True worship is more than a time of music and singing. True worship involves how we live our lives, whether we obey God or respond by hardening our hearts to His commands.
Also, God is a God of order and He has ordained authority as part of that order. No matter what we think, we are not living obediently if we aren’t fully submitted to the authority He has placed in our lives.
6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. 7 For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture, And the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you will hear His voice: 8 “Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, As in the day of trial in the wilderness, 9 When your fathers tested Me; They tried Me, though they saw My work.
True worship is more than merely showing up at church to sing and raise our hands. It is submitting our hearts and lives to God in obedience and realizing that “He is God.” It’s then that we “will hear His voice.”
No matter how often we attend church or what kind of outward religious activity we perform, if we’re not submitted to God in our hearts, which is demonstrated by our obedience, we are no different from those who hardened their hearts, rebelled, and tested God.
In spite of all his miseries, Job could still say, “For I know that my Redeemer lives …” That should put most of us to shame! He went on to say, “… I shall see God.” So no matter what, he was sure of his eternal destiny. Continue reading →
Verses 24-25, “For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”
Biblical hope is not the “wishing and hoping” kind of hope, as if something might happen.
Although it has not yet happened, biblical hope is a sure thing, because it is based on God’s promises.
Paul gives us some of the greatest examples of biblical hope in the remainder of this chapter! Verses 28-30:
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
In verse 28 He promises to work all things for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Notice it said all things! Is that thing you are going through part of the all things? Yes! (Notice, Paul didn’t say all things are good, but that God would use them for good.)
In verse 29 He says that God has predestined us to be like Christ. If we are truly saved, God is working in our lives to make us more like His Son, and sometimes, He uses tests and trials and difficult people to do that. Instead, of murmuring and complaining we need to see it as God’s hand molding and shaping us.
But God’s promises in this chapter don’t end there.
Then he says, “whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (vs. 30). We won’t be glorified until we get to heaven. That means if He called us and justified us (made us right with Him), He will glorify us. We will not lose our salvation somewhere along the line! What a great promise of our eternal security!
In Acts 15.37-41 Paul and Barnabas disagreed over whether or not to take John Mark with them on their second missionary journey—so much so that they split up and go two separate ways.
God gifts us all differently and sometimes we will disagree on things even in areas of ministry. I imagine Paul as being very practical. John Mark had deserted them on the previous journey and he wanted someone he knew would be dependable.
Barnabas, however, was an encourager. In fact, Barnabas was not his real name. His name was Joses, but he was such an encourager that the apostles nicknamed him Barnabas which means “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4.36). God used their differences to further spread the gospel as two missionary teams went out with their different styles and callings.
All believers receive a spiritual gift or, perhaps, we might call it a gifting as it is often a blend of spiritual gifts in varying amounts (1 Pet. 4.10, 1 Cor. 12). We receive it at the time of our conversion. This spiritual gifting is unique to us and different from our natural talents, although they sometimes work together. Spiritual gifts are not given to make us look good or to use for our own spiritual gain, but for the benefit of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12.7). Continue reading →
Verse 25.1, “Moreover David and the captains of the army separated for the service some of the sons of Asaph, of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with harps, stringed instruments, and cymbals.”
The passage goes on to tell us there were 288 singers, plus musicians and support staff, 4,000 in all! What a music ministry that must have been! There were people singing and praising the Lord all the time!
And when I read the Psalms and other passages of Scripture, it appears to me there is lots of praise and lots of music in heaven. I believe God loves to receive our heartfelt praises often expressed through music and singing.
How do you view that time in the service where the truths of God are being proclaimed through music and song? Do you see it as just the prelude to the service, something to be enjoyed “if you make it on time”? Do you purposely arrive late to avoid it? Or do you see it as a time when you really focus on God and worship Him? Do you allow the words of the songs to penetrate your heart? Do you “think about” and “meditate on” the words you’re singing? Or have you allowed it to become “vain repetition“?
Let’s ask God to give us a “right spirit” where praise and worship are concerned.
