Tag Archives: worship

Shut The Door (Malachi)

We are really no different than the Jews to whom Malachi wrote so long ago. We, like they, are more concerned about what our worship looks like than we are about the condition of the hearts of worshipers. We use His Name as an exclamation mark, yet claim to love Him. We bring sin into the sanctuary by refusing to repent of sin in our own hearts. We write checks, teach Sunday School classes, smile at and shake hands with visitors, unless there is something else we could be doing on Sunday morning.

Then we ask, “What do you mean God doesn’t accept my worship?”

Friend, God not only doesn’t accept our show of worship, He says:

Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! (1:10)

God would rather we packed up our hymnals, SS lesson books, and dumped our AV equipment in the trash. He would rather we nail the doors of our churches closed rather than continue to offend Him with our useless worship.

“But, Connie,” you say. “God was talking to the nation of Israel about their animal sacrifices. You are reading too much into this.” Am I?

I the Lord do not change. (3:6)

If He didn’t accept half-hearted worship back then, He doesn’t accept it today. If He was disgusted by a blemished animal on the altar of sacrifice, He is also disgusted by my offering of worship blemished by sin I’ve refused to confess.

I hope you read the book of Malachi today, and hear God speak to you about your own worship. These four short chapters have so much to tell us about worship that God accepts. And isn’t that what we who love Him want in our worship of Him?

I’m praying for you.

Forget About Yourself Altogether (Nehemiah 8)

Hearing God’s Word read to them grieved the people. They worshiped God with their heads down, “faces to the ground.” Standing in the presence of Holy God will do that to you.

C.S. Lewis said this in his book, “Mere Christianity:”

“The real test of being in the presence of God is, that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It’s better to forget about yourself altogether.”

Please don’t attend church for the experience. Please don’t worship God for the blessing. Please don’t judge worship of God on the basis of how many hands are raised, or people clapping, or how loud the praise team drums are playing. Forget about yourself altogether.

Worship is about God.

After their worship service where God’s Word was read and explained, Nehemiah told the people to go, stop weeping, enjoy some good food, take care of each other.

Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. (10b)

The celebration came after worship, not during. I know people don’t want to hear this. I know we’ve been made to think worship should be a rocking party, resulting in an euphoric experience.

But the more I read God’s Word the more I am convinced that is not worship. Worship can’t be about me.

It’s better to forget about yourself altogether.

Turn Around (Ezekiel 8)

I think every time I read Ezekiel’s vision I gasp when the people turn their backs on the Temple and bow toward their pretend gods in the east. That picture of blatant rejection of God shocks me every time.

Yet, even with this defiant act of disobedience, these were still citizens of God’s chosen people, Jews, Israelites. They considered themselves God’s favored nation even when they worshiped other gods. It blows my mind.

Today, however, God is asking me to do a gut check. Here are some questions I feel Him ask of me today:

Do I call myself a Christian, but refuse to repent of a sin?

Do I attend church on Sunday, yet live a lifestyle no different than my neighbor who has no use for church?

Do I read my Bible out of duty instead of letting it change me?

Do I read my Bible at all?

Do I live my life focused on myself, my feelings, my needs, my rights, my dreams, yet tell people I follow Jesus?

Do I know what is right according to Scripture, yet compromise the Truth?

Do I go to church expecting an experience, or do I go humbly, trembling at the seriousness of approaching a Holy God as He demands?

Oh, there are a lot of ways I can turn my back on the temple, so to speak. And I should be as appalled with myself as I am with those twenty-five people in Ezekiel 8 when I do. Today I am asking God to reveal any shift, no matter how small, from my worshiping Him in total Truth. I don’t want any part of me turning away from Him.

In fact, if God reveals the slightest movement, I want Him to convict me. I want to be sensitive to Him, and obedient. If I am facing the wrong way, I want to turn around and bow down to the one and only God according to Scripture.

Where are you facing right now? Is it time you turned around?

Acceptable Worship (I Samuel 5-6; 1 Chronicles 13-16

When will we learn that our Holy God must be obeyed? How long will it take before we give Him the honor He demands, and quit trying to do things our own way, expecting Him to congratulate us on our sincerity?

David tried twice to bring the ark of God to Jerusalem. The first attempt ended in disaster, in death. It wasn’t until David obeyed God that the Presence of God could go home.

Don’t think this implies true worship is dancing, singing, and blaring instruments. There was a rocking worship service going on both times. During the first incident David had organized a worship experience, dressed it up with a brand new cart, but all that did was to make God angry because that, as impressive as it must have been, was NOT what God had demanded.

The lesson in these chapters today is not about the window dressing. There is one difference between worship God accepts and worship He rejects.

