Worship

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October 16

Friday, October 16th, 2020

I read a story recently which struck my “interest bone.” It’s one I will look sideways at, ponder, tilt my head, ponder some more, give a little huh to, then move on. But it just struck my fancy so I would like to comment on it.

The story goes that two brothers, Billy and Melvin, were standing in their family’s dairy barn when they looked up to see a plane writing in the sky. The plane wrote two letter-“GP”-in the sky. One took that message to mean “Go Preach”; the other took it to mean “Go Plow.” The one who interpreted it as “Go Preach” you may have heard of- Billy Graham; the one who interpreted it as “Go Plow” was Melvin, who went on to faithfully run the family’s dairy farm for many years.

But here is what struck me as I read that. There would be people who would be skeptical (and rightly so) but let’s take it in another direction. There would be those who would look at those two brothers and deem Billy as “successful” and Melvin as “ordinary.” But I beg to differ. They both had significant roles to play in life. One preached; the other farmed. One gave the bread of life; the other gave physical bread. One sustained the spiritual health; the other sustained the physical health.

Question: which one was more important? Some might argue the spiritual. But I would argue both are. What good is the spiritual without bread to sustain health?  On the converse, what good is physical health if the spiritual is laid waste?

You see, nowhere in the Bible is one task, life choice of job, seen as more important than another. The Bible teaches us “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Col.3:17) {Emphasis mine}   It also tells us that “Whatever you do, do it heartily as unto the Lord.”

Conclusion: No matter what I do-preach, teach, clean floors, stock shelves, take care of a patient, whatever-I am to do it for Him and His glory.

“Father, help me to show You in all I do and in whatever I do. Help me to remember I am representing You and everything is equally important.”

October 13

Tuesday, October 13th, 2020

The church world goes through rages, as does the “secular” world. One of those rages of the past-probably in the mid ’90s especially-were angels. It seemed like everywhere one turned there was an angel. Go to a store and there were angels of all kinds wherever you turned. Books on angels. Children’s stories on angels. Even songs on angels (I can remember Alabama’s “Angels Among Us” being played over and over and over and…well you get the picture). Angel jewelry. Angel art. And, not surprisingly, picturing angels as they aren’t. Wings. Clouds. Harps.

What hits me even more is that what was happening at the time was the exact opposite of what they were created to do…except for one. Angels were supposed to be messengers, heralds; protect God’s people (angel armies); and deflect praise from themselves and toward the One they were to worship. Except one. He chose to garner his own praise. He chose to ascend his own throne. He chose to rival God.

What brought about this seemingly random devotion about angels? Reading a book on the characters of Christmas and finding out the key role they played-not only during the Christmas story-but also throughout the Bible story. Gabriel to Zechariah. Gabriel to Mary. Angels to shepherds. Possibly angels to Joseph in a dream; Simeon and Anna. Ultimately angels who encircle the throne and continually worship God. (Rev.4:8)

Angles don’t have wings, sit in clouds and play harps. They are messengers who will even go to battle and surround God’s people with protection.

“Father, angels are to be appreciated not worshiped. Help me to remember they are real and at my disposal and do continually what I am to do: worship You.”

September 15

Tuesday, September 15th, 2020

Signs. They are everywhere. It’s a political year. UGH! Speed limit. Directional. Enter. Exit. Signs for a restaurant. Signs on a door telling us to wear a mask (2020).  Reminds me of that old pop song: “Signs, signs, everywhere are signs/Clogging up the scenery, breaking my mind/Do this, do that, can’t you read the signs?” 

We have people, especially with the chaos and uproar of this day, talking about and asking, “Are these the signs of the times?” Back in 1967 when the Israelis won the 6-Day War and their land from the Arabs, they taught it was a sure sign that Jesus was coming really soon. I think it’s safe to say “soon” is relative. Same for today. Nobody knows.

Growing up near Pittsburgh I was surrounded by a large Catholic and Orthodox population. The sign of the cross was and still is big to the “practice” of that religion.

