SHOUT!

Psalm 100

Tuesday, July 12, 2022  

            I love going to baseball games in a packed stadium full of loud and excited fans.  The same could be said for football, basketball, hockey or even soccer (but I’ve never been to a professional soccer game).  I’ll stick with baseball since it’s my favorite and I just went to a Washington Nationals game a few days ago.

            In sports they talk about having “the home team advantage”.  That comes with having the energy of thousands of cheering fans joining together to encourage you at just the right time, spurring you on, giving you that extra boost of adrenaline or confidence.  Who doesn’t get an extra boost by hearing people enthusiastically offer you encouragement?  If you’re on the pitching mound and your trying to get that last out, and 50,000 people are screaming for  you with every pitch, it has to give your fastball just a little extra pop.

            Games have their own rhythm and language. It’s very similar to a worship experience:  The National Anthem followed by the announcement of the line-up is like the call to worship.  The program is kind of like the bulletin.  There’s a big screen with information on it just as many churches have on the wall behind the pastor.  Instead of bread and wine for communion they serve beer/coke and hot dogs.  And just watch what people do when their team hits a home run- they stand up and raise their hands in the air and shout, just like they do in Church with a big hallelujah during a worship song.  When you go to games regularly you see the rhythm of the game and can anticipate what’s coming. (Be sure to stand up in the 7th inning for the stretch).  At times, they flash instructions up on the score board: “Let’s Go Nats” with a loud organist leading a kind of call and response.

            Psalm 100 is a powerful Psalm which instructs us in how to worship God.  It contains seven commands: Shout!, Worship, Come, Know, Enter, Give Thanks, Praise Him.

            There are certainly times and places when silence and solitude are very appropriate and meaningful forms of worship, but there are also times when God wants his people to rock the rafters off the room of the house.  Here God’s people are instructed to get loud and let the world know how great God is.  Don’t keep it to yourself, shout!

            The word for worship has to do with both worship and service.  Our public worship is united with our daily service to God.   We are to worship and serve God with gladness.  Worship and service are not a duty that we have to do, but a joy that we get to do.  Just as I go and happily cheer on my favorite baseball team (the Nationals), I get to come and worship my great and mighty God.

            Come before Him with joyful songs is a reminder of the importance of gathering.  In ancient Israel the people would come from all over the nation and beyond to gather at the temple of Jerusalem to praise and celebrate God.  Sure, I like watching baseball on a 60 inch flat screen t.v. with surround sound in my recliner, but it’s still not the same energy I get when I sit in a stadium with 40,000 people on a Saturday afternoon in June when the stadium is shaking and my ears are ringing.  During Covid lockdowns many were forced to worship in front of a computer screen, and that was better than not worshipping at all, but nothing beats coming together with other believers to sing joyful songs.  The Greek word for Church: ecclesia means literally “the assembly.”  True church needs to come together.

            The center command in Psalm 100 is to know.  Know that the Lord is the God who made us and that we are his people.  Jesus said that we are to love God with our heart, soul, mind and strength.  To know God with our mind means that we think about God, who He is and what He has done for us, his people.  We are blessed to have a written record- the Bible, coupled with the verbal record- the testimony of others so that we continue to know God with our minds and have God shape our thinking.

            The fifth command is enter His gates.  There is no longer a temple in Jerusalem for us to enter to worship, but we have Jesus and his Church as the true and living temple.  When we gather in the name of Jesus to bring worship to God we are entering his gate.

            We enter those gates to worship with thanksgiving.  Gratitude to God is foundational to true worship.  Failing to be grateful to God leads to all kinds of sin and brokenness.  Paul said it very clearly in Romans 1: 21,”For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. “  When we fail to give thanks to God and give God the glory it ruins our thinking and our hearts.  Take time every day to give thanks to God.

            The seventh and final command is Praise Him.  When someone hits the ball over the fence, everyone stands and cheers.  When the pitcher strikes out three in a row everyone stands and cheers.  The energy of the teammates and fans really does lift a player.  I had the benefit of watching the Nationals during the 2019 season when they won the World Series.  They were the most celebrated team: the crowd shouted, they danced, they screamed, they cheered and 40,000 people did the “baby shark” together.  I saw that team literally come back time and time again to win because the level of praise was so great.  If we can scream and shout and praise a man for hitting a home run or throwing a strike out, how much more can we praise the one who made us and gave us not only the gift of life today, but the hope of everlasting life in his coming Kingdom.

