The Simplicity of Worship

After spending some time reading John 12, I am struck by how simple worship really can be.  I know at times we like to complicate things in our lives as if we are writing an instruction manual that nobody can quite figure out.  But worship doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t be this way.  

Worship needs to be simple.  John 12 is a brief peek into the window of worship through some of Jesus’ closest followers.  In these few verses we encounter Lazarus (and Simon the Leper), Mary and Martha and of course Judas.  

Here are three things you could do this week as an act of worship.

1 – Sit in His presence – I would use the term “hang out” with Jesus.  Do this without being in a hurry or feeling rushed to get to the next appointment or check the next thing off your “to do” list.  Just find a quiet place, a copy of the Gospels and get alone with him.  I promise that even if you can do this for 5 minutes…it will change your perspective.

2 – Serve Jesus by Serving Others – Whether you find someone in need in the community or just serve the people in your home, this too can change your perspective.  Serving is noble and good, and when you serve Jesus by serving others you are worshipping.  After all, Jesus didn’t come to be served, but to serve.

3 – Sacrifice – Mary took a vial of expensive perfume and poured it out over Jesus.  What sacrifice of sweet adoration could you make for Jesus as an act of worship?  It could be some gift you want to give Him or some time you want to carve out for Him.  There are so many things you could do, but just choose one as a simple act of worship.  You will be glad you did.  

God's Timing

Why did Jesus delay in going to help Lazarus?  This question bothers most of us because we are just like Martha.  In fact, we might even say the exact same thing to Jesus that Martha said. “Martha then said to Jesus, 'Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.'” (John 11:21)  We know Jesus is the answer so...why doesn’t He answer us?

When I was a kid, we used to sing the song “In His Time.”  (For those of you who remember this song...you’re welcome, and I hope you enjoy the tune playing in your head the rest of the day).  We all know the truth of this song. We just do not want to live in the midst of this truth today.  

We live in a culture saturated with how quickly we can get what we want. It used to be that Domino’s Pizza would deliver in 30 minutes or less.  Amazon is always trying to perfect their delivery system, and in some markets they can deliver the same day.  In fact, I have a confession.  I received notification the other day that I have saved over 80 trips to the store by using Amazon (I’m not sure this is a good thing...but it is true).

Good things come to those who wait, but many of us are tired of waiting.  We want God to give us what we want, and we want it right now.  The only problem is God doesn’t operate on our timetable.  He operates on His timetable and it’s always best.  

I have been reading about King David lately.  I am amazed at how much patience he had.  He was told he would be king one day, but he wasn’t in a hurry. In fact, what you discover is David has men put to death for trying to expedite the timetable for him to be king.  He learned to be patient because He had learned something very specific about God, and it’s revealed in his prayers.  Many of his prayers have this phrase… “O Sovereign Lord.”  

The Sovereign Lord works on His timetable because He is doing something in you, and that means what He does for you has to wait until you are ready...and sometimes we are just not ready.  Take the time today to let the Sovereign Lord work in you instead of asking Him to work for you!

What A Mess

Have you ever noticed what a mess we can make of our lives?  In some ways it isn’t much different than the mess kids can make in their rooms.  The other day I walked into one of my kids rooms, and they had just about every toy they own pulled out somewhere on the floor and had left it there.  When they went to bed; I was a little concerned they would trip over something and wake up everyone in the house crying, but they didn’t.  

After a weekend of playing with many toys and leaving them out...yesterday Keri and the kids cleaned the whole house, and all the toys were put back in their place and order was restored in each of the kids’ rooms. And I came home to a very clean house!

As I have been preaching about the Good Shepherd and the sheep the last couple of weeks, I am still in awe of what the Good Shepherd does in my life.  So many days I make a mess of things.  Sometimes it’s a mess I make with my kids because I lose my patience or raise my voice to a level that I shouldn’t.

Sometimes I make a mess because I don’t love Keri the way I know I should and I am selfish and want my own way. I forget that Jesus loved me by laying down his life for me.  Sometimes I make a mess because I am not wise in decisions I make or I didn’t manage my money well.  Other times I make a mess because I am just flat out disobedient to God’s commands.  And let’s be honest...those add up to a lot of messes.  

But, the Good Shepherd is not afraid of my messes either.  He knows me by name and is intimately acquainted with my messes.  In fact, He even knows the mess I will make before I make it.  But you want to know something...He still cares for me and He still loves me.  

A good shepherd will spend countless hours cleaning briars out of the wool of the sheep after he got hung up in the briar patch and made a mess.  A good shepherd will spend time cleaning the sheep after they got stuck in the mud and forgot they were a sheep and not a pig.  Jesus does the same for us.

