Filled with JOY

Psalm 126-128

Today, we will be reading from Psalm 126, 127, and 128. Wow, what an incredibly rich set of scriptures. As a worship leader at my local church in Nashville, I am always convicted to meet God in a deeper place when I read Psalms. These authors understood the honor and glory that worship brings to the LORD. 

I am in awe of the authenticity and vulnerability of these authors. I have always wanted to be able to worship like David — I hope to worship with him in the Kingdom. 

These specific Psalms are short in nature but packed for exaltation and prayer to God. I was specifically drawn to Psalm 126. 

“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,

    we were like those who dream.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter,

    and our tongue with shouts of joy;”  -Psalm 126: 1-2 

Have you ever been filled with so much joy that you can’t help but laugh? It’s the feeling where in that moment nothing else matters. All of the anxieties, worries, and struggles vanish in that brief time. I would like to think of this as a taste of the kingdom– where joy will be at home every morning. 

Today, my message is simple and short. Be a dreamer in God. Pray that he draws you closer to him. Pray for his plans for you to be made evident! And when he shows up (He is never late afterall), remember to give him the glory he is owed. 

Our God is a doer of great things. He has done so much for you. From raising his Son from the dead to bringing breath into your lungs, God has worked in your life. And he doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

Today’s song is “Great Things” by Phil Whikham. Is it theologically perfect? No. However, I believe it expresses the heart and mind of the author of Psalms who was brought to laughter from God’s providence. Yes and amen.

-Leslie Jones

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Ezekiel 39-40 and Psalm 126-128

Come Alive

Ezekiel 37-38

As a child of God, it is your duty to understand how to bring praise and worship to the LORD as a sacrifice to him. Worshipping our God should not only give you joy but also bring joy to our incredible God and to our Lord, Jesus Christ. 

The past two years have been a whirlwind for all of us. I don’t have to write it to remind you of the turmoil that our world has been in. In this historic time, its natural for us to become down–depressed even. It’s easy to think that hope is lost. 

This week, I encourage you to remember that we have a never failing — never ending — hope. In this series, I remind you of who you are– who God has made you to be — a worshipper for him. Our King has never lost a battle. He never will. I remind you that this world is going to fail you–it’s not the Kingdom of God. But, I urge you to remember that his kingdom is coming. Let’s worship while we wait for our coming King.

We call out to Dry Bones – Come Alive…

Each day, I am going to relate this devotion to a song in worship that connects to the scriptures we are focusing on. Today our song is, “Come Alive” by Lauren Daigle. I hope this song fills your heart as much as it does mine. 

“Come Alive”  is taken from Ezekiel 37.

3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”  Ezekiel 37:3-6

God always has a way of showing up doesn’t he? Our God is never late. And he proves that over and over again. In Ezekiel 37, we see a picture of hopelessness. I envision these bones to be turning to dust. If I saw this, I would be drawn toward the idea of death—nothingness—pure loss. But, somehow Ezekiel sees these bones as an opportunity for God. 

Ezekiel calls upon the LORD to make something out of what seems like nothing. The prophet believed so deeply in the giver of life that he had the courage to ask God to renew life in these bones! 

As a modern-day believer, I become convicted when I open my Bible and get a taste of the spiritual confidence that the men and women of the scriptures had. They didn’t just see and hear— they ran forward in action! 

After Ezekiel makes this act of faith, we see that these bones weren’t nothing! They belonged to the people of Israel. Before Ezekiel’s eyes, stood the men and women who sacrificed it all in order to achieve freedom. And, they did. 

Okay, I get where your head is likely going… “Les, what dry bones do I have that need to come alive?” 

For us, these scriptures are less about physical resurrection and more about being wholly rejuvenated in Spirit. How many people–this may include yourself–are giving the bare minimum for God? How many of you feel how hard it is to get up on Sunday morning? How many of you are simply…tired? 

This feeling is what leads us to having spiritually dry bones. 

We have to ask God to make us alive again in him. And we must pray for our spiritual brothers and sisters that they do the same.

“We call out to dry bones, come alive, come alive.” 

My prayer for you this Sunday is that you become spiritually alive – totally revived. I pray for your churches this morning, and for your pastors. Let us ask God to fill us with the breath of life–in order to be renewed, and to be strong once again.

-Leslie Jones

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Ezekiel 37-38 and Psalm 123-125

Make Today a Festival

Leviticus 23-24 and Psalm 29-30 

Just 37 days until Easter. We get to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on Sunday, April 4 this year. Our church is already planning a special weekend that includes a prayer walk and a special outdoor worship service. I love religious holidays. We have time to think about the true meaning of the celebration. This Christmas we sang, read Bible stories, and celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ for several weeks. We had multiple Services including a candlelight service on Christmas Eve. We also have special services for Thanksgiving which allow us the opportunity to express how truly grateful we are.   