-Jeff Fletcher

Reflection Questions:

  1.  How much shouting do you do in worship?  If not much, what’s holding you back?
  2. What difference does it make to you in worship when you come together with other believers instead of just being alone?
  3. How often to do you tell God, “Thank You”?  Do you want to show your gratitude more to God?  What’s keeping you from doing it?

A Most Challenging Day

Job 1

Friday, July 1, 2022

            Take a moment to think about your life? Is there a particularly bad day you can remember having? A day where everything that could possibly go wrong does? Maybe that day is today or maybe it was 10 years ago. Regardless of when, though, those kinds of days are challenging.

I have had quite a few days like this. From having a high fever during final exams and then having my laptop shut down in the middle of the final exam or learning that my older sister had passed, life can be very challenging. There are ups and there are downs. And usually it is on the way down when we begin to ask where we are going. Most often we don’t know, or at least not in the moment.

            The book of Job is quite interesting. Some Bible scholars have even argued about it being included in the biblical canon. However, the book of Job has nonetheless become a favorite book for many who are in the midst of hardship. It is a book that a struggling Christian in the fallen world can relate to. It also offers insight into the struggles we face in life.

            In this very first chapter we find Job living a prosperous life. He is beyond wealthy and has everything anyone at that time, and probably today, could ever want. Yet in one singular day it all comes crashing down. No matter how bad of a day I have had in my life, I don’t think any could quite top Job’s. One servant after another comes to tell him that they are the lone survivor of terrible tragedies. From his sheep being burned in the fields to a building falling in on and killing his children, the heartbreak and nausea he must have suffered in that moment is unthinkable.

The introspective we have into the calamities that have befallen Job is not a luxury that Job had. He, like us in our own hardships, did not know why this was happening. He didn’t know that Satan himself was attacking him and baiting him to curse the name of his God. He was not able to witness the conversation between God and Satan and say, “Oh, ok that’s why this is happening.” He was genuinely shocked and grieved by this unexpected course of events that rattled his life.

            In the midst of all this suffering, though, Job did not lose his faith. In fact, we are told that he worshipped God despite this. However, this does not mean he was not grieved and filled with a deep sorrow. For we are also told that he tore his robes, shaved his head, and fell to the ground. He was broken, but he worshipped God in his brokenness. Sometimes it is that moment of being broken that the light of the love of God warms our cold and tired hearts through the newly formed cracks. So, like Job, lets worship God in our brokenness. 

-Hannah Deane

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Describe Job. What impresses you the most about him?
  2. Why do you think God allowed Satan to test Job?
  3. What can it look like to worship God in our brokenness? Have you been there before – or are there now?

God Cares

Exodus 3

February 9

Two powerful themes stand out to me in this third chapter of Exodus. One is the holiness of God and the second is God’s continued compassion for His people.

5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

This scripture always strikes me as an extremely important reminder of the holiness of God and the importance of recognizing it and considering if our actions adequately reflect that recognition. Are our hearts and minds in the right place when we go before God in prayer or worship?

The second theme of God’s continued compassion for His people jumps out at me in verse 7:

7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.” 

God chooses to hear our cries and to care about our suffering. I have been through a very difficult season the past few years that has been punctuated by many great losses. For this reason, reading those words in verse 7 takes on a whole new meaning. There is power in being reminded that He is listening and that He cares so very deeply.

Not only does He care about our suffering, but He also understands our insecurities and the challenges they can present for us.

11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

-Kristy Cisneros

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. In what ways might you need to “take your sandals off” before God so that you can properly acknowledge His holiness?
  2. When you encounter hard seasons in life, what are some ways that you can be reminded that God hears you and cares about your suffering?
  3. How might God be calling you to help others who are stuck in suffering? How can you bring God’s words, power and compassion to them?

Tomorrow we will read Exodus 4.

