Where Should We Worship the Lord?

Where should we worship the Lord? In church? In our homes? In our cars? The answer is that we should worship Him wherever His Spirit is found. Psalm 139:7-10 tells us that there is no place that we can go where the Spirit of the Lord will not be with us. His presence is with us 24/7. Since His Spirit is found wherever we are, anywhere and everywhere we are is a place to worship Him.

What is more important than where we worship Him is how we worship Him. I don’t mean what kind of music we use or even if we should use music at all. I don’t mean the posture we take in worship. It doesn’t matter if we are lifting our hands, bowing before Him, sitting, standing, or even kneeling. What matters is the posture of our hearts. Our hearts need to true.

Speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus said that true worshipers must worship the Father in spirit and truth (John 4:24). To do so, our hearts must truly belong to Him. To worship God in spirit and truth, we need the help of the Holy Spirit and we need the help of Jesus because Jesus is the truth (John 14:6). We need to have a personal relationship with God–Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When we do, no matter where we worship, our worship will be pleasing and acceptable to the Lord.

Isaiah 53:5

In my quiet time, I read Isaiah 53:5. This verse, which prophesied the suffering that Jesus would endure really sums up exactly what He did for us at Calvary.

Jesus suffered by being cruelly beaten, by having a crown of thorns on His head, and by being nailed by His hands and feet to the cross on which He would die. Why did He do this? For our transgressions and our iniquities. For the sin of which we all are guilty. He took our place and the punishment we deserved in order to bring peace to our lives, peace with God.

Through the wounds that He suffered we received healing, both spiritually and physically. He gave His life as a ransom for our sins, then rose from the grave, conquering death so we may have eternal life. He did all this because He loves us and wants us to have eternal life with Him and with our heavenly Father.

The Best Book for a Successful Life

There are probably hundreds or even thousands of books published that promise to give us the keys to a successful and prosperous life. They claim to have the formula for changing your life for the better. But, despite all these claims, there is only one book that truly has that formula, one book that can lead to a successful and prosperous life. That book is the Bible, the Word of God.

In this one book, God has placed all of the instruction, wisdom, and encouragement that we need to lead lives that are successful, prosperous, and transformed. The Bible provides the formula for changing lives. It is the key to becoming the best we can be, people whose lives are pleasing to the Lord.

It is important to read the Bible, but just reading it is not enough. In Joshua 1:8, God tells us that we need to study it continually. We need to meditate on it day and night. The words that we read should be stored and treasured in our hearts and mind, so that they will always be there to help us through life. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to read the words of the Bible aloud. When we have His Word in our hearts and minds, it becomes easy for us to follow and obey His Word. And that will lead to a prosperous and successful life.

In James 1:22, God’s Word tells us that we must listen and hear His Word, but we must also do what it says. If we don’t, we are only fooling ourselves. But when we listen to His Word and do what it says, when we obey His Word, we are showing God just how much we love Him.

Do Everything Without Complaining

This morning, I happened to read Philippians 2:14-15. In verse 14, Paul writes that we should do everything without complaining, or grumbling, depending on which translation you read. When I read these verses, I felt very convicted. I don’t do everything without complaining. I don’t do everything without grumbling. If something I am being asked or required to do is inconvenient or bothersome, I may do it but I will complain and grumble as I do.

In these verses, God is telling me that, if I want to shine, if I want to be His light in this dark world, then I need to act differently from the way in which the world acts. The world teaches that it’s okay to put ourselves first. Do what feels right for you! If you don’t want to do something because it’s inconvenient, don’t do it! But, as a child of God, I need to live in such a way that no one can criticize me. That begins by having a giving and caring heart, a heart that enables me to do not just some things, but everything without complaining or grumbling. That’s the kind of heart that allows me to shine His light in the world.

Don’t Live in Fear

Fear is a human response to something that is either threatening to us or that we cannot grasp or control. Feeling fear is not wrong, but we should not live in fear or let it control us. Psalm 46 tells us why we should not live in fear.

Psalm 46:1 says that God is our refuge, a place where we can go when fear threatens to overtake and control us. It also says that He is our strength. We can rely on Him to uphold us through our fears. But, the thing that really stands out to me in this verse is that He is our very present help in trouble.

Think about that for a moment. He is not just our help but our very present help. When we are in those times of trouble, when the situation we find ourselves in is causing fear to rise in us, He is always there. Not sometimes, not once in a while, but always. All we need to do is reach out to Him and He will help us. Now that is good reason not to live in fear.

Everything We Do (and Speak) Should Be Done for the Lord

Back in the early 90’s, a new film version of the story of Robin Hood was released. The soundtrack of that movie included a song titled, “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You,” a love song in which a man is pledging his love to a woman and telling her that everything that he does is done for her.

Colossians 3:17 tells us that everything that we do should be done for, and in the name of, the Lord Jesus. And not only that, but we should also be giving Him thanks through what we do. This applies not just to our service to Him in our church, but also in the things we do in our everyday life as well. When we spend time with our spouses or our families, in the jobs that we go to each day, even when we do things around the house like cooking and cleaning. In everything we do, whether spiritual or mundane, we need to honor Him.