In Leviticus 23 the Lord’s appointed festivals are given to the people. The sabbath was observed each week with rest from regular work and a sacred assembly. The Israelites were to hold festivals, sacred assemblies and offerings at appointed times annually. Each had special meaning. These festivals were reminders of what God had done, to thank Him for what He was still doing and also provided an occasion for interaction with the LORD through worship and offerings. An opportunity to break from the everyday routine and focus on the LORD. The (1)Sabbath, (2)Passover and Festival of Unleavened Bread, (3) Offering the Firstfruits, (4)Festival of Weeks, (5)Festival of Trumpets, (6)Day of Atonement and (7)Festival of Tabernacles began.

As Christians, we daily set aside time to spend with the LORD and we regularly assemble with other Christians to join in Worship and Praise through our Lord Christ Jesus. We daily walk with God and follow the example of Christ. How blessed are we to live in a time when we can openly celebrate the major holidays, and we can also celebrate every day because our God lives in us by His Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:11) We can praise Him for every good thing we experience every day.  He is available to us at all times through our mediator Christ Jesus. The book of Hebrews explains that through Jesus, we can continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.  The passage also reminds us that we should not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:15-16) So let’s dedicate every day to the LORD. 

-Rebecca Dauksas

Links to today’s Bible reading – Leviticus 23-24 and Psalm 29-30

Lessons from Jacob’s Dream

Today’s Bible Reading – Genesis 27 & 28 and Matthew 14

In Genesis 28, we find the story of “Jacob’s Ladder.”  Jacob had deceived his father, Isaac, and had “stolen” the blessing intended for Esau.  Jacob was on the run to move in with his uncle, roughly 500 miles away, so his brother Esau wouldn’t kill him.  That night Jacob had a dream with angels going up and down a ladder between God and Jacob.  When God spoke to Jacob, He didn’t condemn him for his trickery; instead, He extended the covenant to Jacob that He had made with Abraham and with Isaac.  God promised Jacob that he and his descendants would inherit the promised land, his descendants would be numerous, and all nations on earth would be blessed through Jacob and his descendants.  God also promised He would be with Jacob wherever he went.

When Jacob woke up, his first response was surprise and fear.  He named the place “Bethel” which means “the house of God”.  He set up this stone pillow as an altar and worshiped.  Finally, he dedicated his life to God.

According to “The Wiersbe Bible Commentary” by Warren Wiersbe, “The ‘if’ found in many translations of verse 20 can also be read ‘since’.  Jacob wasn’t making a bargain with God; he was affirming his faith in God.  Since God had promised to care for him, be with him, and bring him back home safely, then Jacob would affirm his faith in God and would seek to worship and honor Him alone.”

I see several applications for us.

As I understand it, the ancients believed gods (with a little “g”) were local, and if you left an area, you left the protection of the local god.  In this encounter, Jacob thought he had stumbled into the “house of God”, but found that God isn’t limited like that.  Since God would be with him everywhere, everywhere can be the house of God.  According to James 4:8, if we come near to God, God will come near to us.  

Once Jacob encountered God, his first response of surprise and fear quickly turned to worship.  When we first encounter God, we may also be struck with surprise and depending on the circumstance, fear too.  I think it is important for us to continue on to the worship stage as Jacob did.  Note that the altar he built wasn’t for offering sacrifices, it was really more of a memorial that reminded him of his encounter with God.  When we encounter similar milestones in our own lives when God has done something noteworthy for us, I think it is important for us to set up a memorial of some sort.  Ideally this is something physical, that we can look at and be reminded of what God has done for us.

Jacob’s next step was to dedicate his life to following God.  I think this step is imperative for us.  Given what God has done for us so far, our natural response should be, “Since you have brought me this far, and since you have made such great promises to me – the promise of eternal life if I remain faithful until Christ’s return, because of these things, I will live the rest of my life for you, God.”

As the story continues, Jacob had many hardships throughout his life.  Despite them all, God was still with Jacob. And Jacob remained true to God for the rest of his life.

Psalm 46:7 says, “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”  God kept his promises to Jacob, and he will keep his promises to us.

The real question is, will you remain true to Him?

