Teach Me

Make your ways known to me, Lord; teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation;
I wait for you all day long

The Lord is good and upright; therefore he shows sinners the way.
He leads the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.
All the Lord’s ways show faithful love and truth
to those who keep his covenant and decrees.

Occasionally, my wife and I will have a disagreement. — I know…That’s crazy talk! Who ever has a disagreement with their spouse?! — But every now and then we find ourselves not seeing eye-to-eye on a given subject. Since we’re both pretty strong-willed, neither one of us is afraid of arguing our viewpoint. Usually, we are able to come to some sort of agreement without too much difficulty, but occasionally one of us will feel strongly enough that we dig in our heels and hold our ground.

I remember one time when we were having an argument and Elizabeth diagnosed my problem.

“You know what your problem is? You always think you’re right.”

Of course I do! If I thought I was wrong, I would change my opinion! If you can show me new information that I didn’t have before, or a flaw in my reasoning, I’m happy to reconsider my stance. No one intentionally gets the wrong answer. That would just be foolish.

The real problem, though, is when we don’t know what we don’t know. Ignorance is dangerous and can lead us down paths where we don’t want to go. Rather than being stubborn and opinionated, we must train ourselves to be humble and teachable. That is what the Psalmist is writing about in this passage.

Throughout Scripture, God is calling us to a higher way of living, a better way. The rules and restrictions that he places upon us are not arbitrary or capricious. They are intentionally designed to help us live the life of abundance and blessing that God desires for us. God calls us to be holy and righteous because that is the only way that we can accomplish what we were designed to do…to have fellowship with and worship God.

But holiness and righteousness do not come naturally to us. In fact, because of the distortion of sin, holiness and righteousness are the exact OPPOSITE of what comes naturally to us. So we must constantly be evaluating ourselves, adjusting our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors to fall in line with God and what he is doing in the world around us. But we can’t do that if we are not humble enough to learn his ways.

Life is hard. Making the right choice is difficult, and sometimes it feels like we’re just taking a shot in the dark. But that is not how God intends it to be. He has not left us to our own devices. He has shown us the way, through the Law, and through the example of Jesus Christ. Are we smart enough to acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers and that God knows best?

Commit to living every day according to God’s ways. Seek him out and He will speak light, life, and wisdom into your day. I can’t imagine doing better than that on my own.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for your revelation to us and patient instruction while we figure things out. We acknowledge the limits of human understanding, and seek to follow your ways instead. Help us to cultivate humility and a teachable spirit at all times. In the name of Jesus we ask this, Amen.

Sowing Into Promise

There was a famine in the land, besides the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines, in Gerar.

Then the Lord appeared to him and said: “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land of which I shall tell you. Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father…

Then Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold; and the Lord blessed him. The man began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous; for he had possessions of flocks and possessions of herds and a great number of servants. So the Philistines envied him. (Genesis 26)

Each day of your life is a never-ending string of choices.  Some are mundane like as selecting your wardrobe for the day or where to eat for lunch.  Other are important life-altering decisions, such as choosing your spouse, relocating to a new city, or changing career paths.  Some of these decisions are made intentionally, as an effort to accomplish a goal that we’ve set for ourselves. Other times, we are forced to react to circumstances beyond our control, and we have to decide how we are going to respond to the situation.

In Genesis 26, we find Isaac in just such a place.  There was a famine going on and as the head of his household he was responsible for the well-being of his family and servants. He knew that something had to be done, but what should he do? He moved his family to Gerar, and that’s when the Lord spoke to him.  God made him a promise that if he would remain in the land, that he would follow through on the covenant that he had made with Isaac’s father, Abraham. 

So what did Isaac do? He not only stayed; he took it to the next level. Isaac responded to God’s promise by planting crops…in the middle of a famine! If God was going to give him the land, then Isaac was going to invest in it.  He poured time and resources into it. In return, God blessed him with a hundredfold harvest. Imagine the wealth, influence, and power that comes with being the man with all the food and resources in a time of want. Isaac became rich and powerful so quickly that the Philistines became jealous and the king even asked him to leave because he couldn’t handle the competition!

