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Worship is a Response //

"This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him." - 1 John 4:9

Throughout the course of this month, of this series of lessons, we have learned that worship contains so much more than to just sing. It’s a lifestyle. We are called to be loving, courageous, daring, and sanctified. We need to pursue intimacy, patience, and devotion. How it’s ok to be playful and romantic, passionate and fearless. To be willing, hopeful, and forgiving.

But above all, we need to remember that Worship is a Response.

All of those characteristics, all of those lifestyles are a direct reflection of our relationship with Jesus. We can love because He first loved us, we can forgive because He has forgiven us, we can obey because He obeyed. We can do all things in Christ, but apart from Him we are nothing. We worship because of the glorious things we see God doing in our lives, we rejoice because we know that God provides abundantly, we cry out when we’re falling because we know God will catch us.

Everything good in this life comes from Christ. It is our responsibility to honor God with our lives - our response to His ability. "God said to me, “You are My Son; today I have become Your Father. (Psalms 2:7)" Our God is not far, but near; not a stranger, but a father; not complacent, but fierce. We have been adopted by God; chosen to be His sons and daughters of promise. This lifestyle of worship was demonstrated to us by Jesus Himself. We have our perfect example to follow. "Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. God has appointed Him heir of all things and made the universe through Him. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature, sustaining all things by His powerful word. (Hebrews 1:1-3)"

Living a lifestyle of worship is to follow Jesus daily; to walk as He walked, to love as He loved, and to obey as He obeyed. Our God is fiercely determined, steadfast and valiant; He is a warrior. Remember, God didn’t give us a spirit of fear, but of radiant courage. We are all lighthouses on a hill; let us lead this world back home to eternity’s shore. The door is open, the choice is yours. Make a stand for Christ today. Let this be your New Year’s resolution. Stand tall, for you never stand alone.

Worship is Protective //

"I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, protect them by Your name that You have given Me, so that they may be one as We are one. While I was with them, I was protecting them by Your name that You have given Me. I guarded them and not one of them is lost." - John 17:11-12

We are loved with a fierce, jealous, and overwhelming love. By a true love; the Agape love of God. It is a selfless, sacrificial, and protective love. We are, each and every one of us, treasures in the arms of Christ. As carefully and as intricately as a watchmaker Jesus knit us together; He formed the fabric of our souls and painstakingly planned the best possible life for each of us. Sure; He knew that Satan wouldn’t make this life easy on us, but He allowed us to go through these trials in order to deepen our relationship with Him. To realize how much we need Him, to realize how precious we are in His eyes.

God is protective of us; it says in scripture that "you shall not bow down to idols or false gods or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God (Exodus 20:5)"Now, jealousy is usually the root of a plethora of sin, and when we see it associated with God we don’t know how to react. The answer can be found in your own life. Look towards your spouse, your friends, your family. You can be jealous of your spouse and it is an incredibly intimate and righteous reaction. Godly jealousy is desiring what is rightfully yours; commitment from your spouse, honesty from your friends, acceptance from your family, etc. We are rightfully God’s. He created us then died for us. He owns our souls twice over, but He will never force our obedience. No, true love keeps loving even when it isn’t returned: Even when we reject God. It breaks heaven’s heart, dontcha know.

God loves us with a fierce love. You don’t have to look further than the gospel accounts. This is one of the passages that moves me deeply every time I read it. Take a look at John 8.

"At dawn Jesus went to the temple complex again, and all the people were coming to Him. He sat down and began to teach them. Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, making her stand in the center. 

‘Teacher,’ they said to Him, ‘this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do You say?’ They asked this to trap Him, in order that they might have evidence to accuse Him.

Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with His finger. When they persisted in questioning Him, He stood up and said to them, ‘The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.’

Then He stooped down again and continued writing on the ground. When they heard this, they left one by one, starting with the older men. Only He was left, with the woman in the center. When Jesus stood up, He said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’

‘No one, Lord,’ she answered.

‘Neither do I condemn you,’ said Jesus. ‘Go; leave your life of sin behind.’”

Such a beautiful interaction; we can clearly see deep into the heart of God. Jesus was teaching in the temple when they drug this poor gal into the complex, scarcely clothed and trembling. She had been “caught” in adultery. That’s awfully hard to catch someone doing. I believe that she was set up and trapped by the Pharisees to use. Jesus knew their motives before they stepped foot into the temple.  They give their rehearsed speech, hoping to catch Jesus off guard. What does Jesus do? He writes in the sand.