Obedience.

The Apostle Paul says this about worship:

Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – which is your spiritual worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)

Paul tells us worship that pleases God is sacrificial, from a soul transformed by God, set apart from the world. I hear Paul say worship is not about an experience as much as it is about a life totally submitted to God. Not just an hour on Sunday, but a 24/7 commitment of mind and body.

Jesus Himself had something to say about worship:

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. (John 4:23-24)

My personal opinion is that too many of us worship God half way. We get our spirits soaring, our emotions high as we repeat certain phrases in song, and at the same time turn off our minds. Jesus said we MUST worship Him in our spirit and in the truth which, to me, involves careful consideration of God’s Word, of Who He is and not just by what He gives.

The Truth of God’s Word can break your heart, humiliate you, cause you to be under heavy conviction. And it also can surround you with the sweet Presence of God Himself. But I hear God saying if we just worship Him in our spirits and shut off our minds, or if we just worship Him with our minds and shut off our spirits, we are not truly worshiping Him like He seeks.

The writer of Hebrews says:

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (12:28-29)

Worship is serious business. Worship of a Holy God cannot be taken lightly. And I believe God’s Word tells us true worship of Him is a conscious decision we make every day. We can’t worship God if we aren’t obedient.

Will you worship God today, Monday, May 4? Will your worship be acceptable as you offer yourself, body, mind, and spirit to our Holy God who demands holiness of each of us? Will your worship of God bring Him joy?

I know that is the prayer of my heart for my own worship of God who deserves to be worshiped according to His demands.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

 

 

 

 

Shepherds and Warriors (Numbers 27)

Oh, for more leaders like the one Moses prayed would succeed him. A shepherd. A warrior.

I know I’m cynical, but I think too many leaders in our churches are businessmen, entertainers, and followers. So much focus is on making their churches look like everyone else’s church, I wonder how much real shepherding is going on.

I don’t know of any warrior who invites the enemy into camp in order to fight a battle. Yet the emphasis in many churches today is to make worship inviting, to bring people in to hear the Word and be saved. I wonder how many pastors are truly leading their people into battle, going into the neighborhoods and towns to make disciples. Too many are focused on fighting the battle within the safety of their church walls.

That was never part of Jesus’ plan according to Scripture.

I pray God will raise up more leaders in our churches whose focus is in being the shepherds and the warriors God needs for His Church. Maybe God is calling you.

November 1; Everything

Matthew 25:31-26:16; John 12:20-50, 1-11; Mark 14:1-11; Luke 22:1-6

What would you do if the bodily form of Jesus walked into your home and took a seat on your couch? Would you rush to the kitchen to fix Him something to eat, or get Him a drink? Would you pull out your phone and begin to call your friends to come and join you? Maybe you’d sit next to Him and ask those questions on your mind having to do with life and eternity.

Mary took what some to believe was her dowry, the downpayment for her future, her hopes to be a wife and mother, her dreams of having a home for the rest of her life, and she used it to wash Jesus’ feet. She held nothing back. She broke the jar, spilling its contents out on her Savior, lavishing Him with everything she had.

Jesus in bodily form is not likely to come to your house today for tea But if you are His child through His precious blood, His Presence is every bit as real.

What will you give Him today/?

October 29; To Love God

Mark 12:18-40; Matthew 22:23-23:36; Luke 20:27-47, 10:25-28

I don’t think I can skim over what Jesus says is the greatest commandment. So I’ve sat here for a bit and pondered what it means to love God. Is it the kind of love we see on “The Bachelor?” Is it the kind of love we express when someone gets a new haircut? Is it a love that gets more than it gives, is is dependent on circumstances?

What does it mean to love God the way He deserves?

First of all, Jesus tells us we need to love Him with our whole heart, that part of us that is our hopes and dreams, our life and our emotions. It’s that which makes me me and you you. The question is, do I love God with all of me?

Jesus says we should love God with all our soul; the eternal, spiritual part of us. Does my love of God translate into complete trust, obedience, worship and praise? Is my love of God that which drives my faith? God is spirit, and we who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. Does that define my love of God?

And Jesus says we should love God with all our mind. Love of God is not a mindless emotion. Can I honestly say I love God with good sense and thoughtful choice? Is my love for God simply a reaction toward His love for me, or is it a conscious decision to love Him because He first loved me?

The Ten Commandments would be so much easier to obey if we loved God like He deserves. Jesus said loving Him is the greatest commandment.

It’s that important.

