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I wondered how many others, just like me, came to the sanctuary each Sunday morning with heavy hearts. Hearts full of grief and gloom, and yet I’m supposed to sing like nothing’s the matter?
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Today’s world is instant everything. No waiting. From fast food, microwaves, Keurig’s, iPhones, computers, the list is endless. Waiting takes patience; and patience seems to be a fruit of the Spirit we no longer deem important.

McDonalds

So what causes your toe-to-tap this morning? Tell the truth—shame the devil. The long line at McDonalds when you’re late? A spouse who can’t seem to get his/her act together? Lazy kids? A promotion at work? A neglected raise in your paycheck?  A new house? A new car? Your children to grow up and attain the level of success you ask? Or a kajillion other must haves on your list of life’s most importants?

But look around. Are all these things the reason for success? Or are we missing the point—the eternal point? Dr. Tommy Nelson, ThD in Lewisville, Texas, writes:

“History goes this way: What one generation resists, the next will allow. What one generation allows, the next will embrace. And what one generation embraces, the next will enforce.”

Think about it. Where do you think America stands today along Dr. Nelson’s timeline?

Ellis Farm 3

Within the space of several paragraphs in the Psalms, inspired by the Spirit of God, David wrote these words:

“And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in Thee” (Psalm 39:7 NAS).

“I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry…” (Psalm 40:1 NAS).

“I delight to do Thy will, O my God; Thy Law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8 NAS).

“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God” (Psalm 42:1 NAS).

Everywhere we turn this morning there are problems. Problems beyond our ability to solve. Serious problems that no political party will or could solve. Americans have been asleep at the wheel and our nation has been pushed and is careening off a dangerous cliff, destined to crash in flames on the jagged rocks below.

Where is your hope anchored? Who is your delight? What does your heart pant for?

We’ve been so busy taking care of me and thee, we haven’t concentrated on Him. The Giver of life—the Author of Creation—the Lord God Almighty.

earth-implosion

We’ve looked in every nook and cranny for the answer to social, economic, and political disasters—everywhere but to the place and to the One where true answers lie. Why? Because to search in that place we must stop our searching and wait. Wait on God.

I can see you shake your head and hear your thoughts, she doesn’t have a clue. Really? Man is the only being on this earth when danger and calamity rears its ugly head, we run faster. And faster. And faster. Even though we can’t see.

David tells us four times in the above Psalms what we are to do and what God will do in return. But this is a matter of the heart and requires each one of us to quietly submit, prayerfully contemplate, totally surrender, and thankfully worship. And we don’t know how to be quiet, contemplate, surrender, or worship.

 

To solve problems, you must determine the crux of the problem. And if we stop and truly think about this question, I’m sure none of us will like the answer. The crux of the problem is me—and you—and us. We think we’re smart enough to solve any problem. Right? Look at all man has accomplished in the history of the world. But isn’t that pride and arrogance and deception? And I’m the worst of the worst.

We’ve listened so long to Satan’s war drums; we no longer have the ability to discern deception or recognize danger. Our schools have taught our children there is no such thing as absolute truth, and we nod and rush them to the next sporting event to let them participate.

Ever pushing and shoving them and ourselves to the next thing. Rather than obeying what God said to King David, a man God identified as being “…a man after His own heart.”

A Matter of the Heart

God made us to win. To overcome. Not to just participate. Overcoming requires waiting before the God who made you and seeking His perfect plan for your life.

If it’s not too late, we must come to grips with the following questions:

  • When is enough, enough?
  • What am I working, waiting, longing for?
  • Where is my hope?
  • What will it take to humble my heart?
  • Am I ready to wait on the Lord?
  • Am I willing to do His will—not my own?
  • Is His Law written in my heart?
  • Does my soul pant for God like the deer pants for the water brook?

