Truthful Tuesday: Sacrificial Worship

Sacrificial worship

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Real worship is not consumerism, but being consumed by God’s greatness.

Scripture:

Genesis 22:7

“Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father?” “What is it, my son?” he replied. “Here is the fire and the wood,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?””

Romans 12:1

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.”

As a worship leader, I am constantly seeking ways to provoke myself to sincere, passionate worship.  This morning I was reading “Face Down” by Matt Redman and read his perspective on the discussion between Abraham and Isaac when they went to the region of Moria to sacrifice to God.  This same place is said to have been the place where Christ was ultimately crucified.  What a foreshadowing of Christ’s sacrifice and God’s provision.

Abraham and Isaac were going to worship God.  Everything that was necessary for their act of worship was there, except for one thing – the sacrifice.  The son noticed the need and willingly provided himself.  God provided the Lamb.

When we come to worship God, whether it is in our homes or at church, where is our sacrifice?  The music is there, the stage is set, and we need to respond.

In an entertainment-saturated society, it can be easy to approach worship in a consumer-like fashion, but worship is not worship if it does not cost us something.

What does this sacrifice look like?  It will be different for everyone, but it begins with a contrite heart, provoked to in Holy fear to be in awe of the sacrifice that God made for us. Complacency is not on the altar, nor distracted sheep going through the motions.  No, just grateful hearts, spared death, alive in Christ, laying down their burdens and overcome with God’s amazing love.  Basking in His Word, afresh with new revelation, we lie prostrate before the King of kings.

Lord, we worship YOU!  You are Holy, perfect and beyond our comprehension.  Help us to worship You in spirit and truth.  Be glorified in our worship services and provoke our hearts to sincere worship. 

Worshipful Wednesday: The God of the Afflicted

The Afflicted.png

Inspirational Thought of the day:

God chose to identify with the lowly and lifts them up.

Scripture:

Psalm 9:19-13

“The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. 10  And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. 11  Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion! Tell among the peoples his deeds! 12  For he who avenges blood is mindful of them; he does not forget the cry of the afflicted. 13  Be gracious to me, O LordSee my affliction from those who hate me, O you who lift me up from the gates of death.”

Psalm 10:14

“But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.”

Psalm 10:17

“You, LORD, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry.”

Have you ever felt like no one notices you?  Or perhaps no one understands or knows the anguish of your soul?  Silently you suffer, wondering if anyone cares?  There is One Who knows – intimately – every worry or care that floods our minds, every burden we try to pretend is not there.  Jesus.

Every slight you feel, pain you endure – none of it is hidden from God’s keen view.  He longs for us to bring it to Him and lay it at His feet, but sometimes we think we can either bear the burden on our own or that he is not able to remove it from us.

it is not until we reflect on this God Who would choose to be counted as one of us – and not as a popular one of us, but as an afflicted one Himself, that we begin to see His ability to help us to do the same.

Joyfully He bore His cross.  How can that be?  Solely by the grace of God and the God Who helps us see past temporary burdens that can serve as stepping stones to be more like Him instead of enduring through some circumstance we regret.  May we be counted worthy to walk through suffering for the glory of God and not our own.

More than the praise or sympathy from any created person, we have the empathy of the Creator Himself, Who has truly been there and is able to completely understand and enable us to walk the same road he did – with victory.

Lord, thank you for showing us how to walk through this lift filled with burdens and cares.  Thank You for choosing to be afflicted, choosing to die for our sins so we could be saved.  May our light and momentary troubles be seen as just they are – temporary afflictions that lead us closer to you.

Truthful Tuesday: Whose Lead Do You Follow?

Whose lead do you follow

Romans 8:5

“For  those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit.”

We’d all like to think that we are led by the Spirit and are making decisions that are wise, but often we do not see the spiritual realm all around us, affecting our thoughts and actions.  The impact of flesh versus spirit affects our lives and those around us.

The choices we make moment by moment are filtered by our mindset which is impacted by many factors in our environment.  Evident in our choices about what we eat (ugh . . . chocoholic confessions here for me), to the clothing we wear, the words we say and the attitudes we have toward other people, we have impressions or feelings that bombard us constantly.  If we are not careful and discerning, we can allow our perception or someone else’s opinion to affect our own behavior.

