Guarding Against the Spirit Of Complacency

Bible Study and Commentary in Zephaniah 1:1-2:3

Zephaniah actually deals with the “Day of the Lord”, much more directly than any of the other Old Testament prophets.  Much like the prophet Amos, Zephaniah points out that the people of Judah shouldn’t be looking forward to the “Day of the Lord”, even though their enemies would be punished, for they too would be judged for their sins.

That said, the purpose of the PROPHECY wasn’t to drive the people to hopelessness and despair for what was coming, but rather to shock them out of the complacency they had developed in their worship of God.  As Matthew Henry once stated, Zephaniah intended “not to frighten them out of their wits, but to frighten them out of their sin.”

With many other prophecies I’ve come across in the reading of the Old Testament, I’ve found both a near term and far term fulfillment of Zephaniah’s prophecy.  It’s like peeling an onion, one layer at a time.

The near-term fulfillment came in Zephaniah’s generation as Babylon invaded Judah and Jerusalem and took the people captive.  But there are certain aspects of Zephaniah’s prophecy that has yet to be fulfilled with the return of Jesus.  [See “are we THERE YET?” blog-study, 8/27/19]

In this chapter reading, much of what is learned about the “Day of the Lord” is confirmed:

  • It’s universal – the entire world is going to experience the effects of God’s wrath being poured out.
  • It’s certain – although we don’t know when the final culmination of the “Day of the Lord” will begin, it will happen.  [READ 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12]
  • It’s horrific – perhaps more than any other Old Testament prophet, Zephaniah describes the nature of the final culmination with words like wrath, distress, anguish, ruin, darkness, and doom.

I don’t want to focus my studies on those specific details.  I want to investigate and dig deeper into God’s Word to see if we can discover some of the underlying reasons for God’s JUDGMENT, particularly in the discipline of His own children.  There’s little doubt in my mind that the key verse for the entire book of Zephaniah is…

Zephaniah 1:12 – “And at that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish the men who [like old wine] are thickening and settling on their lees, who say in their hearts, The Lord will not do good, nor will He do evil.”  [Amplified Bible]

The language in this verse certainly would have caused Zephaniah’s listeners to think of the Passover, where every family would take a candle (“lamps”) and search every nook and cranny in their house to find and remove any leaven that might be tucked away.

In much the same way, God said that He would search every single inch of Jerusalem in order to punish the sin that was there.  And there was one SIN in particular that God focused on here – the SIN OF COMPLACENCY – or “stagnancy.”

Usually, there’s a grouping of sins into Two Groups:

  • SINS OF COMMISSION, where we do something that we’re not supposed to do.
  • SINS OF OMISSION, where we fail to do something that we should do.

But what really provokes God is the kind of COMPLACENCY that accepts sin as a lifestyle because we don’t think that God really cares about our sin, or that He won’t do anything about it.

It’s clear from the entire passage here, that the scriptural context provided isn’t speaking to the outsiders, but rather to those that claimed to be His children.  It reminds me of Jesus’ letter to the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3, where He warned them against being lukewarm.

Okay, so we are complacent at times in the Church.  How do we guard against complacency in our own relationship with God?

Complacency in our spiritual lives can come from a number of different factors.  So in this bible-study, I want to use this passage to evaluate our own spiritual lives to determine whether we are in danger of slipping into complacency, or even if we’ve already arrived.

After reading and re-reading this passage of Scripture, I decided to group into THREE major components attributed to the number of underlying problems.

  • FAILURE TO SEEK GOD

In verse 6, Zephaniah addresses “those who have turned back from following the Lord who do not seek the Lord or inquire of Him.”

While David was out in the wilderness of Judah, he wrote Psalm 63, which he described the way that we need to seek our God in every way, and every day:

Are you a SEEKER?  Are you thirsting for God in the same way you would thirst for water if you found yourself stranded in Death Valley in the middle of the summer?

Unfortunately what happens for most of us is that we start out on our spiritual journey thirsting for God.  We can’t get enough of our Bible reading, study, we long to come into His presence in prayer, and we take advantage of every opportunity that we can find to learn more about Him, getting to know Him as we should.

But gradually over time our fervor, our enthusiasm wanes and we wake up one day and realize that we are no longer seeking after God like we once did, and we don’t know why!

I truly believe that the same progression is exactly why so many marriages in this country end up in divorce.  According to a 2008 study by the Barna Research Group, those identified as Christian are just as likely as non-Christians to be divorced.  And according to Shaunti Feldhahn in her book The Good News About Marriage says, the overall divorce rate has never reached the 50 percent level.  According to her study, the overall divorce rate is around 33%.  That’s lower than the purported 50%, but still, nothing to jump up and down about.

When I first started dating my future wife to be, some 55 years ago, I would do everything that I could to get to know her, and then to do what I could to please her as I got to know her better.  But for many couples, once the honeymoon is over, they gradually move away from that process until one day they wake up and realize that they don’t really know their spouse all that well and lost the desire to do what it takes to please the other person.

But just as it’s never too late to re-start that process in a marriage, it’s never too late to return to our roots and seek God like we once did.

  • Separating the “secular” and the “sacred”

As we look at the spiritual life of Judah as described by Zephaniah, it becomes clear that one of the root problems was that the people had separated the “secular” from the “sacred”.

This isn’t the first time that Israel had engaged in this practice, as the prophet Amos had to address that same issue with Israel over 100 years earlier.  Zephaniah points to the problem in detail, verses 10 and 11 (NIV):

[10] “On that day,” declares the LORD, “a cry will go up from the Fish Gate, wailing from the New Quarter, and a loud crash from the hills.

The FISH GATE

[11] Wail, you who live in the market district (or the Mortar); all your merchants will be wiped out, all who trade with silver will be ruined.

In this section, Zephaniah is primarily addressing the practices of the businessmen in Jerusalem.  The Fish Gate was primarily on the north wall of Jerusalem and gots its name either because the fishermen brought their catch through the gate or because the fish market was nearby.

Pike’s Place Fish Market, Seattle Washington

I don’t believe there was “fish tossing,” at the marketplace in Jerusalem, but you get the idea.

The Second Quarter was likely the area northwest of the Temple area, home to many wealthy businessmen.  And the Mortar was a business district in Jerusalem.  All of that would be consistent with Zephaniah’s condemnation of the traders and those who weigh out silver.

The scenario was exactly the same as described in Amos 3.  These business people would go to church on Saturday and then the rest of the week, engage in immoral business practices in order to make a bigger profit.  And the only way that was possible is, they had to separate the “secular” and the “sacred” aspect of their lives.

Unfortunately, as I see it, not much has changed in the last 2,600 years.

We still tend to compartmentalize our lives.  We put Bible reading, prayer and church activities, all in one basket we identify as “spiritual.”  Then we dump everything else into another basket we label “secular” – things like our family, our job, our neighborhood, our communities, politics, and our finances.  But the problem with that approach, it’s not Biblical.  The apostle Paul certainly had to address that same mindset while writing to the Colossian church:

Whatever we do in the name Of Jesus, Paul didn’t make any exceptions.

He didn’t write, “In everything but your finances” or “in everything but your marriage.”  The fact is that the true measure of our WORSHIP is far less dependent on what we do on Sunday morning than it is on how we live our lives for the rest of the week.

So here’s an idea for us all to practice, God helping us along the way – Romans 12:1 (The Message Bible)

The OFFERING that God wants from me is to take every aspect of my life and make Him the center of all I do!  That’s the kind of WORSHIP that pleases my heavenly Father.

  • Seeking to “cover all my bases”

This may be the biggest problem of all!

The people haven’t forgotten about their “worshipping” God – they’ve just added a whole lot of other things to it.  It’s as if they decided to “cover all their bases.”