Ellis Farm

Are you, as a citizen of this once great nation, ready to sacrifice whatever it takes to bow your knee before the Lord God Almighty and ask Him to search your heart, to make His will known in your life, and then are you determined to obey what He tells you?

He is our only hope. His Spirit will bring revival—When the Church repents, waits for God, confesses our sins, and pants only for Him.

“He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay; and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. And He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and will trust in the Lord” (Psalm 40:2-3 NAS).

Arbuckle Mts.

 

 

 

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“Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion  forever” (Psalm 73:25-26 NAS).

Our house is a flurry of activity from sun-up-til-sundown. And our lives are jam-packed from the moment our feet hit the floor in the morning until we lay our weary bodies down late at night. Then we rise to repeat the process next day.

God instructs I am to be still and know that He is God, but I must be disciplined and determined if I am to sit quietly before the Lord.

Over the years I’ve learned if I’m not worshiping God during the week, chances are I’m not going to worship Him in the sanctuary Sunday morning.

In order to sit before my Father in Heaven, I must choose His peace, before my day begins, else chaos creeps in unannounced and before I know it, I’m off the road-and-in-the-ditch.

And then comes Sunday morning. Why do I go to the sanctuary? To see friends? To be seen by others? To be entertained? Or is it just a habit? A lifelong practice I’ve become accustomed to.

Historic Churches 0007_edited-1Whether I attend a small country church or a metropolitan mega church, or any size church in between, the reason for coming to the sanctuary should be the same—to worship the Lord God Almighty and His only Son, The Lord Jesus Christ. But what should worship look like?

What does it mean to worship?

This word has been so trivialized in our modern culture. Teen girls worship rock stars and movie idols. Goodness, those are dangerous words. Can a boyfriend or rock star become a god? Yes. Anything that interrupts or replaces a relationship with our Father is an idol. A god.

I’ve heard lovers remark, “I just worship the ground he/she walks on.” I believe folks have misconstrued the meaning of the word worship, else we wouldn’t be tossing the word into trite conversation.

Our Sunday School teacher, Dr. Henry Morris, III, relates that the First Commandment “You shall have no other gods before Me” literally means: Nothing between God’s face and my face.

Rogets Thesaurus describes the word worship to mean anything from faith to cultism. From piety to fanatic. But Strong’s Concordance of the Bible states the Old Testament, Hebrew word for worship in Exodus is “shachah—to depress or prostrate or bow down. The act of  bowing down in homage by an inferior before a superior ruler.”

DSCF2344The New Testament word for worship is “proskuneo”. Pros means “to make obeisance, do reverence to/towards” and kueno “to kiss”. It is used of an act of homage or reverence to God.

Each time I see a pre-incarnate appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ or hear the Spirit of God speaking to someone in the Old Testament, how did they react? Face down in the dirt!

I’m sure every one of us have heard someone say, “When I get to heaven and I see God, I’m gonna ask Him …” No they won’t. Like all those Old Testament folks, we will all be face down, at the feet of Jesus, in heavenly turf.

So when we come into the sanctuary, shouldn’t that be the attitude of our heart too? If you remember Jesus said:

“The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted” (Luke 18 11-14 NAS).

Who or what is the object of your worship? Your home? Your career? Your children? Perhaps famous athletes? Money? Or self?

Who or what comes between your face and God’s face?

Who or what is worth the choice of an eternity separated from the Lord Jesus Christ?

How and why we come to the sanctuary matters.DSCF2352 Forever.

Next week: ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS

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“Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my groaning. Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, for to Thee do I pray. In the morning, O Lord, Thou wilt hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to Thee and eagerly watch. For thou art not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; no evil dwells with Thee. The boastful shall not stand before Thine eyes; Thou doest hate all who do iniquity. Thou does destroy those who speak falsehood; the Lord abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit. But as for me, by Thine abundant lovingkindness I will enter Thy house, at Thy holy temple I will bow in reverence for Thee” (Psalm 5:1-7 NAS).