One main way this flesh is played out is how we treat one another.  Rejection of others who aren’t like us is common in the world, but unfortunately, it also happens at church. People shun others or just plain old don’t like other people who are made in the image of God.  Where does this come from?  If it is not from God, then the answer is obvious, but all too often we do not stop to consider why we don’t like someone.  We might all have different personalities, but we ought to love one another so the world can see that body of Christ is indeed different.

The truth is we are more apt to be carnal than spiritual beings and when we are spiritual, we often get in the flesh and think it is us who are righteous, when Christ alone is our righteousness.

While this is a humbling truth, maybe it can provoke us to be aware of our thoughts and behaviors.  Do they honor God?  Are they of the Spirit or of the flesh?  If we could grab a hold of this reality, Christians would turn this world upside down with godly lives and choices that no longer appear hypocritical, unconditional acceptance and love instead of judgment and forming cliques.

Pleasing self or others and seeking acceptance from God’s creation does not compare with living for the audience of One.  Like Paul, we will have to battle the flesh, but staying in the battle is far better than not recognizing the battle of the flesh versus spirit in the first place.

Lord, may You increase and may we decrease.  Help us to recognize the things that are from You and the things that are not and to walk in the Spirit.

 

Mundane Monday: Living Between a Vision and Its Fulfillment

Waiting for the Vision

Genesis 12:1-2

“Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go out from your country, your relatives, and your father’s household to the land that I will show you. 2 Then I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great, so that you will exemplify divine blessing.'”

The chasm between the calling God has placed on our lives and the ultimate fulfilling of that vision can be rife with challenges and doubts.  To our limited understanding, it would seem that the all-powerful God would call us, then fulfill what He had spoken without a lot of delay or consequences.

But in His omniscient wisdom,

the process is often more important

than the receiving of the promise itself.

God is surely capable to crush everything that stands in the way of accomplishing what He has called us to, but in this fallen world the enemy is busy trying to undo what God has already finished.  We are stuck in this space called time that God is already outside of, fully knowing how everything will turn out.  Mind blowing.

Often I question whether God has really given me a vision or if it is myself trying to achieve a calling on my own.  I get confused and feel I cannot pray for success because I do not want it to be for my own glory.  It is then that I realize that a vision that is of God and for God will be tested and that testing process will refine the character needed to accomplish the task placed on my heart.

I don’t have to be perfect to be used by God.  I just have to yield to Him in the process and continue to press on in the work He has called me to.  Back to Abram.

God told him to go – he went.  It does not say that he labored over it.  He just obeyed.  He then promised incredible blessings, which, although Abram would be blessed, the goal was not just for Abram – it was for all people and ultimately “to exemplify divine blessing”.  Abram’s response?  To worship – even though He had not yet received the blessing.

When people look in our lives and see God’s blessings, it is not so we will be comfortable, but so people can see what being in a relationship with God is like.  When we are in between a promise and a blessing and face trials of all kinds, our worship in the midst can inspire many to do the same.

Abram was not spared hardship – he faced famine right after He worshiped God for His promise.  How we respond during the famine will often determine how long we stay there.  When Abram doubted God’s ability to protect he and his wife, God was faithful and protected them, anyway.  The world will see us fail, but the righteous man will rise again and again and continue to walk until God’s purposes are fulfilled in him.

When God places a vision in our hearts, we do not know how we will get there and many obstacles will stand in our way.  Abram faced famine, quarelling, war, family problems – but through it all he worshiped the God of the promise.  In the end, Abram became Abraham; his name and his life changed forever because of the faithfulness of God to keep His promise.

In His faithfulness, God will remind us of His calling and His promises.  He did not promise us a pain-free life, but He did promise to carry us through the challenges we face and that all of it has meaning for those Who would trust in Him.  In the process, on the other side of our calling – our nature is changed, too, for we can never be the same when we encounter the living God.

Lord, help us to trust You when the road seems long and burdensome.  You are faithful and You will complete the work You have begun in us.  Praise Your Name!

Thoughtful Thursday: The God in the Pit

The Pit

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Don’t imagine the future without God.

Scripture:

Job 3:25-26

“For the very thing I dreaded has happened to me; and what I feared has come upon me. 26 I have no ease, I have no quietness; I cannot rest; turmoil has come upon me.”

When I was a child, I feared death; I guess most people do.  As I grew up, more things were added to my list of things that I “hoped I never had to go through”.  I even made a deal with God on a few of them.  Just a tip – don’t ever do that.