So they bow down to idols, following the example set by the priests, who are also engaging in that idolatry.  They go up on their roofs and worship the stars.  They swear an oath to God, but just in case…swear that same oath to another god.  The entry into the superstitious practices of the pagans around them, like leaping over the threshold in order to avoid disturbing the gods.

Of course today, we would never do anything like that, would we?

Edward Gibbon in his book, The Decline, and Fall of the Roman Empire described the attitude towards “religion” in the last days of the Roman Empire.

  • The people regarded ALL religions as equally true.
  • The philosophers regarded ALL religions as equally false.
  • The politicians regarded ALL religions as equally useful.

Sound familiar?

But unfortunately, the problem isn’t limited to our culture in general.  It’s crept into the Church itself.

I’ve known those who claim to be Christians who would never think of starting their day without reading their horoscope, maybe even right after they read their Bible.  And even if we don’t have idols carved out of stone, how many Christians make gods out of their jobs, their possessions, their social status, or even something good, like their families?

But God has given us a very clear command about trying to worship other gods at the same time we claim to worship Him:

Sometimes, we have slipped into or maybe even fallen completely, in a place of complacency in our spiritual life.  The good news is, we don’t have to fall prey to complacency.

In fact, even for the people of Judah in Zephaniah’s day, it still wasn’t too late to take steps that were necessary to recover from the complacency to guard against falling back there again.

At the beginning of chapter 2, Zephaniah provides his listeners, and us, the antidote to COMPLACENCY:

Zephaniah 2:1-3

In this passage, we find God’s commands that are intended to keep us from becoming spiritually complacent.

  • SEEK

This is the predominant command here for it’s repeated three times.

This is exactly the opposite of what started the people on their downward slide to COMPLACENCY in the first place when they quit SEEKING God.

There are THREE specific things we are commanded to SEEK:

  • The Lord
  • Righteousness
  • Humility

Rather than dealing with each of the three separately, and after meditating on the three, it occurred to me that these 3 Things are actually connected.

Although the people of Zephaniah’s day certainly couldn’t see the whole picture, on this side of the Cross, or recognizes that he’s describing here a process – the only process – by which we can become righteous in God’s eyes.

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)

God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

The “Connection Junction” –

  • HUMILITY

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”  C.S. Lewis

We have to first HUMBLE ourselves and admit our sinfulness to God.  Then as we SEEK out Jesus as the means to deal with our sin, we are made RIGHTEOUS before God as a result of His finished work on the CROSS, not based on our own merit or good works.

But that can’t be a one-time decision!

We have to choose each day to continue to HUMBLY recognize our shortcomings, our sinfulness, and confess it in the name of Jesus so that we might be able to continue to SEEK our God.

  • OBEY

In verse 3, those who may be hidden by God are described as those “you who do what he commands”.  Although it’s impossible to earn God’s favor by obeying His commands, the Bible is clear that whether or not we OBEY His commands demonstrates whether we truly love Him.

And for those who guard against COMPLACENCY by adhering to these commands, God has a promise – one that’s related to Zephaniah’s name, which means “YHWH hides”.

So for those who SEEK & OBEY, God holds out hope that He will hide them away at the culmination of the “Day of the Lord” when His anger is poured out.

I encourage you to look at the rest of the Book of Zephaniah on your own, because Zephaniah, like many of the other prophets, ends his book with a word of hope.  He describes how God is going to restore Israel and make them prosper in their land once again.

So let’s make sure that we don’t become complacent in our worshipping of God.  Every day let’s humble ourselves before God, and seek His face.  Let us obey His commands!

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CREDITS:

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Interlinear Bible; New English Translation (NET); The Message Bible;

Photos/Images:  Google Image Search

Commentary:  Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary – Zephaniah 1:12;  StudyLight.Org

Where Has the REVERENCE and AWESOMENESS of God Gone?

 

 

I want to begin this study with a question:  Do you ever feel like something has changed in your life where maybe you used to get excited about something and then, it has just become part of the day in/day out a mundane living?

It seems the longer we are occupied with something, the more it becomes a part of our life and the more likely that we become less excited over it.

Before I retired from the mechanical contracting business, people would ask me if my job was exciting and typically I would answer that it’s a job like any other.

But it wasn’t always that way.  It always was a daily challenge with the responsibilities that came with the different positions I held, but there was the daily excitement of accomplishing and succeeding and new things.  Doing my best was always in place because of the way I was raised, but going beyond the best and succeeding was thrilling.

Looking at Marriage Relationships

Before I was married, the excitement of talking to my intended on the phone, seeing her in person, the getting ready to go on a date, putting on cologne and nice clothes, looking my best, the getting married, the wedding night and honeymoon, even the first couple of years.

Then you get into a routine and the excitement and awe seem to fade.  And even in our relationship with God, the routine can set in without notice.

When you first become a Christian you couldn’t get enough of the Bible.  You wanted to be talking to others about Jesus whenever and wherever you had a chance.

And right now you’re still enjoying being in God’s Word, but the same AWE and EXCITEMENT isn’t always there.

Hebrews 12:28-29 (AMP)

If we are truly going to worship God in Spirit and Truth–to be true worshippers, there needs to be “reverence and AWE”.

“AWE” – Definition: “Fear mingled with reverence and wonder” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia – 1996)

“AWE” –  “a very strong feeling of wonder, reverence (or fear) caused by something grand or powerful” (www.Wordsmyth.com)

I asked myself the question over the last several months: Am I worshipping on Sundays and the rest of the weekdays with AWE as it’s defined?  I have reverence for the Lord, but sometimes, I confess, I don’t have that sense of awe and wonder.

And when we lose a sense of awe of God, the scripture tells us that we fail to worship God acceptably.  I don’t know about where you are right now, but I want you, us, to return to a sense of being In AWE of God.  Maybe you’ve never experienced that sense, but it’s available for all.

To do that though. I think it’s important to ask ourselves some questions.  We know that it happens, but why does it happen? Why do we lose our sense of awe?

I believe as we become all too familiar with anything, including our own faith in God, it starts to become commonplace.

There is a balance for us to maintain.

As we grow with the Lord, our understanding and relationship with Him will grow as well and we become closer and more familiar. 

We need to recognize that when we approach our heavenly Father with confidence and with closeness, as a child approaches his daddy (Abba), but at the same time, we need to approach with a sense of awe and wonder that we have God Almighty as our Father.

We need to avoid our faith becoming common, that we look at God as we sometimes look at our earthly fathers as someone who pays the bills and lets us borrow the car.

How do we do that?  How do we maintain or get back our sense of AWE for God?

I think it originates in our heads, in our thinking, or lack of thinking.

In my marriage, if I was thinking each and every day how blessed I am to have a wife who chose me to spend her life with, who is there making our house a home, and who cares for me and about me, I know I would have a better and more grateful attitude toward her than I sometimes do.

But it all starts in our minds.

And the same is true about our Godly relationship.

Our minds need to be focused on the relationship so that we can recapture our AWE for God.

Instead of just focusing on God, we need to be focusing on specific aspects of God and it starts by recognizing who God is.

I believe there are some specific things we need to focus on about who God is if we’re going to have that sense of excitement and AWE for God.

  1. RECOGNIZE GOD AS CREATOR.

The Scriptures support this approach as well.  Often when Awe is being discussed, it’s in context with Creation.

Job 25:2 (NIV)

[2] “Dominion and awe belong to God; He establishes order in the heights of heaven”

Psalm 33:6-9 

God has made all of Creation, sustains all of Creation and if we stop to think about it, it’s absolutely unbelievable and awe-inspiring.  The problem is, we often don’t think about it because we live here and this too has become commonplace.

With that thought in mind, I want to take the time here to refocus on this place where we reside that God has made and created for our benefit.