When we examine this story closely, we a couple of principles in action that lead to Isaac’s blessing:

  • Communication — There was an established relationship between Isaac and God.  In this passage, it does not indicate that Isaac sought God’s direction yet because of the relationship that existed between them (Isaac had seen God’s hand in his own father’s life), when God spoke Isaac listened. Too often we plan our lives and try to figure out our problems without God’s input, and that’s where we end up in trouble.  And then when God does speak, we must be willing to listen.
  • Investment — Isaac understood the principle of sowing and reaping, of investment and return. So when God made a promise, Isaac had faith enough to sow into that promise. God is constantly at work and it is our responsibility to make sure that we are on board with what he’s doing in our lives, families, and communities. Wherever God has planted you, make sure that you have bought into the vision.  Give of your time and resources to advance the kingdom.  God sees and rewards the sacrifices we make.

Where has God planted you?  Are you investing in yourself…your family…your church…your career…your community?  The blessings of God are real.  He’s waiting to pour them into you, but you have to sow before you can reap!

PRAYER: Father God, thank you for being a God that we can count on. Your words are sure, and you desire to bless your people.  Help us to be wise enough to follow the path that you lay before us and invest in that promised future.  Bless the seeds that we sow to ensure a bountiful harvest of blessing in our lives, the lives of those around us, and souls won for your kingdom.  In Christ’s name, Amen.

Yes & No

“But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No” be “No,” lest you fall into judgment.” (James 5:12)

Recently, William asked if I would be willing to play a board game with him but I was busy at the time so I gave him the canned “Dad” response—“We’ll see.”  This satisfied him for the moment and off he ran to find something else to do.  Then, I overheard him talking with Ben, telling him that I would be playing a game with him later and would he like to play as well.

“What did he actually say?”

“We’ll see.”

“That’s ‘Dad’ for no.”

Ultimately, we DID play the board game, but it appears that whether I intended it to be that way or not, the boys had learned to interpret my words in different ways.

The people we interact with learn our patterns of speech and behavior, and whether the two line up. It’s a natural part of human psychology, to find patterns in our environment and use them to predict future interactions. This means that if we desire to be known as a person that can be counted on, as a person of integrity, we must carefully choose our words and then follow through with our commitments. 

It is very easy to over-promise and under-perform, especially when we are feeling pressure to commit to something that we don’t really want to do in the first place. You feel guilty so you agree to something, and then procrastinate because you don’t want to do it.  Then you feel guilty for procrastinating, and you rush to get it done at the last minute.  That’s not how I want to live my life, but I’ve found myself in that situation so many times!

It would be much better if I just did as James instructed…Let my “Yes” be “Yes” and “No” be “No.”  What might that look like?

  • No — Sometimes we just need to say “No” and that can be very hard to do if we don’t want to upset someone.  In some cases, we must say “No” to something that is good and worthwhile so we can say “Yes” to something that is more important. To accomplish this, though, you must have a very clear understanding of your priorities, so you can evaluate between things.
  • Yes — If you do commit to something, follow through!  It doesn’t help if you say you will do something but then flake out on the person asking for your assistance, and it just makes you look bad. 
  • Maybe — There is nothing wrong with saying, “Let me get back to you later.”  This prevents you from making a commitment before you’ve had a chance to consider it.  But if you do this, make sure to follow up with the person and let them know your decision.

It is important that people be able to trust you and your word. It goes beyond social standing and responsibility. As a believer, each of us is a witness to Jesus Christ. Everything we do should point people to him.  If you have gained a reputation as someone who cannot be counted on with small things, how will they ever trust you with subjects of eternal consequence?

PRAYER: Father, thank you for being a God that can always be counted on.  Your word is faithful and your promises sure.  Help us to follow your example…to be trustworthy people of integrity.  In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen!