October 2; The Jesus We Don’t Like To Talk About

John 2:1-4:26

Today we read the account of Jesus clearing the temple of the flea market. Men were selling cattle, sheep, and doves right there in the temple court. I’m sure someone had thought what a great ministry it would be if they made bringing an animal for sacrifice convenient to the people. Why not sell what they need right there in the temple?

When Jesus saw this “ministry” he was mad. He made a whip and used it on the merchants, overturned their money tables, and ran them out of the temple. He didn’t even consider their noble intentions.

We really don’t like talking about that Jesus. We like talking about the Jesus who tells us to love everybody, to turn the other cheek, to do good to those who harm us. I love talking about that Jesus, too.

But we shouldn’t forget the Jesus who protected the holiness of the temple – with force.

Now, I’ve been accused of having pet-peeves when it comes to modern-day worship. So if you don’t want to hear it, I would suggest you stop reading right here. No hard feelings. I honestly don’t know if it’s pet-peeves, or if God nudges my heart on these matters. But if it’s from God, I don’t want to ignore it.

I know we haven’t turned our churches into flea markets. But many of us have turned them into coffee shops. We tweak our worship services so as not to offend people, or to make it more attractive to people, we change our schedules to make it convenient for people to attend, even if it’s Saturday night.

Sounds like a great idea for ministry. I can see why many people have jumped on that bandwagon. But is there Scripture to back it up? Does God ever in His Word tell us to worship only when it’s convenient, or entertaining, or comfortable? I’m not so sure we have done a good job of protecting God’s House, the place of prayer.

Here’s the other thing: Our bodies are God’s temple as well, the place where God lives on this earth in 2019. Do we protect His holiness in us with as much fervor as Jesus protected that temple in Jerusalem?

Yes, Jesus’ message was love, forgiveness, grace. I love that about Him. I’ll continue to talk about Him in those terms. But I am reminded today that there is another side to Jesus, a side that isn’t so fun to talk about. He never compromised on the holiness of the Temple. He never suggested we take worship of God for anything other than worship of God. He took it very seriously. So I want to, too.

September 10; Marvelous

Zechariah 7-8; Ezra 5-6

Many times in Scripture God challenges our motivation. Why is it we do what we do for Him? Why do we worship?

“Is it really for me,” God asks, “or for you?”

Zechariah shares that God is going to return to Jerusalem, His people will enjoy prosperity once again. Then He says, “It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?” (Zechariah 6:6)

We can’t deny that God has blessed His Church in America for centuries. We sit comfortably in our cushioned chairs with air-conditioning and state of the art technology, coffee in hand. We feel pretty blessed to be living in a land where we can go to church without fear. Many Christians in other parts of the world don’t share that reality. We are truly blessed.

It seems marvelous to us. But what is God’s take on it?

God makes it clear He’s not interested in the show. He is only interested in our hearts. Do we get out of bed every Sunday to worship God in Truth? Or do we go to church because it makes us feel good? Is our motivation for giving, or volunteering, or visiting shut-ins, our own self-esteem, or have we emptied ourselves and allowed God to use us for His glory?

I’m reminded there are some who are doing things in Jesus’ name, who don’t really know Him. In the end, those people will join the unrepentant sinners in an ugly eternity separated from God.

Let’s not take our blessings for granted. But let’s also not forget why and Who we worship. I pray that our motivation for life, and worship will be to please God out of grateful hearts for what Jesus did for us. Period. I pray that what seems marvelous to us, will be truly and gloriously marvelous to God.

September 4: To Obey, or Disobey

Ezekiel 1:1-2:20; Daniel 6:1-28; Nehemiah 7:4-25

The island where I live is under a mandatory evacuation order from the governor in preparation for Hurricane Dorian. Most of us left immediately, others have stayed. Our pastor sent an email to the church members and gently reminded us God told us in His Word that we are to obey our God-ordained leaders in authority. He encouraged us to leave the island we love, in obedience to those leaders.

But is there a time when we are to disobey our leaders?

Daniel got the word that no one was to worship any one or anything other than King Darius for thirty days. Might not be such a big deal, a month isn’t that long. What would be the hurt? After all, the government made the order.

Daniel did not obey. And he wasn’t very secretive about his disobedience. He continued to pray in front of his open window three times a day. And he wasn’t praying to any Darius.

I hope all of us reading these chapters in God’s Word today are good citizens of the countries in which we live. I hope we all pay our taxes, and follow speed limits. I hope we are law-abiding citizens.

But I also hope we are prepared to defy laws that would force us to compromise what God has ordained. I hope we know what the Truth is according to Scripture, and are ready to stand firm.

There may come a day when we, too, will have to decide if we are going to bow to ungodliness, or continue to stand in front of open windows and worship God.