  • The Universe–the vastness of the universe.
  • The Body–the intricacies of the design of the human body.

We have 30 to 100 trillion (with a “T”) cells in our body that work independently, yet must work in coordination with the other cells.  I’ve worked in offices for over 30 years where 10 people couldn’t work in coordination with each other. And yet, the body is self-healing; it has reproduction properties.

Beauty of Creation

So often in our world, it seems we need to give up beauty and creativity for functionality.  Not so with the world.

Our world not only functions orderly, but the BEAUTY of what God has created is amazing! And if we can keep our minds focused on the awesomeness of Who God is as Creator and recognize the awesomeness of His Creation on a daily basis, then I think we will go a long way toward having an AWE inspiring view of God.

Each day we should seek to view the Lord’s creation in a specific way that recognizes this awesomeness.

Each and every day, even on the way to church on Sunday morning…make it a point in the car to point out God’s awesomeness,  And by the way, it’s a great lesson for our children as well.

But we need to not only be AWED by God as Creator, but we also need to realize and recognize God as Judge  (Hebrews 28-29).

God is a “consuming fire” and He will JUDGE the world in regards to His Holiness.

That brings to mind, that “If one receives Jesus Christ as Savior, then they won’t be judged, right?”

You will not be judged to your salvation.  That’s a gift from God.

But each one of us is going to face the judgment seat of Christ in eternity for what we do in terms of our rewards in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:10).

For we must all appear and be revealed as we are before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive [his pay] according to what he has done in the body, whether good or evil [considering what his purpose and motive have been, and what he has achieved, been busy with, and given himself and his attention to accomplishing].  (Amplified Bible)

That’s for every one of us!

And because God is a JUDGE, we should stand in Awe of Him because of His JUDGMENT & AUTHORITY over us.

Just as we enter a courtroom we’re expected to show respect for the power and authority there and if we don’t we may be held in contempt and judged accordingly for those actions.

Therefore, with that premise in mind, should we show any less respect on Sunday morning worship–coffee mug in hand, baseball hats on our heads, Smart Phones checking out the latest sports scores, etc.?

We should always stand in Awe and respect of God for the One Who will JUDGE ALL of our actions and attitudes.  And as a Christian, even more so, we should stand in Awe of God as our Judge.

In addition to recognizing Who God is as Creator and Judge, which will help us stand in reverence and Awe, there’s one more thing I think is necessary for us to understand and focus on for standing in Awe and reverence of God, and that’s…

Recognizing who We  Are.

I believe it’s imperative that we have a proper view of ourselves for us to be able to have a proper view of God.

READ what the apostle Paul’s viewpoint regarding who he was and how it gave him a proper, awe-inspiring view of God:

1 Timothy 1:15-17What Paul is saying to me, perhaps to you as well, having a realistic view of our own sinfulness and how it should help us to be in Awe of God.

Are You Standing In Awe of God?

Maybe you have lost that Awe, or maybe you’ve never experienced the Awe at all, and in either case, you’ve been going through the motions of being a Christian and haven’t been feeling the Awe of God that you should be experiencing.  Here some suggestions that I’ve found to start with for all of us:

Open your eyes to God’s Creation and really see things around you.

  • Notice the sky and the Sun.
  • Notice the number of people driving our highways at all hours of the day and recognize God is the creation of each and every one of them and knows every hair on their head.

Think about God, the great and mighty judge of ALL MANKIND that will one day stand before us.

Be on Awe that we will stand in the presence of the greatest authority in the universe, greater than the Supreme Court of the land, with the Son Himself our mediator.

Recognize your own selfishness and the fact that God’s loves you and me anyway and still desires to use us even though we don’t deserve the privilege of being used in God’s plans in such an awesome way.

I want to pray for those who may be feeling a little unconnected from the Lord, that over these next days, weeks and months, that you might be awed by the Lord, God Almighty, our Savior and Judge, and find your self, standing in Awe of Him!

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CREDITS

YouTube Video:  I Stand In Awe Of You

Photo Images:  Google Images–Settings, advance search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version; Amplified Bible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“RECKLESS GIVING” In the Upcoming New Year

MARK 14:3-9 (King James Bible):

total-lack-of-free-will-is-not-totalitarianism-44-728

One my favorite things to do is to activate my imagination while writing a script for a play, using stories in Scripture as the base.  The story in the above verses was no exception.  So let me start by SETTING THE SCENE.

I can only imagine how the TABLE CONVERSATION must have transpired.

LAZARUS speaking to Simon the Leper:

‘I’m thanking you for allowing me to come in your house.  I can’t think of any other place I would rather be–but to be here with you!  And since I’m her Scaly, I want to ask you a question, tell me–how was life before you met Christ?’

SIMON THE LEPER must have said,

‘Let me tell you that nobody would talk to me.  In fact, my life was on a narrow ledge.  I have no relationships or reputation with other people.  I only hang around with other people who were just like me.  And then one day, I heard that this Wonder Worker, JESUS, was coming through town and that He worked the night shift and that He made house calls–and all I know is that He spoke to me and my skin began to transform, like the skin on a newborn baby…You’ve asked about MT encounter Lazarus, what about you?  How did it feel being dead, sleeping in the grave?  How did that feel?’

The SCENE as they exchanged stories together:

  • The DISCIPLES sat there at the u-shaped table…
  • MARTHA was serving as Martha always does.

And Conspicuously Absent…

Martha’s sister, MARY, as usual.  MARY only had TWO cameo appearances prior to this one.

  • One, when Jesus visits the household of MARY and she sits at His feet.
  • And then again in the Gospel of John, chapter 11, when she rushes Jesus and says, ‘Jesus, please come and save my brother.’

And here in this passage in Mark; MARY does something out of the ordinary–

  • Because if you want to get what you’ve never had, you have to do something that you’ve never done.
  • God works at His best when we are bold enough to step outside of the box of human conformity.
  • If you do what you’ve always done, you will get what you’ve always gotten.
  • Staying in the box of conformity and a narrow mindset doesn’t impress a God Who already declared that He’s more than enough!

The Extravagance of God’s GLORY is Connected to The Recklessness & Liberality of My Giving”  [Quote by Kraig Pullam, Pastor/Chaplain]

LEARNING HOW TO MODEL THE COST OF MARY’S GIFT –

Mark 14:3:  “a woman came with an alabaster jar of ointment (perfume) of pure nard, very costly and precious; and she broke the jar and poured [the perfume] over His head.”

In my study this week, I found that MARY is mentioned 3 times in Scripture and each time she’s found at Jesus’ feet!

feet

  1.  LISTENING.  Luke 10:39.
  2.  SORROWING.  John 11:32.
  3.  WORSHIPING.  John 12:3.

And at His feet she found BLESSING; she brought her burdens, her cares, her fears, her anxiety, and she GAVE at His feet her best.

Looking At What Mary Gave (Verse 3):

In Matthew (26:7), it is called “very precious” or “costly” fragrant oil–“alabaster jar” or “flask” is made of marble and very expensive itself; breaking it was a sign that ALL was to be used.  The custom in the East was, if a glass was used by a distinguished guest, it was broken so that it would never again be touched by the hand of any lesser person.

So Mary was giving Christ her BEST and her ALL!

“Ointment (perfume) of pure nard, very costly…”

VERSE 5 teaches the value of the gift was “more than 300 denarii”…almost a year’s salary in the 1st Century.  For example, it was estimated that the 5,000 men, plus women and children, could have been fed with 2/3 of this amount [Mark 6:37; 200 denarii].

Mary with her lavish heart and hand–not cautious in giving, but RECKLESS!

QUESTION:  When was the last time YOUR GIVING could be regarded as “RECKLESS”?

