Tag Archives: Worship

Sunday with John — Purpose

John 12:20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
There is life hidden in a hard nugget of grain that cannot be revealed until the hard outer shell is broken by the process of decay. That hard outer shell is the barrier to eternal life. “The hour has come for “the Son of Man” to break that barrier and reveal to His servants “the Father will honor” the life that “bears much fruit” in the presence of Jesus. 

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus recognizes God’s timing “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” His purpose is to break through the hard outer shell that prevents life in this world from bearing fruit that the Father honors.

What does it say about people?
Some who have come to worship,“wish to see Jesus.”

Is there truth here for me?
The fruit of eternal life” is hidden in that phrase “whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.“ It’s a hard phrase with a simple “either/or.” EITHER we hate the decay of this world that is going to end, and take us with it, OR we trust Jesus has broken that barrier of decay and given us the fruit of His life to get us through ours in this world so we’ll live with Him forever in the next.  

Exodus [The Road Out] – The Blood

Exodus 24:1-8

He [The Lord] said
Come —
Aaron, Nadab, and Abhiu, and seventy of the elders
and worship afar off.
Moses alone shall come near
and the people shall not come up with him.
Moses came and told
all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances.
The people answered with one voice
“All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do.”

Moses wrote all the words of the Lord,
and built an altar at the foot of the mountain.
He sent young men of the people of Israel,
who offered burnt offerings
and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord.
Moses took half of the blood,
he threw against the altar.
He took the book of the covenant,
and read it in the hearing of the people.
They said,
“All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.”
Moses took the blood and threw it upon the people
and said,
“Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord
has made with you in accordance with all these words.” RSV

The contrast between the Lord’s instruction for some to come and worship “afar off” but that Moses alone should “come near” was the thing that caught my attention.  That separation is such a different idea than what we understand when Jesus says “Come to me ALL who are weary…”   My modern-day heart is looking for clues from this episode of “back to the future”  because I recognize that contrast still exists.  “Afar off” was the trigger phrase that reminded me these people are homeless, weary prodigals,  people who want, even need, to worship but they are lost in the circumstances of life. This is the Word of the Lord, and He’s the only one who knows the future.

Moses took half of the blood,
he threw against the altar.
Moses took the blood and threw it upon the people
and said,
“Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord
has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

The unpleasant visceral images of Moses’s application of that long-ago gory, blood sacrifice as part of worship have done their work in reminding me there are two important truths about blood sacrifice that have forever changed the future for ALL prodigals and I see the reality of them for today.  Jesus IS the Blood of Sacrifice that identifies both the PLACE of worship and the the PEOPLE who  worship there.

Wednesday with John – The Revelation

John 2:13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers at their business. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple; and he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; you shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for thy house will consume me.” 18 The Jews then said to him, “What sign have you to show us for doing this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he spoke of the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.  23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs which he did; 24 but Jesus did not trust himself to them, 25 because he knew all men and needed no one to bear witness of man; for he himself knew what was in man. RSV

What is the general theme of the passage?
Jesus confronts the “legal” preparations, obligations and rationalizations for the Passover market that has made the Temple a place of diversion instead of a place to prepare yourself for true Worship.  The focus of worship must be changed from a place to a person.  “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.” Revelation 21:22 ESV

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus, “the Lamb,”  is fully man so he knows how easily our minds, heart and souls can be diverted.  Jesus is “the Almighty” too, so His heart is determined we must NOT get away with allowing even the legal props of faith to divert us from true Worship.

What does it say about people?
People love ritual!  And preparation really is essential to worship.  The first Sign of Jesus was the wine…and the disciples believed.  This Sign of Jesus’s anger is going to be the memory prompt of their belief in what they have learned and remembered about the truth of walking, and working with Jesus.  

Is there truth here for me?
These words of John reveal how different my experience with Jesus is to that show-stopping action of His anger in the Temple.  But life with “the Lord God Almighty AND the Lamb”  is the challenge Jesus and John have made me aware of today.  It’s made me consider two unique truths: Jesus, the Lamb, is determined to love me AND Jesus, the Lord God the Almighty, sometimes has to whip up my conscience with guilt to remind me I don’t want to make His “Father’s house a house of trade.”

