The Most Important Commandment!

-What Would You Ask God?

Several times, in my lifetime, I’ve found myself in a conversation with someone who made a statement that they intended to ask God about something when they saw Him someday! How about you? If you could ask God any question, what would it be? Well, in Mark’s Gospel, the writer says, that:  “One of the scribes approached. When he heard them debating and saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked Him, “Which command is the most important of all?” Of all the 613 commands found in the Torah (Jewish Old Testament) which was THE most important? Wow! That’s a big question! Which command’s at the top of the list? Don’t wanna miss that one!

-The Answer To The Big Question!

This is the most important,” Jesus answered: “Listen, Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” Mark 12:28-30.  This is really a timely post as it seems the church, in general, is confused about “worship.” But, Jesus really clears things up, doesn’t He? He’s really saying that we have to love God with ALL of our being—ALL of our “heart” & our “soul” & our “mind” & our “strength.”

-Everyone Claims To Love God!

So, it’s impossible to love God until we know Him! But, we live in a day when everyone claims to love God! That may be a generalization; but, I’m absolutely stunned by the number of times that totally lost, unregenerate people—who have NO IDEA “Who” God is—still tell me they LOVE Him! I can believe them when they say they “love” pizza, for example, because they’ve tasted it! They’ve handled it! I can believe them when they say they “love” hunting because it’s something they’ve done! They take their dog & a friend! So, they’ve experienced it! But, you cannot possibly love God until you KNOW God! Until you’ve met Him & know Him well enough to explain WHY you love Him! Study Jesus’ words! That’s precisely what He’s saying!

-Love God Personally!

Jesus says we must love God PERSONALLY! Notice, from His response to the Scribes question, how Jesus uses 6 “personal” pronouns; and, every one of them is “possessive”—“The Lord OUR God”; “Love the Lord YOUR God”… ”with all YOUR HEART”… ”with all YOUR SOUL”… “with all YOUR MIND”… “with all YOUR STRENGTH.” THE most important commandment, in all of Scripture, is to have a personal, possessive love for God, Jesus says. And, you cannot love someone you don’t know! My wife & I have been married 35 years! But, I confess to you that there were 20 years during which time I did not love her! Not one bit of love did I have for her; and, the reason was that I didn’t know her! I hadn’t met her yet! Once I did, I grew to love her as I came to know her! That’s no different with God! We have to know Him personally before we can claim to love Him! We come to know His character—and, we know Him through Jesus & the Word!

 

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Worshipers Remember God’s Work!

-Don’t Forget What He’s Done!

Have you ever considered that a proper worship of God includes your “memories”? It’s not proper worship to be disengaged with our minds! King David tells Israel to worship God by remembering all that’s He’s done for them:  “Remember the wonderful works He has done, His wonders, and the judgments He has pronounced” 1 Chronicles 16:12.  In other words, give testimony to the work that God is doing; and, has done in your life! “Let the redeemed of the LORD proclaim that He has redeemed them from the hand of the foe” Psalm 107:2. We worship God when we stand, before our church faith community, and testify to the way God is working in our lives! The NIV actually translates Psalm 107:2 like this:  “Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story…”

-God’s Working In You!

If you’re truly seeking after God, in your life, He will show you how busy He is in your life! Your life will be intentional and purposeful! You’ll have “stories” to tell of the wonderful ways that God is at work. Notice that David follows that up by telling Israel to worship God by remembering His covenants! I’m thinking we don’t do this enough—at least not in my church! We don’t remember enough & rehearse enough that God is a covenant-keeping God:  “Remember His covenant forever—the promise He ordained for a thousand generations, the covenant He made with Abraham, swore to Isaac, and confirmed to Jacob as a decree, and to Israel as an everlasting covenant” 1 Chronicles 16:14-22.

-Remember The New Covenant!

At the “Last Supper”—on the night that He was betrayed—Jesus took the cup and said, “This cup is the new covenant established by My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” REMEMBER the New Covenant, He says! Here’s why we can be secure in our salvation—because God has made a covenant to save us when we put our faith in Christ’s work on the cross; and, He keeps us saved & seals us through that covenant confirmed by Jesus’ shed blood! And, then David turns his attention to the nations—”Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Proclaim His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonderful works among all peoples” 1 Chronicles 16:23.  Making disciples, of Christ, is worship!

-We Worship By Making Disciples!