When I say “reckless,” it’s not the value of our gifts which He regards, but the LOVE of the heart which gives them!  LOVE is not concerned to see how little it can decently give.  There seems to be a RECKLESSNESS IN LOVE which refuses to count the cost.

This woman acted on the impulse of LOVE because she knew in her heart of hearts that if she didn’t do it then, she would never do it at all.

Mary in the moment acted with absolutely controlled adoration for her Lord and Savior; she lost all sense of restraint and economy.

THE TRUE WORSHIPER & STEWARD GIVES JESUS WHATEVER HE HAS…knowing it is nothing compared to what has been received from Him.

MARY had lost herself in Jesus and as a result, wasn’t even conscious of others or her surroundings in her giving.

Our GIVING should always reflect the gratitude–our LOVE–toward the object of our affection.

After 52 years of marriage to the same woman, each year my GIVING daily is the reflection of my love towards her.  It is never about the dollar value of the gift.  It’s doing the unexpected!  It’s even EXTRAVAGANT at times!!

Extravagant Giving is what you should desire to give toward God because your desire for God is to be extravagant with YOU!

Look at Sis. Mary and her commitment–EXPENSIVE OINTMENT/PURE NARD.

– she didn’t just sprinkle a little bit of ointment on Jesus,

– she didn’t just take a small portion of the perfume out and place that on Jesus,

– she didn’t just measure it out so carefully, no, she POURED it out on Jesus.

IN OUR SERVING THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, WE DON’T MEASURE IT OUT.

If you are going to SERVE, don’t just see how little you can do for Him, or how little you can GIVE to Him and get by.

If you’re going to SERVE THE LORD JESUS, then POUR IT OUT upon Him-

  • Give Him ALL you got!
  • Give it ALL you can give it, because that’s the kind of SERVICE that Jesus demands!

For some, our GIVING has become conformed to our level of COMFORT–COMFORT GIVING.

  • We tip God (the better our week went, the bigger the tip!).
  •  We tease God (make God think we’re about to give Him part of us–and then, change our mind).
  • We trick God (we give to Him because He has something we want–and we at least have enough sense to know, He’s in the BLESSING business–so we’ll give to Him because we want a house, we want a car, we want a man, we want a woman…you get the idea).

You see, when you TREASURE Him–He becomes the FIRST thing that crosses your mind beginning every day!

When JESUS is your TREASURE–

Your GIVING is not limited or relegated to what is convenient for you; but by what God has not only required of you–but you want to give Him even more because He means just that much to you.

When you TREASURE Him–

Then your LIFE connects to the law of mutual dependency–where He gives me “treasure” so that I can break whatever it is that can release the “treasure” He gave me–so that I can give it back to Him–and the MIRACLE in MY LIFE is realized as He POURS His purpose in me through ABUNDANCE–because I was willing to POUR MY HEART into Him through my obedience.  I hope all this makes sense to you.

See, when we are POURING, then you recognize that YOUR CONDITION ISN’T YOUR CONCLUSION!

–Whatever you SOW, you shall also REAP!

  • IF you sowed during affliction, you shall reap!
  • IF you’ve sown during pain, you shall reap joy!
  • IF you sow in tears, you shall reap in laughter!
  • IF you sow when you didn’t have anything, you shall reap and have it all!
  • IF you sow when you were last, you shall reap when God makes you first!
  • IF you sow during your times of darkness, you shall reap during the light!

SO, WHAT WAS MARY DOING?

Mary, in a real sense, was in WORSHIP.  To her, it was worth it to POUR OUT ALL of what she had upon the Most High God.

“WORSHIP” as you might know, and our word “WORTH” are closely connected.  In fact, the Old English spelling of worship is “worthship”  [More Than Worship, It’s Worthship, Craig T. Owens June 24, 2010].

WORSHIP is realizing the “worth-ship” of a thing or a person.

The QUESTION becomes, “How much is JESUS worth to us?”  I can tell you what He’s WORTH to me–but “How much is He WORTH to you?”

  • It’s not a WASTE to pour your life out on Jesus.  HE’S WORTH IT!
  • It’s not a WASTE to wake up in the morning and enter holy conversation with a loving God.  HE’S WORTH IT!
  • It’s not a WASTE to come to the Lord’s house and drive 5 minutes or even 5 hours–to come into this house to gather in His name and WORSHIP Him.

What makes GOD worthy is because He is WORTH IT!

— You kiss up yo your boss, but is he or she worth it?

secretaries-kissing-boss-b6f67b

— You work so that you can make more to impress everybody around you, but are they worth it?

— You sacrifice your time because you want to get bigger and finer things accomplished–but are those bigger and finer things worth it?

My ANSWER is… NO!

— Your boss didn’t die for you.

— Your paycheck isn’t what makes your heart tremble or make the sun from light you see every morning shine.

— The bigger and finer things won’t answer you when you PRAY about your sickness or your fractured marriage, broken relationships or that prodigal child who strayed from home.

You better LEARN like Mary did; how to build your hope on things eternal while holding on to God’s unchanging hands.  All because His hand is the ONLY hand big enough to give you an 100 fold return on time, talent and resources that you have already given by Him.

A Critique of the Crowd’s Stupidity –

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There will always be people who identify themselves as followers of Christ Jesus–who say that they are friends of the kingdom, but in reality, they are enemies.

There will always be people who tell you, ‘Now it doesn’t take all of that!’

There will always be people when it comes to the giving of your time, talent and treasure–‘God understands’ (Well if God understood, then He wouldn’t have told me to do it!).

Let me just say here, that GOD’S WORD IS FLAWLESS and it is the FINAL AUTHORITY, period!

The WORD is the WORD and there will always be people who will try to best God’s Word.

— Either you BELIEVE that God was playing when He said you sow what you reap or you don’t.

— Either you BELIEVE that God was serious when He said present your body as a living sacrifice or you don’t.

— Either you BELIEVE that God owns it all or you don’t.

— And when it comes to STEWARDSHIP, you are either choosing true or false; multiple choice isn’t an option.

Watch the TEXT:  VERSE 4

“To what purpose was the ointment thus wasted?”

Now I thought it was interesting here, to know who was asking the question.

gospel-of-john-21-reaction-to-lazarus-resurrection-5-638

JUDAS’ criticism here sounds ‘spiritual’ and even though Judas spoke out, the DISCIPLES were “indignant”–“they answered and reproved her.”

JUDAS is a reminder to ALL of us every time there’s criticism of Christian generosity, that somewhere behind the CRITICISM there may be a JUDAS.

I don’t know about what your thinking while reading this account, but I think Mary must have been hurt, confused with emotions running wild.  I know I would have been.

The text doesn’t say it–but Mary must have thought in her mind, ‘Why are they criticizing ME?  They are the ones who are supposed to be His disciples!’

Adopting the Commendation of Jesus’ Word.

The DISCIPLES became “indignant”  (vs. 4).  In the Greek, it’s the sound of snorting horses.

And Jesus responds to the “snorting” with COMPASSION in His word.  The word COMPASSION means to step into someone else’s skin.

Jesus steps into her skin in a moment to empathize with her pain at the insult of their response.  And Christ responds in VERSE 6 by saying,

“Let her alone; why are you troubling her?”

We know that He is addressing ALL of the disciples, but more specifically, He’s addressing JUDAS.  It was Mary’s LOVE that motivated her to give her best; but JUDAS couldn’t take it.

MARY’S REWARD for her sacrificial gift was a moment of COMMENDATION.  

She couldn’t be a Pastor, or a Disciple, and she couldn’t write a book of the New Testament.  All she could do was this:  “She has done a good and beautiful thing to Me [praiseworthy and noble].”

And that’s all the LORD expects of us.  Jesus praised the LOVING NATURE of her GIFT.  She had done what she could and He knew it was done from LOVE!