Many theologians speculate that He was listing each of the sins of every one of this woman’s accusers. Regardless, God ignored them. I can only imagine the emotions coursing through Jesus. If it was me in this scenario my blood would be boiling, I’d be mad. One of God’s beloved daughters was being mistreated right in front of Him, if I know God at all I’d say that He was a quiet storm, all His love and desire to protect coming to the surface. 

After a few moments of silence Jesus calmly stands up, looks each in the eye and simply says, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her." Hearts stopped. Starting with the eldest to the youngest, each realized how hypocritical they were and walked away with their heads bent in shame.

After the temple took on an air of silence, Jesus looks up to the woman, using His charm to pretend He was surprised the men had left. “Where are they? Has no one condemned you?" He says. The woman was probably expecting to die, so she needed that bit of humor to help her relax. She replies, "No one, Lord.

This, this always tugs at my heart; Just how deeply intimate and protective God is of us. The words of God whisper through the air, cutting the lines of tension and fear that this woman is feeling. 

“Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go; leave your life of sin behind.”

Worship is Fearless //

"When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not fear. What can man do to me? In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" Psalm 56:3-4, 10-11

There is a war raging on inside our hearts. We have desires and we have doubts. Both are equally valid as long as we realize where these whispers are coming from. You see, God places desires on our hearts, very often to fulfill them to prove just how much He cares and to prove that He keeps His promises. But on the other side, Satan will come in and be entirely convincing with lies and fears and insults. He’ll whisper, “You don’t deserve that, you’re not good enough, you’re not pretty enough, you could never do that or be that good.”

There is a place for fear; to respect and be in awe of your God, to know how righteous He is. We see it time and again in the Bible; to “fear God.” To fear means to deeply respect and be humbled by His might. But Satan does not garner that same respect from you, no. Jesus tells us and shows us that if we resist Satan and his demons, they will flee.

The Lord is my light and my salvation, so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble? - Psalms 27:1

What is Fear if not the opposite of anything good? Does happiness live with fear? Can joy be present in fear’s company? Can trust stand firm when fear strikes at its walls? Doubt, worry, anxiety: All are byproducts of The Enemy’s main weapon; Fear.

You see, Satan has no hold over us, he never created anything, and he can’t physically touch us. But he can mislead. Those whispers that say, “you aren’t good enough, not pretty enough, not strong enough;” They are all lies trying to make you fear and doubt your trust in God’s plan. What if things don’t work out, what if I can’t see the way through these trials? Questions like those course through us along with the adrenaline that Fear induces.

But take heart, stand your ground, find your courage.

The Lord is my light, the Lord is my salvation… Whom shall I fear? The Lord is my fortress… Why do I tremble? God doesn’t go back on His promises. He promised to deliver us, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jer 29:11)”

I’ll go ahead and share some of my own experience with fear, doubt, rejection; the whole nine yards. You see, currently I’ve been dealing with relationships, and it’s actually been a really great opportunity for me to grow in maturity and faith. Basically, the lies that Satan has been whispering to me have been that I’m not good enough, or worthy. Other times when those attacks work, he moves on and taunts me by saying things like “Oh, you were so close. You’ll never have that chance again.” Or when I did finally make the right decision, he would stab me with doubt. Well guess what, Satan, I know your tricks, I know your lies. I know that God is on my side and that I made the proper decision. How? Why? Because I feel God’s peace on me, my fear has been stripped away…

Imagine your life if you chose to just walk away from fear. What if the shrapnel in your heart was removed, piece by piece; every volatile fragment of pain wiped away? What would be left? Think about it for a second; don’t just skim the rest of this. What if the things holding you back were cast aside? What if the lies of the Enemy were revealed as such? What would be left in your heart?

Joy.

Imagine the life that Jesus wants us to live. In Matthew 8:26, He asks a simple question…

“Why are you afraid?”

Worship is Humble //

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8

So, I’m going to start off by saying that God has an amazing sense of humor. Last year when I first decided to write about humility for this devotional I prayed for the Lord to give me a better insight into what it meant into being truly humble. Well, if you “ask and believe,” right? I had forgotten that one year ago today I was going to go snowboarding for the first time. The kicker is that unknowingly (see, *God’s Humor*) I went boarding again for my second time again today. (Let’s make this an anniversary shindig.) Anyways, you can probably see where this is going. I have had previous experience with wakeboarding, so I went in confident in myself and my experience of how a board works. While similar, there are key differences which really made an impact straight away. I went in overly confident in myself; I went in thinking “I got this.” Wrong. God gave me enough grace and a good serving of mercy that by the end of the day my bruises had been earned. I did get it, but it wasn’t me who did it.