Angry Responses

Be angry, and do not sin.
Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still.
Offer the sacrifices of righteousness,
And put your trust in the Lord.
(Psalm 4:4-5)

Anger is a part of the human experience. We all feel it occasionally bubbling up within ourselves and have to figure out what to do with it. Like a switch, it can turn off the rational part of our brain, causing us to say and do things that we would not normally do. It drains us physically, taxing our willpower and making us feel ill due to increased blood pressure and tension. It’s not fun.

We also find ourselves on the receiving end of someone else’s anger from time to time. Whether we have done anything to deserve it or not, interacting with others means we will have to deal with the angry people. It can be frustrating, and ruin an otherwise good day.

Anger is a natural emotional response to the circumstances of life. God designed us to have this emotional capacity within us, yet the Bible repeatedly cautions us regarding how we cope with our anger. This is because anger is volatile, and can quickly take us to a place we do not want to be. So what should we do with our anger? Psalm 4 gives us a few tips as to what we can do to process our anger in a healthy manner:

  • Do not sin — Whatever our response is to be, there must be limits to how far we will go. Even when we are in the midst of an emotional response, we still are responsible to live and move within the limitations of God’s laws. It’s important that you establish boundaries for yourself before emotions get high, because in the heat of the moment is not when you are likely to exercise restraint.
  • Back off and keep things in perspective — Closely related to the first point is the ability to keep a proper perspective of the situation at hand. Sure, that other person mistreated you, or cut you off, or said something nasty on Facebook, but is it really worth the fight? Is rising to the challenge really going to have a positive impact on your day, circumstances or relationships? When we back up and take a “big picture” view of the situation, we’ll often find that the thing we are all worked up about is not as big a deal as it seems when we are in the middle of it.
  • Do the right thing — Sometimes we have to force ourselves to do the right thing. It can be extremely difficult to do when we are upset, but we must stay true to the vision of character and integrity that God has called us to pursue. Sometimes we have to forgive and overlook an offense. Other times we have to follow through on commitments we have made long after the desire to do so has gone. God sees and rewards our faithfulness.
  • Put your trust in the Lord — God has promised over and over in Scripture that he will take care of us. He sees when you have been wronged, and has promised judgment upon evildoers. Vengeance is his, another passage says. And in the meantime, he WILL provide for you and take care of anything you may need.

Anger is an issue that will have to be addressed, whether within yourself or others, and ensuring that we approach it in the correct way will help you to walk in the abundance of God’s blessing.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for providing wisdom on how to best live our lives. We desire to live in a holy and righteous manner, which means we must have a firm control of our emotions and responses. Help us to control our tongues, to maintain a heavenly perspective on our circumstances, and to choose righteousness when everything within us is screaming otherwise. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen!

It’s Not Fair!

“He answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?’ (Matthew 20:13-15)

When I was a child, I was very disturbed by what I saw as injustice. If my sister and I were not treated equally or if I were held to different standards from the rest of my friends, I would protest to my parents, saying, “It’s not fair!” As they can attest, once I had it in my mind that I was being treated unfairly, it was very difficult for me to let it go. In fact, at one point my father jokingly recommended that I become a lawyer because of my tendency to argue the merits of my case.  However, from a young age I knew that I could never have a career in law because I would not be able to handle the flaws of our justice system (seeing the innocent wrongly punished and the guilty unpunished). Even to this day, nothing frustrates me more than when something seems unjust or unfair, and I don’t think I’m alone in feeling like this.

I think part of the reason injustice elicits such a strong emotion from us is because we are made in the image of a just God.  There is something in us that objects when things are not as they should be. This world is broken and flawed, and when we are confronted with that brokenness our spirits declare, “This should not be!” And we are right. The world that we live in is not the world as it was designed to be. Someday God will restore the world, redeeming creation from the effects of sin, but until that day we must learn to navigate serving a just God in an unjust world.

So what does that look like?