Our GIFTS should be a SURRENDERED GIFT –

When we GIVE of our talents, our time, our resources–it shouldn’t be a GIFT that’s pulled out of you.  It should be a GIFT that you WILLINGLY surrender (Romans 12:1) and that “surrender” should be because you love Him.

ILL –my daddy got me a pinata.  I kept swinging.  He said, ‘Son…the name of the game is you have to break it; but you have to break it in the right place!’

MARY had been broken in the right place.  That’s why she could give what she had!

Some of you who are reading this–God is breaking you!  But He wants to get you in the right place!!!

  • ATTITUDE needs to be changed.
  • GRATITUDE needs to be altered.
  • CONDUCT needs to be modified.
  • CHARACTER needs to be sharpened.
  • STINGINESS needs to be destroyed.

GOD is breaking me as I write these words and He’s breaking you in the right place as you read this blog.  

AND JACOB WRESTLED!

Do you remember the bible story when JACOB wrestled with the “angel of the broken-vesselsLord’?  That angel said, ‘Let me go…for the day is breaking.’  But JACOB said…’I won’t let you go until you BLESS me.’  And all we know is the morning came and JACOB was on the ground.  But now he had a different walk.  Because when he takes a step forward, he discovers that he’s been changed.

“You can’t be BLESSED until you’ve been broken!”

 


CREDITS:

Bible Dictionary:  VINE’S COMPLETE EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  King James Version (KJV); New International Version (NIV); Amplified bible (AMP).

ONE MORNING THE MUSIC JUST STOPPED AND THEN…

LOOKING BACK ON THAT ‘ONE PARTICULAR MORNING’:

And The Music Stopped
And The Music Stopped

The week before the awakening of a particular  Sunday Morning– after the pastor’s message, my wife and I headed towards the church parking lot. I found myself in a quandary. Why had his words fell flat in my hearing?  I was feeling the pastor’s presentation was being directed to a younger generation; my age group was being totally ignored, disrespected and my feelings were hurt . The more I thought about it as I left that day, the more outraged and disenchanted I became.

On arriving at our car, I opened the passenger side of the car for my wife (yep, after 48 years of marriage…I still open doors), then went around to the driver’s side and sat quiet in thought, as my hands rested on the steering wheel and finding myself in a trance.

My wife asked if I was alright.  My response was hesitant in the beginning, and then… the floodgates opened wide.  I told her I was dismayed with the Sunday morning message…then proceeded giving her all the reasons why this young pastor had missed the boat; he was preaching to the wrong audience.  Maybe it would be better to just skip this series of pastor’s messages.  I also went on to ask, “And besides…What did we get out of worship this morning?”  I’ll rephrased the question: “What did I…get out of worship this morning?”

— Needed counseling began that afternoon... 

Later that day, by the prompting of the Spirit of God, I realized that I had entered a designated place… of PRAISE & WORSHIP– out of my own needs, my selfish motives, without even thinking why I was there in the first place–to give PRAISE to Who praise was due.

–the following Sunday morning.

So Holy Spirit  urged me to go to church the following Sunday.  I knew He had something in mind.  I was to go with a  blank slate and not… with a predetermined outcome. I reluctantly obeyed.

To my surprise, the pastor didn’t continue with his message from last week. He had the flu all week and was unable continue in his message series.  Since our pastor also leads the music on Sunday mornings, I sang out with everything I had with voice and spirit– with my focus on who God is and the glory due His name.  Not the glory due to pastor…nor to my feelings, but to God’s Presence.

And after the music and singing stopped in the sanctuary, with my hands raised and head bowed, I waited IN SILENCE until praise began to rise in the heart of the people.  GUESS WHAT?  God turned up!

— It’s not about me, it’s all about You Jesus…

One of my favorite worship songs is a song that comes out of this tune by Matt Redman’s HEART OF WORSHIP:

When the music fades and all is stripped away,

and I simply come, longing just to bring something that’s of worth, that will bless Your heart.

I bring You more than a song, for a song in itself is not what You have required, You search much deeper within, than the things appear, You’re looking into my heart.

I’m coming back to the heart of worship and its all about You Jesus.

I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made it, cause its all about you, all about you Jesus.

It’s not our singing that brings a change in the Atmosphere, it is our PRAISE and WORSHIP!

EXPERIENCING GOD’S PRESENCE:

Even though God is OMNISCIENT…”the attribute by which God perfectly and eternally knows all things that can be known past, present and future” [NIV Bible Dictionary]–He can and does manifest His presence in a realistic way in a place or in the midst of His congregation. We have to look for it!

“But You are holy, O You Who dwell in [the holy place where] the praises of Israel [are offered]”  (Psalm 22:3 AMP).

— When God shows up, the atmosphere changes!  Things happen!

ASCRIBE TO the Lord, O sons of the mighty,  Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.  Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name; Worship the Lord in holy array.

The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; The God of glory thunders, The Lord is over many waters.  The voice of the Lord is powerful, The voice of the Lord is majestic.

The voice of the Lord breaks cedars;  Yes, the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. And He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, And Sirion like a young wild ox.

The voice of the Lord hews out flames of fire.

The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;  The Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

The voice of the Lord makes the deer to calve,  And strips the forests bare,  And in His temple everything says,  “Glory!”

The Lord sat as King at the flood;  Yes, the Lord sits as King forever.  The Lord will give strength to His people;  The Lord will bless His people with peace  (PSALM 29 NAS).

— When we release a sound of praise, the Earth must respond.  God’s Voice is manifested! 

When Israel was ordered by the Lord, into ranks and tribes…

When they crossed the Red Sea…

Whenever they moved forward and traveled on in their journey (Numbers 2)…

Whenever they went to war (Judges 1:1-2)…

Whenever they were called to stand before the Lord…

ONE TRIBE always took the lead position–JUDAH

JUDAH in the Hebrew means PRAISE.  So what the Lord was saying, in asking the Tribe of Judah to take the lead role was…PRAISE always leads us into the things of God.

— God’s Presence isn’t just a place to visit:

And the Lord said,  My Presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest  (Exodus 33:14).

JUDAH must go first!  PRAISE must go first in our lives as well!

— Our church

— Our Ministries

— Our cities

— Our Nation

“What are the benefits in The Presence?”

One of the first questions asked in a job offer are these words.  We are living in a “benefit-oriented” society; everyone wanting to know, “What’s in it for me?”

We don’t seem to realize that we are missing out on a greater source of benefits coming from living and dwelling in the PRESENCE OF ALMIGHTY GOD.

EVERYTHING you could ever need or want can be found in THE PRESENCE of the Lord.

— Do you need healing today?  You will find it in His Presence!

— Do you need provision today?  You’ll find it in His Presence!

It’s so simple, yet many Christians are missing out on the powerful truth.  It’s so amazing that many believers fail to exercise or practice God’s Presence.

Think about it.  Everyday in making decisions, we say no to God’s offer of fellowship and choosing instead, filling our minds with TV, gossip and mindless recreation.  Am I saying all of that is bad?  Not at all.  But if it takes or gets in the way of His Presence…you make the decision.

Results of Training and Practicing God’s Presence…

“TRAIN YOURSELF…For physical training is of some value, but godliness [practicing GOD’S PRESENCE] has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come”       (1 Timothy 4:8 NIV–and my words added in the brackets).

— The experiencing of God’s Presence is the consciousness of His presence.

“And the Lord said,  My Presence shall go with you, and I will give you REST ” (Exodus 33:14).

God’s Presence isn’t just a place you visit…it moves with you wherever you go!  In fact, Moses goes on to say to God, I’m not moving from this spot until Your Presence goes with me:

“And Moses said to the Lord,  If Your Presence does not go with me, do not carry us up from here! ” (Exodus 33:15).