Like the ancient Israelites, we are forgetful people, forgetful hearers of His Word, and forgetful of the wonderful things He has done. If all He ever did for us, was die for our sins so we don’t have to spend eternity separated from Him, it should be enough. But He does so much more.
Take time to thank Him today. Keep a list of answers to prayer, so you can “encourage yourself in the Lord” and have a thankful heart!
“It is honorable for a man to stop striving, since any fool can start a quarrel.”
We often think it proves something when we win an argument, and there certainly are truths worth standing up for, but even then, a believer is not to be argumentative (2 Tim. 2.23). It’s not about “winning.” This verse reminds us that it is often more honorable to lay it down, to let the other person have the last word, to be the better person!
And Proverbs 26.4 says, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will also be like him.”
So when two people are determined to win an argument at all costs, what you end up with is two fools talking to each other. Continue reading →
If you did a heart check, how would you describe your heart attitude this past week? In your relationships with others? How about before Sunday worship? How have you approached God privately? Do you know what it means to worship God in spirit and in truth? How’s your obedience? Do you “obey all the way, right away, with a happy heart?”
I have to admit that I, sometimes (dare I say, often), fall short in these areas!
What Do Wax, Cracks & Happy Hearts Have to Do with Worship?
By the Way … Bless Me
1 Chronicles 15 & 16:
If you remember, David’s first attempt to bring the stolen Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem hadn’t gone well (2 Sam. 6.6-8; 1 Chron. 13.1-10). But here in 1 Chronicles 15 we find David once again preparing to bring the Ark back. This time he does it in a way that is honoring to God (1 Chron. 15.1-15). Whether he spent time reading the scrolls or talking to the priests, he had learned the importance of following God’s specific instructions for moving it.
2 Then David said, “No one may carry the ark of God but the Levites, for the Lord has chosen them to carry the ark of God and to minister before Him forever.”
11 And David called for Zadok and Abiathar the priests, and for the Levites: for Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel, and Amminadab. 12 He said to them, “You are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites; sanctify yourselves, you and your brethren, that you may bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel to the place I have prepared for it. 13 For because you did not do it the first time, the Lord our God broke out against us, because we did not consult Him about the proper order.”
14 So the priests and the Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel. 15 And the children of the Levites bore the ark of God on their shoulders, by its poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord.
Sometimes we, too, have a heart to do something for God, but we jump out there and do it without really seeking to understand if it’s the way He wants it done or if it’s His will. Instead of prayerfully seeking Him, we go do our own thing and then ask God to bless our plan.
In Spirit and Truth
Everything the Israelites did in regard to the ark was part of their worship. It represented the presence of God with them.
When it comes to worship, we can be thankful that we have a new and better covenant as the book of Hebrews tells us (Heb. 8.6). We are no longer under the ceremonial law with all of its restrictions and prohibitions (like “don’t touch the ark, unless you’re a Levite”). But the Old Testament laws were given so that we might better understand who God is.
In this case, that He is a holy God and should be honored as such. In the New Testament Jesus said, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4.24).
Worship is to come from the heart, in sincerity. The word “sincere” means “without wax.” In ancient times if pottery was of poor quality, it would get small cracks. To cover them up, merchants would fill the cracks with wax. When we worship Him in sincerity—”without wax”—we do it without hypocrisy, openly, with pure hearts, honestly confessing our sins to Him, because, while we may be able to fool others by putting some wax in the cracks, we cannot fool God.
In Psalm 78 the psalmist continued to extol the works of God which we have talked about before, so instead of commenting on those verses I’d like to talk about David’s psalm in our Chronicles reading (1 Chron. 16.8-36).
David is called “the sweet psalmist of Israel.” What a beautiful example we see here. Especially note the verbs and what they show us about how to praise and worship God, such as: give thanks, call, sing, talk, glory, seek, remember, proclaim, declare, give, bring, tremble, and say.
As you worship God in the days to come, it might be good to look back at this psalm and incorporate some of those ideas into your worship, if you don’t already.
