A Christian’s Acts of Worship

Pagan TempleHistorically, men have worshiped gods of all shapes, colors, and sizes. With a wide variety of activities, they have attempted to prove their reverence, devotion, and fear. From burning incense to hurling a human victim into the fire, from bowing the knee to cutting the body, from performing holy washings to performing holy sexual acts, people have worshiped their gods.

Disciples of Jesus Christ stand upon the shoulders of the Jews when it comes to religious acts of worship. However, we do not perform all the acts of worship the Jews did because we recognize God has changed some requirements. In fact, we might say He has relaxed the requirements. The Jews had many specific forms of worship which were commanded of them–such things as the Levitical priesthood system with all their duties of washings, keeping the tabernacle, playing specific musical instruments, burning incense on specially-crafted lavers, sacrificing animals each morning and evening, etc. Thank God He does not require these of us today! (Although, if He had, we would be compelled to obey Him in all these things, just as were the Jews.)

Praying KenyaToday, God has commanded an astonishingly few acts of worship, and He has not so much commanded them as He has granted them to us for our own good and growth. What ritual does the Christian have except to meet together in a regular assembly to eat the Supper of the Lord? Should we meet in the evening, in the morning, or at lunchtime? God has not specified. Should we meet all day or only for a few hours? God has not specified.

God has told us of what the Lord’s Supper consists (bread and fruit of the vine–see Matt. 26.26-29 and 1 Cor. 11.23-26). How much of it should we eat; how much should we drink; how should we distribute it among the disciples? Again, God has left much of these things for us to decide.

CommunionAs we read through the New Testament, we find the disciples regularly met together (Acts 2.42-47; Heb. 10.25-26); sang together (Matt. 26.30; Acts 16.25; Eph. 5.19); prayed together (Acts 1.24; 2.42; 4.24-31; 12.5); taught one another from Scripture (1 Tim. 3.16-4.4); read publicly from Scripture (1 Tim. 4.13); devoted themselves to one another (Acts 2.42, 46-47); and ate the Lord’s Supper together (1 Cor. 11.17ff; 10.14-22; Acts 20.7). Although the word “worship” is not directly associated with any of those activities, other words such as “praise” and “thankfulness” and “joy” and “gladness” and “glorify” are used–words which give us the sense of a worshipful attitude behind the activities.

When we come together as a church, our main goal is to encourage one another and provoke one another to love and good works (Heb. 10.25-26; Eph. 4.11-16; 1 Cor. 14.3, 12, 15-19, 24-25, 31). In a word, we are to edify (build up) one another. This building up of one another serves to glorify God, and is, therefore, a beautiful form of worship and includes many acts of specific worship. When we act properly as the church of God, as we continue in holiness, as we provoke one another to love and good works, we build up the temple of the Lord, and God is magnified.

But there is much more to an individual’s worship which he does apart from his brethren. We will consider more in the near future.

Lindie’s Last Resort

Tired WomanLindie’s marriage had been crumbling slowly over the past three years, ever since her husband Charles had decided to take a high-profile and demanding position at a local law firm. Slowly, their time for walking in the neighborhood, holding hands, and reading together in the evenings evaporated. She had suspected for a while that he’d been unfaithful, but she couldn’t prove it.

Her job was wearing her thin, as her boss continued to pile on extra responsibility with little extra pay. No longer did she covet the corporate life; now she just wanted to stay home and rest for a while, but Charles insisted she hold out for just a little while longer until they were financially sound. When will that be? she wondered. When will he be ready to have the kids we talked about before we married?

One weekend the perfect storm seemed to be brewing, as her overbearing boss demanded she finish a project over the weekend, her husband texted that he’d be flying to Chicago for a weekend work thing, and a sore throat was coming on. Life was the pits.

Lindie decided to call Sally, a spiritually-minded friend from church, and ask her to meet at a nearby Starbucks. Sally arrived to find Lindie almost in tears.

“What’s going on?” she asked, concern ringing in her tone.

Starbucks meetingLindie proceeded to unload her worries, concerns, and headaches right out on that little Starbucks table. As she unpacked each one, Sally felt more and more deeply the weight of Lindie’s life situation. Finally, Lindie took a breath.

“How long have you been keeping all this bottled up?” Sally asked. Lindie managed a small shrug. “Lindie, you don’t need to carry all this yourself!”

“I know. But Charlie–”

“I’m not talking about Charlie right now; I’m talking about me and the church! That’s what we’re here for, Lindie. And I’m talking about God. Have you shared any of this with Him?”

That question startled Lindie. In fact, she was surprised at herself. She had not even thought to pray about this for quite some time. Maybe she didn’t want to bother God with her situation. Maybe she felt it would reveal her weakness, her failure as a wife and a woman, to have to ask God for help in this. She felt like it was her duty to deal with all of it because it was her life.

“No,” she finally admitted, “I haven’t. But I now see I should. I suppose my life has finally come to the point where all I can do is pray.”

Sally smiled at her friend, but her head was gently shaking from side to side. “No, Lindie, I want to show you something.” She opened her purse and pulled out a small Bible, flipping to the middle. “Here it is. Psalm 103. I just read it this morning:

“Bless the LORD, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

After a pause, Sally asked, “Does it sound to you like David’s prayer here was a prayer of last resort?”

Bible and Pen“What do you mean?”

“You just said it seems like all you have left is prayer–like it’s your last resort. Does it sound like David prayed that way?”

“I guess not,” Lindie admitted. “But what’s your point?”

Sally looked into Lindie’s eyes. “I think you haven’t been talking to God about your life at all, Lindie. You are walking this life as if you have the power to figure everything out all by yourself and bear the whole load all by yourself…and God never intended for you to live like that! If you read the rest of Psalm 103, you find out that God loves His people very much.” Sally began scanning the chapter again. “He does not deal with us according to our sins. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear Him. For He knows our frame, He remembers that we are dust.

