Worshipful Wednesday: Worshiping the Grumbles Away

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Psalm 105:1-5

Give thanks to the LORD! Call on his name! Make known his accomplishments among the nations! 2 Sing to him! Make music to him! Tell about all his miraculous deeds! 3 Boast about his holy name! Let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! 4 Seek the LORD and the strength he gives! Seek his presence continually! 5 Recall the miraculous deeds he performed, his mighty acts and the judgments he decreed.”

Psalm 106:1, 7, 12,13, 20-25, 29, 35-45

Praise the LORD! Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, and his loyal love endures! 7 Our ancestors in Egypt failed to appreciate your miraculous deeds, they failed to remember your many acts of loyal love, and they rebelled at the sea, by the Red Sea. 12 They believed his promises; they sang praises to him. 13 They quickly forgot what he had done; they did not wait for his instructions. 20 They traded their majestic God for the image of an ox that eats grass. 21 They rejected the God who delivered them, the one who performed great deeds in Egypt, 22 amazing feats in the land of Ham, mighty acts by the Red Sea. 23 He threatened to destroy them, but Moses, his chosen one, interceded with him and turned back his destructive anger. 24 They rejected the fruitful land; they did not believe his promise. 25 They grumbled in their tents; they did not obey the Lord.  28 They worshiped Baal of Peor, and ate sacrifices offered to the dead.  29 They made the Lord angry  by their actions, and a plague broke out among them. 35 They mixed in with the nations and learned their ways.  36 They worshiped their idols, which became a snare to them. 37 They sacrificed their sons and daughters to demons. 38 They shed innocent blood – the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan. The land was polluted by bloodshed. 39 They were defiled by their deeds, and unfaithful in their actions. 40 So the Lord was angry with his people and despised the people who belong to him. 41 He handed them over to the nations, and those who hated them ruled over them. 42 Their enemies oppressed them; they were subject to their authority.  43 Many times he delivered them, but they had a rebellious attitude, and degraded themselves by their sin. 44 Yet he took notice of their distress, when he heard their cry for help. 45 He remembered his covenant with them, and relented because of his great loyal love. 

The saga of the broken down cars began to ebb away on nerves yesterday.  I confess I had a pity party.  Alright, I grumbled.  We are all entitled to a little grumbling every now and then, right?  Hmmm . . . maybe not.  I was praising Him in the storm on Monday and ready for the trial to be over by Tuesday.  Patient, aren’t I?  This morning I was so thankful for a correction in my attitude from a loving God.  His Word is just as effective and able to speak to us from a message spoken thousands of years ago to some other grumbling spirits . . .

The sea was parted for them to cross and God defended them like no other, but they were bummed over the food God provided.  While I have judged them in the past, the same whining and ingratitude can flow in my veins, IF I let it.

We were made to praise God.  Our hearts need to praise the living God, the One Who is far greater than ourselves.  We need to thank Him, sing to Him, boast about Him, seek Him and remember all that He has done for us.  This thankfulness expressed to God changes us.  But what if we don’t?  What if we choose to complain about what God has allowed in?  This passage truly is a sobering one and injects the fear of God in me.  When we do not praise God, we are not doing what we were created to do, but the consequences of ceasing to thank God at all times are devastating, as well.

The destruction of a people began because they failed to appreciate what God had done.  That simple.  They also forgot God – the One who made them.  They chose to focus on what they felt were unfair circumstances and replaced the glory of God for complaints about things that don’t matter in all of eternity.  Ultimately, they forgot how important it was to be a grateful people.  How do we fail to appreciate God?

Thinking we deserve more than what He has allotted to us is perhaps one of the chief causes.  I remember being caught off guard by a brother who, when I asked him how he was doing, he said to me “better than I deserve”.  I recognized in that moment the humility and grace to be able to say such a statement.  Could I say that with the same sincerity?

It is easy to be religious and say the typical statements associated with ascribing glory to God, but God knows our hearts.  The words fall flat when my being is not completely about bringing Him glory but is distracted, instead by bitterness, unforgiveness or irritation over our discomfort.

The root sin long ago and today is the same – a lack of thankfulness and not purposing in our hearts to be faithful to acknowledge the God Who gave us everything.  Like Jonah, who grumbled when God took away the vine He had previously provided, we must hold all that He gives us loosely and be thankful for all he has given and done for us, even when He chooses to remove the blessings He has provided, too.

God help us to see our need of Him.  How quickly our spirits can go from worshiping Him to making our worship a thing of mere duty.  Slowly time with Him can be crowded out and before you know it, gratitude is replaced with a distrust in God, if we are not careful.