We have all been stuck in the briar patch, but one by one the Good Shepherd pulls away each briar.  We have all been stained from a mud puddle or two that we have gotten ourselves stuck in...ok let’s just call the mud puddle sin, so we all feel better.  We have all been stained by sin that has gotten a foothold in our life, but the Good Shepherd longs to set us free from sin and clean us up from the stains it leaves.

He is the Good Shepherd and He loves and cares for His sheep.  I hope that as you go throughout the week you will be reminded of everything He has done and is doing for you, and you will find great hope in the midst of all your circumstances.   

“In the Christian life there is no substitute for the keen awareness that my shepherd is nearby. There is nothing like Christ’s presence to dispel the fear, the panic, the terror of the unknown.” Phillip Keller

An Accurate View of Me

“It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.” 1 Timothy 1:15-16
 
There are days when my children remind me of me.  I know I gave my parents a lot of grief, and my brothers and I fought about meaningless things and sometimes just fought for the fun of it.  Recently when I saw my kids fighting or picking at each other, I was reminded about the many times I fought with my brothers, and I think to myself there will come a day when this will pass. 

In a spiritual sense, sometimes we lose sight of who we used to be.  One of the things that I appreciate about the apostle Paul is that he never seemed to lose sight of who he was before he met Jesus.

The above verses serve as a great example of how Paul thought of himself. He didn’t have an elevated view of himself as if to think that God owed him something.  In fact, quite the contrary is true of Paul…he had an accurate view of his sinfulness and therefore a deep appreciation for the mercy and acceptance he had found in Jesus. 

As we approach Easter Sunday, I wonder what view you have of yourself?  Do you have an elevated view of yourself and your “righteousness” and therefore a low view of the crucifixion and the resurrection?  Or, do you have an accurate view of who you used to be as the chief among sinners and therefore you have a deep appreciation for the cross that stirs your heart and affection toward Jesus?

Don’t let Easter be just another day.  Take the time to look at your life and who you used to be, and let it stir your heart towards Jesus who has given you eternal life and adoption into the family of God!
 

Are you a steward or are you a benefactor?

When it comes to church, are you a Steward or are you a Benefactor? (hopefully you are one or the other and a generous giver of at least some measure of your resources!)  If you can’t describe yourself as either… you may want to look to the verses below and purpose to get started in some meaningful way.

A Benefactor… (Vocabulary.com)  a person who helps people or institutions, especially with financial help

A Steward… (Collins English Dictionary)  a person morally responsible for the provision and careful use of money, time, talents, or other resources (a manager), especially with respect to the principles and needs of the community or group

I really like the all-encompassing nature of the definition of a steward (above).  It speaks to proper moral responsibility and management of a variety of resources and principles that are assigned to a group.  That pretty much sums up Church stewardship! While the Church definitely appreciates its benefactors, and there are quite a few, God has actually called each of us to be stewards of both the resources and the spiritual gifts that He has given to us.  Being a generous benefactor can be a part of good stewardship...but it’s certainly not the entire stewardship Job Description, so to speak!  See below for some examples of what the Bible tells us about comprehensive stewardship:

1 Peter 4:10 (NASB) As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

1 Corinthians 4:1 (NASB) Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.

Luke 13:7 (NASB) And he said to the vineyard-keeper, 'Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?'

Luke 16:1-2, 11-12 (NASB) Now He was also saying to the disciples, "There was a rich man who had a manager, and this manager was reported to him as squandering his possessions.  And he called him and said to him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.' ... 11 Therefore, if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? 12 And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?

While benefactors typically give generously of their “treasure”, they are frequently not “all-in” with their time and talent.  You see, they are very busy people with other important life issues (work, family, hobbies, social things, household chores, etc.) going on and so they just trust that the stewards (who by the way, have the same “life issues” going on) will serve the Church in the other ways, like leadership and important volunteer roles that require a lot of time and talent.   If you have looked at the definitions and descriptions above, and you can’t quite see yourself as a Steward, don’t be too upset if you label yourself as a benefactor.  Let me emphasize, benefactors are still servants (possibly very faithful servants) and they are serving the Church!  