All the Way, Right Away, with a Happy Heart
Verse 23a, “The fear of the Lord leads to life.”
The fear of the Lord is not the cowering fear of an abusive God who is just waiting to clobber us because we fall short. It’s worshipful respect.
But it’s, also, knowing that God is God and that He loves us enough to discipline us if we’re determined to go our own way instead of His. He does so because He knows that His way is the way that leads to life no matter how it looks to us.
Living in the fear of the Lord doesn’t just involve our one on one relationship with Him. It is how we live our lives every minute of every day. It’s obeying His commands and precepts in all areas of our lives. It’s how we treat others, our attitude toward authority, our motives for all that we do and much more.
Sometimes when I counsel younger children I teach them a phrase I learned many years ago from Ginger Hubbard, “Obey all the way, right away, with a happy heart!”
What did Jesus mean when He said we must “eat His flesh and drink His blood?” Why is it the path to true happiness, peace, satisfaction, and joy? Have you been settling, instead, for something that ends up like the yum-yums the White Witch offered Edmund in Narnia? Has it left you with nothing but a craving for more of the same?
Also, as David’s story continues to unfold in 2 Samuel, we see the foolishness of thinking we can sin in secret and that our sins won’t affect anyone but us. David had set in motion laws of sowing and reaping and the sad results were happening before his eyes in the lives of his own children. How can this drive us to our knees to pray for God’s wisdom in our own parenting?
2 Samuel 13 & 14
Are You Hungry for Him or Settling for Yum-Yums?
The Bread of Life
48 I am the bread of life.49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.50 This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”
52 Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”
56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.
What does it mean to “eat His flesh and drink His blood?” In verse 56 Jesus said the one who does so “abides” in Him.
John 15, also, talks about “abiding in Him.”
John 15.9-11 says, “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”
We “eat His flesh and drink His blood” when we allow the “Word of God,” to become as much a part of our being as the food we eat. Food is digested and broken down in our bodies and literally becomes a part of us. So should the Word of God.
Is it truly a part of who you are or just some nice ideas that you consider if you feel like it or if it “seems right to you” as our Proverbs passage today says? The Word of God is not a buffet where we can pick and choose what seems palatable to us or makes us happy.
Our “happiness” is not God’s first concern, rather it’s our holiness! In fact, the “happiness” the world offers is like the yum-yums the White Witch offered Edmund in Narnia, only an illusion crafted by the deceiver himself.
As today’s Proverbs reading says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death” (Prov. 16.25).
When we seek happiness in disobedience, the end is death, beginning with our intimacy with God. The next thing we know the yum-yums we desired have vanished only to be replaced by a craving for something that brings no satisfaction.
True happiness, peace and satisfaction is found by “abiding in Him,” in “keeping the commandments,” in “eating His flesh and drinking His blood,” so that His “joy may remain in [us], and that [our] joy may be full.”
God had told David in 2 Samuel 2.11, “‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house …”
David’s sins were adultery and murder. Now his son Ammon has raped his own half-sister and her brother, Absalom, has murdered Ammon and fled for fear.
38 So Absalom had fled and gone to Geshur, and was there three years.39 The heart of King David longed to go out to Absalom; for he was comforted concerning Amnon, since he was dead (2 Sam. 13.38-39).
But even though David longed to see his son, he refused to go to him. Only when one of his men interceded did he allow Absalom to return to Jerusalem and, even then, refused to see him for two more years.
I have to wonder what was going through David’s mind. How he must have reflected back on the consequences of his sin and its effect on his family. Perhaps the idea of seeing Absalom was too much to bear. Continue reading →
How should we respond to imperfect authority? Are we to obey no matter what? Are we to refuse? And, if so, is there a right way and a wrong way?
Also, what’s wrong with living together? Many people today argue that a marriage license is “just a piece of paper”! What does the Bible really say?
2 Samuel 1 & 2
How to Respond to Imperfect Authority
2 Samuel 1 & 2:
Well, we have passed another milestone, another Old Testament book under our belts. Now we are on to 2 Samuel.