The making of disciples is NOT just a New Testament “thing”!  It was never God’s plan, for Israel, to keep His salvation to themselves! David continues, “…all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens…”; “Ascribe to the Lord, families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength” 1 Chronicles 16: 26,28. Israel, like the Church, was to be a peculiar people and a priesthood, of believers, to the world! It is the destiny, of future history, that one day, “…every TRIBE, every NATION & every PEOPLE GROUP will be gathered around the throne of God to WORSHIP Him…” Revelation 7:9.   Have you ever considered that it’s an act of worship when we make disciples? It honors Jesus’ commission! REMEMBER THAT!

 

How Must We Worship God?

-What Does Worship Look Like?

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “worship”? What images does that word “worship” create for you? There are roughly 450 verses, in Scripture, that contain the word “worship” or “praise” in them. So, it’s a frequent Bible theme! Most often, it’s used as an appropriate outpouring response, of the human heart, toward Yahweh, who is worthy! At other times, it’s used negatively, by the writers of Scripture, because the worship & praise is directed at “idols” or “false gods” or “human kings”; or, some other created thing!

-Let’s Define Worship!

The dictionary definition for worship goes like this:  “worship is rendering honor and homage to God or to any object regarded as sacred; it is adoration, devotion & praise.” While true, that definition seems a little stale & sterile to me! It lacks the key element of a personal relationship! I much prefer this definition:  “worship is a redeemed heart, occupied with God, expressing itself in adoration & thanksgiving.” Much better! Or, what about this definition, by A.W. Tozer:  “True worship is to be so personally and hopelessly in love with God, that the idea of a transfer of affection never even remotely exists.” True worship is always about GOD! He is always the focus of true worship! He is the object of our worship! We are to “be occupied with Him.” We reverence, honor, and adore Him—NOT because of what He does for us; but, because of WHO He IS!

-True Worship Changes Us!

We worship the God who entered the world, He created, to save & redeem His people, who are lost in sin! And, here is the bottom line about worship—when our worship, of God, is true & genuine, our heart & our life will be CHANGED! True worship changes us! I would suggest that it begins in our head with knowledge of the “who”, “why’s” and “how’s” of worship! Then, our knowledge of worship makes it’s way to our heart; and, we know when it’s arrived, in our heart, because our hands quickly follow! It’s seen being lived out in the deeds & actions of a changed life! That’s what happens when genuine worship takes place! If we don’t worship God rightly, we become guilty of disobedience to His commands!

-God Commands Us To Worship!

God commands us to worship Him & no other! And, He’s instructed us what our worship ought to look like:  “I am the Lord your God…Do not have other gods besides Me. Do not make an idol for yourself…You must not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” Exodus 20:1-5; and, “Fear Yahweh your God, worship Him” Deut 6:13.  A clear picture, of the worship God accepts, is the story of Israel returning to a gathering of praise, around the Ark of God, under King David. In 1 Chronicles 16, David recites a Psalm, of worship & praise, directed at Yahweh! As the recently appointed king, of Israel, David made it a priority to lead Israel back to faithful worship of the LORD. This is what worship looks like—it doesn’t matter if it’s Israel in the O.T.; or, the church in the N.T. Read it again!

 

Abraham Believed God!

-In The Midst Of A Faith Crisis!

When God makes an entrance into Abraham’s life, He calls him to leave his home & go to a new land where He promised to make him into a great nation. That presented a problem, because, Sarah—his wife—had been unable to conceive (see Genesis 12). The rest of Abraham’s “story” is just one crisis of belief after another—but, this is what God uses to grow him spiritually! Abraham presents us with a Biblical picture of a sanctified life; and, how God achieves it. This is how God works in the life of everyone who comes to Him by faith!

-Justified By Faith!

The scripture tells us that Abraham was “justified” by his faith.  “Abraham believed God,” His story, in Genesis, says, “and, God CREDITED it to him as RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Genesis 15:6).  And, the rest of his life presents a study, in SANCTIFICATION, as he is progressively set free from the power of sin. Isn’t that the hardest part of the Christian life? Growing in our “sanctification”? I mean JUSTIFICATION is really quite painless. It’s just applying the truth of the Gospel and accepting God’s pardon for sin, right? And, GLORIFICATION? I mean, yea, you have to DIE to get it! But, the actual process of BEING GLORIFIED, like Jesus, sounds awesome! But, SANCTIFICATION? That can be quite painful as God turns up the heat, on our lives, in order to bring our sins to the surface where they can be dealt with by His Spirit!

-A Picture Of A Sanctified Life!

So, let’s talk about how Abraham is a picture of the sanctified life.  Genesis ch. 12 begins with these words: “The Lord said to Abram: Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” But, Abraham never saw that promise, of God, fulfilled in his lifetime! The writer of Hebrews says: “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and went out to a place he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed as a foreigner in the land of promise, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, coheirs of the same promise” (Heb.11:8,9). That phrase, “…he stayed as a foreigner in the land of promise…” reminds us that this world is not ours to claim! We’re “aliens” here (1 Peter 2:11).

