Praise and Worship


Psalms 42-44 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He satisfies the thirst of all those who long for Him

Once in a while we hear stories about individuals who have been lost at sea, clinging for life to a small buoy or dingy. Their greatest need is always the hope of rescue, but their most immediate need is something to drink. With the sun beating down its brutal heat, the body quickly loses a great deal of water and through parched lips, the poor souls cry out for water. Of course, we see the irony here – surrounded as far as the eye can see with water, but unable to drink it. It’s water that won’t satisfy; it’s water that will cause even more thirst.

Animals in the wild will travel great distances to find water during a dry spell. Deer and other animals can actually smell the water in the air and will follow their noses to the source. All living things need water. While the feeling of thirst is what signals our need, the need is there long before our bodies sense it. We require a constant intake of water to keep our bodies functioning properly, and so it is with the soul.

@ Psalm 42
“As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before Him?” (1-2) The psalmist of Psalm 42 paints an accurate picture of how we feel when we haven’t stayed connected to the source of living water, and we find ourselves in a dry condition. “When can I go and stand before Him?” I would say that now would be a good time to so do, better sooner than later.

“Why must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies? They scoff, ‘Where is this God of yours?’” (9-10) It seems that when we are at our thirstiest, the enemy comes around to taunt us with questions about the God we love and serve, but just like the psalmist, we can go to the Source who fills our thirsty souls with living water. “Send out your light and your truth; let them guide me. Let them lead me to your holy mountain, to the place where you live. There I will go to the altar of God, to God—the source of all my joy.” (43:3-4)

Send out your light! “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105) Send out your truth! “For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what He teaches is true.” (I John 2:27) His Word and His Spirit lead us to Him, and it is there that, “All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. You feed them from the abundance of your own house, letting them drink from your river of delights. For you are the fountain of life, the light by which we see.” (Psalm 36:7-9)

There’s no need for us to be thirsty, wandering in the dark! His Word and His Spirit will lead us to Him, and it is in that place where we can drink from His river of delights. Thirst no more!

Moving Forward: I don’t want to get dry today, so I’m drinking first thing, getting full up, from His river of delights!

Tomorrow @ Job 29-30

Joshua 21-24 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He blesses those who will serve Him today and every day

I’m sorry to bring this up, but it’s been 31 days since we made our New Year’s Resolutions, our big plans to make big changes for the New Year.  How’s it going? Sometimes our intentions are great, but our resolve, not so much. Joshua has thrown down the gauntlet for us today – we have been challenged!  Today, whom will we serve?

“So the Lord gave to Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there.  And the Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had solemnly promised their ancestors. None of their enemies could stand against them, for the Lord helped them conquer all their enemies. Not a single one of all the good promises the Lord had given to the family of Israel was left unfulfilled; everything he had spoken came true.” (21:43-45)  The Lord knows how to keep a commitment. 

@ Joshua 24
Joshua, now 110 years old, called all the leadership of the tribes of Israel to Shechem to present one last challenge to God’s people.  After a brief history of the faithfulness of God, Joshua presented his challenge, “So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve…But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” (14-15)  There, he said it!  The line has been drawn, the die has been cast, the gauntlet has been thrown.

In this scripture, the term serve means to admire or follow someone worshipfully.  Just like the Israelites who affirmed that they would serve the Lord Jehovah, our intentions every day are to serve the Lord.  I heard a television pastor ask his congregation one Sunday morning as he got up to speak, “Did you serve the Lord this week?”  The large congregation responded “yes” with enthusiasm.  The pastor quickly asked, “Well, what did you do?”  Dead silence filled the sanctuary.

“Choose today whom you will serve.”  We can’t rest on yesterday’s resolve to serve the Lord because today is a new day with new challenges.  The idols we are tempted to serve may be different than those of Joshua’s day, but they consume our thoughts and time just the same leaving little room for worshiping the Lord and reading His Word.  They come in many shapes and sizes:  our jobs, our children – yes, even our children – pleasures, sleep, community involvement, etc.  Of course, these are not bad things, they just aren’t God.

If the words to the old Bob Dylan song are correct, and I think they are, then “you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed. You’re gonna have to serve somebody.”  Joshua has challenged us to choose today and reaffirm each and every day in the daily routines of life the one who will receive our admiration and worship.  Choose today whom you will serve.

Moving Forward:  I accept Joshua’s challenge – as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord! 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 12-14

Isaiah 12-17 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He has filled us with living water so that we’ll never thirst again

When we’re really, really thirsty, there’s nothing as satisfying to quench our thirst as an ice cold glass of water – that is, if we take the time to drink it. The body is made up of 60-70% water; and on an average day, we lose 8-10 cups of it through breathing, perspiration and elimination.  Because of this, most doctors and nutritionists encourage us to drink 6-8 glasses of fluid each day in order to keep the body functioning properly.

Thirst is the body’s way of telling us that we are already deficient in water, that somehow today we haven’t gotten what we need to replenish the body.  We need to avoid this, but the problem is that when we’re not thirsty, water just isn’t all that appealing.  Even though a refreshing glass of water is available to us, we don’t drink if we’re not thirsty, never thinking about how much we really need to drink it. The Bible has a lot to say on the matter of thirst. 