In Matthew Chapter 20, Jesus tells the story of a vineyard owner and some day laborers hired to work in his fields.  The vineyard owner goes out at several times during the course of the day to hire more workers and when it comes time to settle up at the end of the day, he gives a full day’s wage even to those who only put in a couple of hours of work. Of course, the laborers that worked all day are incensed, feeling that they should be paid more than the latecomers.  The owner’s response is given at the top of this post, but basically he says it’s his money and he can do what he wants with it.

When I first heard this story, I found myself agreeing with the angry workers.  It just makes sense that those who work harder and longer deserve a greater reward.  However, this story is important in helping us understand that sometimes our idea of justice is lacking something from God’s perspective. What our human understanding of justice leaves out is the dimensions of grace.  God, because of his goodness and mercy, desires to give us over and above what we deserve. I am so grateful that this is the case, because I know that I don’t deserve half of the blessings that God has placed in my life!

In light of this fuller understanding of justice, I must change how I interact with others. If my desire is to become more like God, that means I need to shift my conception of justice from giving others what they deserve to extending mercy and grace to them. Sometimes that means withholding consequences they do deserve (mercy) and other times it means giving them what they do not (grace). This can be very hard to do, especially when that very person has wronged you in the past.  It’s hard to extend forgiveness when the person is unrepentant and can’t even bring themselves to apologize, but that is exactly what we are called to do.

We may not be able right every wrong or reform our government’s justice system, but we can bring something better than man’s justice into a broken world. If we are obedient, we can bring the light of true healing and redemption!  The prophet Micah sums it up so well when he tells God’s people to quit over-thinking everything and, “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” (6:8)  It’s that easy!

Prayer: Father, you have placed a desire for justice in our very being, and through the teaching of Jesus you have shown us what true justice looks like.  Though it may not always be easy, help us to be like the vineyard owner in the story.  Free us from the trap of unforgiving attitudes and help us to shower mercy and grace on everyone we meet.  We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

I Want To See

And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (the son of Timaeus), a blind beggar was sitting by the road. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many warned him to keep quiet, but he was crying out all the more, “Have mercy on me, Son of David!”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called the blind man and said to him, “Have courage! Get up; he’s calling for you.” He threw off his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.

Then Jesus answered him, “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Rabboni,” the blind man said to him, “I want to see.”

Jesus said to him, “Go, your faith has saved you.” Immediately he could see and began to follow Jesus on the road. (Mark 10)

I have always loved this story from the gospel of Mark. It is short and to the point, and yet it marks a huge turning point in Bartimaeus’ life. Isn’t it funny how something so huge and life-altering can happen so quickly, almost before we even realize what’s happening.

Although the Bible doesn’t give us a whole lot of follow-up, I’m sure that it took some time for it to fully sink in, for Bartimaeus to adjust to the new normal. Things that once were impossible for him were suddenly available options. I don’t know about you, but I would love to have God bless me in such a way that a whole new world of opportunity opened up in front of me!

However, before Bartimaeus could receive his blessing there were a few prerequisites that had to be in place:

  1. He was humble — Bartimaeus realized that he was literally helpless. There was nothing he could do to restore his own sight. He recognized that he needed a miracle and cried out to Jesus for mercy. He placed himself fully in God’s hands.
  2. He was persistent — When others tried to quiet him, he just increased his volume. He didn’t care if it annoyed them or made them uncomfortable. All he knew was that he had an opportunity to have an encounter with God, and he was not going to miss his chance. Nothing was going to stand between him and his blessing.
  3. He was ready — When Jesus called for him, Bartimaeus threw off his coat and jumped up. It didn’t take him long to respond when Jesus called for him, because he was anticipating a response from God.
  4. He knew what he needed — When Jesus asked him what he wanted, Bartimaeus didn’t have to think about it or check his wishlist. He knew what his greatest need was and he brought it before the Lord with a clear and direct request.
  5. He had faith — His faith was the open door that allowed God to not only restore his physical sight but also save his soul! In one life-changing instant, Bartimaeus’ physical AND spiritual needs were met, but it would not have been possible without faith.