Resolution 5: Make Healthy Choices

Malachi 1-2 and Revelation 21

I think we all have flirted with the “best by” dates on food products.  Some of us have done it out of necessity, others maybe more out of laziness, but there is no doubt that some are more sensitive to these subjective guidelines .  I personally give it a sniff and stir test.  Looking for foul odors or curious textures before giving it a taste.   The level of craving or hunger often determines how much flexibility I will give.  At work, I still haven’t lived down a tub full of moldy hummus I ate because I didn’t want to waste it.  I should have just kept my mouth shut (well open really, I was eating), but alas, here I am telling another audience. Surely, the carrots, celery, and apple I was enjoying with the hummus offset any of the negative consequences.  I am willing to eat leftovers, perform sniff tests, down some soft grapes, because when I do this, I give my family an opportunity to buy healthy fresh foods, and treat them to a pleasing sit-down meal from time to time.  This Outback Dinner was brought to you by the goat cheese that sat on the bottom of the meat drawer for weeks and the awful cauliflower-something dish that no one else would eat. Nevertheless, it would seem a bit more detestable if I only treated myself alone and made my family eat the stuff growing hair in the back of the fridge.

 When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty. – Malachi 1:8

Now to frame these choices into a different context.  Is this the way we are treating our relationship with God?  Are we giving him the leftovers, the surplus of our pantry, or the rejects of our storehouse?  Is there an allotted time that you are giving God each day for prayer?  Or do you pray when you have time.  Or if you get up early.  Or when you’re in the car alone.  Are you only tithing what you have left after you pay your bills?  And that is only if there is anything left.  Or maybe not this month because things are tight.  Are you filling the church with single-ply toilet paper when you have triple-ply at your house?  Or bringing your recipe-gone-wrong to the potluck?  Or going to church only when it’s convenient to your and your kids schedule?  Or donating things because you didn’t like the style anyways? If you answered yes to any of these, what you are giving God is going to require a sniff and stir test; your offering may be lame. Your discipleship is growing mold and diseased.  When we are talking about God, we give him the firstfruits.  The unblemished.  Simply the best we have (which still is the equivalent to nothing) but it is fragrant to God and His desires.  He acknowledges the sacrifice when we bring it with a merciful heart. He sees the effort we are making to have a relationship with Him. Our offering is not animals or crops, it is our time, our effort, or energy, our money, and our stuff.

“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.” Romans 12:1

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? – Romans 8:32

God didn’t skimp on salvation.  He didn’t provide someone who was expendable.  He didn’t choose someone who was already terminally ill. He didn’t choose a criminal.  He picked the firstfruits, or as Colossians 1 says the firstborn of all creation, meaning before it all, God had already set aside the sacrifice of His son for our sins.  He picked the best.  The only man unblemished by the disease of sin.  This is our example of what sacrifice should look like.  Even though we don’t live in the age of sacrifice, giving first, going without, but most importantly showcasing with our very best effort our desire for God is still a beautiful way to show our love for Him and our request to receive the magnificence of his mercies.  He doesn’t require our sacrifice, but he desires our worship.

“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.  Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

On a final note, the best of God’s plan is yet to come.  The richness in store for us is beyond anything we would do without now.  Again and again, as you read the blueprints of the Kingdom in Revelation 21, you will be blown away by the preparations God has made.  The God outside of time has taken all of His time to make something beyond all fathom, wealth, and existence.  Wow!  Consequently, when your sacrifice is from the healthiest choice, you are going to miss some fun.  You will have to wake up early or stay up late.  You will have to do without some luxuries, or even believed necessities.  There is still a greater inherent blessing from knowing, serving, and honoring God in the reheated stuff that this life is made of in a corrupt, sinful world.  But God…Oh, how God! He is pouring His very best into what is to come.

-Aaron Winner

Read or listen to the Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Malachi 1-2 and Revelation 21

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

Hello, IT. Yeah Huh. Have You Tried Forcing An Unexpected Reboot?

Ezra 1-3

The book of Ezra picks up the story of Israel at a very important moment: the return from exile. The Persians swoop in and conquer the Babylonians in 539 BC. The persian King, Cyrus the Great, acknowledging God for giving him the kingdoms of the earth, issues a proclamation that the temple in Jerusalem should be rebuilt. The Jews who were taken captive and exiled in Babylon are allowed to return to the land they call home and help rebuild the temple. We’re reminded of the Exodus, when God’s people were freed from the clutches of Pharaoh.

