai and Bethel, Joshua led the people north to these two mountains where the Lord had commanded them to read all of the blessings and curses He had pronounced over them (Deuteronomy 27:1-26).  Joshua built an altar on Mount Ebal and offered sacrifices (Joshua 8:30-35).  Thus Mount Ebal became a sacred high place, especially honored by the Samaritans.

But the woman knew that the Jews worshipped exclusively at Jerusalem, saying that their temple there was the home of the true God.  At last, here was a man who might have that answer as to who was right!

Jesus’ answer contains two parts.  First is the acknowledgement that the Jewish people were the source from which salvation was springing.  God had revealed Himself to the Jews in ways that other groups, including the Samaritans, who believed that they were worshipping the true God, could not relate to.

But the question ultimately missed the point.  In the second part of His answer, Jesus points out something that would be made conclusively apparent when Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in the near future:  the worship of the true God was not about where, but about Who, and about how.  The true God exists everywhere at all times, and so He can be worshipped in all places all of the time.

What Jesus was pointing out was that, not only was it possible to worship God anywhere, it was also possible to worship at Jerusalem and not be worshipping the true God.  Many of the people who devotedly went to the temple, like the Pharisees, were worshipping a god of their own making; a god that they had made in their own image; a god that would even approve the killing of someone like Jesus.  But God is spirit, and His true worshippers must worship Him in spirit, not as some manifestation that can be seen, but in relationship with Him.  And He must be worshipped in truth, as He really is, not as they imagine Him to be.

When the Christians were scattered from Jerusalem (Acts 8:1) where they had frequently met and worshipped at the temple, they discovered that God was with them in power every place that they went, and He could be worshipped effectively everywhere they went because He was with them, ,and His presence dwelt in them.  And so they gathered in homes and in public places, praising God, worshiping Him in spirit and in truth, and experiencing His presence and power at all times.

Father, it is amazing to realize that Your presence and power can be just as real for us who worship You today in spirit and in truth as it was for those first disciples.  It is sad that so many have been taught to still think of You as inhabiting a building or a “sacred space,” reducing our worship of you back to a “where” instead of a Who and how.  Help us, Lord, to worship You the way You are to be truly worshipped, and to experience You in powerful ways.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – December 4, 2013

Ephesians 4:1-6 (NIV):  As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit– just as you were called to one hope when you were called–one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

God’s people are called to live in unity, wherever they have come from, wherever they live, whoever they are.  They are to be one with each other.  But this unity is not mere ecumenism, a oneness that is achieved by merely trying to ignore or see past differences.  The unity that God intends for His people, the unity that Jesus Himself prayed for (John 17:20-23) goes much deeper than that.

The unity that God designed for His people springs from who He is.  Just as He is one within Himself, though He is three, so God’s people, though they come from every tribe, and nation, and language, and people, are to be one holy nation, made one not by striving or by programs, but by their love for Him that issues forth as love for each other.

If all of God’s people are focused on God, worshiping and serving Him as He truly is, in spirit and in truth, then we can all worship together as one, and worship styles and “preferences” will fade away, and there will be a unity of focus Who we are worshiping.

If all God’s people are aware of the fact that we are all saved by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus, then all of us have come from the same place, by the same road, and there is a unity of soul.

If all of God’s people have been filled with His Holy Spirit, so that the same purity, power, and inner motive force moves us, then we will all be oriented to the same point, empowered and motivated by the same being, and there is a unity of heart.

If all of God’s people are obedient to all of His commands, committed to the same moral code as He has laid it out, then our lives will all powerfully reflect who God is, and there is a unity of lifestyle.

If all of God’s people have signed on to the same Great Commission, to go and make disciples of all nations, and if that is our constant focus, no matter who we are and no matter where we are, then our mission will all be the same, and there is a power unity of purpose.

This kind of unity, if it exists in all of these areas, will quickly cut through differences of language, nationality, background, or economic status, and will make God’s people truly one – one chosen people, one royal priesthood, one holy nation, one people who are truly God’s in every dimension, and who He can use as a mighty force to change the world.

Father, forgive us for allowing so many things to divide us.  Lord, make us truly one in You.  Just as You, and Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are one together, make us one in You, so that Your name is glorified, and so that we can accomplish the work of Your people together.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – September 21, 2013

1 Corinthians 15:25-26 (NIV):  For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

To hear a lot of Christians talk, you would think that death was the greatest, most miraculous thing in the world.  They seem to believe that what God is unable to do in people during their earthly life, death will somehow accomplish!  They proclaim that they don’t enjoy singing and worship all that much; but when they die and get to heaven, they are sure that they will love to sing praises to God 24/7.  They confess that they find praying to be a chore; but when they die and get to heaven, they are sure that they will love talking to God constantly.  They admit that there are many people whom they don’t care for at all; but when they die and get to heaven, they are sure that they will love everybody.  They agree that they are far from holy, that their lives are filled with sins big and small; but when they die and get to heaven, they are sure that they will instantly be pure, and holy, and absolutely radiant.

If death could really do all of that for people, make them enjoy prayer and worship, give them a heart of love for their fellow believers, and make them holy, it would be the greatest friend of all mankind.  But death is the last enemy of humanity; it will not do any of those things for a person.  Death is the last scar of sin-sick humanity; the last remaining mark of their sin, and rebelliousness, and brokenness, and separation from the life that is in God.  Jesus came, not to embrace death for all of its benefits, but to defeat it, to destroy it, to swallow it up in life.

The fact is, if a person hates to worship and pray to God while they are alive, it betrays a separation between themselves and God that death will not change.  If a person does not love their brother, it shows a darkness in their heart that death will not change to light.  If someone is sinful here in this world, it shows a distance from God that will leave them sinful in the next world, and unfit for heaven.