What is your greatest need? Have you made it a matter of humble, persistent prayer? Are you ready and anticipating a response from God? Do you trust that his answer, positive or negative, is perfect and the best outcome for you?

PRAYER: Father, have mercy on us! Thank you for your gracious and merciful provision in our times of need. You have been so good to us, and your promises have never failed. For our current and future needs, we trust and rely on you! In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

I Am Ready

Then Paul replied, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

Since he would not be persuaded, we said no more except, “The Lord’s will be done.”  (Acts 21)

Commitment is an odd concept for many of us.  On the one hand, we believe that it is a good thing to be committed and loyal, a person that can be counted on and trusted.  Yet, when it comes time to actually do the committing, we balk.  It could be that we are afraid of committing to the wrong thing. Or perhaps we just value our freedom so highly, that we don’t want to be held back in any way.

This attitude towards commitment has had a devastating effect on many of the institutions that we once held dear. From civic groups and social clubs to sports teams and even marriages, our communities are struggling to find people willing to commit. Trying to plan a get-together for a group of friends can be an exercise in frustration, as people neglect to RSVP and even if they do, they may or may not show up!

Sadly, this tendency has infected the church as well. Research shows that even “regular” church-goers are attending less frequently than in the past. Those who do attend are not as likely to volunteer to help, and when they do it is a short term of service. Please, understand that this is not an indictment, but an honest look at where we are as a people and as a church. I think that this is something that warrants some close attention and self-examination.

I am so grateful that we live in a country where our rights to worship God according to our conscience and the dictates of our religion are protected. However, because our faith is “safe,” we lack the clarifying urgency that believers in other countries and cultures possess.  We can afford to be less attentive to matters of faith and observance because the stakes do not feel as high. We do not have to fear physical harm or criminal/political repercussions. 

However, there IS danger involved when we allow our spiritual lives to take a back-burner.  When we fail to set aside time for daily prayer and worship, our spiritual growth is stunted.  When we do not study the Word in the context of community, we run the risk of mis-interpreting what God is saying, or simply read our own biases into Scripture. When we fail to gather with other believers, we cannot be encouraged and supported and miss out on opportunities to be the encourager! 

Someday, when we stand before our Creator, we will have to give an account for our stewardship of the spiritual gifts that he places within each of us.  The book of Revelation makes clear of the terrible consequence of “luke-warm” commitment. I pray that none of us suffer that fate!

When faced with the prospect of imprisonment, suffering and even death, Paul was unwavering. He had seen the risen Lord.  He had witnessed signs, miracles, and wonders. When others tried to dissuade him from preaching the gospel, Paul was relentless because he knew the importance of the Great Commission and he knew his role in it.  We need that kind of clarity and commitment today!

What is your role in the community of believers?  Do you have one? What spiritual gifts do you possess and how are you exercising them? Have you allowed worldly distractions to take your focus off of Christ and his church? When you are faced with adversity, are you able to say, as Paul did, “I am ready?”

PRAYER: Father, thank you that we live in a context where we are not persecuted for our faith, and we are able to worship you without fear. Help us to fix our eyes on you, on what is truly important. Help us to discipline ourselves, to embrace commitment rather than run from it. We desire to be a part of what you are doing…in our families, in our communities, in our nation, and in the world.  In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen!

I Gave Them The Same Reply

When Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall and that no gap was left in it — though at that time I had not installed the doors in the city gates — Sanballat and Geshem sent me a message: “Come, let’s meet together in the villages of the Ono Valley.” They were planning to harm me.

So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing important work and cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” Four times they sent me the same proposal, and I gave them the same reply.

(Nehemiah 6)

Have you ever noticed that when you start to move in a positive direction, that’s when distractions and roadblocks seem to appear? As long as you are just drifting along, not making any waves, things seem to be so much easier. Sure, you might bump into a rock every now and then, but you can just go with the flow and move past it. But when you decide that you’re not going to just let life come to you, when you set a goal and start moving towards it, that’s when things get difficult.