For an ancient king, Cyrus seems to be especially respectful of the customs and religions of his subjects. It turns out that this is in a way beneficial for him, since allowing your subjects freedom of religion and not enslaving them earns you so much more support and makes for a more stable empire. He was a bit of a trend setter in this regard.

Cyrus is reversing what Nebuchadnezzar set in motion. Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian empire conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, took the temple vessels, and scattered the people into exile. Cyrus has conquered Babylon, allowed everyone to go back to where they call home, given back the temple vessels, and ordered the temple rebuilt. But really it is God doing the exiling and reversing, through the hands of these kings, to give his people another chance.

Ezra 2 gives an extensive list of the wave of 50,000 some people who returned to Judah, and details the livestock, if you were dying to know. We usually think this kind of passage is a bit of a drag, but it’s really more of a celebration, with more confetti at every name and number. Think of the importance they placed on leadership, and the legacy and roles of the people mentioned. Each of these people are going back to wherever they call home, where they have deep roots and history. Each of them has something unique to contribute toward rebuilding their lives, and they’ll need the skills and resources of everyone to restore Jerusalem and the temple.

Similarly, in the body of Christ, we need the unique skills and gifts everyone brings to the table. We all play an important role in taking care of each other and reaching out into the world.

And so the project begins. First things first! They make sure there is at least an altar and that the usual schedule of sacrifices is back on track. They are trying to build a continuity between what their lives were like before the exile and what they are like now after the exile. Being able to worship again is a stepping stone toward restoration. Routines are important!

Into the second year after returning to Jerusalem, the materials and workers are all being gathered to get the temple together again. When the foundation is laid, there is a big ceremony with music and singing to God. They sing, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” Things are looking up. We’ve got the people, the temple foundation, and some semblance of our usual worship.

But there is something in the air that signals to us that not everything is quite right again. While many people are shouting loudly for joy, many of the older folks who saw the first temple are weeping loudly. It is bittersweet. It is good that there is now at least part of a temple, yet it doesn’t hold a candle to what it was before.

We end chapter 3 with this very divided response to the temple. The noise is so loud that they can’t tell who is joyful and who is sorrowful. They’ve been waiting so many years just for this chance to rebuild, and now it’s not even clear if it is a good thing or not. 

But restoration is a process. Most things that we want, we can get almost instantly. I can drive to the store and get ice cream. I can order something from Amazon almost without moving a muscle, and it will arrive in two days. Way in the future, in the year 2000, we’ll just think of what we need, and it will materialize in our teleportation device. But doing something of significance takes time, effort, prayer, and also probably money. And so does rebuilding Jerusalem. It is tempting to compare back to what things used to be like (the “good old days”) and be discouraged. What we might be missing is that God’s plans and ideas usually break our categories for what we think is even possible.

-Jay Laurent

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on BibleGateway here – Ezra 1-3

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Ezra 4-6 and Psalm 137 as we continue on our

God’s Jealous Love

Isaiah 1-4

Isaiah 1 4 NIRV sgl

 

Today, we begin the book of Isaiah. This book is full of poetry, prophecy, but also includes some narrative sections, as we will see tomorrow. Isaiah speaks of the coming judgment and future restoration upon the nation of Judah. The book contains lament over the nation’s sin, warning against God’s wrath, and the promises of a wonderful future for the faithful. As I read through the first four chapters, a single theme stood out to me. These passages reminded me of God’s passionate love and desire for our hearts. Like in the song “How He Loves” God is jealous for us.

The verses in Isaiah 1:10-15 express God’s disgust at the people’s empty rituals and sacrifices. While they may be executing all the correct religious actions, they are done without sincerity. Simply going through the motions. This is something we can fall privy too, as well. Routine worship. While Covid may have interrupted our usual routines, it is important to keep our worship sincere, in whatever form it may take.

While a rather grim verse, the verbiage in Isaiah 1:28 hints at a key factor regarding God’s love. Isaiah claims, “But rebels and sinners will be completely destroyed, and those who desert the LORD will be consumed.” Those who desert the LORD. It does not say those the LORD has deserted. God does not walk away and leave us. He is always ready to accept a repentant heart. At a time when you may be feeling particularly lonely, remember, God is always ready to receive you.

