Worshiping Together

Posted May 31st, 2007 by Kent and filed in devotional

“May God … help you live in complete harmony with each other—each with the attitude of Christ Jesus toward the other. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God ….” (Romans 15:5-6 NLT)

Entering God’s presence together requires careful preparation.

Congregational worship isn’t as simple as walking through the doors of a church and singing a few songs. In worship we enter the presence of the living God and declare his praises.

While his arms are open to everyone, not just anyone can snuggle up next to him. The psalmist declared, “Who may climb the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies … They alone may enter God’s presence and worship the God of Israel.” (Psalms 24:3-4, 6 NLT)

Preparing our hearts for community worship requires, first and foremost, that we cleanse ourselves of anything that comes between us and our God. As I’ve said before, we cannot work our way into holiness – that is the work of God, the spirit of Christ within us.

But part of the Holy Spirit’s work is to make us aware of our sins, and once he’s done that, our “work” is confessing those sins and jettisoning them from our lives – confession and jettison.

What is sin? Anything that separates you from God; anything the Holy Spirit says is sin; anything that pushes God down in your life or out of your life; anything you wouldn’t do with Jesus right by your side. The fact is, of course, he isn’t right by your side; the Spirit is inside you, placed there by God at the moment of your salvation.

So what?

· Prepare for community worship – Entering the presence of the living God requires careful preparation. It means slowing down, turning your eyes away from yourself, and contemplating all God has done for you.

· An attitude of gratitude – Think of all the people God has placed in your life who bless you. Think of the things God has given you. Let gratitude well up in your soul, and then express your gratitude through praise. “I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the Lord. With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God,” the psalmist declared in Psalm 84:2 (NLT).

· Remove obstacles to unity – God wants us united as we come to communal worship: “If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.” (Matthew 5:23-24 MSG)

· Initiate healing – Is there someone who comes to mind when you read about broken relationships? Ask God to show you what to do to initiate healing in that relationship.

© 2007 Jon Walker. All rights reserved

Living Free

Posted May 30th, 2007 by Kent and filed in devotional

Show proper respect to everyone. 1 Peter 2:17 NIV

Thoughts for Today
The third vital quality we need to develop in helping a hurting loved one—and in every relationship—is respect. People with life-controlling problems might not seem to deserve our respect, but our respect for them could be one of the keys to their healing. Even if their life is controlled by destructive behaviors, people deserve respect as a human being. Respecting loved ones with a life-controlling problem doesn’t mean you should own their problem or rescue them from taking responsibility for their behavior. It does mean you should treat them as equals and not put them down.

How is this possible? First, you need to separate them from their behavior. Look beyond their wrong behavior and see them as God’s creation. Even though you cannot respect their wrong-doing, you can respect them as a person.

Second, remember that God loves us no matter what we do. He gave us free will even though we sometimes use that freedom in harmful ways. Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. If God shows us this kind of love and respect, how can we do less for each other?

Consider this …
Ask God to help you love and respect people as his creation even when you can’t respect what they are doing. Difficult? Yes. But with Christ, all things are possible.

Prayer …
Lord, teach me to separate people from their behavior and learn to love and respect them as your creation. In Jesus’ name …

by Gary Sweeten

God’s Royal Seal

Posted May 29th, 2007 by Kent and filed in devotional

In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.

—Ephesians 1:13

What does the Bible mean when it says that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit? In the apostle Paul’s day, when goods were shipped from one place to another, they would be stamped with a wax seal, imprinted with the signet ring of the owner. This was a unique mark of ownership. People could look at the crate, see its wax seal, and know they had better not open it.

The same was true with a document from a king. It would be sealed in wax and imprinted with the royal seal. People knew if they opened it and were not the intended recipient, they would be endangering their very lives.

In the same way, God has put His royal seal on us: “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 1:21–22). The seal is the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and lives. Upon our conversion, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit.

Let’s say that a thief wanted to steal a briefcase. Then he notices a nametag on it, bearing the name of a famous boxer. Most likely, the thief wouldn’t steal that briefcase. Why? He would be afraid of what would happen. He doesn’t want to suffer bodily harm.

The devil wants to come and destroy us as Christians. He wants to wreak havoc in our lives. But he sees our ID tag: “Owned by Jesus Christ. Sealed and insured by the Holy Spirit.” So he backs off, because we belong to Jesus Christ.

by Pastor Greg Laurie

The Touch of God

Posted May 28th, 2007 by Kent and filed in devotional

In Scripture the leper is symbolic of the ultimate outcast: infected by a condition he did not seek, rejected by those he knew, avoided by people he did not know, condemned to a future he could not bear. And in the memory of each outcast must have been the day he was forced to face the truth: life would never be the same.

The banishing of a leper seems harsh, unnecessary. The Ancient East hasn’t been the only culture to isolate their wounded, however. We may not build colonies or cover our mouths in their presence, but we certainly build walls and duck our eyes. And a person needn’t have leprosy to feel quarantined.

The divorced know this feeling. So do the handicapped. The unemployed have felt it, as have the less educated. Some shun unmarried moms. We keep our distance from the depressed and avoid the terminally ill. We have neighborhoods for immigrants, convalescent homes for the elderly, schools for the simple, centers for the addicted, and prisons for the criminals.

The rest simply try to get away from it all. Only God knows how many individuals are living quiet, lonely lives infected by their fear of rejection and their memories of the last time they tried. They choose not to be touched at all rather than risk being hurt again.

Some of you have the master touch of the Physician himself. You use your hands to pray over the sick and minister to the weak. If you aren’t touching them personally, your hands are writing letters, dialing phones, baking pies. You have learned the power of a touch.

But others of us tend to forget. Our hearts are good; it’s just that our memories are bad. We forget how significant one touch can be. We fear saying the wrong thing or using the wrong tone or acting the wrong way. So rather than do it incorrectly, we do nothing at all.

Aren’t we glad Jesus didn’t make the same mistake? If your fear of doing the wrong thing prevents you from doing anything, keep in mind the perspective of the lepers of the world. They aren’t picky. They aren’t finicky. They’re just lonely. They are yearning for a godly touch.

Jesus touched the untouchables of the world. Will you do the same?

From Just Like Jesus
Copyright 1998, Max Lucado

God Desires Your Very Best…

Posted May 28th, 2007 by Kent and filed in devotional

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts.
–Hebrews 11:4

I have often wondered about Cain and Abel. It’s such an interesting story, with an unexpected twist. God accepted and blessed the offering of Abel, but refused to accept Cain’s offering.

Now, the two offerings were probably about equal in amount, perhaps even more so on the side of Cain. So why did the Lord reject Cain’s offering? The answer has to do with Cain’s attitude. Cain made his offering with an attitude of unfaith and duty. Abel came with an attitude of faith and reverence,

But before we come down too hard on Cain, we need to be careful about how we might be bringing unacceptable sacrifices to God today. For instance, every time we sing a praise song when God Himself is the furthest thing from our mind, we bring false worship and a wrong attitude. Leftover worship and sacrifice is not what God desires. He desires authentic worship given with all that we have.

But I’m afraid many of us give God the leftovers far too often, whether it is our money, our prayers, or some other form of our worship. If we’re too tired to pray at night, we’ll just go to bed and pray later. If we just have to have that new car…even though we really don’t need it…we’ll just give less and deal with the issue of our tithe later.

But it’s in the seemingly small decisions like these that our attitude toward God is revealed.

What is your attitude toward giving of yourself and what you have to the Lord? Does He have it all…or just the leftovers?

GOD DESIRES YOUR VERY BEST… NOT JUST THE LEFTOVERS!

by Jack Graham