It strikes me then with all this talk of the signs of the time that Paul wrote in I Cor.1:21-25 the following words: “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (Emphasis mine) Did you notice “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified”? Jesus Himself said the only sign given would the sign of Jonah (death, burial and resurrection).

Maybe it’s time we stop looking to the world events trying to interpret “signs” and simply draw people’s attention to the one sign most important: the cross of Christ. Even the OT people were not saved by looking around or looking inwardly. They were saved by looking at the snake fashioned by Moses and lifted up for the people to look at. A foretaste of Jesus’ own words: “And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men to Me.” (Jn.12:32)

“Father, may I lift up Jesus. May I preach the cross not man’s opinions. May I draw people’s attention to the cross, not the ‘signs of the times.’ May Jesus be exalted in all things.”

August 27

Thursday, August 27th, 2020

Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill has always been an interesting one to me. You can find it in Acts 17: 16-34. Paul is in Athens, the religious center of Greece. In fact, as you walk with Paul and listen to him, it is easy to come to the conclusion that Athens was the home of virtually every god known to man. In 17:16 it says, “Paul’s…spirit was provoked as he saw the city was full of idols.” In verse 22 it says he begins his sermon with “I perceive in every way you are very religious.” I’d say those are dead giveaways! 🙂

As Paul reasoned with the people, the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were curious (they loved engaging with others for the purpose of learning and discourse), but some were hostile. Why? Because he preached Jesus and His resurrection.  He didn’t “preach” health and wealth. He didn’t “preach” a glory cloud will fall. He didn’t “preach” God wants to bring a miracle to your life. No. He preached Jesus and His resurrection.

They wanted to hear more, but it was more of a defense of what he believed. The Areopagus was a court named for the hill on which it once met. His defense is interesting.

  • He alludes to their multiple gods.  They were “very religious.”
  • He zeroes in on the altar To An Unknown God. They were “spiritual;” they believed in the supernatural. Sort of like many in our day. They believe in something; they just aren’t sure what or who.
  • He teaches with purpose.  Take note of it: The God who made the world (the one they classified as unknown); He doesn’t live in temples; He gives life, breath, and all things; He has made us all equal (one blood); He has put in all of us a need for Him and a desire to seek.
  • He presents the appeal. Now is the time. God has overlooked our rebellion but no more.

Such a far cry  from the mere pablum of our day. No hype. No promise of wealth. No “God wants His kingdom here now.” No “think better of yourself because you are worth it.” Just Jesus and our need for Him. Just Jesus and our need to repent. Just Jesus- and it was all cemented not by our agreement-but by His resurrection. And like today the response was mixed. Yes, as expected there was hostility. But that day Paul’s honesty in preaching brought some into the kingdom and raised the curiosity of others.   

“Father, my mandate is to preach Jesus and Him crucified and resurrected. Help me not to waver from that mandate.”

August 11

Tuesday, August 11th, 2020

One of the more humorous-but more challenging to the faith-sections of Scripture is found in Acts 12. Herod had killed James, John’s brother. When he saw that it pleased the Jews he arrested Peter and threw him in jail also. My guess is his plan was to do the same to Peter as he did to James. He knew enough of the Jewish Law and culture to keep Peter in prison until after the Passover.

And here is where it gets interesting…and humorous…and convicting. The night before Peter was to be brought out, an angel appeared to him and told him, “Get up. Get dressed. Put your shoes on. Follow me.” Peter, thinking it was a dream, did as he was told and wasn’t aware of what was happening until he was out and free. That’s the first great truth: God’s miraculous deliverance.

The humorous part is next. Peter goes to the house (Mary, the mother of Mark’s house) where the believers were praying for his release. He knocked on the door and Rhoda, the servant girl, recognized his voice. First humorous act: she leaves him standing outside! When she tells them Peter is outside, their response is “You are out of your mind.” (v.15). Okay, so check it out. First, she leaves him standing outside. Second, they think she’s nuts.

And third? Well, that is humorous part #3. It is also the convicting part. She was insistent, and I can see them roll their eyes, drop their shoulders and say, “Okay. Let’s check it out.” They even added, “Maybe it’s his angel.” Meanwhile, Peter is still knocking. When they open the door they are amazed.