Finally, Isaiah 1:22 struck me as bittersweet, but very true: “Don’t put your trust in mere humans. They are frail as breath. What good are they?” Don’t misunderstand, Isaiah and I are not advocating for hermit life. There are plenty of verses in the New Testament, whole chapters written by Paul, that explain the need for church community. Our faith is not something we are meant to go about alone. However, this verse tells of one of the most important life lessons: people will fail you. The only ones we can truly depend upon is the LORD and His son, our redeemer. In fact, it is when we live from a place of securely trusting in God, we can have better human relationships. When our trust and hope is put in God alone, we become more ready to accept and forgive the failures of those around us.

The themes of God’s overwhelming jealous love for us are evident throughout the first four chapters of Isaiah. God’s anger over the people’s worship of idols, promises of a bright future, and redemption for the faithful exemplify God’s desire to be our number one priority. God knows the worship of idols and sin led lives will not fulfill us. That is why his anger burns so strong against His people in scripture like today’s. For He knows what is best, and they are not listening. He is not a narcissistic God who is angry and pours His wrath out in a desire to be right. He is a God of mercy who longs to bring His people to Him so they may experience true and abundant life.

Emilee Ross

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+1-4&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s passage will be Isaiah 5-8 as we continue the 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.

 

 

What are You Looking For?

Seek the Lord!

Psalm 6, 8-10, 14, 16, 19 & 21

Add a subheading

Today’s reading contains my absolute favorite Bible Verse, Psalm 16:8, “I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand I will not be shaken.” I love this verse because of its beautiful reminder to seek the Lord daily. Growing up as a Christian my whole life, there is an added need to make my faith my own. And with that comes the importance of having a relationship with our Creator. But no matter what walk of life we are on, we all need to be striving to seek the Lord in all that we do. 

If you make God your main priority in life, He will see you through the rest. Although this doesn’t mean you won’t have any more problems, you can be reassured that God will be by your side the whole way. Continually seeking the Lord.  It’s so simple, and we have all heard it a million times yet its significance is still so important. So how do we continually seek the Lord?

 

Worship- As great as worshiping with other believers can be and is, spending time alone with God in worship can be just as beneficial, if not more. Whether it’s turning on worship music or meditating and praying Psalms, take the time to unplug from the world and plug into God. 

Psalm 95:1-2  “Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.”

 

Reading the Bible – Dedicating time each day to read His word will realign your focus on God over and over again and is the best way to learn more and grow closer to God. God has given His word to you! Don’t leave him unread! 

 

Memorizing and meditating on scriptures-   Keep your focus in alignment with what is important. One way to do this could be to place a couple of your favorite Bible verses around your house to encourage you to continually seek the Lord throughout your day. Soon you will be thinking of Bible verses from memory. 

Joshua 1:8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

 

Pray- Just like any relationship between two people, there needs to be communication. Consistent communication. Turns out, the same is true for a relationship with God. When was the last time you talked to God, and I mean really talked, like spilled your heart out to Him? We have an amazing opportunity to talk with the Creator of the universe. And the most amazing part, he hears you. He’s waiting for you to open up your heart to him. 

Deuteronomy 4:7 “What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him.” 

Psalm 27:8 “My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me’ And my heart responds, ‘Lord, I am coming’

 

Call on Him- The outcome of seeking God- he will uphold you. When you seek the Lord wholeheartedly, you invite Him into your life, and He will touch every angle of it. That is how our lives can be transformed into  living for Him and His glory. God’s plan for you starts with you looking to the Lord as your strength and foundation every day. .  

Jeremiah 29:”Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 

James 4:8 “Come near to God and he will come near to you…”

Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” 

Psalm 91:14-15 “He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.”

Lastly, another verse from today’s reading, Psalm 10:4 “ In his pride the wicked man does not seek Him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. 

 

Let’s learn from this wicked man and not make the same mistakes he did. Make room for God in your lives, He can be found when we seek Him wholeheartedly. It’s our job today, tomorrow, and forever.

