“Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob.” (Psalm 24:3-6)
Who will truly worship God? The psalmist answer that with one of he many character portrayals of the Old Testament. In psalm 15:1-5 it notes He who is blameless and does what is righteous; one who speaks the truth from his heart; and speaks no slander, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman; one who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the Lord, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, who lends his money without asking for interest. Israel took the opportunity to worship seriously. People wanting to enter the Temple were asked to confess basic character traits. So, what would you have to confess before entering the Temple?
PRAYER FOR THE DAY:
Precious Abba, You know us better than we know ourselves, yet You love us anyway. You loved us enough to reveal to us that our confession of our sins regularly and with true repentance in our hearts, is the key to finding forgiveness and mercy from You. Help us to share this with all of those we come into contact with, that they too, can be forgiven for their sins, their mistakes, their wrongs, or whatever they call them; but that first they must have the strength that comes from You to name them and show true repentance for our sins. This we pray. Amen
THOUGHT OF THE DAY:
“We always find time for the things we value most!”
“All of these now join their brothers the nobles, and bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Low of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the Lord our Lord.” (Nehemiah 10:29)
Beloved, affirming obedience to God’s ethical requirements in a corporate setting and context reinforces our resolve to carry out that ethical obedience when we are by ourselves. Worship should not only place demands on us but also provide us opportunity to respond to God’s demands. In the corporate setting, it is easier to praise God and commit ourselves to obedience to Him alone. The real test, however, often takes place in a not so safe environment. I was once working in a maximum security prison with fellow Christian brothers and there were occasionally some who were allowed to come join us. One night in a room with 300 prisoners, someone came up from behind me and put something in my back that was definitely sharp. I was asked, “So how strong is your faith now?” I did not move and attempt to see who it was, but responded, “My faith is as strong as anything you have in my at this moment.” I heard something drop on the floor and did not look. No one else seemed to know what had just happened, though I suspect many did. Without looking, I knelt down and picked up a homemade knife, and put it in my pocket. I turned it in to a guard and told him I had found it on the floor. After reflection, when I first felt the object touch my back, I felt God’s presence, and I felt no fear whatsoever and my response would have been the same, if I had turned and looked at the individual that was behind me. I did, however, sense that it was a test by the individual and that my answer hopefully helped them to make a decision in their own life, to accept Jesus as I had. Obedience is required, but when tested, you will know that you are not alone, ever!
“To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” (Proverbs 21:3)
Acts of worship play a central role in biblical teaching, but they remain secondary through all parts of Scripture to the call for righteousness and justice. We are to be a righteous people, continually seeking rights for all and working to insure that all receive the justice they deserve.
2ND THOUGHT OF THE DAY:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—-this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—-his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: ‘Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.’” (Romans 12:1-3)
Worship is more than feeling good about God. It includes the matter of applying faith to everyday life. We worship as we pattern life after God’s ways and not the world’s. This becomes possible (or I believe probable) when God changes our minds. That is, God’s Spirit works in us so we can test and judge to determine God’s will. I believe this takes more than intention. I believe we seek to have the kind of relationship with God that He seeks to have with us! So we must approach to share our lives with Him daily; telling Him of our feelings about how we handled situations throughout our days, and in this way we become closer than ever before in our lives. Yes our sins moves us away from Him, but in our prayer lives, He knows our hearts inside and out, and understands us and we begin to understand more about what He expects from us in our daily lives.
Many years ago, before I felt God’s call to ordained ministry, and I was involved in a Bible study on the minor prophets in the Old Testaments. Each one began with a description of life in their communities; life was good, crops were abundant, needs were being met and everyone seemed to be living well. Then, they turned away from God and suddenly life was no long idyllic, but rather a burden, crops were dying, needs were outgrowing available resources, people were arguing and hurting, and food was scarce. Then, they turned back to God and He was there, and things returned to the way they had been. You see, God never moved from the people, the people moved away from God. It is our relationship with Him that is significant here, and we must work at our relationship with God regularly. Our prayer lives must be as strong as our faith is and we have to nourish it to keep it strong. I pray this makes sense to you all, for this is what I see as the catalyst for our lives in this world. As we near Christmas and the birth of the Savior, let us first recommit ourselves to praying every day. If you don’t think you have anything to say, then look around you and pray to God for those we love and care for around us, as many are in need. We are about to begin another year of pandemic scares, and we need God in our lives more than we ever have.