This is the convicting part. What had they been praying for? The release of Peter. What did Rhoda tell them? Peter was at the door. What was their reaction? Disbelief. Even when they saw they were amazed. I’m thinking they were amazed-not because of the overwhelming realization of what God had done- but because Peter was there to start with.

How much like that I am. I pray for something and when it is answered I am surprised. I shouldn’t be. God has promised to answer my prayer when it is asked in faith. I should stop being surprised and amazed that He would answer, but instead, amazed at His faithfulness.

“Father, help me please to send up prayers in faith, believing you will answer.”

May 28

Thursday, May 28th, 2020

They used to call it “the worship wars.”  Boy, do I remember those days! The modern worship movement was beginning to hit churches. “I Can Sing of Your Love Forever” by Delirious? was a huge song. Passion was getting its legs and gaining traction (Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, Charlie Hall, Christie Nockels, and others).  Churches were transitioning-some slowly; some gladly; some kicking and screaming; some not at all- from a steady diet of hymns to worship choruses and songs. I’m seriously wondering if Ralph Carmichael knew what sort of Pandora’s box he was opening when “He’s Everything to Me” hit the church scene. Did he see the future wave? Hymns (good and bad) tried to share the stage with choruses and songs (good and bad).  Precise 4 stanza and chorus hymns (with little deviation) to overly repetitious (in many cases) worship songs. Both-for the most part- are annoying to me. Piano and organ gave way to guitars, drums and keyboards. Some theologically-rich hymns and some awful so-called hymns (“I’ll Fly Away” and “When the Roll is Called up Yonder” seriously?) to some theologically-rich worship songs and some awful, repetitious, shallow, “it’s-all-about-how-I-feel” choruses and songs.

All of it-in my book-was a bit of nonsense. Both sides needed to grow up. There is room for both. What there is not room for is misplaced worship. One of the things people are saying about the result of this virus is that it has taken away all we hold dear- sports, entertainment, education, etc- and brought us down to seeing what is really important. The Bible says God is a jealous God and will not share the stage with anyone or anything. Same as the worship wars, there never was an option of WHO to worship. It was and is always Him.  How is up in the air, as long as it is biblical.  But who? Never. Psalm 150:6 says, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” God demands our praise. That is a non-negotiable. Someone has said it well: “There are many ways to worship God, but only one God to worship.”  Agree 100%!

“Father, no matter how; no matter when; no matter where; may my heart be filled with worship. Who? You. Why? Because You and You alone are worthy of it and I love You.”

May 8/Weekend

Friday, May 8th, 2020

Have you ever heard or used the phrase, “He is a man of few words”? We, of course, mean that he/she is speaking very little. We might also mean that he/she says only what is necessary.

Have you ever considered some of the Psalms? Take Psalm 117, for example. Two verses. That’s all! And all we have to do is go 2 chapters later and we find Psalm 119 weighing in at 176 verses. WOW! Two verses. That is all it took him to record his praise. That reminds me of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Just shy of 300 words. I’m told there was another speech that day by a great orator. I think I remember it going on for 2 hours. Ummmmm, who remembers one word of that speech?  Meanwhile, the Gettysburg Address has gone down as one of the greatest speeches in history.

There is a lesson here. I don’t think God is impressed with our superfluous, flowery words. I don’t think He is impressed by our many words. Some of the most sincere, meaningful prayers are the shortest. The “Help!” The “I need you.” The “I love you.” The “Great are you Lord!” For a good reference point, read Psalm 117.

“Father, may my words be few but sincere and heartfelt. From crying out to praise, may they be to the point.”

January 24

Friday, January 24th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Pagan vs Me.

First, the words:

“I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. He delivers and rescues; he makes signs and wonders in heaven and earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of lions.”

My original plan was to write the words and ask you who said it but some of the lines gave it away.  🙂  It is from Daniel 6:26-27.

