A Prayer about True Worshipers, not Great Worship

by Scotty Smith

“A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24

Dear heavenly Father, I am busted and convicted. Like many of your children, I’ve been guilty of taking a score card into public worship—assuming the right to be a jury and judge about the quality of worship created by those assembled in the chancel area, stage or platform (whatever the architecture of the church). If my liturgical agenda and theological credenda are satisfied, and if my musical palate and aesthetic sensibilities are honored, I give high marks. If not, I grumble to other grumblers, rather than engaging with those entrusted with the stewardship of your worship.

Forgive me, Father, humble me and keep me childlike before you. Exercising discernment and care in our most glorious, privileged and eternal calling is one thing. But entering a service of worship chiefly as a self-centered consumer is quite an ugly thing. How dare any of us assume the right to tell you what “great worship” is? What an arrogant and self-serving notion. Nowhere in your Word are you described as seeking “great worship.” But as Jesus clearly taught us, you are seeking true worshipers—those who worship you in Spirit and in truth.

You are seeking a doxological people—a people smitten with your glory, not a singular form or style—agospelized people, who love, worship, and glorify you with everything we have and are. May we be found to be just such a people—whether we assemble in a majestic cathedral, a high school auditorium, a high-tech worship center, a thatched roof hut, a neighbor’s great room, or an open air sanctuary.

Show us how to worship you in Spirit, Father—by your Holy Spirit and in the inner chambers of our spirit. We know lip-worship (mere form) and will-worship (mere duty) are not enough, for you are not honored when our hearts are far from you. By your Spirit, enthrall our hearts again with your holiness and your grace. Restore to us the joy of your sovereign salvation for us in Jesus. Bring us back to the love we had at first—love for you and for others.

Show us how to worship you in truth, Father—in keeping with the revelation of your Word. The truth about who you are and who we are; the truth about our desperate need for redemption and the perfect salvation you’ve given us in Jesus; the truth about how we can best love and serve you, and the tragic truth about how we often prefer our idols to you. Continue to free us from every wrong notion we’re ever had about you. Show us the difference between the traditions of men and the counsel of your Word.

We praise you for robing us in the perfect righteousness of Jesus—the only basis upon which we can worship you today, and we long for the Day when we will only give you perfect worship—the worship you deserve and in which you delight. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ holy and loving name.

Advertisements

If we are abiding in Jesus, let us begin to work.

by Andrew Murray

If we are abiding in Jesus, let us begin to work. Let us first seek to influence those around us in daily life. Let us accept distinctly and joyfully our holy calling, that we are even now to live as the servants of the love of Jesus to our fellow-men. Our daily life must have for its object the making of an impression favorable to Jesus. When you look at the branch, you see at once the likeness to the Vine. We must live so that somewhat of the holiness and the gentleness of Jesus may shine out in us. We must live to represent Him. As was the case with Him when on earth, the life must prepare the way for the teaching. What the Church and the world both need is this: men and women full of the Holy Ghost and of love, who, as the living embodiments of the grace and power of Christ, witness for Him, and for His power on behalf of those who believe in Him. Living so, with our hearts longing to have Jesus glorified in the souls He is seeking after, let us offer ourselves to Him for direct work. There is work in our own home. There is work among the sick, the poor, and the outcast. There is work in a hundred different paths which the Spirit of Christ opens up through those who allow themselves to be led by Him. There is work perhaps for us in ways that have not yet been opened up by others. Abiding in Christ, let us work. Let us work, not like those who are content if they now follow the fashion, and take some share in religious work. No; let us work as those who are growing more like Christ, because they are abiding in Him, and who, like Him, count the work of winning souls to the Father the very joy and glory of heaven begun on earth.