The enemy is ready to take us down the lane of ingratitude.  He knows the ending result – our demise.  But we do have a choice, as powerful as emotions can be.  To be thankful even when the chips are down, to love even when someone has hurt us and to forgive as we have been forgiven.  These actions are catalysts for sincere worship and gratitude to our God, Who is so very worthy of our praise!

Lord, we take so much for granted.  Please forgive us for the many times we have chosen grumbling over gratitude.  Spur us on to worship You in all circumstances.

And All the People Said, “Amen”

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2 Corinthians 1:18-22

18 But as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yesand “No.” 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the one who was proclaimed among you by us – by me and Silvanus and Timothy – was not “Yesand “No,” but it has always been “Yesin him. 20 For every one of God’s promises are “Yesin him; therefore also through him the “Amenis spoken, to the glory we give to God. 21 But it is God who establishes us together with you in Christ and who anointed us, 22 who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a down payment.

1 Chronicles 16:36

Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, From everlasting even to everlasting Then all the people said, “Amen,” and praised the LORD.

Psalms 72:19

And blessed be His glorious name forever; And may the whole earth be filled with His glory Amen, and Amen.

Revelation 1:7

BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.

I did not grow up as a Christian.  We went to church here and there, but it was not until I was 19 years old that I came to know God.  I remember the first time I went to church after being saved and hearing people shout, “Amen!”  It was as sincere as was their fervor for God.  This was not what I had experienced at church before.

I remember getting sweaty palms when rote sayings or prayers were spoken congregationally.   Moving my lips to the word, “watermelon, watermelon”, I hoped no one would notice.  Then came my moment of relief – everyone knew that we all said “Amen” at the end.  (Pronounced “ahmen” if you were more proper and “Aymen” moreso nowadays).  (o:

Despite momentarily having good feelings after a church service, religiosity is not able to give a lasting peace and confidence that a relationship with God can.  In this uncertain world, we long to cling to something that is sure.  Someone Who we can trust implicity.  Placing this confidence in man leads to discouragement and hopelessness.  No one on this earth can meet our every need or be counted on always.  But God is.  He IS.  ALWAYS.  FAITHFUL.  Amen.

God’s action requires a response from us.  Will we lukewarmly sit by when He proclaims amazing promises and fulfills them in His word?  Or will we shout from the rooftops, “Amen!” when He, our Creator, comes to us and relates with us?

Saying “Amen” is affirming that what God says is true.  Truth has a way of evoking such a response.  It is refreshing, appealing.  Reliable.  He is faithful and worthy of praise.  Amen.  The repetition of the word “Amen” is not just reserved for use during a sermon, but a part of interaction with God and His Word in daily life, appearing 30 times in the Old Testament and over 77 times in the Gospels, alone.  Why is the term, “So be it” so significant?  Because it is God’s people acknowledging and experiencing God.

If nothing else, hopefully today’s blog serves to awaken us to the components of a church service as not dead ritual, but living responses to the King of kings and Lord of lords.  So be it.

Oh God, my God!  Thank You that Your promises are true and eternal.  Thank You that we can know You and be certain of our salvation.  Amen.

Thoughtful Thursday: Popularity’s Demise

Job 19:17-19; 25-27

17 My breath is repulsive to my wifeI am loathsome to my brothers. 18 Even youngsters have scorned me; when I get up, they scoff at me. 19 All my closest friends detest me; and those whom I love have turned against me. 25 As for me, I know that my Redeemer livesand that as the last he will stand upon the earth26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God27 whom I will see for myself, and whom my own eyes will beholdand not another.  My heart grows faint within me.

Job 20:5-11, 15, 26-29

20:5 “The elation of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts but a moment. 6 Even though his stature reaches to the heavens and his head touches the clouds7 he will perish forever, like his own excrement; those who used to see him will say, ‘Where is he?’ 8 Like a dream he flies away, never again to be found, and like a vision of the night he is put to flight9 People who had seen him will not see him againand the place where he was will recognize him no longer10 His sons must recompense the poorhis own hands must return his wealth11 His bones were full of his youthful vigor, but that vigor will lie down with him in the dust. 15 The wealth that he consumed he vomits up, God will make him throw it out of his stomach. 26 Total darkness waits to receive his treasures; a fire which has not been kindled will consume him and devour what is left in his tent27 The heavens reveal his iniquitythe earth rises up against him28 A flood will carry off his houserushing waters on the day of God’s wrath29 Such is the lot God allots the wicked,and the heritage of his appointment from God.”

The here and now is powerful.  Our senses are keenly aware of our current joys and sufferings.  The status we hold before men contributes to our condition, unless we catch a glimpse of God.