–Steve Mattison

Called to Worship

Psalm 134 & 146-150

Psalm 150 2 NIV sgl

What’s your favorite song? Not the one that makes you sound sophisticated to your friends or the one that is just a current fling, but the one that is your favoriteWhat’s the song that makes you wanna roll down your windows and sing out as you drive along? (It’s hard to narrow down, I know. There are many “emo” bands from the mid-‘00s that are contenders for me.) For many of you, it’s probably a song that is ‘happier”: they probably have upbeat lyrics, a fun melody, a catchy tune. (For you music nerds, probably a major key, rather than minor key.) The reason those kinds of songs may be your favorite is because music reaches into a deep part of what makes us human; joyful songs uplift our souls.
Joyful songs uplifting humans has been true across time. As we have been reading the psalms, we are of course reading the songbook(s) of the Jewish people. These were not just words on the page, but were a collection of songs that the people would sing. These songs, these Psalms we are reading today are songs of JOY, songs of SHOUTING, SONGS OF JUBILATION! Each one of them are the happy, joyful, exuberant songs that, were they sung today, would make you want to tilt your head back and let loose a “joyful noise” with everyone around you. I wish we could hear exactly as they sounded when they were sung as the people worshipped in the temple or on their way up to the temple mount.
The first and last psalms (134, 150) are short, but even the longest psalm (147) is written in a nearly breathless ecstasy. They are read quickly, at a pace that rushes along. This is because in all of them, there is a repetition of phrases. Search all the Psalms together in NASB on Bible Gateway. The effect of the repetition is quite striking and intentional by the author. In our minds, we may think that the author should have used different word or phrases to be interesting. Remember, when something is repeated, that is something the author wants us to remember. These songs are making use of something akin to a “chorus”. They wanted people to easily remember the song as they walked up the mount and sang.
Moreover, these psalms show us that the cacophonous world we inhabit is not just a torrent of noises, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Instead, Psalm 150 invites the praise of the instruments of the people. Trumpet and lyre and timbrel and cymbal, (and drums and guitar and piano and voice); ALL are called to give glory to God our maker and creator. Even more is the section of Psalm 148:7-12 where the psalmist asks the inhabitants of the earth to praise the Lord. But what is called to praise? Sea monsters, hail, and fruit trees, along with mountains and cattle. The list shows us that it is more than humans that are called to worship; we are to be the forefront of creation, but creation will praise its creator, and we have a choice to make in who or what we praise!
Today is Sunday. Today, above all days, is the day when we think about God who made us, who raised his Son from the dead, and who rules over us all. Find the song that allows you to worship him, crank it up in your headphones, in your speakers, in your car, and sing to the glory of the Lord. (To get “Jesus turnt” try : Amazing Grace by Phil Wickam, Glorious Day by Passion, or Church Clap by KB.)
Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord!
Praise the LORD!
Jake Ballard
Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be 1 Kings 9 and 2 Chronicles 8 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

God Speaks

1 Chronicles 23-25

1 Chronicles 25 1 NIV

I remember the song that came on the radio immediately after receiving the text that a dear woman of God was being placed in hospice care following her 4 year battle with cancer – I Can Only Imagine.  And God spoke to me.  My friend and mentor was getting closer and closer to the dark sleep of death and we would be separated from her for a time.  But at Jesus’ resurrection she will rise and be closer to Jesus than ever before!  I wonder – will she sing and dance or fall silent at his feet?  I Can Only Imagine.

I remember the song that echoed in the rafters as the Family Camp worship band led worship at the close of a Family Camp which had come at a time of great searching and pain for our family when we were unsure of what was next but felt God leading us away from the church that was home – These are the Days of Elijah.  And God spoke to me.  “There is no god like Jehovah”.  Yes, Elijah, Moses, David had trials, too.  They were unsure, they questioned, they experienced pain, and God showed up for them in mighty ways, just as He was revealing himself for us, one day at a time.  “There is no god like Jehovah”!

I remember the song that just last night my daughter started to sing as I read aloud the Bible reading for the day from Psalm 108 – “My heart, O God, is steadfast; I will sing and make music with all my soul.”  The tune probably wouldn’t sound familiar to you because my 3 kids wrote it out and practiced it over and over with piano, guitar and voice to remember it now, 4 years later, during our devotions.  And God spoke to me – through the words of David and the tune of my children.  God is worthy of praise – through all the years and generations and ages.  Sing to Him and tell the nations!

Music is powerful.  People choose and leave churches based on the worship style.   Many report that during the time of online church they miss most not meeting to sing together with the body of Christ.  It is interesting that the most popular post on this site was one titled after a rousing and uplifting worship song which vividly brings to mind God’s might and protection – The God of Angel Armies.

But what gives music its real power is that GOD speaks through it.

