Posts tagged ‘Worship’

Our Best For God

It all started out so well. The people were amazed at the strength and power of their God, and had seen His love for them manifested in their deliverance from bondage in Egypt. As the people of God are taught what the Lord required of them, they were given the greatest commandment, recorded in
Deuteronomy 6:5

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

Nothing was to be held back when it came to their single hearted devotion to God. It was to be a love offering of their entire being; heart, soul and mind. But as years passed, a familiarity set in that morphed into contempt. What was once offered as an overflow of gratitude to God became an obligation and duty. Eventually it was looked on as a burden to be borne out of tradition, even while resented. And they acted like it, too. The spotless offerings were changed into leftovers, spares, and animals that would not cost them anything to lose.

Enter the prophet Malachi. God speaks to His people and confronts them with their heart condition when it came to worship.

Malachi 1:6-8
“A son honors his father,
And a servant his master.
If then I am the Father,
Where is My honor?
And if I am a Master,
Where is My reverence?
Says the Lord of hosts
To you priests who despise My name.
Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’
“You offer defiled food on My altar,
But say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’
By saying,‘The table of the Lord is contemptible.’
And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice,
Is it not evil?
And when you offer the lame and sick,
Is it not evil?
Offer it then to your governor!
Would he be pleased with you?
Would he accept you favorably?”
Says the Lord of hosts.

God wanted the best from His people, not the cast offs. They would have been better off not worshipping at all than to offer polluted offerings to God. The Lord puts things I. Perspective for the people in verses 11 – 13:

Malachi 1:11-13
For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down,
My name shall be great among the Gentiles;
In every place incense shall be offered to My name,
And a pure offering;
For My name shall be great among the nations,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
“But you profane it,
In that you say,
‘The table of the Lord is defiled;
And its fruit, its food, is contemptible.’
You also say,
‘Oh, what a weariness!’
And you sneer at it,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
“And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick;
Thus you bring an offering!
Should I accept this from your hand?”
Says the Lord.

“Wow!”, you might say. “They really messed up. It’s a good thing we are in no danger of that happening to us, since there are no animal sacrifices for worship now”. But wait, there are sacrifices of worship. They just are not animals anymore. But they are offerings of worship in they same way as before, and God expects our best.

Hebrews 13:15-16
Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

Did you see that? We have sacrifices to give, just like they did. Verse 15 parallels the command to love the Lord our God with our soul, mind and strength, while verse 16 is about loving our neighbor as ourself. You see, whenever we spend time in worship to God, He expects it to be with our entire being. That doesn’t mean that worship has to be an aerobic workout. It does mean that we need to be fully engaged in what we are doing during worship. Focusing on other things, offering half hearted or distracted worship, or inwardly despising and diminishing worship will produce a polluted offering to God!

We each need to examine ourselves when it comes to our worship. Are we doing things out of routine and obligation, or out of love and devotion? Do we look forward to worship, or see it as an interruption? I challenge us all to be fully present during worship today, with our mind, soul and strength focused on our awesome God. Don’t insult Him by offering any less than your very best!

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Fired by God – Lessons from Nadab & Abihu

While reading the other day, I was meditating on the account of Nadab and Abihu. My thoughts were along the lines of, “what were they thinking?”, and pondering about why their punishment for offering strange fire on the altar of incense was punished so quickly and severely. So I looked in my search function to find out more about these two sons of Aaron and came across a surprising passage that made me even more mystified by their actions.
The Nation of Israel was at Sinai, when these two were given an awesome privilege recorded in Exodus 24.

“Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel:
And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness.” – Exodus 24:9-10

Both Nadab and Abihu had been given the awesome privilege of seeing a vision of Jehovah God on the mountain. In verse 11 it even says they ate with Him! This encounter should have instilled in them a reverence and awe for the power and reality of their God that would change their lives forever. And perhaps, for awhile at least, it did just that.