The fix for all of these problems is not death, but becoming a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17).  He alone is the cure for all earthly ills, as well as the final Victor over the last enemy of humankind:  death.

Father, I thank You for life that is truly life.  I thank You and praise You for making me a new creation in Christ; for instilling in me a love of prayer and worship that will last for all eternity; a love for those around me that will continue forever; and a genuine holiness of heart and life that comes entirely from You, and that will draw me into Your presence for all ages to come.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – September 6, 2013

Matthew 6:5-8 (NIV):  “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.  But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

Prayer, as God designed it, is not primarily about communication, but about communion between Him and the one who is praying.  In the ancient world, the privilege to approach the king on his throne was limited to a select few, and even they could not come into the throne room cavalierly or without an invitation.  Still fewer could come in just for a chat or to pass the time of day.  It was understood that they king was busy with vital issues, that his time was precious, and there were harsh penalties for wasting any of it.

Of course the children of the king had much greater access to him than other people, although even they approached the throne with all of the respect and ceremony appropriate to the high office held by their father.  But they could come to talk, to ask questions, or to express specific needs that they might have.

Prayer, properly understood, is entering the throne room of the Great King, God Himself.  It is the unique privilege of God’s children, those who have become His children by receiving Jesus as their Savior (cf. John 1:12-13).  Those whom God has adopted have His permission to come before His throne at any time.  We can come with our requests, with praise and worship, or just to talk.  Of course understanding that prayer brings us into God’s presence should move us to do so with proper respect, in humility and honor for God, never with a sense of entitlement.

It is this communion that is lacking in many public prayers, and in prayers that use formulas or scripts; the heart is not consciously and humbly entering into God’s presence – the words are simply spoken.  They may be good words, maybe even great words, words that impress everyone listening in, but they don’t impress God at all.  They do not come from a heart seeking Him, seeking to come into His presence to know Him better.  They are just words.  As such, they do nothing to build a person’s spirit or to enhance their relationship with God.

Some pray long, repetitive prayers, believing that the sheer volume of words will make their prayers effective, or show their sincerity.  But those prayers usually suffer from the same malady – there is nothing of communion in them.  They merely use formulas or specific wording in an effort to persuade God to bestow His blessings.

True prayer is communion.  It is all about relationship.  It takes time and effort, and can only be done by those who sincerely desire to touch the very heart of God.  It is most effectively done out of the public eye, where no outside observers will have an influence or act as a distraction to the intimate interaction between the pray-er and God.  There in the secret place, the heart of the pray-er is lifted up, seeking God’s heart, until it enters into His heavenly throne room.  And there we talk heart to heart with the creator of the universe.  Requests can be laid before God, and often are.  But the greatest takeaway for those who truly pray is a conscious experience of being in God’s presence – of being truly heard, truly loved, and of truly hearing God’s voice in return.

Father, it is this kind of prayer that I always crave.  Thank You for allowing me to fully enter into Your presence, for that amazing privilege and honor.  Thank You for speaking clearly to my heart, and for allowing me to experience a deeper relationship with You every single day by spending time in Your presence.  Keep me always from prayers that have any other purpose, any other motivation.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 27, 2013

Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV):  “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

 

Relationships between God’s people are of major importance to Him.  It is not enough to simply avoid physical mistreatment or murder; insofar as it is dependent on us, we are to all live at peace with everyone.  (Romans 12:18)  This is especially true in relationships between one of God’s people and another; we are all brothers and sisters, children of the same Father, and must allow nothing  to come between us.  There are a couple of reasons for this:

  • ·         Our sacrificial love for each other is a clear demonstration of God’s presence and power in our midst.  (John 13:35)  If we allow hurt feelings to fester and divide us, that witness is effectively destroyed.  If we ever allow the hurt to turn into hatred or factions, or if we ever end up dividing people, forming factions, or even leaving a congregation because of it, destroying the unity in that body, those actions smear God’s name, and cast a shadow of disrepute over His character.
  • ·         God has left His people (US!) a job to do:  to evangelize the whole world (including our own Jerusalems, Judeas, and Samarias – our cities and states).  The only way that this can be effectively accomplished is if we all work together in harmony, as one body.  An arm, or a leg, or even a head all by itself can accomplish nothing.  In the same way, no one person or small block of people can accomplish God’s task alone.  He has given the manifestation of His presence to the BODY, not just to individual parts of it, and no one has all that is necessary – we must all work together.  If disagreements, divisions, or hurts divide the body, it effectively halts the work entirely, and time, energy, emotion, and even finances, must be spent trying to heal the rift and getting the body back on its feet once again.

If we realize that division has occurred in the Church, especially if it is because of something that we have said or done, we must not delay in making it right.  We should even leave the worship service to patch things up -it’s that important!  We must humble ourselves, repent, apologize, and make it right.  We must never excuse away behavior that has caused a rift; we have to own it, and put into place whatever we must to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.  After we have made peace, after we have restored unity to the body, THEN we can come and offer our worship to God, and He will receive it.

 

Father, I’m afraid that Your Church is fairly riddled with divisions and separations between brothers and sisters.  I can see that this is one huge reason why we are less effective that we must be to carry out Your mission.  Many pray for You to make us one, when the whole time it is up to US to make it right with those we have hurt.  Forgive us, Lord.  Open our eyes so that we can clearly see anyplace we must go to do the work necessary to make the healing that must take place.  Help us to know anyone who has something against us, so that we can go to them, confess, repent, and find their forgiveness, so that Your whole body may be one, and Your work move forward.  Amen.

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