From the moment the pilgrims stepped foot on the shores of this continent, there has been church in America. Those courageous men and women sailed across an ocean to find a place to worship God. And this nation was founded on the laws and principles of the Word of God. These first Americans gave their lives so you and I could worship the God of our fathers.

Imagine getting up next Sunday morning and not being able to meet with those of like faith. No sanctuary to worship together. No place to pray and no brothers and sisters to join in singing praises to the Lord .

But during times of God’s judgment, ancient Israel had no temple. He destroyed His temple in Jerusalem in 586 B.C. because His people had desecrated the holy sanctuary with perversion, idol worship, and rebellion. Then in 70 A.D. God again destroyed the temple for the same reason. And for almost two thousand years the Jewish people have had no temple to gather on the Sabbath. No holy place to bow in reverence to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

 I’m ashamed to say I often take the privilege and blessing of coming to the sanctuary for granted. Many Sundays I gather the baggage of my heart, with little thought, and get ready for church. I show up, to load up on encouragement and comfort from God and from friends so I can function within the turmoil and stress of the world for another week.

From the beginning God set the Sabbath Day apart and called it holy. He knew I would need a day to shift gears. He knew I would need a day to come aside and contemplate who He is and who I’m not. He knew I would need a day to come together with a body of believers to focus, to praise and worship The Lord God Almighty. El Shaddai and His Son, The Lord Jesus Christ.

Scripture tells us, “For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant and praise is becoming” (Psalm 147:1 NAS).

I’ve learned I’m not alone in my journey to the sanctuary. All who come to the altar of our God Jehovah have layers of pain and hurt only Jesus can heal. If we are to live through the whirlwinds and chaos of this world, all of us must come to the sanctuary. To the altar of our God. On a regular basis.

Like me, many stumble in the door wounded, ragged, and bleeding. And if the edges of our hearts were visible, an ambulance would be called and we would be admitted to ICU.  We’ve lost a child, a spouse, or been diagnosed with an inoperable disease. We’ve lost our  means of  income or been told a spouse is leaving. Or worse.

Then there’s the group labeled “Don’t want to be here. Not going to listen to a word.” We sit silent, tight-jawed, arms crossed. Unapproachable. Coming to please spouses, parents, or sweethearts. But still needy. Still coming to the sanctuary.

Some of us creep in unnoticed. Overwhelmed by guilt. Crushed by something Satan has convinced us God will never forgive. We don’t know Satan’s other name—Father of Lies. Deep inside our hearts a stirring begins. A glimmer of hope. Maybe God would…If only He could. We are fragile. Desperate. Then we look around, hear the music and the voices and listen as Satan whispers in our ear, in a first person singular voice, with a southern accent voice—I don’t deserve to be here, my sin is too much to forgive.

Others of us bounce in the door with hearts bulging, brimming with joy over the good things God has poured over us during the past week. Starved for the next serving of God’s Word and we don’t want to miss a syllable or become distracted by wiggly children or those who straggle in late.

However, a greater number of us arrive just plain weary. Weary of the stresses and trials we’ve endured the past week. Weary of injustices and changes occurring in our culture. We’ve stretched our time, money and energy far beyond the breaking point and we need help.

If we’re honest, we’ve been in each one of those groups at some point in our lives. Seeking. Unaware of what we need. Just knowing we’re empty and need refilling. Renewing. A time to bow before our God. A time to worship Him, in an orderly manner, with praise and thanksgiving.

So how can we be helped in those few hours Sunday morning? Who could possibly meet the diverse needs and solve this horde of problems and troubles?

Only the Lord Jesus Christ, our omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, High Priest. (Hebrews 4:14-16 NAS). He alone has the ability to heal us. All of us. If we acknowledge our need and cry for His help.

Why do you come to the sanctuary? To meet God? To a holy place to learn His Word and boldly draw near the Throne of God’s grace? To pray? To worship?  ‘Cause quiet places are few and far between outside the sanctuary.