Can you imagine yourself saying tomorrow morning before your day begins, Lord…I’m not going to start my day without Your Presence going ahead of me!

GOD-CONSCIOUSNESS:

Experiencing God’s Presence is the direct consciousness of God’s Presence in our lives.  It’s not making God become present on Sunday morning’s Worship and Praise, but it’s becoming more aware of the Holy Presence that is here and now!

One of the ways, the most basic, most powerful in experiencing the Presence of God is through His Word.  How?

“IN THE beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself”  (John 1:1 AMP).

GOD AND HIS WORD ARE INSEPARABLE!

 When you are in the presence of the Word, you are in the Presence of God.

Something powerful happens when you spend quality time in your Bible.  Something happens to your heart;  it feeds your spirit, changes you right where you are and continues to actively work in you, even after you close the Book and walk away.

— Benefits of Two Partners Found In God’s Presence:

“Glory and honour are in His presence…”  (1 Chronicles 16:27 KJV).

GLORY – the God-kind, appears any time something promised in the Word is manifested [made visible] in the physical realm.

AN EXAMPLE: When HEALING, as promised in God’s Word (Scripture), comes into someones life, that’s GLORY!

Where can you go to see the GLORY of God manifested…made visible in your life?  According to the above verse, when you enter into the Presence! THAT…is a definitive BENEFIT!

— GLORY HAS A PARTNER:  HONOR

What kind of HONOR? The HONOR OF GOD.

[4] “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of [earth-born] man that You care for him?  

[5] Yet You have made him but a little lower than God, and You have [crowned] him with GLORY and HONOR”  (Psalm 8:4, 5 AMP). 

SOME PRACTICAL STEPS IN “PRACTICING AWARENESS OF GOD’S PRESENCE”:

— What works for one, doesn’t mean it works for every one.

Being aware of God’s Presence is not some kind of formula.  I haven’t spent much time before this blog-post, in analyzing what I do to be more aware.  I like to think it’s a work in progress.

These are but a few STEPS that I practice:

STEP #1.  Make sure my awareness is not required by anything or by anyone else.  EX.: i’M NOT DRIVING A CAR, CROSSING A STREET, TALKING WITH SOME ONE ELSE–or, with myself  for that matter :-).  Nothing that requires my attention.

STEP #2.  I always practice my awareness in a quiet place; where I am not likely to be interrupted.  

AWARENESS and ATTENTION are fleeting,jumping from one thing to another; one thought to another.  I wish some churches who initiate “fellowship time” right after Worship and Praise on Sunday mornings, would re-evaluate their practice.  

So, a quiet place with few distractions works best for me. 

STEP #3.  I close my eyes.  Visual stimuli are distracting for me.  Maybe it’s is just my age :-).  The fewer the distractions, the more aware I become.

STEP #4.  I turn my attention away from the daily activities in my life.  I turn my attention towards God’s Presence in the ‘right now’.  I sometimes have to take a deep breath and relax.  Then start praising God in the Spirit of Who He is!  Giving thanks that God so loves us “that each of us is in God’s Presence.” 

So What Works For You?

Use your own creativity.  It may be that the awareness you might have is unique to you.

In closing, my responsibility is to be aware of God’s Presence.  I don’t somehow conjure up God in doing magical things that might cause God to be present in the moment.  That’s already done for me, and, I believe for all.

It is up to me to do something about this Presence–not the pastors–not the music team–not the congregation–to reap the benefits available of God’s Glory; healing, provision, etc.

The “ball is in my court”, as, I believe, it’s in yours.  So let ‘JUDAH PRAISE’ lead out, and then start practicing–being aware–of God’s Presence in your life.  And maybe one Sunday morning, the music will stop…and you too will be aware of His Presence manifested in your Tabernacle.  It’s a work in progress for me and I hope it will for you.

KEEP YOUR EARS OPEN and MOUTHS SHUT!

On an airplane

People On An AIRPLANE And People On A Pew Have A Lot In Common–

People In Church

People on an airplane and people on a pew have a lot in common.  Some may doze, others enter into a mindless trance and a few gaze out the window for the entire trip.

Most, if not all are satisfied with a predictable experience.  For many, the mark of a good flight and mark of a good worship service are the same–“NICE.”  “It was a NICE flight/it was a “NICE” service.”

We exit the same way we enter–unmoved, unchanged, unaltered and we’re more than likely happy to return the next time.

Entering A CHURCH SANCTUARY.

I am a people watcher, at an AIRPORT or in church on Sunday mornings.  Looking at the faces, I see a few who are giggly, a couple who are cranky.  But by and large… we are content:

CONTENT TO BE THERE!

CONTENT TO SIT AND LOOK STRAIGHT AHEAD!

CONTENT TO LEAVE THE SERVICE WHEN IT’S OVER!

CONTENT TO ENDURE!

CONTENT WITH THE MUNDANE!

CONTENT WITH THE “NICE” SERVICE!

IT IS SO MUCH MORE THAN ENDURANCE!

A few, however, seek more than leaving with a wide-eyed wonder of having experienced WORSHIP, rather than merely enduring.

The DESTINATION of WORSHIP to meet GOD:

With any journey there is a need to make preparations. How I remember the camping vacations my brother and I experienced when we were both growing up.

My mom was the most prepared person ever in preparing for a family vacation.  Although my dad was too, but not to the extent that my mom would prepare.

Dad would always make sure that the car was packed with what he thought was the necessities:  Tent, camping stove, Coleman lantern, flashlights, an axe for chopping firewood, matches, horseshoes…  Sounds pretty prepared doesn’t it?  Not compared to mom’s standard.

Mom always brought a broom to sweep the inside/outside of the tent; a rake to keep the pine needles away from the eating area and away from the tent entrance.  Oh yeah, I almost forgot, a floor mat in front of the tent opening to leave our shoes; stocking feet only inside our tent.  Then there was a clothesline…you have to have a clothesline to dry wet wash-rags, wet clothes if it rained or my brother and I fell into the creek (that never happened but just in case…).

MOM was always PREPARED before taking any journey and dad, well… he complained mostly about her exhaustive preparation.  I often thought it was never a journey, a trip that mom could enjoy because she was too busy preparing.  But mom said, “preparing is what I enjoy; the planning, the excitement of getting ready to go.”

The EXPERIENCE becomes more rewarding rather than merely enduring through it all.  We should want a memorable experience in our going and not a boring, mundane remembrance.

What does our Flight Check require?

Solomon, the wisest and richest man in the world writing thousands of years ago, gives pre-flight instructions in order to encounter the God of the universe when we come into His house.

GETTING READY TO MEET GOD!

“As you enter the house of God, keep your ears open and your mouth shut!  Don’t be a fool who doesn’t realize that mindless offerings to God are evil”    

(Ecclesiastes 5:1 in the New Living Translation).

One translation of this verse says, “Watch [GUARD] your feet [STEPS] when you go to the house of the Lord.”

The phrase “guard your steps” means to “proceed with reverence, tip toeing onto the presence of the Lord.”  In other words, when leaving your home to go to church, come with care and caution; with dignity and respect.  We are to approach King of kings with the same care as Moses did when he approached the “burning bush”:

“God called to him out of the midst of the bush and said, Moses, Moses!  And he said, Here am I.  God said, Do not come near; put your shoes off your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground”  (Exodus 3:4b-5 AMP).

Moses was on holy ground and he knew it!  I don’t think my mom ever treated the outside of our camping tent the same way that Moses did, but to my brother and I, it sure seemed like “holy ground”.

My kids, when they were small heard from their parents on several different occasions, “No running in church.”

The sanctuary is a place of reverence. 