I suppose many folks like to avoid the book of Job.  While it is painful to read of his suffering and God’s hand in it, the book of Job has become an incredible comfort to me.  Here we see the comparison of a righteous man, suffering greatly and quite unpopular, to a wicked person who is popular and prospering.  Talk about afflicted.  Job is covered head to toe with sores, his children are no more, his wife suggests he curse God and die – and gee whiz, even Job’s breath stinks.  If we were to be honest, we probably would not want to hang out with him, either, and toast marshmallows.

Job is honest about his condition.  He does not sugar coat it and say shallow religious statements.  He is transparent and genuine – sometimes folks do not like that.  It is far easier to condemn someone who is stricken – they must have some blame for their punishment, right?

But in the midst of that very dark place, Job rises from the ashes and proclaims that his greatest joy is his hope in God.  He will see him.  He is confident of this.  He might not understand why God allowed all this turmoil, but he recognizes that this temporary suffering will one day end.  The lack of discomfort is not his joy – sure, he will not mind being restored, but it is finally seeing His God in his flesh, that gives him the strength to walk through the dark valleys.

Who is this God that Job looks to?  His Redeemer.  The One who takes terrible situations and redeems them.  Job knew this suffering was not all for naught – it would be redeemed.  The temporary pleasure of being popular could never compare to an eternity of reward in His majestic presence.

Contrast this picture with the wicked one who is popular, wealthy and seemingly does not know suffering in this world. What will this temporary popularity give him?  Eternal suffering.  It seems popularity is not all it is cracked up to be.  It does not hold, however, that all righteous people will be unpopular and poor.  If God wants to grant favor or increase our position for His glory, ultimately any fame we would have on this earth is His alone.

We all will have troubles in this world – Jesus promised that.  Times of enjoying popularity and of scorn.  He chose unpopularity to save our souls.  Wow, what a reward.  For today’s generation, popularity is held by the number of likes they get when they post a picture or a statement.  Scores of people are just trying to get more people to follow them – for what?Does more numbers truly equal popularity?  But if we do have people engaged in our lives, listening to our message, may we not shrink back from proclaiming Christ even when it might not be well liked on our social media.  It might not be popular to take a righteous stand, but we will be in good company with those servants of God who were faithful to dispense God’s truth despite being unpopular – Noah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Moses, Jesus.

Success in the world’s eyes is not the same in God’s.  As we pursue to be faithful to God, we may not be liked by man.  Job did ultimately see God’s favor again and the fiery trials ended.  But, his greatest joy was not the end of pain, but the hope of one day casting his crowns at the feet of Jesus, overcome with joy in His presence when His Redeemer removed all of the sorrows that plagued him and turned them into gold.

Lord, help us to trust you when we feel unloved or stricken.  Help us to focus on the gift we have in You rather than the sorrows or joys in the present.  May we trust you when life hurts and choose to delight in You, not the gifts this world may offer.

Worshipful Wednesday: Freedom and The Favor of God

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Psalm 3:1-8

Lord, how numerous are my enemies!  Many attack me. 2 Many say about me, “God will not deliver him.” (Selah) 3 But you, Lord, are a shield that protects me; you are my glory and the one who restores me. 4 To the Lord I cried out, and he answered me from his holy hill(Selah5 I rested and sleptI awokefor the Lord protects me6 I am not afraid of the multitude of people who attack me from all directions. 7 Rise up, LordDeliver me, my GodYesyou will strike all my enemies on the jawyou will break the teeth of the wicked. 8 The Lord delivers; you show favor to your people(Selah)

Psalm 4:1-3, 6-8

1 When I call out, answer me, O God who vindicates me! Though I am hemmed in, you will lead me into a wide, open place.  Have mercy on me and respond to my prayer2 You menhow long will you try to turn my honor into shameHow long will you love what is worthless and search for what is deceptive? (Selah3 Realize that the Lord shows the godly special favor; the Lord responds when I cry out to him6 Many say, “Who can show us anything good?” Smile upon us, Lord! 7 You make me happier than those who have abundant grain and wine. 8 I will lie down and sleep peacefully, for you, Lord, make me safe and secure.

David was fleeing for his life from his own son when he wrote this Psalm.  In a moment he, though he was King, lost the freedom He had.  When we consider all he had to go through prior to becoming King, the thought of returning to a similar state of hiding out in caves I am sure evoked thoughts of horror.  Once he had tasted of persecution and had the resulting freedom, he probably never anticipated going through it all again.  But there it was.  And from his own flesh and blood.

There is a war on freedom today, felt as far away as Syria and as near as a neighboring county.  Sometimes from strangers, sometimes from family and sometimes from those in authority.  The familiar struggle for power from the enemy of our souls is wrought upon those he would seek to control.  In particular among all of the freedoms we earn (not given), freedom of religion is perhaps chief among the freedoms that are the most difficult to maintain.