As is illustrated in today’s passage, people will array themselves against you and try to stop you from accomplishing your purpose. Some will be enemies, as in Nehemiah’s case, but even more perplexing is when it is your friends and family are the ones speaking negativity into you! Let’s explore some of the reasons why you might experience pushback:

1. Fear of Change

Humans are creatures of habit. It helps us make sense of the chaos around us when we can recognize patterns of circumstances and behaviors. When you decide to change the status quo, it throws things off and can create anxiety for others.

2. Jealousy

Some people cannot bear to see someone else content, happy, and fulfilled when they are not feeling those things in their own life. They would rather tear you down or hold you back than to see you receive a blessing that they desire but lack.

3. Control

Some want, consciously or unconsciously, to manipulate others. When you choose to acknowledge God as the Lord of your life, and submit to him, it threatens their desire be in control. When you are heeding and moving with the Holy Spirit, people will see they don’t exercise power over you any more.

4. Conviction/Guilt

When you decide to improve yourself or obey a call of God on your life, it can spark conviction in the heart of others who know that they also need to make some changes. Maybe they aren’t ready to up their level of commitment, so seeing you make strides in your life or walk with God makes them see the need in their own life, and it makes them feel guilty.

As I mentioned above, it’s not always our enemies that attempt to frustrate, dissuade or discourage us, but Nehemiah modeled the perfect response for both friend and foe — “I am doing important work and cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” — He was confident that he was doing the right thing and would let nothing get in the way of accomplishing his goal. They were persistent in their attempts, but Nehemiah was consistent in his responses.

Someday, we will all stand before God and answer for our actions. We will be called to account for our responses to his leading. When God placed a prompting in your spirit, or an opportunity to be busy about his business, what was your reply? What did you say to those tried to stop you? I hope that we will also be able to say, “I gave them the same reply.”

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, you have called us to grow in wisdom and righteousness, and we want to be faithful to that call. When others do not understand the call on our lives or are working counter to it, help us to shrug off the distraction and stay focused on what is important. Give us the confidence to be steadfast in our obedience to you. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen!

Everything That Breathes

Praise God in his sanctuary.
Praise him in his mighty expanse.
Praise him for his powerful acts;
praise him for his abundant greatness.

Praise him with trumpet blast;
praise him with harp and lyre.
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and flute.
Praise him with resounding cymbals;
praise him with clashing cymbals.

Let everything that breathes praise the Lord.

Psalm 150

I love reading the Psalms. When I was younger, I did not appreciate them as much. I did not really enjoy them as much as reading the parts of the Bible that talked about miracles and battles and heroes of the faith. But as I grew older, I began to connect with the emotions that characterize many of the different Psalms — joy and sadness, triumph and defeat, determination and desperation, and running through it all a sense of awe and thankfulness for the grace and mercy of God. This collection of ancient poems and song lyrics speaks to every part of the human experience and it is comforting to know that the emotions you feel or the struggles you face are normal.

The book ends ends on a joyous note with the simple psalm listed above. It reminds us that we should always be engaged in worship. It is why we were created, and no one is exempt from the command. When you read through the book, the writers of the various Psalms demonstrate how it is possible to praise the Lord regardless of your circumstances, so we really have no excuse!

Let’s take a look at why worship is so important:

1. It is deeply ingrained in who you are.

Hammers are made for hammering. Computers are made for computing. People are made for worship. It’s a part of your design. If you are not worshiping, you are not performing one of your primary tasks! Is it any wonder that so many feel empty and unfulfilled when they are neglecting one of their most basic functions?

2. It ensures that you maintain perspective.

When we worship, we begin to realize the immensity and majesty of our Creator and the smallness of our individual part in his creation. It helps us find our place, our purpose, and it reminds us that God is so much bigger than all of those big, scary, hairy problems that we face.