@Isaiah 12
“In that day you will sing:  ‘See, God has come to save me. I will trust in him and not be afraid. The Lord God is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.’ With joy you will drink deeply from the fountain of salvation!” (1-3)  Isaiah prophesied that God would deliver the remnant of Israel from captivity and provide a highway back to Jerusalem. (Isaiah 11:16)  They would sing a song of victory similar to their song after the Exodus out of Egypt in Exodus 15:2.  And with joy they would drink deeply from the fountain of salvation.

We can’t help but think of Jesus here, the one who is our salvation, who invited the Samaritan woman at the well to drink deeply from Him, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)  When we drink from His salvation, we receive access through the Holy Spirit to this bubbling spring of water to where we need never thirst again.

Well then, we might ask, if we have this bubbling spring within us, why do we sometimes feel so dry and thirsty? It could be because we’ve left the Source.  When the Israelites sinned and rejected God, He said, “For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned methe fountain of living water.  And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!” (Jeremiah 2:13)  We can drink all the soda or alcohol we want, but it’s not going to do for us what a drink of pure water will do.  And spiritually speaking, we can connect to any other source we want in order to fill our spirits, but that source will never give us eternal life with God.  Talk about thirsty!

We may feel dry and thirsty simply because we haven’t taken a drink.  It’s like the old saying, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”  We can stare at that refreshing glass of water all day, but if we don’t make an effort or take the time to pick it up and drink it, it won’t help us.  Soon, we will begin to feel thirsty, but at this point we are already deficient.  As believers, we need to understand that the fresh, bubbling spring is within us; and because of this, we can drink, drink deeply, anytime and never be thirsty again. Our devotional time is when we drink up His Word and drink up His fellowship – this is where we drink deeply.

If we find ourselves thirsty, if we’ve failed to drink, we have this invitation from the Source, “Let anyone who hears this say, ‘Come.’  Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.” (Revelation 22:17) 

Moving Forward:  “Cheers!”

Tomorrow @ Matthew 5-7

Psalms 149-150 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He dwells in the atmosphere of praise (Psalm 22:3)

I’ve never taken a journalism class but somewhere along the line I picked up the journalism mantra:  Who, what, when, where, why and how.  If I can answer these questions, then the story has been told!  The sticking points are usually why and how, and they must be answered before the story is complete or before the case can be solved.  This style of journalism was recorded as far as back as the first century B.C., but obviously the writers of Psalms had a lock on it long before then.

Psalms, the glorious book of praise, ends with an inspirational summary in Psalms 149 and 150 that answers these journalistic inquiries.  One day each week over the past year we have read example after example of David and other psalmists praising God in a myriad of life’s situations, the good, the bad and the ugly.  These closing Psalms sum up the story of praise and its purpose in our lives and answer those vital questions about Praise:  who, what, when, where, why and how. 

WHO:  “Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord!  Praise the Lord!” (150:6) 

WHAT: Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song.” (149:1)

WHEN: “Sing his praises in the assembly of the faithful… Let them sing for joy as they lie on their beds… Let the praises of God be in their mouths, and a sharp sword in their hands.” (149:1,5,6)  Praise the Lord in church, in the home and in battle – everywhere.  “I will praise the Lord at all times.  I will constantly speak his praises.” (34:1) 

WHERE: “Praise God in His sanctuary; praise him in His mighty heaven!” (150:1) Visit Him in His sanctuary, at His feet and praise His holy name. “Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.  Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.” (96:3) Publish, make known everywhere, your praise to the Lord.

WHY: “Praise him for His mighty works; praise His unequaled greatness! (150:2)  Praise Him for who He is and what He does.  “How good to sing praises to our God!  How delightful and how fitting!” (147:1)  It’s good, delightful and fitting to praise the Lord. “Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.” (22:3) Our praises provide a dwelling place for Him to reign amongst us.

HOW: “Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn; praise him with the lyre and harp! Praise him with the tambourine and dancing; praise him with strings and flutes!  Praise him with a clash of cymbals; praise him with loud clanging cymbals.  Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord!” (150:3-6)  Praise Him with our instruments, our dancing and our singing.

Well, there we have it!  The story has been told.  All of us are to praise the Lord, all the time, everywhere with our voices, our dance and our instruments because of Who He is and the great things He has done.  Now to express one last bit of journalistic jargon: I’m going to put this story to bed! 

Moving Forward: Singing praises…“In the morning, I can’t stop praising your name. In the evening, I can’t stop praising your name…” (Hillsong, Faletolu/Sampson) 

Tomorrow @ Song of Solomon 7-8

Nehemiah 10-13 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His presence fills the lives of those who worship in purity

Through the years I’ve met dozens of individuals who desire to be a church worship leader, and many appear to be musically qualified.  And others?  Well, we’ve all heard a singer at one time or another whose exuberance was not matched by talent. Listening to them can be painful.  The responsibility of a worship leader is much more than ability, however, and the challenge is daunting to me.  Leading a congregation into the presence of God is not a role for the showman or exhibitionist.  The most successful worship leaders I know are almost invisible to the worshipers.