-Where Do You Claim Citizenship?

The Apostle Paul wrote the Church of Philippi—“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).  Like Abraham, we need to confess that we’re “…foreigners and temporary residents on earth” (Heb. 11:13). We can’t hold onto this life too tightly if we hope to grow spiritually! Jesus told us to let go of this life; and, to die to self every day as we wait for the promise of our GLORIFICATION—to be completed in the “Land of Promise.”  It’s interesting that Abraham purchased some of the land—God promised him—for his burial (Gen. 25). It was his act of faith that he believed God would come through on His promise! Let us follow his great example!

Daniel: What Revival Looks Like!

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

-It Starts With Humble Prayer!

I don’t know that there’s a more beautiful & spiritually moving prayer than Daniel’s prayer in the 9th chapter of the book named after him. There’s a humility & a brokenness that’s often missing from the hurried & self-centered prayers of our day! When revival occurs, in the hearts of believers, this is what it looks like! Prayers, uttered by a revived saint,  admits a brokenness & even shame over their sin, selfishness, and idolatry— “Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but this day public shame belongs to us: the men of Judah, the residents of Jerusalem, and all Israel—those who are near and those who are far, in all the countries where You have dispersed them because of the disloyalty they have shown toward You. Lord, public shame belongs to us, our kings, our leaders, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You.  Compassion and forgiveness belong to the Lord our God, though we have rebelled against Him and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by following His instructions that He set before us through His servants the prophets.  All Israel has broken Your law and turned away, refusing to obey You” (Daniel 9:7-11).  Wow! What brokenness & transparency!

-Admitting Public Shame!

“…PUBLIC SHAME belongs to us…” he confessed in v.7; and, in v.8 he says it again, “…PUBLIC SHAME belongs to us…” Daniel’s greatness, in the eyes of God, was not because he was without sin! None of us are! It was Daniel’s sensitivity to his sin! He admitted the depth of his sin! He owned it! For our world—and, our NATION—to experience revival, it has to begin with the broken humility of God’s people! With us! We, the Church, have to take ownership for our sins—for our IDOLATRY! For our failure to love all the world’s people groups & every kind of sinner!

-Looking In A Mirror!

Daniel didn’t just throw “…our kings, our leaders & our fathers…” under the bus (v.8).  He said, “…WE have sinned against You…WE have rebelled against you…” (v.9).  I fear the American church has been too preoccupied with pointing fingers at political leaders when WE are the real problem! We should be looking in the mirror, spiritually speaking! God will only use a broken church to bring the world to revival!

-Concern For God’s Reputation!

Daniel was concerned that Israel had hurt God’s reputation in the world! “LORD, bring revival to your people,” Daniel prays, “…for the LORD’S sake” (v.17); “…make us a city called by YOUR name” (v.18); “LORD, HEAR! LORD, FORGIVE! LORD, ACT…” (v.19). Did you notice that? “…for YOUR SAKE”, Daniel prayed, “We base our prayers on YOUR abundant compassion” (v.18). Do you pray like that? I’m afraid that, for most of my life,  my prayers sounded nothing like that! Is it possible that the reason so many of our prayers go “unanswered” is because we’re not offering “God-Centered” prayers? Can we begin to pray—as Christ’s Church—that God would act in HIS own BEST INTEREST? And, for HIS GLORY? Let’s do it!

 

Daniel: How To Pray For Revival!

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

-Israel’s Exile Had Ended!

The 9th chapter, of the Book of Daniel, opens with a significant prayer for Israel’s revival & restoration to the promised land! It’s significant because it means that Daniel had a copy of the Book of Jeremiah’s prophecy & he realized that the period of God’s divine judgment, against Israel, had ended! In v.2, it says that Daniel “…understood from the books according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet that the number of years for the desolation of Jerusalem would be 70.” It had been 70 years since the 1st chapter, of the Book of Daniel, began with Babylon’s siege of Jerusalem! Israel could begin to return to the land from which they had been exiled; and, they could begin to pray for Israel’s well-being again!

-Our Nation Needs Revival!

I’ve often felt that there are parallels between Israel’s demise; and, that of our own nation! So, we would do well to consider Daniel’s prayer for revival; and, apply it to our own nation! Psalm 9:17 says, “The wicked will go down to Hell & all the nations that forget God.” Our nation has clearly lost her way! We’re on God’s radar for judgment! If there is any hope to turn this thing around it has to begin with the Church! For the world to experience revival, it must begin with God’s people! Before continuing to read this post, I want to ask you to PLEASE do something FIRST! Open your bible and read the 9th chapter of Daniel’s book! PLEASE read it FIRST before going any further!