What struck me, and the note I wrote in my margin is “From the mouth of a pagan.” Then I turned the searchlight on myself and said, “Him not me?” My mind also turned to Jesus’ words. As He entered Jerusalem the donkey and the people were shouting Hosanna and laying down palm branches, the religious leaders told Him to tell the people to (basically) shut up. Jesus’ words? “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (Lk.19:40)

Daniel praised God for his deliverance. The pagan king Darius did in his decree. The people of Jerusalem did. Even the stones will. What about me? Will I be one who lets others do what I should do or will I praise Him myself? Will you?

“Father, praise for your goodness and greatness should come from me not from someone else, especially a pagan. Certainly not creation (although it does). May sincere, heart-felt worship come from my lips and my heart today.”

December 19

Thursday, December 19th, 2019

My title for this devotion is More vs Less.

One verse that may seem to have nothing or very little to do with Christmas has been one of my favorite verses for as long as I can remember. I have a plaque in my office with this verse on it. The verse is John 3:30. When John’s disciples are offended that Jesus is garnering more attention than John, he answers their statement with the words: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Other translations might say, “He must become greater; I must become less.” No matter how you shake it, they all the same thing: Jesus must become more; I must become less.

Can anyone think of a time in the Bible where the greatness of Jesus is seen any more than at His birth and at His death? Why? His greatness is shown by his humility. First, the whole incarnation miracle (truth) blows me away. Second, to realize the humility He displayed for that to happen is mind-boggling! Sorta makes our petty jealousy and one-upmanship seem childish and silly. Here was the King of all laying down His pride, His status, His desire in order to display a humility that is unmatched. How can I insist that my agenda is the one that’s right? How can I insist that I do this or that? How can I be jealous when someone else gets to sing, play, speak, whatever and I don’t?  (You did notice the emphasis on the previous questions did you not?)

Humility-Jesus becoming greater and me becoming less-is where I need to be. It’s a trait that needs to be more common in my life. John 3:30 needs to be more than a verse in the Bible or on a plaque; it needs to be written on every page of my heart.

“Father, may You become more in my heart so there is less of me there. And may you become more in my thoughts and actions so people see less of me and more of you.”

I’m taking some folks to the Indianapolis airport for their yearly trek to Disney so I “cheated” a little by using a good part of my #ChristmasChallenge at my other blog as my daily devotion today. I needed to save a bit of time since I am leaving fairly early to take them.

Dear friends: I have made a grave error in this post. I have since made the correction. Diane’s comment pointed it out. I did not mean “reincarnation” but “incarnation.” My sincerest apologies. That was one ugly heresy I put out there by accident.

December 13/14/Weekend

Saturday, December 14th, 2019

I started writing this on Friday, the 13th, but found myself having to leave the house for some lab work before it was finished so I thought I would finish it this morning and then post for the whole weekend.

My title for this devotion is Big God vs Little god.

Sometimes we see God as little. We hogtie Him with our unbelief. We minimize Him with our small thinking. We limit Him with our inability (or is unwillingness) to trust.

In my reading of Jeremiah I can came across 2 passages which piqued my thinking. The first is found in Jer.32:16-19.  This is simply a prayer of praise Jeremiah expresses. But notice what he says about God: “It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.” (emphasis mine).

How’s that for blowing apart an unbelieving, small thinking and limiting view of God? It sort takes that little god and shoves him right out the window.

But that is not all. Those were words of a prayer of Jeremiah’s. How about from God’s own mouth? Same chapter, verse 27 we read: “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything to hard for me? (emphasis mine again).

One from Jeremiah. One from God Himself. And both are saying the same thing!! There is nothing too hard for God. That has so many applications for us. So many I don’t even need to reiterate them. You can do that yourself.  The important idea to remember and take to heart is that we serve a great big, powerful God who dwarfs any attempt to discard His abilities or tempted to put Him in a box.

“Father, you are so much bigger than I can fathom. Help me not to be one who tries to limit You or box You in by my unbelief, minimizing,  small-thinking, or the inability to trust You. Help me to trust the One who says there is nothing too hard for Him.”

I’m going to be a little out of character for this blog. I’m asking you to check out this video. This is the one that came to mind when I wrote this.