There is a popular adage that says, “familiarity breeds contempt.” But is that possible in our relationship with God? Is it possible that continued miraculous encounters with God could make someone take God LESS seriously? If pride enters in, it certainly can do just that. Nadab and Abihu began to assume that this event on the mountain made them special, or even worse, made them better than others who were not there. After all, we must be somebody special if God shows up and has a meal with us, right?

Well that is exactly what happened to them. Nadab and Abihu forgot about the nature of the God they were serving. Instead of this vision driving them toward a thirst for an ever more intimate relationship with God, it puffed them up with pride about the special revelation they had been given. After all, God was their buddy and pal who liked to have lunch with them. They must be something pretty special.

But our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 13) who will share His glory with no man(Isaiah 42:8) and will not be mocked ( Galatians 6:7). Fast forward a little while to the sacrifices being offered in the tabernacle. Moses and Aaron had offered a sacrifice, just as God had instructed them, and fire came down from God and consumed it.

“And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the Lord appeared unto all the people.
And there came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces.” – Leviticus 9:23-24

Right after this spiritually charged and miraculous manifestation of the power of God, Nadab and Abihu take it upon themselves to cut corners with God and offer something unholy and profane in place of that which was sanctified for worship of God. And just like in the previous chapter God answered with fire.

​”And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not.
And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.
Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the Lord spoke, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.” – Leviticus 10:1-3

What made this judgment come so swiftly? Perhaps it was because, as ones who had been with Moses and Aaron on the mountain, they should have realized the awesome majesty and power of their God and given Him the respect and fear that was due Him. In context, verses 8 – 9 could indicate that they were drunk. What it boiled down to was a lack of the fear of The Lord.

In our day, in the churches of America, don’t we sometimes do the same thing? How often are things from the world offered up to God in worship? We bring in the world’s philosophy, marketing, music, and lifestyles and offer them up to God and expect Him to be pleased with our worship. How often have we shown up for worship when just an hour before we were watching a show or listening to music that God absolutely hates? Where is the reverential awe and fear of The Lord? We have gotten so familiar with the Jesus who is our co-pilot and best buddy that we forget who we are serving (or who is the one being served) and offer up the unholy because hey, we are under grace and it doesn’t matter what we do any more. God’s got us covered!
The lesson of Nadab and Abihu is clear. God even told us what it was a few verses later in Leviticus 10:10.
“And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean;”

And lest you think this principle doesn’t apply to us today because of grace, listen to the Spirit speaking in the Letter to the Hebrews:

Hebrews 12:28-29
“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.”

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Worship In The Shadow

The Word of God, at its very beginning, speaks of mankind as being created in the image of God. But what is meant by that phrase? I believe there is a clue or two in the original Hebrew of the text. The word translated as “image” is “tzelem” which comes from the word “tzel” which means “shadow”. So there is a definite connection, since whenever rays of light fall on something it casts a shadow, which is a type of image. So according to the Bible, we are in the image of God in the same way that our own shadows look like we do in a way.

Another connection can be seen when, in Exodus 31 God appointed a person named Bezalel to create the Tabernacle and its furnishings. His name in Hebrew, Betzalel, literally means “in the shadow of God”. The Tabernacle was used to facilitate the worship of a God by the ancient Israelites. When a human worships the God of the Universe, it is as though he or she were standing in the shadow of God, who dwells in unapproachable light.

which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen. (I Timothy 6:15, 16 NKJV)

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But how does this apply to us today? In Hebrews 1:3, the author describes Jesus as the “express image of His person”. We are in the image of God in the same way a shadow shows His image, but Jesus is the express image. It’s the difference between a shadow outline and a photograph. While people can and should be able to tell that God is with us, they will only get a clear and detailed picture of God when they see Jesus. And that biblical imagery should carry over into our worship today. When we worship God, we stand in His shadow as those who are created in His image and looking upon Him who is the perfect picture of the Father.