-Prayers God Won’t Answer!

Many of us have absorbed some wrong thinking about prayer! Read the prayers in Scripture; like, Daniel’s prayer here! Prayer is NOT a personal shopping list we bring to God with thoughts that He’s some kind of benevolent Genie who can’t resist our selfish requests! Prayer is not meant as some communication device—with the Almighty—to coerce Him to give us the things we wish for or desire! No, God intends to use our prayers to make us partners, with Him, to bring HIS WILL—not our own—into force! Did you notice how Daniel prayed? He came before God fasting in sackcloth & ashes! Prayer begins with humility! He humbled himself, it says, “to SEEK” God! The prayer for revival is “God-centered”, NOT  “self-centered.” In v.4, we see Daniel praying in awe of God! The prayer of revival is worshipful & reverent!

-Personal Confession Of Sin!

Notice, that Daniel’s prayer gets personal (v.5). But, not in the sense of asking anything for himself! Rather, he confesses his personal responsibility for sin; and, for the nation— “…we have sinned, done wrong, acted wickedly, rebelled, and turned away from Your commands and ordinances. We have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name …”  He confesses two types of sin! He confesses sins of “transgression” (v.9); and, sins of “omission” (v.10).  “We knew Your Word & we still rebelled against it,” he said. Daniel shows us that the prayer of revival admits “brokenness”— “public shame belongs to us” (v.7); and, he repeats that in the next verse!  He was sensitive to sin! He named it; and, he owned it!

 

Daniel: Taking Ownership Of Our Wrongs!

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

-I Was Wrong!

It’s been said that the 3 most difficult words in the English language are: “I Was Wrong!” Husbands, how hard is it to say, “I Was Wrong” to your wife? But, let’s be fair, ladies, it’s just as difficult for you to say those 3 words too, isn’t it? It has to be the result of the fall, right? We’ll do almost anything to avoid saying, “I Was Wrong”—we’ll say, “Man! I messed up” or “I fumbled that one” or “I goofed” or “I blew it”. We’ll say, “My Bad” or “Oops! I made a boo-boo”! All of those are easier to say than, “I Was Wrong!” They minimize our wrong! I mean, how bad can a “boo-boo” be, right?

-Being Transparent With God!

This post is about taking ownership of our sins. It’s about being transparent with God , and, with each other about our sin. If there is any hope for revival across our nation—and, God only knows how badly we need it—we need to learn how to say those 3 words: “I Was Wrong!”  “I Was Wrong, God! Here is my sin! I confess it! I agree with you about it!” For the world to experience a revival, it has to begin with God’s people! The Apostle Peter wrote: “…the time has come for judgment to begin with God’s household…” It’s gotta start with those who claim to be Jesus’ followers! We can’t pray for national revival & ignore our own personal need for repentance! We dare not call out the sin of the lost & wink at our own failure to confess our sin!

-Blessings & Cursings!

As we turn to chapter 9 in Daniel’s prophetic book, it begins: “In the first year of Darius, the son of Ahasuerus, a Mede by birth, who was ruler over the kingdom of the Chaldeans: In the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the books according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet that the number of years for the desolation of Jerusalem would be 70.” Let’s stop there, for a moment, and include some really important background! You might recall that Daniel’s story, in chapter 1, begins with Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar laying siege against Jerusalem & taking Daniel & many of the Israelites into exile! Do you remember why? They were being punished! They failed to confess & repent of their sin! They failed to tell God, “I Was Wrong!” And, God fulfilled a promise He had made to Israel 850 years earlier in Deuteronomy 28—Blessings, to Israel, for obedience! Curses for disobedience!

-Don’t Test God’s Patience!

Just as God had dispossessed the Canaanites & other people groups from the land because of their evil ways, God dispossessed Israel from the land because they became evil! One more thing to consider: Israel’s sinful disobedience was a gradual thing! Sin always is! As the nation, of Israel, became more and more evil, God sent prophets to warn them! He would extend grace & mercy if they would just repent & turn from their sin! But, there is always an end to God’s patience & long-suffering; and, through the Prophet Jeremiah, God confirmed that His judgment was coming! It was inevitable, irreversible & non-negotiable! He even told Israel to quit praying for revival; and, to pray for their captors instead! By way of application, it’s time Christ’s Church in America wake up! It’s time we confess our sin of idolatry! We’ve strayed so far from Jesus’ Commission to His Church; and, we’ve given great occasion for the enemies of God to blaspheme! Wake up, Church! Let us repent & return to the work of the Lord in faithfulness!