 

Makayla Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be found at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+6%2C+8-10%2C+14%2C+16%2C+19%2C+21&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 1 Chronicles 1-2 as we continue seeking God in His Word on our journey through the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

 

 

 

In God’s Presence

Exodus 25-27

Exodus 25 8 NIV

                Places of worship come in all different shapes and sizes.  I have worshipped God in huge cathedrals with impressive pipe organs and altars overlaid with gold and stained glass windows.  I have also worshipped God in open-air tabernacles with sawdust floors.  I have worshipped God in a deer stand, at the beach, on a mountaintop and on a table undergoing radiation.  I have worshipped God in loud and energetic services with guitars, drums, and electronic keyboards and I have worshipped him in places with no sound at all except the flickering flame of a single candle.

                I believe God loves to be worshipped in lots of ways and in lots of places.  Even in the Biblical stories God was worshipped on simple stone altars, in burning bushes, on mountain tops and down in valleys.

                Israel was at a critical time in their formation and it was important for them to have a steady reminder of God’s presence.  God made his presence visible to them as they journeyed with both a pillar of cloud in the day and a pillar of fire at night.  As they continued their journey across the wilderness, God chose to make his visible presence known to them in a portable house of worship.  This place would provide structure in the midst of their community wherever they stopped to make camp.  The tent of meeting or tabernacle would be an ongoing visible sign that God’s glory was in their midst.  And God taught them how to be a holy nation. He used various symbols and rituals of sacrifice and worship as a way to drill home to them his holiness and the consequences of sin.

                How God chose to do this is quite interesting.  He could have simply built a temple Himself in the heavens and dropped it down fully formed on earth.  However, God chose instead to invite His people to become active participants in creating this place of worship.

                First, God began with their willing desire to give.  “Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give. These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze;  blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair;  ram skins dyed red and another type of durable leather acacia wood;  olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breast piece” (Exodus 25:2-7).   This was not a mandatory tithe that was required; this was an offering to be willingly given and received.

                Where did the people get all of these valuable commodities?  If you will recall, as they were leaving Egypt they were given many valuable items by the Egyptian peoples – one might say this was payment to help compensate for years of slavery.  They had these items in their possession already.  Those who were willing could give them to help create the tent of meeting and the prescribed worship items inside of the temple, which included the Ark of the Covenant, the table, the lampstand as well as the material for the tabernacle itself, and the altar, courtyard and the oil to keep the lamps burning.  All of the materials were freely donated.  The people of God used their own skill to build the items from these donated materials – carpenters, weavers, stonemasons, goldsmiths and others each made their own contributions to the creation of this place of worship.  In this way, everyone in the community that wished to participate had buy in to the tabernacle.  It truly was a communal place of worship.

                Once the nation finished their journey through the wilderness and took possession of the Promised Land, they would eventually transition from a portable tent of meeting to a permanent temple under the leadership of King Solomon.  However, this tent of meeting served them well for 40 years in the wilderness and many more during the times of the judges, and king’s Saul and David.

                For Christians, we do not worship God in a tabernacle or physical temple and we do not bring sacrifices of sheep or goats or bulls for an offering to God.  For us, the Church itself is the temple of God.  I am not talking about the building where the Church gathers to worship, I am talking about the actual people who gather to worship, and we are the Church.  Jesus said whenever 2-3 gather in his name that he is there in their midst.  There is no one single right way or place to worship God.  It is wherever God’s people come together.  Christian Worship does not have to follow follow a strict pattern.  Worship is where we gather to read the word of God, pray, worship, encourage each other and exhort one another to good works, break bread and proclaim the resurrection of Jesus.  Blood sacrifices are not necessary because Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and he entered into the holy of holies once and for all and gave his own body as the final sacrifice for all of our sins.

                One thing remains unchanged from the time of Israel in the wilderness tent of meeting and the Church today.  God still welcomes us to bring our offerings from the heart as a way to say thank you.  We can still bring tangible offerings, and we can still offer our gifts and talents as ways of showing God our deep gratitude for all of his blessings to us.  It is not all that important how we worship or where we worship, but it is very important that we worship and we bring our offerings freely to worship God.

Jeff Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=exodus+25-27&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Exodus 28-29 on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

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