“Doesn’t that make you swell up with just little bit of pride in God? Doesn’t that make you want to love Him?”

Lindie had to admit those ancient words did cause a certain swelling of joy in her heart. As she listened to her friend read, she began to realize how small she was…and how BIG God is.

There would be much more conversation between the two friends, but that moment served as a catalyst to begin changing her thinking. She shouldn’t just pray to God when things seemed the worst, when the night was darkest, when she had no alternative. She had been walking a lonely and (she had to admit) sinful walk by keeping her Creator at arms length. She began to see how much she needed God every single day, every step of the way, in both the bad times and the good. And God really did care about her. Her! Not because she was so special, but because God is so awesomely kind and merciful!

Indeed, bless His holy name! she thought to herself, feeling hope.

Prayer Lists

Praying HandsYesterday, our church enjoyed a helpful and inspiring sermon on prayers of request, using Philippians 4.6 as the launching text:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

Several times in his lesson, Craig Roberts encouraged the use of prayer lists as a way to organize and remind ourselves during our times of request to God.

The simplest way to create a prayer list is by writing it down in a notebook or memo book of some kind. If you’ve seen the movie War Room (or even the trailer), you’ll see another possible way is to post your list on the wall of someplace you’ll frequent. I like the idea of doing the work of writing your list down by hand because there’s something about the act of handwriting which embeds what you write in memory.

But if you’re like me and tend to use about ten different notebooks at the same time and don’t keep good track of where you wrote what (probably a bad habit…), then you might consider a digital solution. Here are a couple:

  1. If you use Google Drive or some other cloud-based folder system that you can access from your mobile device, you can simply create a document online with your list. You might even consider using a Spreadsheet to more easily create lists, perhaps with separate pages for current prayers, answered prayers, and notes.
  2. There are a few prayer list apps available. I am checking out Echo right now, which delivers a super-simple interface and the ability to create multiple lists, remind yourself when to pray for time-sensitive items, and easily check specific prayers as “answered.” Check out the info on Echo’s About page.

Do you make a list? How do you do it, and how does it work for you?

Kings of Judah Lived in Reference to the Temple – Part 1

Israelite PrayingJudah was blessed to enjoy God’s presence in their midst. In Jerusalem, any Jew could look to the highest hill and see the monumental structure of Solomon’s temple standing tall against the sky, and he could know his God had promised to dwell there among His people. If a priest walked into the temple, he would find it dazzlingly beautiful–but empty of any form of presence. No physical image lived in this temple because God is spirit. A Jew knew God lived there only through faith.

After Solomon’s son Rehoboam assumed the throne, he did not walk in the righteousness of David nor in the wisdom of Solomon. During Rehoboam’s reign “Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem and took away the treasuries of the house of the LORD…” (2 Chr. 12.9), including the gold shields Solomon had made. Instead of crying out to God for help, Rehoboam accepted the loss and replaced the gold shields with bronze replicas, settling for less than the best. Indeed, without God we must settle for less than the best.

Instead of trusting in God for help, Rehoboam’s grandson Asa took “silver and gold from the treasuries of the house of the LORD and of the king’s house and sent to Ben-Hadad king of Syria” in order to make a treaty with Syria against Israel. Can you imagine taking what is God’s and giving it to a pagan king in order to protect yourself? Asa did that.

Praying at Wailing WallAfter Asa came Jehoshaphat. While Scripture does not record his jumping habits, it does record his abiding righteousness and faith. When the nations of Moab, Amon, and Edom simultaneously threatened Judah, Jehoshaphat prayed to Yahweh God from the Temple. His prayer contains a wealth of riches:

Then Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court, and said: “O LORD God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You? Are You not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever? And they dwell in it, and have built You a sanctuary in it for Your name, saying, ‘If disaster comes upon us—sword, judgment, pestilence, or famine—we will stand before this temple and in Your presence (for Your name is in this temple), and cry out to You in our affliction, and You will hear and save.’ And now, here are the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir—whom You would not let Israel invade when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned from them and did not destroy them—here they are, rewarding us by coming to throw us out of Your possession which You have given us to inherit. O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” (2 Chr. 20.5-12)

Though all these kings lived with reference to the temple, some defiled the house of the Lord and some adored and honored God’s house. Faith made the difference. Many of the kings of Judah were not men of faith and righteousness; they were not interested in following God’s commandments or keeping the covenant. But a few loved God, loved His presence, loved living close to His house.

Where would you like to live? How would you like to live in God’s house? Jesus said in John 14.2, “In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” In His presence we shall live!

Whining Is Not an Option!

ComplainingA good friend of mine defines whining as “complaining about something when you don’t have a solution to offer.”

If you have a problem, think about a solution before you open your mouth. Paul wrote:

Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. (Philippians 2.14-16)

Does the hot weather make you uncomfortable?
Does your neighbor’s lawn get on your nerves?
Do your kids drive you up the wall?
Is your job giving you migraines?
Is your body hurting in some way?

Ask yourself: “Is this problem something I can change?”

No Whine ZoneIf not, pray about it and ask God to help, because He may be the only one who can effect change.

If so, make yourself a part of the solution. If you’re not willing to work toward a solution, you have no right to complain!

We hear so much complaining about relationship issues. He is such a jerk. She is so pushy. He won’t listen. She won’t tell me exactly what her problem is.

If you complain about someone’s behavior, that’s just plain gossip. If you’re upset with a friend, a spouse, a family member, you have two godly options: (1) love them by gently talking to them about the problem OR (2) love them by letting it go. Seriously. Whining is not a godly option!