Tag Archives: worship

(Deuteronomy 10) It’s For Your Own Good

Some people have said Christianity has too many rules. Yet these same people will follow a long list of rules every time they get behind the wheel of a car, when they want to keep their jobs, when they commit themselves in marriage to someone, or when they pay taxes, choose not to steal, murder, or destroy property.

I’m very glad people follow rules when I’m on the road. I feel safer knowing people are following rules in my neighborhood. It’s less stressful knowing I can trust someone who is following a set of rules. Rules are in place to make life better, safer, happier.

That being said, the reality is Christianity is NOT merely a list of do’s and don’ts. In fact, Moses tells us in 10:12, there are really only three things God requires of us:

  1. Fear God. Yes, we need to fear God who punishes disobedience without mercy. Moses said we fear, (that word could also be translated “respect,” or “honor”) God when we “walk in His ways.” That means obeying His Laws, of course. If you read the Ten Commandments, you’ll have to admit it’s nearly impossible to perfectly obey them all, all the time. Yet that’s what God demands. Now, here’s the amazing thing about God: knowing we are powerless in and of ourselves to obey His list of rules, He GIVES us the ability to obey. When we accept His grace, the forgiveness of sin Jesus bought for us on the cross, He fills us with Himself and gives us the means to obey Him. We are not at all on our own in this!
  2. Love Him. When you love someone you want to be near them, talk to them, talk about them. You make choices based on your love of them. God wants us to love Him like that. And honestly, once you get to know Him, that’s the easiest thing in the world to do!
  3. Worship the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul. That kind of worship is an emptying of self, an offering of ourselves as a sacrifice to God. It’s laying our health, our family, our present and future at His feet in humble recognition that He is Holy God, Almighty, King of Kings, Creator God, and that He is worthy of our worship.

Now, why did God set down these requirements? Look at verse 13:

Keep the Lord’s commands and statutes I am giving you today, for your own good.

A right relationship with God, rooted in fear, love, and true worship not only honors God, it blesses us beyond imagination.

Follow these three rules. It’s for your own good.

(Leviticus 6-14) Speading Disease

If you think this is about COVID, you would be wrong.

God, through Moses, refers often to a place “outside the camp.” It was where the unclean parts of a sacrificed animal were burned, where unclean stones and plaster were thrown, and to where unclean people were banished.

We who live after the cross see thy symbolism as Jesus was crucified outside the city when our sins rendered Him who knew no sin, unclean.

But something else spoke to me today about these chapters. I, as a Christian, am commanded to be holy because God, whom I represent, is holy. That means I need to remove everything from my life that isn’t holy, and throw it away, burn it up, and never revisit it – ever.

My problem is I try to hold on to a bit of sin. Or I confess it, but don’t really repent of it. It might be an impure thought, a feeling of unforgiveness or resentment or hate, a habit, laziness, and sometimes flat-out disobedience. The list goes on. All of which prevents me from holiness and purity. Yet holiness and purity are God’s requirements.

I see, through the picture Moses paints here in Leviticus concerning disease and mold, the result of my disobedience. Even if I put on a hat to disguise my disease, or a coat of paint on a wall to cover up mold, it doesn’t render me clean. If I put a smile on my face and carry my Bible, it doesn’t cover up the fact my heart is diseased, unclean. And my infection can and does spread to others. I can call my sin a mistake, a choice, an accident, or convince myself it’s no big deal, but my unclean life touches the lives of others in my home, my church, my community, and I become responsible for my sin disease spreading to them.

It also reminds me of what is happening in God’s Church. We’ve convinced ourselves that sinners in our midst is a good thing. We should welcome them, embrace them, make them a part of our fellowships. But God, here in Leviticus, tells us to banish the diseased person to outside the camp until – not before -they are clean.

Sounds cruel. Sounds un-Christian. But the fact of the matter is, their disease can and does spread within the church. Their disease of sin can and does spread to holy people, who then themselves become unholy. It has nothing to do with loving or not loving our neighbor. It has everything to do with keeping the Church holy, protecting the holiness and purity God demands of us.

The Church is not pure, we are not holy as long as we tolerate unrepentant sinners in our midst. Should we be inviting our unsaved friends to church? Not if we want to keep God’s Church holy.

Jesus said, “Come to me…” He didn’t say come to the synagogue. He didn’t say come to church. Jesus told us to GO, make disciples. He didn’t say sit back and invite them into His House, hoping our holiness will rub off on them and make them clean. It doesn’t work that way.

We need to get off our couches and get out into our neighborhoods and introduce unsaved, unclean people to their Savior. Then, and not before, we should welcome them into our midst to worship God with clean hearts. God does not accept worship any other way.

Unrepentant hearts cannot worship God. And that bit of disease in our churches can and does spread. Don’t think it doesn’t.

(Genesis 20-25) Not Harsh Enough

We question Sarah’s treatment of Hagar and think she was too harsh when she sent Hagar and Ishmael away. We see Abraham having other children after Sarah died, and he sent those children away as well. What’s up with that?

Sarah’s words spoke to me today:

Drive out the slave with her son, for the son of this slave will not be a coheir with my son Isaac. (21:10)

Are we that protective of that which we hold dear, of the very promise of God?

I believe the Church has become a wishy-washy, bleeding hearts club where we are so concerned about offending, we’ve allowed anything and anyone into our midst. In fact, we have the idea we need to be inviting non-believers into our fellowship. We’ve been told to think we will rub off on them, but I wonder if the opposite isn’t true.

We’ve fashioned our worship service so it’s attractive to non-believers. We’ve watered down our sermons so as not to step on toes of non-believers, because we don’t want them to stop attending and giving to our worthless ministry.

Yes, worthless.

Because the Bible is clear. The purity of the Truth, the Gospel of Jesus and the Holiness of God must be protected. There are no co-heirs with God’s Promise. The Church must drive out any hint of compromise or threat of compromise in order to retain its purity.

You might think that’s harsh. I think it’s not harsh enough.

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.