Worship

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January 6

Wednesday, January 6th, 2021

Have you ever noticed how often we “categorize” our worship? We talk about worship on Sunday in a certain place or time. But then act as though the other parts of our day or week are extra.

I even do that on Sunday morning during our corporate worship. I have caught myself (and not done a very good job of stopping or changing it) saying, “Please join us now and stand and sing and join us in worship.” See what I did? Say, for example, we had just had our prayer time when I say that. What have I stated? Answer: that the prayer time was not part of our corporate or individual worship, but now we are singing so we are worshiping.

No. No. No. That prayer time. That communion time (in our case). And ultimately the preaching time was all part of our worship. It is part of our psyche to make a distinction and say that singing is worship but prayer and communion and listening to the Word is not.

And it carries over into our daily lives as well. Worship does not just happen on a Sunday morning. It doesn’t just happen when I’m having my QT. Categorizing worship was never supposed to happen! Worship was, is, and always will be a 24/7/365 opportunity to praise the Father’s goodness and love. David praised God on the mountain and in the valley; on the run or on the throne; feeling good or feeling bad. Take a moment please and read Psalm 148.

“Father, worship is not be to categorized. But it is most definitely to come from my heart-all day, every day, any time, and any where. May my heart be one filled with praise.”

November 23

Monday, November 23rd, 2020

Before I start: my blogging friend, Diane, is having surgery today. I’d like to ask you to stop and say a prayer for her safety, the doctor’s steady hands, and a good and smooth recovery for her. Thanks.

I’m not much of a horticulturist. I’m not much of a gardener either. My thumbs are black. I decided I wanted a garden a few years ago…when I was much younger. I loved fresh tomatoes (especially the yellow ones) and green peppers-usually given to me by others. So I thought, “Why not? After all, how hard could it be?” Let’s just say that after 3 or 4 summers I again relied on others for those fresh veggies. I planted. I watered. I weeded (my least favorite thing of all). I had no clue about tilling and using cardboard or newspaper to keep down weeds. I also didn’t feed them plant food. The kicker, though, is I found it kept me from more important things-like riding my bike. Why work when you can have fun, you know? For three summers I also umpired softball so there went my free time.

I’ve seen many-myself included- treat their faith like that. We want to grow. We want to see fruit. But we don’t want to put in the “effort” to grow. I’m not talking about a works-oriented salvation. I’m talking about personal nutrition. You see, God calls us to Himself then wants us to grow in that faith. He provides what we need to grow but we need to utilize it. Reading the Word. Praying. Gathering with others to worship and encourage. Reaching for Him to help us get rid of the weeds. In spite of what some may think, this does not happen on its own. We don’t lay our head on our pillow with a Bible underneath and by osmosis have it soak into our brain. God has provided all we need for growth. Let’s not be stagnant. Let’s apply the nutrients of truth and grace to our fledgling “plant” and start growing. Fruit awaits if we do.  Take some time to read Galatians 6:7-9.

“Father, You want me to grow, not stagnate. Help me to allow Your Word, Your thruth and Your grace to water my life to bring forth fruit.”

October 29

Thursday, October 29th, 2020

For a good part of my childhood and young adult life I was actively involved in playing sports. I started playing baseball when I was 8 y/o. They had no such “animal” as T-ball or “coach pitch.” No, you started playing ball. I took to baseball like a fish to water. There was an immediate love affair. By 9 I was excelling and by 10 was playing some on the big team. I dreamed of being a major league player. That was also before traveling teams and weekend tournaments.

The basketball bug hit me in 9th grade. I couldn’t run and dribble at the same time so the coach had me spend a lot of time during practice on the side doing just that. But I became locked on to basketball until it overtook baseball. Another dream.

College ball had me hitting my stride. I excelled but chose not to play my Sr. year. I married between my Jr/Sr year. But I grew tired of the bus rides, the low grades, the 3rd coach in 4 years, and playing ball. I was done with organized ball.

As I look back I see a detriment to the success of either game. I see it today in other realms. I’ll call it the “glory hound.” The one who wants preeminence. Teams are devastated by the one who seeks glory. When I was young I read a series of books called the Chip Hilton Series by Clair Bee (think Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew only sports related). In almost every book was a player who wanted glory. He was a “me first Marty.”

Teams can’t win with glory hounds. Churches can’t either.  In 3 John we read about a man named Diotrephes who “loved the preeminence.” He was destructive because it was all about him and his wishes. (We would call it bullying today).

To bring this devo to a close, God despises the one who seeks the glory for himself/herself. I see it as a negative toward God, taking attention from Him. I also see it as a hindrance to the life and health of the church body. There is no place for glory hounds in God’s family.

“Father, may I never seek the glory which is due You for myself. All glory and praise belongs to You.”

October 20

Tuesday, October 20th, 2020

It was a morning of jumbled thoughts. Not jumbled in the way of making no sense, but jumbled in the way of so-many-thoughts-I-need-to-control-them. I like that because it means my brain is working, 🙂  but it also makes it hard to focus on any one theme. Then I realized they actually relate to each other.

First, 2 Cor. 12 where Paul talks about his thorn in the flesh. In the previous chapter he struggled with bragging/boasting of his place in the church and then in chapter 12 he talks about a man (himself) who finds himself in the 3rd heaven. But a thorn in the flesh keeps him “honest” and relying on God’s grace.

Second, I finished reading about the story of the wise men. Their response to the birth of Jesus was worship. Their desire to follow the star, their worship at the feet of the Christ child, and then their obedience to the angel to not go back Herod’s way shows a heart that is honest and beats for God’s grace-even through they would not have called it that.

True worship and love for the Father must come from and beat in a heart of worship. To that end pride must evaporate, disappear, be non-existent. There is no place at the feet of Jesus for a proud person-unless he/she is releasing that pride. It is a place of humility and worship and-yes-grace.

“Father when I come to You may there be no pride, no arrogance, only humility and worship.”

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.”