To fear or be anxious is human, but the person of faith need not remain there.

The shock of going from such tremendous blessing like Job had to the complete opposite is difficult to bear.  Our expectations are dashed because we somehow tied God’s goodness to our blessing.  The unknown provokes a humility in us all when we are not sure how we could handle whatever might come our way.  Couple that with the thought that pain or suffering might be attached to a potential unknown and fear can quickly be apparent in us all.

This is where the gift of faith comes in.  Imagining my future apart from God’s grace to escort me through all of life’s valleys and mountains is like imagining myself apart from my very life and hope.

If I had known all that I would walk through almost eight years ago now, I would not have believed it and possibly would have tried to avoid it, yet God had me walk through it, anyway.

The verse above is palpable to me – it almost hurts to read it.  I am brought back to the moment when I lost twenty pounds from dread and anxiety and fear gripped me like cement, heavy upon my heart.  My vision was affected, there was no feeling in my feet or hands, people shunned us, we lived with a stigma where dread and sorrow were pervasive. The thing I had asked the LORD to not ever allow me or my children to experience was upon me and my household.  Where was God?  Right there beside me.

Passionately crying out to God from a fragile, broken heart was part of what set me free from all that had bound me before.

My happiness was no longer tied to a shallow faith based on perfect surroundings.  It was hidden in Him.

When we feel forgotten because this life is not Heaven and the corruption of sin and its consequences vanquishes us, in that lonely place is One Who chose that suffering we sought to avoid.

Turmoil is a dark pit that seems insurmountable, but within that pit is a closeness to God that we would likely not find in all the blessings the world offers.  For it is in that crucible that we hold on tightly to the promises of God and realize the perfect comfortable life we wanted before was never a worthy goal in the first place.

Lord, thank You for revealing our need of You.  Help us to cling to You in blessings and hardships and to trust you with what lies ahead.  You are faithful.  Always.

Truthful Tuesday: Who’s to Blame?

Pointing Fingers

Pointing Fingers — Image by © Images.com/Corbis

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

When one falls, we all do.

Scripture:

Joshua 7:1, 11-12

But the Israelites disobeyed the command about the city’s riches. Achan son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, stole some of the riches. The LORD was furious with the Israelites. 11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenantal commandment! They have taken some of the riches; they have stolen them and deceitfully put them among their own possessions. 12 The Israelites are unable to stand before their enemies; they retreat because they have become subject to annihilation. I will no longer be with you, unless you destroy what has contaminated you.”

But.  I hate that word.  It usually precedes something you don’t want to hear.  Before the “but” word is typically something encouraging to set you up for the plunge you are about to take.  I gotta say it … BUT if it were not for the buts we would probably have many lessons unlearned.

We all want to hear a fairy tale ending for someone who has suffered.  The Israelites had just defeated Jericho.  We don’t want to hear that they are now about to be annihilated because one person stole what was meant to be destroyed.  Instead of celebrating victory, 36 innocent men died because one of the Israelites just had to disobey.

What is difficult for me to swallow in the above passage is the plural on the people group Israelites.  One person is named to have sinned greatly before God, but they all take the rap for it.

At first God’s ire seems unjust, but if we consider the family unit, when just one member transgresses, the whole family is affected.  People question how the family could allow such an action.  So it is with the body of Christ.

Sometimes tragedy awakens us to realize we might have sin in our camp.  We can oversimplify and assume that any difficulty was brought about by sin, BUT in reality, whether the root cause is sin or not, there is always a lesson within that has the potential to draw us nearer to God.

Who is right and who is wrong does not really matter.  Finding someone to blame does not necessarily fix the problem, either.

If we are all the body, then when one part of the body of Christ is found in sin we should not consider ourselves better, but surround that person and count ourselves in their number until we right the wrong.

Ultimately, the discovery of sin is devastating, BUT it can produce the beautiful fruit of repentance if we humble ourselves and let it.  Like Moses who offered to bear the blame of the sin of his people, may God help us to bear one another’s weaknesses and point one another to Christ.

Lord, help us to yield to You when we want to run the other way because of someone else’s or our own shame.  May we discover the joy of obedience and help others around us to do the same.

Mundane Monday: Oh, Mercy!

Mercy Seat

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Costly mercy should never be casually accepted.