With that being said, there is a difference between serving and “having a servant’s heart”.  Those who take stewardship seriously have chosen to be mindful of the image of “having a servant’s heart” that a loving Christ laid out for us.  Good stewards serve thoughtfully and graciously whenever and wherever they are needed.  They choose not to pre-define the type, amount or duration of their service.  They see what needs have to be met, and they meet them with a loving and selfless response.  They are sometimes needed in the background and sometimes they must be “front and center.”  It might be holding a baby in the Nursery or serving coffee in the Lobby, it might even be running to Sam’s Club to get napkins. Most of us might consider those “easy” servant roles... but good stewardship could also be serving as an Elder or a Deacon, maybe teaching a Life Apps class or leading a small group.  Those are BIG time consuming, faith developing, spiritually maturing, Kingdom needs for every church… and they are fulfilled by normal everyday people like you or me!  

Additionally, while benefactors often give their finances generously to the Church, good stewards give their finances as well.  And they give in a systematic and sacrificial way for Kingdom purposes.  The actual percentage of their giving is not the most important thing.  They know that the greatest importance is found in giving to God the “first fruits” of their income, (not the excess or what’s left over at the end of the month).  This giving of first fruits celebrates the faith held in God to provide beyond all of their earthly desires, beyond human understanding and even beyond their greatest fears.  They simply trust that their God is bigger than any and all of their personal situations!

Further, while we may think that the type of giving and serving mentioned above are way outside of our “comfort zones”, remember that God doesn’t recognize any comfort zones.  He is the One that faithfully equips the called...He doesn’t necessarily “call” the already equipped! (What kind of faith would that yield?)   Rest assured, God is patient, and there’s so much room for our “benefactors” (and for those who haven’t even gotten to that point!) to grow and mature into the stewards that they need to become.  As a good first step, they must allow themselves to trust that God can and will work “miracles” in their lives to allow them to accomplish all of “it”.  Take some “little steps”.  The next time you are made aware of some church “need” (be it a service opportunity or a financial need) and you feel the Holy Spirit tugging at your conscience to do something...give in and listen to Him.  Start small...and continue to build your way to stewardship.  Isaiah 6:8 “Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I. Send me!"   Trust me, you won’t ever regret saying “Yes!” to becoming a better and more faithful steward!   

Finally, Jesus’ own words from John 15:12-17 come to mind: 12 "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. 17 This I command you, that you love one another.”  Sometimes we show the greatest love for Jesus and for His people not by physically dying, but by dying a little to “self”.  By systematically and sacrificially giving of our precious time, talent, and treasure for the betterment of the Kingdom and its “citizens”, we can play out the commands above and bear great fruit as the stewards we are called to be.  

Just remember...He's got this!

Colossians 2:6-7

“Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.” 

Colossians is one of my favorite books of the Bible, and chapter 2 verses 6&7 was one of the very first sermons I ever preached. These two verses are a simple but powerful encouragement to the church.  I believe they can have great impact on you as you walk through your present circumstances whether they are messy or squeaky clean. 

Here are some of the key things to remember from these two verses.

·       Make your relationship with God personal – This is your relationship with God; not your parents, not your spouse’s or even your kids.  You must receive Him as Lord!

·       Keep walking in Him – Even on the days when you don’t feel like it or you may even have questions or be angry, keep walking life out with Him.  He will not disappoint.

·       Deepen your roots – Deep roots keep us from falling over.  Deep roots give us great nourishment and help us bear fruit (read Psalm 1)

·       Allow Jesus to build in your life – There will be stumbling blocks that turn into building blocks when you let Jesus work on you and in you instead of trying to control everything in your life.

·       Develop your faith – Jesus told us about the faith of a mustard seed.  A mustard seed is very small but grows into something large.  Taking small steps of faith will help strengthen your faith; because when you learn to trust God with the small things, it makes it easier to trust Him with the big things. 

·       Be thankful – When you cultivate a heart of gratitude, you can face anything because you walk in confidence knowing that everything in your life comes from or flows through the hand of God.  He can take every stumbling block and turn it into a building block.

Whatever is happening in your life, just remember there is nothing so big that God can’t handle it.  So don’t panic…just remember…He’s got this!

True Worshipers

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” ‭‭John‬ ‭4:23-24‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Every time we join together to unite as the Body of Christ, our desire should be fixed on being true worshipers. As we see in these verses in John, the Father is seeking. He is seeking people to worship Him. But not just any people. He desires we worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.  

“Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” ‭‭John‬ ‭14:6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Jesus came to give us the way, truth and life.  He always directs us to the Father.  Jesus desires that we seek after Him and it's through Him only that we are able to come to the Father.  When He ascended, He gave us the Spirit who would be our guide, our counselor, our helper. 

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” ‭‭John‬ ‭16:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The Spirit works in unity with the Father and the Son.  They are always on the same page and they all desire and seek after worshipers who worship in spirit and truth. 

May the power of the Word of God and the presence of His Spirit lead us each time we worship.