Proper Respect for Authority
In chapter 1 David mourns the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, especially Jonathan with whom David had a special covenant relationship. I believe it was Jonathan’s faith in God and sensitivity to what God was doing that led him to make a covenant with David.
We also see Jonathan’s loyalty to his father, although he didn’t allow that loyalty to cause him to sin. Instead, he kept his covenant to protect David. He warned David of the threat against him and spoke the truth to his father, telling him what he was doing was wrong. But in the end he refused to desert his father, even though it cost him his life.
What a beautiful picture of how we should respond to those God has placed in authority over us.
All of us are under authority. Wives are under their husbands’ authority. Children under their parents. Students are under the authority of teachers and administrators. Employees under their bosses and supervisors. We are all under the civil authorities: police men and women, judges, governors, all three branches of our federal government and others. Christians are under the authority of their pastors and elders. And we are all under God’s authority.
Yesterday was Easter. If you attended church, you probably sang about the blood of Christ that was shed for your sins, but the singing didn’t stop there. You, probably, sang about the Resurrection, too. You rejoiced that the tomb is empty and Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, having overcome death, hell, and the grave.
But as church goers in America there is a certain danger in the familiarity of all that. We aren’t faced with the choice of committing to Christ and facing persecution, even death, or remaining what our culture says we are, at least in name, whether Muslim or Hindu or some other religion. So instead, we run the risk of being cultural Christians, what our family or our tradition says we are … Christians in name only.
When an observer in Jesus’ time asked, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” He warned that the gate is narrow. And when the people of Joshua’s day claimed that they would serve the Lord, he told them not to take that commitment lightly. Are there many today who have failed to heed those warnings? Are there many who are basing their relationship with God on something besides the true Gospel?
That should be heart-breaking for those of us who truly understand the Gospel, because it is the most incredible GOOD NEWS ever! Today’s post includes a link to a video that could shake your understanding of what the good news of the Gospel really is!
You Choose … Whether to Serve the Lord or Something Else
What a rich portion of Scripture! Joshua is coming to the end of his life and he wants to leave everything in order. He takes time to remind the people about all God has done for them and encourages them to remember how He has been faithful to His Word.
In 23.12-13 he warns them about intermarrying with unbelievers. This is still true today. If you are single and considering marriage or if you do in the future, remember, we are free to marry only in the Lord! (1 Cor. 7.39) – that is to another believer.
Then Joshua calls them to make a choice as to whom they will serve:
“…. choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (v. 24.15).
And when they are quick to say, “We also will serve the Lord,” he challenges them that this is no flippant profession, this is serious business and they should count the cost and mean what they say.
Is He Lord?
Today many talk about “cheap grace.” If you want to go to heaven, just ask Jesus to come into your heart and He’ll forgive you for your sins and you’ll have your ticket to heaven.
It is true that we can do nothing to deserve salvation and nothing to save ourselves. It is by grace alone through faith alone. But Jesus didn’t imply that it was “cheap.” First of all, it wasn’t cheap for Him. He paid the ultimate price.
Part of coming to Him in faith means we recognize our desperate need for Him and that we are sinners with no ability to fix ourselves. There is to be repentance (a change of heart and mind leading to change in the direction of our lives) and a willingness to acknowledge Him as Lord (Rom. 10.9-10; Acts 2.36). Lord … Master, God, the One who has the right to tell us what is right and wrong and how to live our lives!
Have you truly put your faith and trust in Him for your salvation?
Jesus gave an even stronger warning in today’s New Testament reading.
The Narrow Gate
Jesus warned that the gate is narrow (v. 24) and that many who think they have entered, have not. Verses 23-27:
23 Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?”
And He said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ 26 then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ 27 But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’”
What a terrifying thing, to think you’re assured a place in heaven, yet hear those words, “I do not know you.”
The striving Jesus talked about is not our good works or self-efforts. In fact, we can’t get to heaven based on our own righteousness, because we don’t have any of our own (Rom. 3.10-12).