Physically we may not be running when we meet God but spiritually, emotionally and mentally we are.  We often “do church” as many “do lunch”; quite casually and unprepared.  We don’t anticipate God’s presence or voice.  Consequently, we become unable to experience the presence of God that will stir our souls, change lives and satisfy our hunger for meaning.  Maybe you’re thinking right now, I don’t come to church hungry. I mostly come to fellowship with other believers before, during and after church.  If that’s what you mean to “hunger”, then I hunger for fellowship.  To get away from the rat-race of the workplace.  Friend, you need a different attitude; a new attitude of preparation before you leave your house.

COMING TO WORSHIP PREPARED TO WORSHIP:

I’ve adopted some STEPS over the course of last year, preparing myself to meet Father God, Jesus and Holy Spirit.  Who pointed the STEPS out to me? I find it amazing how the Holy Spirit uses our spouse to bring attention to something we may be missing out on or have simply ignored.  OUCH, it even hurts sometimes.

#1.  PRAY before you come being ready to PRAY when you arrive.

#2.  SLEEP before you come, staying ALERT when you arrive.

#3.  READ the Word before you come, so your heart will be soft when you worship.

#4.  COME HUNGRY!  COME WILLING!  COME EXPECTING for God to speak!

#5.  COME ANTICIPATING for a memorable experience in communing with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

LISTEN to God:

One man said that he and his wife had words but he never got the chance to use his.  I think God often feels the same way.

When flying, I feel for the Flight Attendants as they share instructions before the plane takes off.  The attendants are explaining how to use the seat belts, where the exits on the aircraft are, how to use the seat cushion as a floatation device and…how to put the oxygen mask to your face if needed.

Yet, most people on the plane, are talking, reading, looking out the window, getting stuff out of their carry-on luggage.

Those flight attendants know how God feels, when His people come to church.

WHEN WE SHOW UP AT CHURCH:

After making a mad dash from the church parking lot, many times World War III has just occurred, between spouse and children in the car that morning.  A few choice words are said under our breath  to the guy who cut us off in traffic five minutes after leaving our home.  We casually stroll into the sanctuary to find our seat and find that someone else is already sitting there.  We start looking around next, to see who is present this morning and then proof-read the bulletin for typos.  We find pastor-notes in the pocket of our bibles to make the grocery list or to-do list for the upcoming week.  After all, it has been a long, busy past week and I don’t have time.  We sing a few songs wondering why, why, we didn’t sing any songs WE preferred.  Before we know it, the service is over but our minds have been on a mini-vacation; we…were not LISTENING!

Solomon Offers/Further Instructions (Ecclesiastes 5:1b-2 NLT).

“As you enter the house of God,  Keep your ears open and your mouth shut!  Don’t be a fool who doesn’t realize that mindless offerings to God are evil.”

Think about Solomon’s STRONG WORDS, his instructions in giving your thinking to what, where and why you are going to church in the first place.

When we come to worship, we come to meet not a “person”, a group of Christian buddies but the LIVING GOD!  Who has one agenda to meet with us!

Let Him do the talking.  God wants to communicate with us.  Conversation is a “dialogue” and not a “monologue.”  Sometimes in the morning hours while praying, God’s Spirit whispers in my ear, saying “God can’t give you an answer to your requests when you are doing all the talking.”

Solomon instruct us in not to be rash with our mouths and on earth; and “let not your heart be hasty to utter a word before God.  For God is in heaven, and you are on words be few”  (Ecc. 5:2).  The statement made in verse 2, is a statement of perspective, not of distance.

God is in the realm of the eternal.

He hears the inaudible and sees the invisible; God penetrates that which is inaudible to human ears and peers into what’s invisible to human eyes.

Here’s Solomon’s point in this Scripture passage:

1.  God is God and we aren’t.

2.  God is in heaven and we are on earth.

3.  God is Lord and we are His servants, His disciples here on earth.

As we make our preparations to WORSHIP on whatever day of the week we so choose, we approach God with a positive of humility.  We bow before Him [physically/spirituality or both]; we fall down before Him.

An Example of Isaiah’s Experience in God’s Presence:

“IN THE year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple”  (Isaiah 6:1 NIV).

To see God reigning in POWER, WISDOM and LOVE produces only one response–AWE!

TAKING GOD SERIOUSLY:

Solomon concludes his instructions on WORSHIP in Ecclesiastes 5:7:

“For in a multitude of dreams there is futility and worthlessness, and ruin in a flood of words.  BUT [reverently] fear God [revere and worship Him, knowing that He is].”

To FEAR GOD doesn’t mean to dread in terror.  It means holy awe and respect for we are to take God seriously.

I once glanced at the back page of a local newspaper which had a list of churches.  It included their addresses, their times of worship, their religious affiliation and their pastor’s name.  As I looked closer, I noticed one particular church had advertised one of its worship services with the following statement:

Casual Worship at 9:30 AM

I know they were trying to communicate their worship service was casual dress and informal.  But Solomon’s writings and I believe, all of Scripture teaches, nothing is casual about worship.  Far too often we take JESUS just a little to lightly.  We approach King Jesus in triteness with too casual fashion.  We think of Jesus as our “buddy” or “pal.”  But this is the eternal God of the universe, who has claimed our lives because He placed eternity in our hearts.  We are to approach Him with ALL respect and ALL reverence.

Lets Stop Playing Games With God On Sunday Mornings!

We might try the approach of “fake it until we make it” with others, but God sees us as we really are.  Make no mistake:  God loves fun and laughter from His children.  He delights in people who have a sense of humor.  BUT WORSHIP is serious business, even as we approach the physical structure, our churches down the road:  to WORSHIP with RESPECT and with AWE as we enter the building.

WORSHIP IS NOT AN ENDURANCE CONTEST:

It should be a marvelous adventure.  We get excited to take our family to a Family Theme Park or leaving on a jet plane to see family in Texas or a RV camping trip along a rushing river.  That same preparedness, that anticipation, that experience should be likewise in the presence of the King!  It’s not business as usual but a wonder-filled ride; a new dimension of your life.  It’s not a mundane trip but a memorable flight.  And on that journey, our reaction will not be simply, “nice service this morning”…”nice trip”.  But rather in the words of a child who is flying for the first time, “AWESOME!”

“Do I Need An Attitude Adjustment About Worship and Making Promises?”

Beijing Airport Drop-Off Area

The Bible isn’t a book about happiness, it’s a book about holiness” ~ Keith Krell

My Pickup at the Airport Experiences:

Going to the Seattle-Tacoma Airport to pickup an arriving passenger is a frustrating experience as it might be your experience too.  My goal is always to save money by not parking in the adjacent Parking Garage.  So I want to park as long as I can next to the curb… at the designated airline terminal pickup area.  Soon afterwords, I begin listening to the loudspeaker recording,  “The white zone is for loading and unloading only.  NO PARKING!”

Now, mind you, I am waiting to load up but my passengers are delayed and I’m waiting at the curb too long.  A police officer usually approaches my car, waving his hand at me to move on.  Although my windows are up tight, I can read his lips through the glass, “You can’t park here!”

Being a law-abiding citizen that I am, I smile and oblige him, then make the loop through all the confusing airports access roads and begin this vicious cycle all over again.

Can I be honest here?  I wish there were some way to announce over a loudspeaker system inside every church foyer I have ever attended:

The WORSHIP zone is for learning, listening, and changing only.

NO PARKING!

BE ALERT!

LISTEN CAREFULLY!

Truth will be deposited in your head

that is designed to change you!

But chances are good, even if such an announcement was made from church loudspeakers every Sunday, the same would occur…folks would still “park”; turn a deaf ear to the recording; then give the pastoral police officers the runaround [1]“Do We Need An Attitude Adjustment About and Before We Worship…?”