Do you not know that you are God’s temple
and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
I Corinthians 3:16

Palm Sunday 2020

Matthew 21:8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”  “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”  “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” [NIV]

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Today is Palm Sunday.  I know many of us will have the opportunity to hear the message of Christ provided by our Pastor’s via the internet. That’s a blessing.  We are living in a new reality where dependence on community worship is restricted.  We won’t be surrounded by a crowd of like minded people gathering together to remember this day as the moment of triumph when Jesus begins His final journey to the day of our salvation.  We won’t be hearing other voices raised with our own as we shout Hosanna!  There are no waving palm branches to prompt our memory of the past.  

The pomp and circumstance of public celebrations has been temporarily swept aside but Coronavirus can’t deprive you of your Hosannas, “help” or “save, I pray!”  Today we are the ones who must prepare the way for Jesus to enter into the midst of our exile.  “Hosanna to the Son of David!”  “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Blessed is he who comes to complete His identity in you right there in your own home and offers you the opportunity to complete your identity in Him through a different kind of personal experience.  Today Palm Sunday worship is up to you.

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Sunday Soul Sing Along – Psalm 86:5

Psalm 86:5 You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. [NIV]

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Let this songa be a part of every heart in worship today.
I love you, Lord
And I lift my voice
To worship You
Oh, my soul, rejoice!

Take joy my King
In what You hear
Let it be a sweet, sweet sound
In Your ear

aLyrics to I Love You, Lord by Petra from Petra Praise 2

If you’re unfamiliar with this song.  There are many places on the internet you can listen to it and sing along.

The Firsts: James 1 – Words as Worship

NIV 1:26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Not all words are reliable evidence of truth.  What is true is that our words as believers count as evidence of our relationship to Jesus and that requires we “keep a tight rein on [our] tongues.”  James was writing to people just like us who struggle with the temptation to waste our words as weapons to wound or masks to hide behind.

Weaponized words to hide behind are everywhere today.  They’re one of the easiest ways we can be “polluted by the world.” This is James urgent reminder to us that our words are part of our worship.  The words we speak every day have an impact on Jesus’s reputation as as surely as those we speak in church on Sunday.  William Barclay says it this way “…worship is empty and idle unless it sends a man out to love God by loving his fellow-men and to walk more purely in the tempting ways of the world.”

“No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” [NLT Micah 6:8].  

Those are God’s words.  Amen.

The Big Event – God Bless our Journey

Matthew 2:1-2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”…11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

The Magi were men who still had the desire for God in their hearts.  Desire was why they watched for a sign. When they recognized the star they prepared their gifts and took that first step of a long journey expecting God would to lead them to a king.

People really do still have the desire for God in their hearts. God has pulled out all the stops for us during this season with many different and personal signs to guide us to “the one who has been born king,” the Big Event. This is our modern-day version of the journey but it’s still all about desiring God, watching for the signs, preparing our gifts of worship and then taking that first step expecting God will lead us to the King.

These are the perfect gifts of worship if you’re short on gold, frankincense and myrrh.
• Give Jesus your desire.
• Offer this new born priest your long journey.
• Let him be King of all your expectations.

God bless our journey.

The Red Thread – Pay Attention

Mark 2
•19 How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.
•21 No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse.
•22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins…
•25 Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions. 27 The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.

Jesus doesn’t intend his words to be rules. They’re meant to help you be the very person he’s created you to be. It wasn’t until I re-read these verses several times that I saw a connection between these four red letter verses. They’re all about paying attention to what you’ve been given.

Is Fasting denial or sacrifice? It’s both. Denial of food can be a diet or it can become a sacrifice of worship when it changes your attention from the visible act of eating into hunger for God to act. Hunger is the signal that it’s time to kneel, read scripture and pray instead of eat. Pay attention.

Jesus uses vivid word pictures to get our attention about how to deal with the old and new in our relationship to him. Don’t settle for the unsuccessful results of letting what he’s done for you be only a new patch that dresses up an old habit or try to squeeze a brand new part of your relationship to him into an old lifestyle. Pay attention.

Jesus has the right, power, and authority to declare your denial and sacrifice worship when you’re hungry and in need. Pay attention to him.

Therefore Let Us…

Hebrews 6:1 Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2 instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.

Sunday Thoughts:
I would much rather be told what moving “beyond the elementary” looks like than to be reminded I haven’t. So after the warnings in Chapter 5, I’m grateful for the encouragement of this first part of Chapter 6 that begins “Therefore Let Us…”

Those three words include you and me – we are “us.” Us means I am not trying to figure this out all alone.  Jesus secured the foundation of our repentance for “us” with his forgiveness and his promises. God has revealed himself to “us” in his Word and in the sacramental events of faith. Worship is an opportunity for “us” to “…be taken forward to maturity…And God permitting, we will do so”…together.