Today the gate is open (Heb. 3.15). God desires that all men be saved (1 Tim. 2.4), but we must believe and receive the Gospel.
11 He came to His own, and His owndid not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (1 Jn. 1.11-13).
Is it your church membership or the fact you were born into a Christian family? Is it your good works? Is it simply that you believe in God? Is it that you once prayed a prayer, walked an aisle, or got baptized?
Those are all good things and may take place as part of our salvation experience. But none of them, in and of themselves, can save you! We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone (Eph. 2.8-9). His grace, received through our faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross.
Jesus said, ““The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk. 1.15).
So What is the Gospel?
If you have any doubts about whether or not you have believed the Gospel, I would encourage you to watch this video by Dr. Michael Horton of Westminster Seminary. It’s a little long, but you can’t listen to Dr. Horton’s explanation and not realize what incredibly GOOD NEWS the Gospel really is! Continue reading →
Take the test: look into the mirror of God’s Word and ask yourself, “Which of these characteristics describe me and which don’t?” What do your answers tell you about your walk with God, your trust in Him, and your level of spiritual maturity?
In chapter 1 of James’ epistle, he compares the Word of God to a mirror (Jas. 1.23) and goes on to say that “if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it” (Jas. 1.25).
Here in this passage, Paul commands us to “set our mind on things above, not on the things on the earth” (v. 2).
This chapter gives us a great summary of what a mature Christian life should look like—kind of a composite mirror image of Christlike character. Read back through Colossians 3 and take the test. Ask yourself what you are reflecting to the world. Continue reading →
This week’s question: Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? (Isaiah 6.8).
To answer this question we must begin with worship, the kind of worship Jesus talked about in John 4, worship that is in spirit and in truth.
The author points out that America has traditionally been known for three things, “our freedom of worship as well as our work ethic in the marketplace and our enjoyment of sports and entertainment.” But, he says, these three things have gotten out of balance. We too often, “play at our worship . . . worship our work . . . and work at our play.”
Like the times we live in, Isaiah 6 was written at a time of instability and uncertainty. King Uzziah had died. He had been a good king who had sought the Lord, brought prosperity to the people, and kept the nation strong. He had been the only king most of the them had ever known.
Life had been good. Perhaps they, like us, failed to have the kind of personal relationship with God they should have. Perhaps the same three things were out of balance in their lives. But now … the king was dead!
But instead of focusing on the circumstances around him, Isaiah was in the temple. Hawkins says:
(M)aybe you’ve realized this: rich worship experiences often come during times of chaos and crisis. Perhaps your Uzziah has died, and you find yourself without that one person or thing in whom you had placed your trust. Such was the context of Isaiah’s worship experience.
As a result, Isaiah saw the Lord “sitting on a throne, high and lifted up” (v. 1). Their earthly king was dead, but God was still on His throne!
The author goes on:
Isaiah’s worship experience is left for all posterity in order that we might truly know if we have worshipped God in spirit and in truth. We see from his experience that genuine worship will always result in upward evidence, inward evidence, and outward evidence of our encounter with the Lord.
The upward evidence was that he saw God in His holiness, high and lifted up. He said, “The whole earth is full of His glory!” (v. 3).
But when we have truly seen God in His holiness, we see ourselves in our sinfulness, the inward evidence. Isaiah said, “Woe is me, for I am undone! For I am a man of unclean lips … for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (v. 5).
That leads us to the outward evidence. Once we have seen ourselves as we really are, our gratefulness for His mercy leads us to see others and their great need for Christ. Now Isaiah was ready for God’s question, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”
Isaiah’s answer should be ours, as well, “Here I am. Send me!” (v. 8).
Next week’s question: “Who among you fears the Lord?” (Isaiah 50.10).
Last week’s question:“Who can find a virtuous wife?” (Proverbs 31.10). Read it here.
You can get a copy of The Jesus Code and follow along with these 52 vital questions. The chapters are short and can easily be read in one sitting. If you do, I’d love your feedback. Click here to get the book or here for Kindle.
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