You see, God taught me that true humility is the point where we realize that we cannot do this on our own and that we need a helping hand or a whisper of advice. I fell and toppled and spun my way around the runs in front of my family and those much more experienced than me. Some would say it was embarrassing; rather, I felt humbled. Now I know that not all of us snowboard, but you get the analogy. I needed help, I needed guidance, and I needed to surrender to the wisdom of those around me. Sure, I was able to get myself out of a rough spot or two, but if I had listened to advice earlier I wouldn’t have needed to go through the trial.

Our Christian walk is the exact same way. There is no place for pride in the kingdom of God. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6)” God opposes the likes of demons, of liars and thieves, of Satan. We don’t have any excuse. Instead of being prideful of how well you can do something, how or what you eat, or how you look; take a second to build up those around you. For everything you have comes from God. Your body, your living conditions, even the computer you’re using to read this. God gave it to you, and He can just as easily and graciously take them away. By definition Jesus lived a life of sacrifice; He always, always, always put people before Himself. He carried a cross and was crucified on it to prove just how selfless God’s redeeming love truly is. Jesus wasn’t handsome, He wasn’t rich, He wasn’t popular. Jesus was an outlaw, a rebel, traveling through the wilderness because no town would take Him. He lived a humble life. 

“Make your own attitude like His, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death— even to death on a cross. For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow — of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth — and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)”

Worship is Love //

"Whoever does not love does not know God; for God is love." - 1 John 4:8

There is a great mystery that is hidden in each of our hearts; a whisper of a romance that is so much deeper than this Earth. We hear it in the rainfall, smell it in crisp mountain air, the way a sunrise captures our hearts; how the beauty of this earth awakens a yearning in our heart of hearts. The mystery, the divine romance, is that the inventor of poetry, rainbows, hummingbirds, clouds, and whatever else that tugs your heart is trying to pursue your heart. Because God is love.

Last week I talked about how worship is romantic, but romance can only go so far before you look at the motives. God romances our hearts because He loves us. Oh how He loves us! Just listen to the Psalmist cry out because of this love! "LORD, Your faithful love reaches to heaven, Your faithfulness to the clouds. (36:5) My lips will glorify You because Your faithful love is better than life. (63:3) For You, Lord, are kind and ready to forgive, rich in faithful love to all who call on You. (86:5) I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free! (Ps 119:32)"

Love is not a feeling, it is not an emotion. Love is a commitment. If you love someone because you think they’re beautiful, that’s lust, not love. If you love someone because they give you things, that’s not love but thankfulness. If you love someone because of anything, you aren’t loving at all. When you love someone for no reason other than wanting to see them smile, that is true love. Don’t say, “I love you ‘because,’” say, “I love you, ‘period.’” "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. (1 John 3:16)"

Jesus told us Himself what God holds most dear, what He requires of us. He doesn’t expect more than for us to, "love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands. (Matthew 22:37-40)”

"Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.” - 1 Corinthians 13

Worship is Forgiveness //

“‘Lord, how many times can my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’

'I tell you, not as many as seven,' Jesus said to him, 'but seventy times seven.'”
- Matthew 18:21-22

There is no greater power in our lives here on Earth than the ability to demonstrate love: To show mercy, grant grace, and to offer hope; The ability to forgive and forget. We all know the all-too-familiar weight of guilt, the oppressiveness of fear, and the heart wrenching sensation that comes with letting someone down. We’ve been there. We know how it feels; we have all screwed up in the past and sometimes the only answer is to pick ourselves up and keep going. It’s tough. Jesus was there before too. Our God, He is not far but near, not impatient but eager to save. Our God and Redeemer has been there before too. He’s been tempted by Satan. 

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. After He had fasted 40 days and 40 nights, He was hungry. 

Then the tempter approached Him and said, “If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

But He answered, “It is written: Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Then the Devil took Him to the holy city, had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: He will give His angels orders concerning you, and they will support you with their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”

Jesus told him, “It is also written: Do not test the Lord your God.”

Again, the Devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. And he said to Him, “I will give You all these things if You will fall down and worship me.”

Then Jesus told him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve only Him.”