Scriptures:

Romans 3:25

“God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed.”

Hebrews 9:3-5

“And after the second curtain there was a tent called the holy of holies. 4 It contained the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered entirely with gold. In this ark were the golden urn containing the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. 5 And above the ark were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Now is not the time to speak of these things in detail.”

Romans 2:4

“Or do you have contempt for the wealth of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, and yet do not know that God’s kindness leads you to repentance?”

Some of us need a big dose of God’s mercy on Monday mornings.  That and a large cup of Joe.  In the hamster wheel of life, we are all running about, aiming to achieve whatever objective that day holds.

Yet in the day-in and day-out of our busy lives, we receive mercy upon mercy and do not perceive it.

This lavish mercy, covering our every sin, was planned from the beginning and cost our Savior’s life.  Mercy for past sins, mercy for present and future ones, too.  Mercy to live a different way.

The mercy seat was the lid on top of the ark where the very presence of God would sit and give mercy when the blood of atonement was sprinkled there.

This is so graphic for our delicate ears to hear, for we are far removed from the fact that our sin brought death.  Blood.  Shed on our behalf.  Not so we would continue in sin, but that we would marvel at such forgiveness and in response die to our sin at such a great sacrifices given on our behalf.

Now this mercy seat is represented by Jesus, Who covers our sins and passes over them by His own righteous blood.  Even  more amazing to consider, this mercy seat is available to us at all times.

We do not have to be priests, entering with trepidation and bells attached to the hem of our robe in case we should die in the presence of a Holy God.  No, we, normal, sinful beings can enter the presence of the living God and find mercy.

May this truth help us to be amazed at You, oh God, on our ordinary days when we look only to this life for meaning.  Arrest our hearts with Your Faithful Love and help us to live our Mondays in awe of our merciful God!

Worshipful Wednesday: Planted in Purity

tumbleweed.jpgrooted-in-god

Inspirational thought of the day:

Guard against the pollution of our souls.  Light and darkness have no fellowship apart from God’s grace.

Scripture:

Psalm 1, 3-5

1 “How blessed is the one who does not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand in the pathway of sinner, or sit in the assembly of scoffers! 3 He is like a tree planted by flowing streams; it yields its fruit at the proper time, and its leaves never fall off. 4 Not so with the wicked!  Instead they are like wind-driven chaff. 5 For this reason the wicked cannot withstand judgment, nor can sinners join the assembly of the godly.”

I vividly remember the whipping wind and the piercing sand stinging the back of my legs as I walked down my street in Las Cruces, New Mexico. It was March, the windy season, and you had to be on the watch for tumbleweeds blowing down the street toward you at a rapid pace.  The .7 mile walk to school (yes, I mapquested this, since I was going to guess 2 miles and did not want to exaggerate), seemed like an eternity in such conditions.

What a vivid example it serves to me now as I consider the verses above. The wicked are not able to choose righteousness apart from the grace of God.  Wind-driven chaff such as the tumbleweeds I encountered, are dead and are not able to steer or guide, but are completely driven at the whim of the wind. But the follower of Christ is alive; like a blossoming, fertile tree who does have a choice and is able to choose righteousness by the Holy Spirit.

We are deceived if we think we can dabble in a little wickedness.  A speck of dirt contaminates a glass of water and sin hardens our hearts over time.  But God.

When my children all reached between the ages of eleven and thirteen, I went through the “Passport to Purity” with them – a wonderful study by Dennis & Barbara Rainey for parents to guide their children through discussions about purity.  One statement has left an impression on my children and I like no other.  When confronted by sinners who invited a young man to join in their revelry, the young man commented, “At any moment I could become just like you, but you can never become just like me”.

The wicked cannot choose to be righteous, save the grace of God.  Man cannot undo decisions of impurity, but God can redeem them all.  Praise be to God who plants the righteous firmly by the stream of His Word.  They cannot be moved.  They might suffer in this life, they might stumble and fall, but they will rise again and their foundation is firm.

Lord, thank You for your salvation!  Thank You for the gift of the Holy Spirit, Who guides us into understanding and obedience.  Please help us to remain firm in our faith and to resist evil.

rooted-in-the-word-kevin-ca

A Season of Thankfulness: Day 12 – Our Wise Counselor

Photo Credits: www/pixabay.com

Photo Credits:
www/pixabay.com

Ecclesiastes 7:10-12

Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these days?” for it is not wise to ask that.  11 Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing; it benefits those who see the light of day. 12 For wisdom provides protection, just as money provides protection. But the advantage of knowledge is this: Wisdom preserves the life of its owner.