What do you experience when you stand on holy ground?

What does worship and praise mean to you?

Is there a special way you must come into the House of the Lord?

I hope you will take the time to read the 9th chapter of Daniel, verses 1 through 22. And then turn back and read the 9th chapter of  Ezra, verses 1 through 15 and Ezra 10:1 before next week’s post.

What preparations did these two men make before they prayed? Where were these men when they prayed? And what happened as a result of their prayers?

What happens when you pray?

 

NEXT WEEK:  IN THE SANCTUARY/ PART TWO – What is worship? What is thanksgiving? What is praise?

 

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I got nothing from the sermon this morning. Should have stayed home. The music was loud and consisted of fifteen words, repeated over and over. And not a soul spoke to me.

Hmm, ever thought that?

Come on now, ‘fess up. I have.

Last week a friend of mine loaned me a book she bought at a garage sale. The title of the book was In His Steps, by Charles M. Sheldon, published by Moody Press in 1956. This powerful book has caused me to rethink and refocus on the object of worship. And the conclusion is clear. . .

Worship is not about me.

What? That statement begs the question, then who or what is worship all about? What I get out of church? Me feeling good when I leave church? Me hearing the pastor give an acceptable sermon?

Or is my purpose to sit at Jesus feet to learn to become more like Him? Only the Spirit can accomplish that in me—my part is to be quiet, to listen, and then obey. Scripture tells me I am to “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and come into His courts with praise. Be thankful unto Him and bless His name” (Psalm 100:4 KJV).

Worship is for God and about God—not what I get, but what I give to Him.

And to be truthful, if I’m not worshiping before I reach the church building, chances are I’m not going to worship once I’m inside.

So why do I go to church? Several thoughts spring to mind: To hear the pastor’s message and read God’s Word? To sing and listen to the special music, and enjoy the company of friends who believe as I do?

But is that worship?

No. Worship convicts me when I humble myself and recognize my traditions and self-righteousness are like filthy rags before God. I realize the vast chasm between a holy God and a sinner like me, then acknowledge and accept that Jesus paid the debt for my sins and gave me life—eternal life. And I am thankful. Grateful.

Jesus commended the tax collector who stood outside the tabernacle, wouldn’t even look up toward heaven and beat on his breast, crying out “God be merciful to me—a sinner.” But He condemned the Pharisee who said “God I thank Thee that I am not like other people…even like this tax collector,” (Luke 18:11-13 NAS).

I don’t recall thinking, “Lord, be merciful to me. I’m a sinner,” as I’m racing through the church doors before the first song or prayer. I don’t even remember spending those moments in the car driving to church contemplating my desperate need for Him.  

Rogets Thesaurus lists the verb worship as “adore, cherish, respect.”

Who? Him?

Have I? No. It’s been all about me.

Is it any wonder I leave church in worse shape than when I arrived?

Are you tired of sitting in church every Sunday, singing a few praise choruses, reading a few scriptures, praying, then continuing with business as usual Monday through Friday? I wonder if our lives would be changed if we committed to ask Jesus what He would do each day, in every circumstance of our lives—relationships, finances, business?

In this book, In His Steps, the pastor and his congregation found themselves asking that same question after an unsettling experience during a Sunday service brought them to question the core of their worship. They chose to surrender to the power of the Spirit of God. As a result the preacher, the congregation, and their town was changed.

Those believers did not take their commitment lightly, nor should we. When we seek answers from man we receive only what man can provide. When we ask God, we receive wisdom, power, and understanding from the The Lord God Almighty.

But the battle ground camps in our hearts and minds. Our sinful nature shouts it’s  all about me. And that’s the deception we’ve bought into. But when we make the choice to worship God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ and we choose to follow In His Steps victory is certain.

I ask you to search for a copy of In His Steps. Read it, ask God to speak to your heart about worship, then share with us what He says to you.

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