Then the Devil left Him, and immediately angels came and began to serve Him. (Matthew 4:1-11)

God knows our trials and weakness, He allows Satan to test us to refine our faith, to make us perfect. (James 1) But the most important thing to recognize is this. “God proved His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! (Romans 5:8)" God forgave all of our transgressions. He showed us grace and mercy to wash us clean. Through His grace we are saved and can experience complete peace and rest in our spirit. And once we are at rest, God speaks to us and we can experience His true love.

Through the final sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross you and I are completely washed clean. Our sins once painted our souls as red as scarlet, bound with a weight that trapped and condemned us, but thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus we have been redeemed and washed as white as snow. God forgave us, so forgive one another. “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)

So, I challenge you, God dares you: Show love, show forgiveness, and give hope. You know how it feels to be condemned; Give the gift of forgiveness. I dare you. God forgave you; it’s time to pay it forward.

Worship is Hopeful //

"The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He came into the very world He created, but the world did not recognize Him. He came to His own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

So the Word became flesh and made His home among us. He was full of unfailing love, hope, and faithfulness. And we have seen His glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son… And his name will be the hope of all the world.” // John 1:9-14, Matthew 12:21

Today my friends is Christmas. This is our day of victory, our day to rejoice! I’ll be blunt here; who cares what day Jesus was actually born?! I’ll let the theologians debate the timeline; I however will rejoice over the truth that Jesus came, period! Because on this day we celebrate that God, who so loved each and every one of us, put His master plan into action. Hark the herald, call the kings, guide the shephards: Jesus Christ is born. Our Messiah, our Savior, our Redeemer… Our Hope is born.

Christmas, today is our day to reflect on how God has touched our lives, how through His sacrifice we can live a life worth living. When God promised Jeremiah, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jer 29:11),” He made the same promise to us. We look back and see how all of the puzzle pieces fell perfectly into place; how every trial, every tear, and every heartache led us to our promised land. "And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you… Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in You. (Psalm 39:7, 62:5)" 

So be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the Lord! (Psalm 31:24) Jesus, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death — even to death on a cross. For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow — of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth — and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:6-11)

Jesus died to give us a life worth living; a life worth saving. It’s time to rise up and live it.

Worship is Willing //

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather you together as a father protects his children, yet you aren’t willing to let Me." - Matthew 23:37

Throughout our walk in this life, one thing becomes more apparent above all else. We need Christ. We need a loving Father who will carry us when we are weak, we need a Steadfast God who will protect us from the Flaming Arrows like a mighty tower, we need a Redeemer to heal our pains. But in order to receive Him, we must first open our hearts and surrender to Him. We need to stop trying to live this life on our own; the strongest we ever are is when we are on our knees, intimately pursuing God. “And you are not willing to come to Me so that you may have life… I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 5:40, 10:11)

One of the most touching parts of Jesus’ ministry was early on, when He first entered Galilee. Imagine the scene; a dusty and sunny day in the streets of Galilee. Shop signs sway in the gentle, yet scarce breeze. Merchants barter and shout their wares. People are streaming in and out of the many capillaries that compose the city’s entrances. A beggar, afflicted with leprosy is sitting near the gate, hoping to gather enough coin to garner him an overpriced meal that night. You see, no one came near him: he was considered the walking dead. The Pharisees walk by with their noses upturned, the rich pretend he didn’t exist. Then, a commotion erupts. The beggar looks up and sees a crowd approaching, all shouting the name of Jesus and praising God. He has heard this name before, and he believes in the power that this Jesus possessed. As quickly as he could he, ”came and knelt in front of Jesus,” forcing his way through the crowd, ”begging to be healed.” He looked up into Jesus’ eyes, curious and compassionate, and said, “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”

"Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be made clean!”“

Hold on. Jesus touched the leper. Can you imagine how significant that is? The poor beggar has been mistreated and ignored ever since he caught the disease. No one showed him love, or compassion. Pity, but not mercy. Jesus touched this man, this representation of living death, and completely restored him.

Because He was willing.

The beggar was willing in faith to believe that Jesus could heal him, but he was willing to keep enduring if the answer was no. He would glorify God either way.

In the same way, we are the walking dead before we turn to Christ. Sin separates us from God, hides us from His loving gaze. Be willing to surrender to Christ, regardless of the circumstance or trial. Be willing to persevere, to be patient. God will honor you for it. Be willing to follow God every step of the way.