In our reading today we have 3 chapters written for the Jews returning to Jerusalem after many year of living in captivity.  They are reminded of how to be God’s chosen, holy people – and that includes the temple worship spoken of in these chapters – 1 Chronicles 23-25.  We read in 1 Chronicles 23:5 that King David himself provided the instruments for the 4,000 Levites selected to lead the people in musical worship to their God.  Chapter 25 lists the heads of the families selected, “for the ministry of prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals.” (25:1).  Often we think today of prophesying as foretelling the future.  But more generically, and often used in the Scriptures, prophesying is simply speaking for the Lord.  To be God’s mouthpiece.  To say what God wants to be said.

God speaks.   And sometimes that is done with a tune, set to music, with instruments and voices lifted high.   Sing to the Lord – and listen for what He is speaking to you today.

 

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+chronicles+23-25&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be back in the songbook of the Bible: Psalm 131, 138-139 & 143- 145 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

Which verses would you make into a song to sing today?  

Do you have an interest in writing one devotion for this week?   If so, drop me a line at grow16br@gmail.com and we can discuss.

 

 

A Call to Worship

Why we Should Give Praise to the LORD

Psalm 95, 97-99

 

psalm 95 1

I got so excited reading Psalm 95 today because of my enduring joy and love for worshipping God in song. Growing up, music was something that I would consider a “constant”. It kept me grounded in some of the most difficult moments of my life, and it helped me celebrate my greatest victories. When it was hard to pray, or if I struggled to read my Bible like I should, worship was still a peaceful, easy place for me to meet with God. As I got older, worship was where I developed my deepest relationship with God. It has always forced me to be vulnerable and open. 

 

But as I have grown in faith and maturity, I have discovered that coming to the LORD in song has absolutely nothing to do with how it makes us feel. That is a plus of course–what we gain from pouring out our heart to God is incredible. But ultimately, coming before the LORD in praise and worship is something we should do because God has earned it. 

 

Let’s think about it. When we go to church…Or in our current case, when we watch our church services online. Most of the service is centered around teaching, edifying, even sometimes, convicting us. Worship is a specific time to give back. It’s about adoration and proclamation. 

 

O come, let us sing to the Lord;

    let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!   (Psalm 95:1)

 

What a special opportunity we have to come together in unity to shout to the LORD with gladness for all of his goodness and mercy that he has poured upon us. That is amazing! And it is something we shouldn’t take lightly. 

 

So whether you are musical or not, I urge you to take some time to make a joyful noise to the LORD. It is one of the greatest gifts you can give to our God who has everything. And that is a gift worth giving. 

Leslie Jones

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+95%2C+97-99&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be a little bit of everything: 2 Samuel 24, 1 Chronicles 21-22 & Psalm 30 as we continue with the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Strike up the Band!

1 Chronicles 6

1 Chronicles 6 32a NIV

As our Bible reading today we have just one chapter in the book of 1st Chronicles (chapter 6) – still in the genealogies.  This chapter is devoted to the tribe of Levi.  Levi was one of the 12 sons of Jacob and his descendants would be the ones God chose to be the Levites for the nation of Israel.  They were set apart for service to God.  They would be the care takers of the tabernacle (where people sought God), and later the temple.  From their tribe would come the family line that would serve as priests and the most holy role of high priest, which later Jesus himself would take upon his shoulders.

But, that’s not all – some of the Levites (those listed in verses 33-47) – were given the responsibility of temple musicians.  They were to play, sing, and make music to the Lord – to lead the temple-goers in their worship of the Most High.

I love that God created us to enjoy music.  I love the power of music – just read any article on music and the brain or music therapy – or better yet – listen to the nurse as he plays his guitar in the hall of his covid-19 ward.  Or witness the miraculous turn-around of the struggling infant when his big sister sings to him the song that she always sang to the baby in her mommy’s belly.  Or hear the band play as the Titanic sinks.  Music grips us and moves us in many ways.  Let music be a source that moves you toward God as you come to worship.

As our church has gone online during this time of isolation, I miss the community lifting their voices and instruments together in worship.  But even now, music remains as a powerful means to move us closer to God.  Look up the words to an old hymn.  Pick up an instrument you have neglected too long.  Thank those who have used the gift of music to lead you into meaningful worship.  Share with your family a song that reminds you of God’s love, character and promises.  Search for Bible verses about music.  Play worship music as you go about your day.  Research how many instruments are listed in the Bible?  Post a song of Christian joy and hope on social media.  Write your own psalm of praise – maybe you will even set it to a tune.

Music was a powerful part of worship long ago, it is still today, regardless of our situation – and it will be in the future as well.  I love the verses in Revelation where the faithful will sing in worship to God and the Lamb Jesus Christ as the Kingdom of God is preparing to unfold.  Let’s get started practicing today to be a part of that choir!  God and His Son are worthy of our worship!  Sing it out!