The verse also mentions our words. That means that we must not only honor Him in what we do, but also in the words that we speak. How do we make sure that the words we speak honor Him? For one thing, as it says in Philippians 4:8, we can start by focusing our thoughts on things that are excellent and praiseworthy, things that are noble and true. There is a saying in the field of computer science that says, “garbage in, garbage out.” This applies to our minds just as much as it does to computers. If we put garbage in our minds, what comes out of our mouths will be garbage. So, it stands to reason that when we think about the types of things listed in Philippians 4:8, what comes out of our mouths will be true, noble, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. And, of course, it will honor the Lord.

Prayer

I am the first to admit that I have struggled with prayer. Praying, especially in the presence of others, has not always come easy for me. There have been times when I have felt that, because I may not be as eloquent as others when I pray, prayer is just not my gift. I would think, “I’ll just do the things I’m good at and leave the praying to others.”

I have since come to understand that my fear of prayer was unfounded. After all, what is prayer but having a conversation with God? I have no problem having a conversation with my wife, my kids, my friends, and even total strangers. So, why should I find it so difficult to talk to my heavenly Father?

Thankfully, that “prayerphobia” has subsided! A big reason for this is that I have fully grasped the necessity and delight of spending quality time with God. In our relationships with family and friends, the more one on one time we spend with the person, the more we know about them and the easier it is to communicate with them. The same holds true in our relationship with God. So, because I am spending more time with God, I know Him more and I am better able to communicate with Him in prayer.

I also believe that prayer can be effective in helping us to grow as a man or woman after God’s own heart. There are several reasons for this.

First, as we grow closer to God through prayer, our faith increases. When we have faith, when we believe, we will receive what we ask for in prayer (Mark 11:24). Second, seeking the Lord in prayer helps to develop a more humble heart. God’s Word says that He opposes the proud and favors the humble (1 Peter 5:5). Since that is the case, a more humble heart leads to receiving God’s favor. Third, prayer can help us to be more wholehearted in seeking the Lord. When we seek the Lord with all our heart, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). The final and most important reason is that, when we seek His Kingdom above all else, when we pray for His Kingdom to come into our lives, our prayers become more effective (Matthew 6:33, James 5:16).

Lord, I thank You that we can come to You in prayer knowing that You will hear us and answer us. Keep our hearts and minds focused on You as we seek to become more and more the men and women You want us to be. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

Resolution or Revolution?

It’s that time of year again! The time when many of us make one or more resolutions for the new year. In fact, statistics say that about 45% of Americans make resolutions each year. We resolve to lose weight, go back to school, spend more time with family, or get more organized. Invariably, we end up breaking those resolutions only to make them again next year. I think that what we really need is not resolution but revolution.
Now, I’m not talking about revolution as in overthrowing a government. I’m not talking about revolution as in the rotations made by the moon or a record on a turntable (remember them?). I’m talking about the revolution described in the dictionary as a complete or radical change. That type of change, that revolution, is internal and not external. It is the change that is referred to in Romans 12:2 as being transformed by the renewing of your mind. That change can only come about with the help of the Lord.
God’s Word tells us that our inward man is being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16). This is a result of the grace and mercy shown to us by God through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. While resolutions are not bad things, they are fleeting and temporary. They are things that can be seen. But the things which are not seen, the internal changes that can be made only with the help of God, are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Are you ready to make a New Year’s revolution? I know I am!

Living Wisely

Ephesians 5:15 tells us that we should be careful how we live. We should live wisely, not unwisely. But, what exactly does it mean to live wisely? And where does the wisdom we need come from?

The book of Proverbs talks a lot about wisdom and the characteristics of a person who is wise. A person who is wise seeks to increase learning and will seek the counsel of others when necessary (Proverbs 1:5). The wise person is happy to receive instruction from others (Proverbs 10:8). Rather than live foolishly, thinking that his own way is right, the wise man listens to the opinions of others (Proverbs 12:15). Those who are wise are not quick-tempered and they keep their cool even when being insulted (Proverbs 12:16). While a foolish person may allow his anger to erupt, the wise man quietly holds back his anger (Proverbs 29:11).

Proverbs 3:13-15 says that a person who has wisdom is happy. This is because wisdom has great value, value far greater than any precious gem. But the wisdom that we need to be truly happy, the wisdom that we should seek with all our hearts, is not the wisdom of the world. The wisdom we need comes from above–from God. And that wisdom is pure, peaceable, and gentle. It is willing to yield. And it is full of mercy and bears good fruit (James 3:13-17).

To obtain this wisdom from above, we need to listen to Jesus’ teaching and then follow it. When we do, as Jesus says in Matthew 7:24-25, we are like the person who builds his house on a rock. That rock is Jesus. He is our firm foundation. When we build our house–our lives–on Him, when we have that rock as our foundation, no storm can tear it down. Now that is wisdom!

"Simon, Son of John, Do You Love Me?"

All four Gospels include accounts of Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s denial of Him (Matthew 26:34, Mark 14:30, Luke 22:34, John 13:38). When Jesus told Peter that, before the rooster crowed, he would deny Him three times, Peter was adamant. He basically told Jesus, “No way, Lord! Maybe some of the others will deny you, but me? Not only will I never deny you, but I’ll also fight for you, even if it means I have to die for you.”