3. It inoculates us against negative thinking and speech.

It is very difficult to praise your Creator with one breath and then turn around and bite the head off of a family member or co-worker. Worship elevates the mind and lifts you above petty conflicts, jealousies, and hurt feelings. When we worship negative thoughts and emotions can’t find purchase in our souls.

4. It unites us with each other and with the rest of creation.

When we participate in worship, we are just singing along with the sun, moon, stars, oceans, mountains, plants, animals and creepy crawlies. They all proclaim God’s glory. And when we worship, we are joining believers all around the world, from many different nations and cultures. It unites us despite our differences, and unity is something that is needed now more than ever!

This is by no means an exhaustive list and we could find many more reasons for or benefits derived from worship. It’s better than multi-vitamins, diet, exercise or any self-help regimen ever devised to get you on the right track. The great part is that we don’t have to wait until Sunday to get started. You can worship right now, wherever you are!

I encourage you to make some time today to engage in worship. Whether it’s during your commute or in your office, blaring through your stereo system or straight to your brain with headphones, during your quiet time or dancing around while you do your chores, there is no better activity to set the tone of your day!

PRAYER: Father, we stand in awe of Your majesty and power. We are overwhelmed by the splendor of Your creation and the never-ending grace and mercy that You constantly display. Your praise will forever be on our lips. Amen!

Pretending To Be Sincere

“So my people come pretending to be sincere and sit before you. They listen to your words, but they have no intention of doing what you say. Their mouths are full of lustful words, and their hearts seek only after money. You are very entertaining to them, like someone who sings love songs with a beautiful voice or plays fine music on an instrument. They hear what you say, but they don’t act on it.” (Ezekiel 33:31-32)

In just a few weeks (October 31) we will recognize the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s attempt to reform the Catholic Church by posting his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle church. (Their equivalent of Facebook!) His intent was to open a dialogue to return the Christian faith to its origins, and through that process, he changed the course of history.

One of the results of the Reformation is that greater emphasis was placed on the public reading of Scripture and proclamation of the gospel message through preaching. Luther and the other Reformers believed that God HAD spoken to us through Scripture and WAS STILL speaking to us through the proclaimed word.

This belief even had an impact on how church sanctuaries were arranged. You may have visited a liturgical service before and noticed that many times their sanctuaries are arranged with the altar holding the communion elements front and center and the minister preaches from a podium off to one side. In Protestant churches, the speaker is brought to the center, as well, because we believe that the preaching of the word is just as important as the sacrament of communion.

However, not everyone still holds such a high view of the preached word. For some, they didn’t even want to come to church in the first place, much less sit and listen to someone talk for 30+ minutes. They are only there out of obligation. For others, the sermon is something that has to be endured to enjoy the other benefits of church life (communal worship, prayer, fellowship, etc.). Sometimes we are just get tired, distracted or feel that the message doesn’t really apply to us. All of these things can prevent us from hearing what God is trying to say to us as individuals and as a community of believers.

But a far greater danger is when you hear the message, understand what God is asking of you, and you refuse to obey. Maybe you are too afraid, stubborn, rebellious or just too lazy to get on board with what God is trying to do, but the only person you are hurting is yourself. You are literally rejecting the blessings that God has in store for you that can only be unlocked by obedience.

It’s time to quit coming to church, sitting in the same spot, going through the same motions and pretending to be sincere. Put a smile on your face…your sins are forgiven! Sing (actually open your mouth, and sing along in corporate praise)…you were created to worship! Pay your tithe and offering…God triple-dog dares you to try to out-give him! Take notes during the sermon and dig deeper into Scripture…God is speaking to you. Love others, even when they aren’t worthy…because God first loved you!

PRAYER: Father, thank you for being patient with us when we are just going through the motions, pretending to be sincere. Create in us the desire to be holy, and dissatisfaction with an ineffective status quo. Help us to see others as you see them, and love them as you do. We want to be both Hearers AND Doers! In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

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