There are some things that are true when that standing occurs. For one, in order to worship in the shadow of God, like we were created to do, He blocks our view of other things. Those lesser things may be visible in our peripheral sight, but our focus will be on the One who overshadows us. Worship occurs when we “fix our eyes on Jesus” and give our while attention to Him. As we habitually do that, we will slowly but surely be changed ourselves into clearer images of Him.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (II Corinthians 3:18 NKJV)

This may be bold, but I believe it is accurate. Anything that does not point us to Jesus and cause us to focus on Him is less than true worship. In the modern church over the past few decades, there has been a restoration of the truth about the joy of The Lord in Worship. What we need now is a restoration of the awareness of the awesomeness and glory of the One who alone is worthy of our adoration and worship. In doing so, we fulfill the destiny of why we were saved in the first place.

And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. (I Corinthians 15:49 NKJV)

So next time you spend time in worship of God, whether alone, as a family, or with other believers, I would encourage you to focus on the One in whose shadow you stand. Contemplate the brightness of His glory, the perfection of His holiness, and the enormity of His power, and realize that as you stand there, He gazes back in love to you and knows your name, your thoughts, and the number of hairs on your head (Matthew 10:30). Know that He alone is worthy of worship, and look away form those things which have become idols in your life. Let no rival thrones survive as you gaze upon His majesty. Fix your eyes upon Jesus and from your heart, and love The Lord your God with all your might, mind and strength. You will be ruined for cold ceremony or dead rituals. But you will be worshipping in Spirit and in truth.

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Awe-Full Worship

Worship is at once a simple thing and a complex thing. There are aspects of worship that we may never fully comprehend here below, but we have eternity to explore. While worship includes aspects such as rejoicing, thanksgiving and proclamation of the goodness of God, I wonder if we are not missing an essential element in the church world today. What I am suggesting is not that there is anything wrong with those aspects of our worship, but that we have forgotten a key ingredient, which can only be cultivated through intimacy with Jesus Christ. That element is awe.

Awe has its roots in accurate knowledge of the character and attributes of God. It begins with a sense of reverence. But when it really comes to life is when we know God, not just a set of facts about Him. As in other things, data does not equal knowledge. Awe blossoms when we come to a realization of who God is and who we are. When we have God high and lifted up, and realize that the only reason we can worship Him at all is because of grace, we begin to experience “awe”. The Hebrew writer out it this way at the end of chapter 12:

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel. See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Y et once more I will shake not only the earth , but also the heaven .” This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:22-29 NASB)

When we bow before the immovable, unshakeable, consuming fire, who dwells in unapproachable light, our sense of awe will cause us to be broken and contrite before Him. We will be in awe of His supreme condescension in emptying Himself, taking the form of a servant, and coming to suffer for our sins while we were still His enemies. “The Message” renders it this way:

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11 MSG)

But let me call your attention to what was said in Hebrews 12. The Writer describes “acceptable worship” as having the key ingredients of reverence and awe. Back in Isaiah, God revealed that those are the only worshiped that get His attention. And keep in mind here, that He is specifically talking about worship.

Thus says the Lord , “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? “For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,” declares the L ord . “But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word. (Isaiah 66:1, 2 NASB)

There is no shortcut to awe. Is not something that can be drummed up by a worship leader working the crowd and “pumping you up”. Oh, we can appear humble and broken, and even shed a tear. But let’s not confuse that with awe. Awe is what causes us to tremble at His Word. Awe is what fosters the fear of The Lord in our soul and spirit.

So lets make a concerted effort to focus on who our God is. As we meditate on this “consuming fire” lets realize that if it were not for His mercy, we would be consumed by that very fire instead of being welcomed by it.

This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:21-23 KJV)

Here is something to meditate on for a day. Roll this one around in your head for awhile: “My God is a consuming fire.”

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Why Is There A Universe?

How many times have you heard someone say that you need to use the right tool for the job. Most things work best we they are used for the purpose for which they were designed and made. The entire created universe is the same way. Most reading this would agree that that Jesus was used by the Father to create the world and everything in it. But we need to know why the universe was created if we are going to know how to use it.