We dare not grow apathetic about our brothers and sisters who fight for their lives because of what they believe.  Nor can we disregard when basic freedoms threaten to be removed in our own country, county, city or town because of someone’s misinterpretation (ill-conceived or in ignorance) of the law.

Such was the case last night when the freedom to home educate children under the religious exemption statute in Virginia was being threatened.  I do not ever recall feeling more proud of home schoolers and fellow citizens than last night, seeing sincere mothers, fathers, children, citizens – speaking up for freedom, even though it might not have been their own freedom they fought for.

There is something inherently wrong about individuals or organizations thinking they have the right to come into someone’s home and tell a parent or a child what they should believe or what educational choice they should make for their child.  But last night, freedom won. Common sense won.  All present had the opportunity of seeing democracy fleshed out and felt the very amazing, patriotic feeling of seeing freedom being reinstated.  Much like those who first came to this country for the very same reason – freedom to worship their God and live before him in accordance with their convictions without interference – witnesses of last night’s debate once again thanked God for the freedoms we enjoy in this country.

A funny thing happens when basic freedom of religion is threatened.  God’s people cry out.  God hears.  People who had formerly forgotten that the freedoms gained must be maintained, suddenly ignite with a sense of purpose.  The joy felt when justice is given and the favor of God is apparent is indescribable.  Sometimes we have to almost lose a freedom to appreciate it all the more and recognize the favor of God that is upon us when we walk in accordance to His Word. Although I am certain my friends would have preferred not to undergo the persecution and threats they suffered, the result ended up in God receiving glory and their freedoms cherished by many.

Lord, help us to not take for granted the freedom we have to worship You.  May we cry out to You and see once again Your favor on our land, one nation under God.

True Righteousness

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Philippians 3:8-9

“More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my LORD, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things – indeed, I regard them as dung! – that I may gain Christ  9 and be found in Him not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness – a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s righteousness.”

Isaiah 64:6

“We are all like one who is unclean, all our so-called righteous acts are like a menstrual rag in your sight. We all wither like a leaf; our sins carry us away like the wind.”

Under house arrest, Paul was free to pen this precious book of the Bible.  Sometimes I wonder if house arrest is what it takes for us to accomplish God’s will – our busy lives have to be paused so we can really focus on what God has called us to.  Certainly times of illness or breaks in schedule give us an occasion to pause and contemplate.  Paul wrote this book as a “safeguard” (3:1) to his brothers and sisters.  What was he trying to protect them from?  False righteousness.

Full of zeal, few compared to the righteousness by the law that Paul had achieved.  Yet he recognized that what was formerly viewed in his eyes and others as righteous was now disgusting to him and not true righteousness at all.  Paradoxically, he saw that his loss of that perceived position of righteousness was truly a gain.  Though we are in the new covenant, we have the same systems of righteousness today, seemingly unnoticed.

There is a danger today of ascribing holiness externally – what we wear, what we eat, how we serve the church.  And while these outward signs done in accordance with God’s Word are evidence of fruit born in the lives of faithful followers of Christ, they are not our righteousness.  This does not mean we cast off the wisdom in approaching decisions of dress, food and service as insignificant because they do not make us righteous.  Rather, our hope is not in them and there is no pride we can have for making the supposedly “right” decisions.

The graphic image of righteous acts being likened to a menstrual rag is crude.  The LORD does not mince words with us – He knows how futile the pursuit of righteousness apart from Him is and makes it plain that it does not come close to what He says is righteous.  The price of blood for sins is also repulsive to us – the requirement seems so unnecessary and disgusting – slaughtering an animal for our iniquity.  Until we catch a glimpse of the holiness of God.  Sin is death.  False righteousness is death, not life.  It leads us away from a close relationship with God and instead into a dead religion.

Our lips can say the right words, we can outwardly manifest all of the “religiously correct” standards according to some, but still not understand what it means to be truly righteous.  Until it is etched into our hearts that we truly do not contain any righteousness on our own, we are indeed far from righteousness.  Maintaining that understanding is so very difficult, for we begin to see God working in us and can be deceived that it is actually us being righteous.  In God’s economy, His righteousness would be imputed to the unholy.  Completely undeserved, blemished lambs covered in His Holy blood.  I am undone.  Praise His Name.

Oh God – we kneel before you poor, destitute, having no righteousness of our own.  We come before You recognizing that only You are truly righteous!  Please help us to be like Paul – always cognizant that we are chief of sinners – and to live sold out for Your glory alone.