James 1:5

“But if anyone is deficient in wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without reprimand, and it will be given to him.”

When I am tempted to give in to emotion or make a rash decision, it is to God that I run.  What a precious gift that we can come to Him and seek His wisdom in all things.

Recently I was reminded of this privilege when I was trying to understand the best course of action in a situation.  “Why are you trying to figure it out on your own?” ran through my head.  I guess that is my natural disposition – to try and come up with my own solution, but the foundation of that decision should be to seek wisdom from God above all else.

Wisdom, likened to an inheritance, can only be given by God.  Man can hand out down insight and knowledge, but any wisdom he has was given to him and comes from above.

Wisdom from God looks markedly different from the wisdom of this world.  It is not self-glorifying, it does not boast. It serves and glorifies God as the giver of it all.  The wisdom God gives is pure and peaceful, opposite what our flesh would offer as a solution.

Contained within all 66 books of the Bible are page after page of wisdom and folly fleshed out.  Few have truly found wisdom and to those who have found it, it is a never-ceasing pursuit.  Wisdom is not a once and done possession.  It is part of the beauty of being in relationship with the most amazing genius in all the world, our God.  He gives it freely, to those who ask . . . again and again.

Solomon pleased God by asking for wisdom above all else, yet He did not utilize that wisdom in one area of his life, in particular.  Did he know better?  I think so.  His heart was turned away by his unwise decisions regarding women, and I daresay that the brief satisfaction from choosing folly instead of the wisdom he had at his disposal could not compare to the joy he could have had from walking in wisdom.

This priceless gift of wisdom is continually given to those who would humble themselves and see their need of godly wisdom.  Available to all.  That’s the all-wise God we serve – generous and perfect in all He does; available to give us counsel when we need it.

Lord, thank You for never leaving or forsaking us.  You provide wisdom when we need it and are faithful to give us grace to seek You for it in the first place.  We praise Your Name, Sovereign King!

 

Thoughtful Thursday: A Woman’s Worth

Photo Credits: entiregospel.com

Photo Credits:
entiregospel.com

Deuteronomy 22:5

“A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this.”

Genesis 1:27

“God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.”

Psalm 68:11

“The Lord speaks; many, many women spread the good news.”

This is a controversial topic today, but the Holy Spirit urges me on and my heart aches for the stolen identity of women in the eyes of this world. We are raised to believe we should look a certain way or that our worth is defined by our beauty.  But God sees us as His daughters, cherished and beloved, nurturers of His children, perpetuating to others the relationship we can have with our covenant God.

While history has often displayed women as being weak and certain cultures do not believe it is correct to grant the same rights to women, God has consistently given value to women and revealed Himself to them in profound ways. It was to women that He first appeared after He rose from the dead, and women are also interwoven into His genealogy alongside men.

This weary world minimizes people based on their gender, race or creed then glorifies another for being ‘free” enough to change their gender and attempt to erase the boundaries that God set in place.  It is a confused world that thinks it can take what God made and change its identity.  A man who is “empowered” to choose to be the “weaker” gender is deceived.  He was not made to be anyone other than who God made him to be.  Women are once again denigrated when a man can become a woman just by changing his parts.  No, that is not a woman at all.  He is not a hero, either.  He is a man still loved by God, but he will never truly be a woman.

Women were also not born to be men.  We do not need to feel inferior that our roles are different – God intended it to be so.  Being a wife and mother have been holy vocations and callings from God.  It is a role I was made for and I would not dream of handing that role over to anyone else.  No man could fill that role, nor could I fill a man’s role. They are each unique and bring God glory.

The greatest calling a woman or man could have is to be a mouthpiece for God.  No matter what gender God made us to be, we were made for His glory.  Our worth is found in Christ alone, not in society’s definition of us.  Instead of lamenting whatever aspect of who we are that is deemed to be less than another, we should rejoice that we are each uniquely made – like no other – and He delights in each one of us just the way we are.

Lord, thank You for your wisdom in creating each one of us.  Help us to be what you made us to be and to live solely for Your glory.