If you work, abide in Christ. This is one of the blessings of work if done in the right spirit—it will deepen your union with your blessed Lord. It will discover your weakness, and throw you back on His strength. It will stir you to much prayer; and in prayer for others is the time when the soul, forgetful of itself, unconsciously grows deeper into Christ. It will make clearer to you the true nature of branch-life; its absolute dependence, and at the same time its glorious sufficiency—independent of all else, because dependent on Jesus. If you work, abide in Christ. There are temptations and dangers. Work for Christ has sometimes drawn away from Christ, and taken the place of fellowship with Him. Work can sometimes give a form of godliness without the power. As you work, abide in Christ. Let a living faith in Christ working in you be the secret spring of all your work; this will inspire at once humility and courage. Let the Holy Spirit of Jesus dwell in you as the Spirit of His tender compassion and His divine power. Abide in Christ, and offer every faculty of your nature freely and unreservedly to Him, to sanctify it for Himself. If Jesus Christ is really to work through us, it needs an entire consecration of ourselves to Him, daily renewed. But we understand now, just this is abiding in Christ; just this it is that constitutes our highest privilege and happiness. To be a branch bearing much fruit—nothing less, nothing more—be this our only joy.

Abide in Christ (Kindle Edition)

Seven Sayings from the Cross

by

About the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?– Matthew 27:46

The fourth lesson we learn from Christ on the cross is this: Believer, God will never forsake you. You may be thinking, “How does Jesus teach us that, when he himself is being forsaken by God in his darkest hour?”

In every prayer of Jesus that is recorded in Scripture, he addresses God as his Father — except one. Here at the cross, as he is punished for our sins, he cries out “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Jesus called God his Father with oneexception, so that we could call God our Father without any exceptions!

You see, Jesus was forsaken by his Father on the cross, so that you and I would never be forsaken. He became sin for us, and so we now have free access to the Father by him. No sin, no person, no obstacle can keep us now from the love and forgiveness and blessing of our Father.

It is because of his own sure work on the cross that Jesus gives us such sure promises of his continued presence and grace with us.

“I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” Matthew 28:20

“Be content…for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” Hebrews 13:5

Scripture… As We Live It

by Alan Knox

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken a band/choir with powerful music, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship on Sunday mornings when we are singing with the church, with reverence and awe… (Hebrews 12:28 re-mix)

A Prayer in Praise of the God Who Laughs

by Scotty Smith

A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity. The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming. Ps. 37:10–13

Dear heavenly Father, what a remarkable and comforting image, “the Lord laughs at the wicked.” Laughter is not one of the things I grew up associating with you. Omnipotence, omniscience, and the other “Omni’s”, yes—but not felicity and laughter. I praise you that the gospel continues to expose, deconstruct, and replace all kinds of groundless notions I’ve had about you. Nothing has a greater effect on our lives than how we think about you in our hearts.

Father, we very much look forward to the day when we will hear your unrestrained laugher, for that will be the day when all evil, wickedness, and injustice will be eradicated. It’s hard to conceive of a universe, a nation, a city, a relationship—even one heart, my heart—in which every semblance of sin, darkness and brokenness is gone.  But that day is coming, and we praise you that on that day we will “inherit the land and enjoy great peace.” What a generous Father you are and what a magnificent future you have planned for your children!

We dare call you Father only because of what Jesus has done for us. Indeed, it’s only because Jesus went to the cross in the meekness of a Lamb, we can look forward with certainty to an inheritance “that can never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven” for us (1 Pet. 1:4). It’s the completeness of his meekness, not ours, in which we trust.

We only wish the “little while” we have to wait would be shortened significantly. But you are the God who does all things well. We know this to be true, and whenever we doubt it, center us in the gospel once again. Bring us back to the humility appropriate for those who are destined to inherit the new heaven and new earth—the home of eternal righteousness, peace and joy.

So when wicked plots and gnashing teeth seem to be on the increase and righteousness seems to be on the decrease, let us hear the sound of your laughter emanating in the gospel of the kingdom. Father, may your joy be our strength, your promise be our confidence, and your timing be our schedule. May your great love for us in Jesus, compel and propel us into greater expressions of missional living and loving until the Day.  So very Amen we pray in Jesus’ trustworthy and triumphant name.