First, we need to believe that Jesus made all things.

All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:3 ESV)

In the letter to the Colossians, Paul says this about Jesus Christ;

For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. (Colossians 1:16, 17 KJV)

Second, we need to establish how Jesus made all things. They creative force that was used was the very word of God.

By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. (Hebrews 11:3 ESV)

Thus the creation story if marked by the phrase, “and God said, let there be” and creative events occurred (the real Big Bang).

And finally, the question of why everything was created. Was it for mankind’s enjoyment? Was it because God was bored and we are an arts and crafts project? Of course not.
The worlds were made by Him and for Him! Just like it said in Revelation 4:11,

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Revelation 4:11 KJV)

All things were made for His pleasure.

What this means for us today is this. Whatever exists for us to use must be used in a manner consistent with the will of God. Anything we use that does not bring glory to our Lord and Savior is being misused. Everything that we can see was designed to bring glory to God, and we must be diligent to make sure we use them in such a manner that brings Him pleasure. Stop and think about that for a minute. What things do we see in nature that are being defiled and thus prevented from their designed use of glorifying God? Are we misusing what God has designed, like DNA, in ways that are contrary to the purpose of its Grand Designer?
Let us remember who really owns this world and use it for His pleasure.

For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. (Romans 11:36 KJV)

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Worship That Touches The Heart of God

Children. They don’t make things complicated. Either you are there for them, or not. They either like something or they don’t. When the love you, they love and trust you completely. And they say exactly what they are thinking….all the time….in front of company. But this honesty and simplicity is very attractive to God.
In Luke chapter 18, Jesus talked about children.
“And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” (Luke 18:15-17 NASB)
Jesus was attracted to the love and tender hearts of children, and commanded that we act that way toward his Kingdom. Not that we should be childish, but have child-like faith in Him. Should our worship of that same Jesus be any less simple and child-like?

Look, I am not out to point fingers and say people are wrong and I am right, or to condemn. But at the same time, please think about what I am about to say and see if it doesn’t ring true to what the Bible reveals about our God and Savior.

WHAT TOUCHES THE HEART OF GOD MORE.?
– A man who is proud of himself for being so spiritual, or a man who refuses to raise his eyes to heaven, but beats his chest saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner”?

– A full Sunday morning production, complete with an awesome band, choir, lighting, and a state-of-the-art sound system, or a group of first graders singing from their heart with everything they’ve got, “Yes, Jesus Loves Me”?

– A multimillion dollar sanctuary with stadium seating, day care, bookstore, and a Starbucks, or the dimly lit basement of a house where believers are gathered in secret to quietly worship God and take the Lord’s Supper, praying that this day will not be their last?

– A crowd of 30,000 where someone can come and sing along, feel good about themselves, and yet remain comfortably anonymous, or a church of 130 believers whose lives have been knit together by the Word of God and their love for each other?

– A church that is embraced by the world and their community because they perform a public service and don’t offend people, or a church that preaches the truth, loves sinners enough to tell them the truth, and bears up under persecution and rejection because of that truth?

I hope you see my point. Somewhere along the way, worship became about what we liked, what made us feel good, and what attracted the world to our doors. But originally it was about what God likes, what was true, and what would really equip us, the entire congregation, for ministry. So let’s get back to the simple spiritual focus that we were originally given and “fix our eyes on Jesus” and not survey the world so we can effectively market ourselves, like the Gospel is a commodity for spiritual consumers. I know I have said this in a previous post, but in order to return to our first love, we must do the things that were done at first and live in the “simplicity of devotion to Christ” as His dear children (2 Corinthians 11:3) and say with our lips and our actions, “Jesus, it’s all about you. We are not here to be entertained or coddled. We are here to bless You, and nothing else in this world matters except what pleases You.”

Come on. Do it. Why did He call it being born again if we weren’t supposed to come to Him as a little child?

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