 

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Chronicles+6&version=NIV

Tomorrow we go back to the Psalms – 81, 88, & 92-93 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Worship as an Identity

John 4 24

Free theme week: Worship
Chapter reading of the day: John 4

There are many names and titles that the church is given. We’re called the bride of
Christ, saints, children of God, brothers and sisters in Christ, the body of Christ,
disciples of Jesus, and so on. However, there is another reference to the church in
John 4. In this chapter, Jesus and the Samaritan woman are speaking at the well. During their conversation Jesus makes this remark about worship: “But an hour is coming and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be his worshippers. God is spirit and those who worship must worship in spirit and truth” – John 4.23-24. Biblical worship is worship that is so integrated into our life and weaved in through every aspect of our being that worship becomes our identity. We worship. That is who we are. And with being a worshipper we worship God in “spirit and truth”. The phrase “spirit and truth” has perplexed me for a long time. The last few years God has shown me what it means to worship him specifically “in spirit”. We are to worship God by the empowerment of the holy spirit. We worship God in and through and by means of the holy spirit. There is a spiritual aspect of worship that we can gain access to by the spirit. This could be prophetic utterances, words of knowledge, and having a very real sense of the presence of God near you during worship. At the same time we should worship God “in truth”. We should be careful not to let our experiences 100% determine what we believe about God. We should check our experiences with what the Bible says. We should engage our mind and reasoning faculties with God and the Bible. I believe that holistic worship is worship that is executed in “spirit and truth”. Jesus says that God desires true worshippers to worship him in spirit and truth. God doesn’t want a church-goer or someone who is defined by what they do in church. God desires a worshipper to worship him in spirit and truth. God wants worshippers. You are called to be a worshipper. Your identity is to be a worshipper. I pray that God moves on your heart and mine and calls us and teaches us to go deeper in worship. As I said in the beginning, living the best possible life God has for us in this world is inextricably tied to worship. You were created to worship with your whole being at all times in all seasons.
-Jacob Rohrer

Worship God in Every Life Situation

Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together

Free theme of the week: Worship
Chapter reading of the day: Psalm 34

Worship is a loaded word in the American church. Part of the misunderstanding of
worship today is that “worship” is something that only happens on a Sunday or
Wednesday. On the contrary, worship is something that should happen everyday in
every circumstance we find ourselves in. This may seem as common sense or a basic
thought, however, many Christians only worship God when things are going well in life
or only on Sundays or Wednesdays. Biblical worship is worship that permeates every
season of life including the bad ones. Today’s devotion is to encourage you to praise
God in every life season.
Here are some verses to meditate on for this topic:
“I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” – Psalm
34.1
“Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the spirit, speaking
to one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody
with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord
Jesus Christ to God even the Father” – Eph. 5.19-21
“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for your life” – I Thessalonians 5.17
I want to encourage everyone who is reading this that is going through a tough season
that it’s ok to feel sad, upset, frustrated, etc. The Bible tells us just because we follow
Christ that does not mean our lives will be problem free, actually it says the opposite.
Our lives will become harder because as our lives are conformed to Jesus we live
against the grain of culture and our own sin nature. And other times the trouble we have
in our life is self-inflicted. Regardless of the source of our troubles, God is worthy to be
praised in our trouble.
When problems in life arise the best response we can have is to press into God and
praise him. This is so easy to say and so hard to do. You may wonder “what does it
mean to praise God in seasons of trouble?”. Here are some practical suggestions that
you can use to help stimulate praise when life is hard:
1. Tell God and Jesus “thank you” – You can thank God for anything in your life,
the big things and the small things. When we thank God we stop focusing on our
problem and start glorifying God. Being thankful changes our perspective.
2. Remind yourself of God’s faithfulness in your life – Remembering how God
has moved in your life is important during times that you may not feel or hear from
God. The Old Testament is full of sections where the people of God remember how
the Lord has been faithful to encourage them during present crises (the Psalms
are a great place to start).
3. Remember that suffering that is brought on by following Jesus is an honor
and suffering for his name sake is the mark of a true follower of Jesus. In other words, your suffering is not in vain or meaningless – Suffering from following Jesus is honorable and does not escape God’s notice. When you experience this type of suffering consider it joy because it means that you’re following Jesus in a deeper way than the people around you. God is worthy of our praise not just on a Sunday or Wednesday or when life is going well. But he desires worship in every season of life. Don’t run from God when life gets hard. Praise and worship him through it.
-Jacob Rohrer

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