WHY PROPER WORSHIP IS IMPORTANT? [Ecclesiastes Chapter 5:1-3]

The ability to enjoy the good on one’s behalf is truly a gift of God:

“There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink and make himself enjoy good in his labor.  Even this, I have seen, is from the hand of God.    For who can eat or who can have enjoyment any more than I can–apart from Him?    For to the person who pleases Him God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and heaping up, that he may give to the one who pleases God.  This also is vanity and a striving after the wind and a feeding on it”  (Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 AMP).

It is imperative that we please Him in our worship experience; there is no alternative.  There is “vain worship” at times in the house of worship:

“You pretenders (hypocrites)!  Admirably and truly did Isaiah prophesy of you when he said:  These people draw near Me with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts hold off and are far away from Me.  Uselessly do they worship Me, for they teach as doctrines the commands of men”  (Matthew 15:7-9 AMP).

Therefore, Jesus’ words say that ‘not all worship is acceptableto God.

HOW TO PROPERLY WORSHIP GOD:  (Ecclesiastes 5:1 a)

Both the NIV and the NASB versions of the Bible say, “guard you steps“.  The Amplified version says it this way:  “Keep your foot–give your mind to what you are doing–when you go to the house of God”.  Do I need an attitude adjustment?  When one worships…Solomon tells us to give thought to what they will do and also to be careful what they will do.

Almost a year ago my wife and I started attending a new church that was much closer to our home.  Years before I thought after sitting down in the Sanctuary of the building, it was standard practice to continue with the  fellowship time from the foyer before the ‘worship music’ began.  One Sunday morning, I turn to my wife to ask her a question receiving no reply.  She had her eyes closed and the palms of her hands face up on her lap.  I immediately ceased my talking, apologizing for the interruption.  She explained to me as I sat there, she couldn’t just come and sit down without getting herself ready for worship; ready to receive.

I have always found it amazing how the Holy Spirit sometimes communicate with us through our spouses.  Well, maybe more than ‘sometimes’.  From that moment on, I made an ‘attitude adjustment’; a pledge to be prepared before worshiping my God.  I wanted my worship to be acceptable to my Lord.

Draw near to hear (5:1 b).

“For to draw near to hear and obey is better than to give the sacrifice of fools”.

Being concerned with learning what God has revealed–or what is about to be revealed should be our attitude.  It should be like young Samuel s attitude:

“So Eli said to Samuel, Go lie down.  And if He calls you, you shall say, Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.  So Samuel went and lay down in his place.    And the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, Samuel!  Samuel!  Then Samuel answered, Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening”  (1 Samuel 3:9-10).

Our attitudes should be as the Bereans in Acts 17 ; “entirely ready…with inclination of mind and eagerness, searching and examining the Scriptures (v. 11 b).

“Giving the sacrifice of fools”- (5:1 c).

Do not offer the sacrifice of fools.  Again, not all worship is acceptable.  There is that kind of worship as described in Proverbs and the Gospel of Luke:

“He who turns away his ear from hearing…even his prayer is an abomination, hateful and revolting [to God]” ~ Prov. 28:9.

“Why do you call Me, Lord, Lord, and do not [practice} what I tell you?  For everyone who comes to Me and listens to My words [in order to heed their teaching] and does them, I will show you what he is like…”    “But he who merely hears and does not practice doing…” ~ Luke 6:46-49

Sacrifice can be explained as ‘something given that comes with a cost’.  If your WORSHIP isn’t costing you something, then it’s not a sacrifice!  So coming into the worship experience two seconds before the music starts; as the Praise Team begins to lead in song; or you come in late because you had better get to the restroom facilities before you sit down.  If your preparation doesn’t cost you something, it’s not a sacrifice.  “For to draw near and obey is better”  than being a fool.  That may sound harsh to your ears, but the words aren’t coming from me but from the Lord’s Word.

KEEPING THE VOWS THAT YOU MAKE, REGARDLESS…

“Okay, I am going to change my attitudes about Worship from now on.  I’m going to more prepared next Sunday!”

“Be not rash with your mouth, and let not your heart be hasty to utter a word before God.  For God is in heaven, and you are on earth; therefore let your words be few.    For a dream comes with much business and painful effort, and a fool’s voice with many words.”  (Eccl. 5:2-3).

REALLY?  Be careful what you say, what you promise, what you pledge to do before God or others and remember…Jephthah s  foolish vow:

“And Jephthah made a vow (promise) to the Lord and said, If You will indeed give the Ammonites into my hand,  Then whatever or whoever comes forth from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites, it shall be the Lord’s, and I will offer it or give him up as a burnt offering”  (Judges 11:30-31).

Now the promise of Jephthah was an honest one, but because of his rash words before God, became haunting to him later in verses 34-35:

“Then Jephthah came to Mizpah to his home, and behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances!  And she was his only child…And when he saw her, he rent his clothes and said,  Alas, my daughterI have opened my mouth [in a vow] to the Lord, and I cannot take it back”.

If you promise God that you are going to make an attitude adjustment in regards to your worship preparation from now on, you ‘cannot take it back’ nor should you; a promise made must come with commitment; a pure and honest heart.  Always give thought to what you say in prayer and song.  Do you consider the vows or promises that you give to God or others as a commitment?  Do you intend to keep them?  Along with the rewards that will come from your promises, consequence will follow if you break them.  The worldly concept of ‘fake it until you make it’ approach in worshiping God will never be acceptable to Him for He knows the heart; your honesty; your intentions and desires.

KEEPING THE VOWS THAT YOU MAKE – (5:4-7)

(verse 4):  “When you vow a vow or make a pledge to God, do not put off paying it; for God has no pleasure in fools (those who witlessly mock Him).  Pay what you vow.”

Changing a thought process, in the middle of conversation with people might be confusing; not to me maybe, but certainly to them.  Therefore, I don’t believe King Solomon would be any different not would Holy Spirit want to confuse us in changing direction.  Going from what is acceptable to God in our worship and praise to keeping the vows; promises we make is not a coincidence.  If we are going to make an attitude adjustment in our worship experience; making a promise to God that no more are we coming to Him without preparation, then we need to be committed to that pledge.

God has no pleasure in fools; such as those who make promises and do not fulfill them in worship or any other vow–“It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay”  (verse 5). 

Solomon says in one of his proverbs, “It is a snare to a man to utter a vow [of consecration] rashly and [not until] afterward inquire [whether he can fulfill it]”  (Proverbs 20:25 AMP).  If you say to God one morning, “Father, from now on I am going to dedicate myself to be more prepared to worship You”, that is ‘consecration‘.  If those words do not become a part of you from that point of commitment, you are ‘a fool which God has no pleasure’.

Don’t let your mouth cause you to sin.

Why make God angry and destroy the work of your hands (Ecclesiastes 5:6)?  Many words lead to vanity, and sin.  What is vanity? It is the opposite to humbleness.  An example might be in a dialogue, “Guess what? Last Sunday before worship service began, I told God I was going to stop talking to you until after the service.  You should do the same.”  That my friends is condescension; pride, selfishness and not prudent words.

“In a multitude of words transgression is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is prudent”  (Proverbs 10:19).

THE KEY THOUGHT IN PROPER WORSHIP is to “FEAR GOD” [Vs. 7]:

Approach is IMPORTANT in worshiping our God, our King and Savior with the deepest respect and reverence.  Worship Him as He directs and not as you might wish...”Swift to hear, slow to speak” ~ James 1:19.  This should be our attitude in worship if we truly wish to please God!  If our attitudes before and in worship and praise is not acceptable and pleasing to God, then we just might need ‘an attitude adjustment’!

[1] Story idea came from Charles Swindol’s Living of the Ragged Edge – Coming to Terms of Reality.