Joy in worship

God’s people had been in exile for seventy years. Upon their arrival back in Judah after Cyrus allowed them to return home, they settled once again in the towns. But they needed to get back to a right relationship with God which included worshipping him as he had directed. For them this meant resuming national worship in Jerusalem.

In order to worship God an altar was needed even more than a building on which to centre their worship. So the first thing the priests did was to build the altar of God so they could offer burnt offerings. Continue reading “Joy in worship”

Excess baggage

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1 NKJV).

When I first began to travel internationally most major airlines were allowing up to two checked pieces of luggage, each of which could contain up to 70 pounds. Additionally, each passenger was allowed one carry-on bag and a personal item such as a purse, briefcase, or camera bag. Over-weight was often ignored. Continue reading “Excess baggage”

Trust our Creator

“The Lord says: ‘Do not start following pagan religious practices. Do not be in awe of signs that occur in the sky even though the nations hold them in awe. For the religion of these people is worthless. They cut down a tree in the forest, and a craftsman makes it into an idol with his tools. He decorates it with overlays of silver and gold. He uses hammer and nails to fasten it together so that it will not fall over. Such idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field. They cannot talk. They must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of them because they cannot hurt you. And they do not have any power to help you.’” (Jeremiah 10:8-11 NET)

We can read verses like this in God’s word and think, ‘how could they have been so naïve’?  How could someone go into a forest, cut down a tree, make an image (basically a statue) out of it, decorate it, attach it to a stand so that it won’t fall over, then live in fear of what it might do, bow down and worship it? In many ways that sounds so preposterous that we might think, ‘no one would ever do something like this!’ Continue reading “Trust our Creator”

Exalting God together

“I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!” (Psalm 34:1-3, ESV).

The fundamental motives for evangelism and missionary activity are frequently identified as love for the lost and zeal to spread the good news of salvation. Somewhat less obvious today, but prominent in the New Testament, is the goal of exalting God in an unbelieving world.

Jesus spoke repeatedly about his earthly purpose, which was at least in large part to “glorify God” (John 17:1, 4). He taught his followers to live so that “others … may see your good works and give glory (i.e. praise) to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). One significant result of God’s plan to save mankind from sin was to demonstrate his glory both to all creation and to all the spiritual realm: Continue reading “Exalting God together”

Jehovah or me

The Shema has formed the foundation of Jewish prayers for millennia: “Hear, O Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah: and thou shalt love Jehovah thy God will all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:4, 5 ASV). When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus quoted the Shema.

He is one Jehovah. It is here we find that Jehovah is the only true God. There is no other. He alone is worthy of full devotion.

Some translations, like the Lexham English Bible, translate it like this, “Yahweh is unique.” He stands alone among all so-called gods as supreme. He alone is worthy of full devotion. Continue reading “Jehovah or me”

Sacred space

Paul instructed the church that whatever we do we should do it to the glory of God. He would also write that to sacrificially live for God constitutes our spiritual act of worship.

Have you ever started to list what we can do and say in order to serve God on a daily basis? It is a long list.

We might then begin to wonder – if we worship God through daily activities and we gather on the first day of the week to worship, are daily worship activities proper within the assembly? After all, if it pleased God on Friday why would it be offensive on Sunday? Or might the worship assembly be a sacred space shaped by specific parameters? Continue reading “Sacred space”

Restoring what was missing

When Hezekiah became king he reversed what his father Ahaz had been doing and started to lead the nation of Judah back to worshipping God. He was 25 when he became king and his first recorded act, in the first month of his reign, was to put God’s temple in order. This required quite a bit of work in several areas.

First there was the physical building of the temple. Through many years of neglect it was in need of repair. Following this it needed to be consecrated, cleansed of anything that would make it ceremonially unclean. Hezekiah’s father Ahaz had set up idols to be worshipped in the temple and had even moved God’s altar from its central position to be replaced with one to a pagan god. Anything that had been associated with idolatry needed to be removed. What they hadn’t been doing – offering incense and burnt offerings to God – needed to begin to happen again. Continue reading “Restoring what was missing”

The sacrifice of fools

“Church.” Religious ideas vary in the extreme. Religion is nothing more than human approaches to God. Man assembles a jumble of concepts and prejudices about religion and throws a mixture of practices into the bowl, with a heap of emotion for dressing.

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil, Ecclesiastes 5.1 ESV.

When you talk about, deal with, seek after God, you had better get your head down and your ears open. Religious buildings are full of fools who ignore what God wants and follow their own lights. Continue reading “The sacrifice of fools”

Be careful

Sign with the word focus out of camera focus

The worship of God requires careful attention to our motives and thoughts. Many people don’t realize that God knows everything we think. God knows if we are sincerely showing our love and respect in worship or if we are just going through the motions.

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned his listeners about their giving and praying in Matthew 6:1-8. The first two words in the first verse of that chapter are “be careful.” Continue reading “Be careful”