Don’t Forsake Fellowship

Here is a “Hmmm!??” Bible study by Ross Rhode at thejesusvirus blog

Hebrews 10:25 is a famous verse. Most of us have it memorized, or at least the phrase “don’t forsake the assembling of ourselves together. However, I suspect the way that verse is commonly used is not really what the writer of Hebrews was trying to communicate.

For most of my Christian life this verse was taken to mean, “you must go to church.” At one point in my formal ministry life I even had my leader tell me, “Any time the doors of the church are open you are expected to be there unless you are traveling for ministry. That’s because the Bible says we are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together.” And, it was made clear if he ever found out that the church had a meeting, and I wasn’t there, I would be disciplined.

Really? Is that what that verse is talking about? Was the writer of Hebrews really suggesting that any time the congregation meets we are supposed to be there? Does it really make sense to turn this into a legalism about congregating formally? I don’t think so. Frankly, I think this verse is really much more powerful when understood in its context (historical and textual).

The Historical Context

The Epistle to the Hebrews was probably written in AD 63 or 64. What was the Church like then? Keep in mind that this was just 30+ years after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. The Church had no formal congregational leadership, in didn’t even meet in congregations, the way we think of them. The Church was just a loose relationally based network of people. They knew other Christians who knew other Christians. They did tend to meet. Just like college kids who know each other tend to ‘hang out’ together. And, sometimes, they did this in a scheduled way. In fact, it was common to meet on the first day of the week to commemorate the resurrection. But that wasn’t a rule, just a tendency. However, Christianity wasn’t conceived by these people as a series of formal meetings, in a house or anywhere else. It was a covenantal life with Jesus and a deep communal, relational life with others who knew Jesus. Oh, and by the way, lets get together on Sunday, but I’ll probably see you sooner. These people tended to be passionate about Jesus and wanted to spread His Kingdom. In fact, it was common for them to be highly focused on those types of issues. Meeting together in a planned way wasn’t high on their priority list.

Textual Context

This verse should be read at least as a whole sentence. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. This is given in the context of continuing to encourage each other to be doing good deeds, but, in doing so, don’t give up meeting together.

I think with these two contexts in mind it is better to understand the passage more like this. Hey guys, it is great you are out turning the world upside down for Jesus, keep up the good work. However, some of you are so intent on doing good deeds for Jesus that you are in danger of drying up spiritually. You need each other, if nothing more, for the encouragement. Don’t stop meeting together, it isn’t good for your soul.

We have strayed so far from this ambiance that we can’t even really conceive to what the writer was getting at. We see Christianity as a series of formal meetings. That was never the intention. We certainly do need to be encouraged toward love and good deeds, because so few Christians nowadays are doing much along these lines at all. We tend to get together quite regularly, but it is just to hear a lecture and see a show (or if house church Christians, to have a nice little meeting in a house). It doesn’t prepare us to be thrust back out into the harvest. We usually don’t even bother to try. Our souls are in danger of drying up, but not for lack of being with other Christians; it’s for lack of really living Christianity as it was designed by God. I think John was right when he told the Ephesians, “You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first (Rev. 2:4-5).”

  • Why do you think Christianity is so different than it was in the first centuries?
  • Have the changes from what we used to be to what we have become made us more effective for God’s purposes?
  • Church is much more complicated, formal and structured that it was at first. Has that made it more spiritual?
  • What would happen if we went back to the way things were at first? Would you enjoy that or hate it? Would it be easier to spread the Kingdom or harder?

Faith is not a weapon

by Sam Storms

Faith is not a weapon by which we demand things of God or put him in subjection to us. Faith is an act of self-denial. Faith is a renunciation of one’s ability to do anything and a confession that God can do everything. Faith derives its power not from the spiritual energy of the person who believes but from the supernatural efficacy of the object of belief-God! It is not faith’s act but its object that accounts for the miraculous … The leper in Matthew 8 said to Jesus, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean” (v. 2). The leper didn’t question Christ’s ability. He trusted that completely. He did have doubts about the willingness of Jesus to do it. But Jesus didn’t rebuke him for such doubts, as if it were a shortcoming in his faith that might jeopardize his healing. He healed him because of the leper’s confidence that he could do it.

The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts, p. 56-57