Of course, just hours later, what did Peter do? He denied that he even knew Jesus, not once but three times, just as Jesus said he would. Then, when the rooster crowed after Peter’s third denial, he remembered Jesus’ words. Peter was devastated (Matthew 26:75). I’m sure that, over the next three days, Jesus’ words and his own actions haunted Peter’s thoughts continually. His heart and his spirit were surely broken. I can imagine him thinking, “How can I ever put this behind me? I disowned the Lord!”

Although Scripture doesn’t tell us this, my guess is that what happened that night continued to haunt Peter even after Jesus rose from the grave. I’m sure that Peter was overjoyed that Jesus was alive but he probably wondered if Jesus could ever forgive him for what he had done. Maybe that’s why Peter decided to go out and fish again not long after Jesus had appeared to the disciples (John 21:3). He probably thought that he was of no use to the Lord anymore, so he might as well go back to being a fisherman.

But Jesus had other plans. He wasn’t done with Peter. After a fishing experience (John 21:3-11) similar to the one when Peter first met Jesus (Matthew 5:1-11), Jesus shared a fish breakfast with the disciples. After they finished eating, Jesus turned to talk to Peter. Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. Peter replied that, yes, he did. Jesus asked the question a second time, and Peter once again responded that he did love Him. Then, Jesus asked a third time. Peter was hurt and said, “Lord, you know all things. You know that I love You!” (John 21:15-17)

Of course, Peter was right. Jesus did know the answer before he even spoke it. So, why did He ask the same question three times? Jesus was giving Peter the opportunity to be restored after his denial. Jesus had already forgiven Peter even before Peter had denied Him but He knew Peter’s heart and spirit were broken because of his denial. I believe Jesus intentionally asked the question three times so that Peter could forgive himself and put his triple denial behind him so that his heart and spirit to be restored.

That is such a great example of the great love and mercy Jesus has, not only for Peter, but also for all of us. It shows the tremendous grace that He extends to us. But, the best part of this story, to me, are the words that Jesus says to Peter each time Peter affirms his love for Him:

“Feed my lambs.”

“Take care of my sheep.”

“Feed my sheep.”

Jesus was telling Peter that, not only was he forgiven, but that He also still placed His trust in Peter and was entrusting him with His flock. What a vote of confidence!

What Does God Require of Us in Worship?

What does God require of us in worship? Does He want great songs, talented vocalists and musicians? Does He want us to lift our hands, to sing, to shout, to dance, or wave banners? While all of these things are good and, I believe, pleasing to the Lord, they are only acceptable when our hearts are right and when what is inside of us lines up with His Word.

In Micah 6:6-8. the Word is very clear on this. God does not require outward acts but the proper inward attitudes. He requires that we do what is right to others, to act justly. He requires that we love mercy, that we love showing kindness and compassion to others. And, He requires that we walk humbly with Him, being obedient to His Word. These are all things that come naturally from a heart that is right with God.

In Matthew 23, Jesus makes it clear that outward signs of faith and outward signs of worship are important and necessary, but only when we attend to the inward attitudes of the heart, what He refers to as the weightier matters of the law–justice, mercy, and faith. Jesus rebukes the scribes and the Pharisees, referring to them as hypocrites because they spend all their time and energy making the outward things shine while ignoring the inward attitudes (Matthew 23:23, 27-28).

Our outward signs of worship, such as singing, dancing, lifting our hands, giving our tithes, are great and we should be doing them. But, they are only true worship that is acceptable to God when they come from a heart that acts justly, loves mercy, and walks humbly with Him. That is what God requires of us in worship.

The Peace That Surpasses Understanding

As I sat before the Lord this morning doing my devotions and quiet time, I had a lot of trouble trying to focus. I wanted to hear from the Lord, but a family situation was crowding my mind. I knew that this was the enemy trying to keep me from hearing what God wanted to say to me, so I prayed for His help in focusing. As I prayed, I felt the Lord directing me to three particular verses–Psalm 46:10, Proverbs 3:5-6, and Philippians 4:6-7. I wrote these verses in my journal and then listened to hear what He was saying to me through them.

What I heard from the Lord is that, first and foremost, I needed to be still. He is God and He is in control. He is omniscient, He knows the beginning from the end. He knows all that is going on and I just needed to quiet my heart, soul, and mind and let Him handle it. There is nothing that I can do to make everything work out. It is beyond my human power to change what has happened or to fix it. But He is omnipotent. He has the power to heal, to set captives free, to calm the storm. Nothing is impossible for Him.

Secondly, I needed to put my trust in Him with all of my heart. My human understanding is not capable of seeing what is needed in this situation, but He knows. I need to hop in the back seat and let Him take the wheel. I can do the only thing that is within my power–I can quiet my anxiety and calm my fears by lifting the situation up to Him in prayer. I know that, when I do this, I will receive the peace that comes only from Him, the peace that surpasses understanding. The peace that I cannot fully understand but that will guard my heart and my soul.

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