I was part of a worship team in a large church for many years. Our ministry and sound were good and our worship leaders were spirit-led and anointed.  The team always had prayer together before the services began, each of us surrendering ourselves to His purpose, but I vividly remember a particular admonition one Sunday from the worship leader.  He challenged us to purify our hearts and lives in the privacy of our homes before we ever entered the church on a Sunday morning for practice and warm up.  He asked us to take care of business with the Lord before we met collectively in prayer.  Our ministry, then, would not be stopped by any area where we had given access to the enemy nor would it be hindered by hurt feelings, a prideful spirit, etc.  In our reading today, Nehemiah required the same holiness from those who led worship, and then some. 

@ Nehemiah 12
After returning from Babylon, the Israelites rebuilt their Temple and now the Jerusalem walls had been restored. It was time for dedication, and Nehemiah planned a celebration for God’s people, “For the dedication of the new wall of Jerusalem, the Levites throughout the land were asked to come to Jerusalem to assist in the ceremonies. They were to take part in the joyous occasion with their songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps, and lyres. The singers were brought together from the region around Jerusalem and from the villages…” (27-28)

All the articles from the Temple had been returned to the Israelites, so the musical instruments were tuned, the singers gathered and the songs of praise and worship that had been passed down from David and Asaph were readied.

Not a note was sounded, however, until their lives and surroundings had been purified, “The priests and Levites first purified themselves; then they purified the people, the gates, and the wall.” (30)  My mind goes back to my worship leader who challenged us to ready our hearts for worship, to remove any obstacles before we attempted to enter the presence of our Holy God.  The priests purified their own hearts first and then the hearts of the people.

Any worship leader will tell you that sometimes it’s difficult to draw a congregation into worship, but I’ve noticed the atmosphere often changes when believers are first led in a prayer of consecration, giving them an opportunity to take care of business in preparation for worship. They “first purified themselves; then they purified the people, the gates and the wall.”

Some may say that we live in the grace of the New Testament and these old customs are passé, but let me just say that God is still Holy, sin is still sin, and they just don’t mix.  Through the anointed ministry of Nehemiah and the priests and the purified hearts of His people, the celebration and dedication of the wall was a great success.

“Many sacrifices were offered on that joyous day, for God had given the people cause for great joy. The women and children also participated in the celebration, and the joy of the people of Jerusalem could be heard far away.” (43) Let the purity of our worship resound throughout the earth to touch our world and may it reach the heavens! 

Moving Forward:  From a repentant heart I declare today, “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11) 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 143-145

Revelation 1-6 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He redeemed our lives through His Son, the Lamb of God

Several years ago I sent a Christmas card to family and friends that had a picture of a lion and lamb resting together under a starry sky with the inscription, Peace on Earth.  I received several comments about the card and the wonderful message it brought to our hearts on many different levels.  At first glance, the peaceful setting spoke of the Christmas message and Christ’s coming to earth to bring peace to even the most unlikely scenarios, but in light of our scripture today, we come to an even greater understanding of the meaning behind the Lion and the Lamb. 

@ Revelation 5
The apostle John had been banished by the Romans to the island of Patmos for preaching the gospel.  Now in his solitude, he received an extraordinary vision from God, “This is a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the events that must soon take place. He sent an angel to present this revelation to his servant John, who faithfully reported everything he saw. This is his report of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (1:1-2)

Through revelation, John was to give a report of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ!  What a daunting task!  Yet, while our witnessing is not the recorded Word of God, we are representing the testimony of Jesus Christ in part as we share the good news and what he has done for us.  We, too, have been given a task.

In Revelation 5, God held a scroll about the future but no one was found worthy enough to open it.  As John wept over this dilemma, one of the 24 elders called out, “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.” (5)  Jacob’s deathbed prophecy, found in the very first book of the Bible, talked about this Lion, “Judah, my son, is a young lion that has finished eating its prey…The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants, until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will honor.” (Genesis 49:9-10)  Jesus, the Lion!

Imagine the excitement that rose in John’s heart in anticipation of seeing the Lion of Judah, the powerful King, the mighty Ruler.  But John did not see a lion.  No, he saw a lamb. “Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered, but it was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders.” (6)  We will never really understand and fully realize the kingship of Jesus until we see Him first as the lamb, the lamb that had been slaughtered to remove our sins.  John the Baptist recognized Him when he called out, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)  Jesus, the Lamb!

This is the truth of my Christmas card – Jesus came as a sacrificial lamb, pure and spotless, to remove the stain of sin from our lives.  Yet, He is the Lion, our resurrected King, whose victorious reign is worthy of all praise.  “And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang:  ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.’ And the four living beings said, ‘Amen!’ And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped the Lamb.” (13-14)  The lion and the lamb.  I fall down and worship. 

Moving Forward:  May my life testify today of the Lamb of God and what He has done in my life.  And I pray this testimony will draw others to the true meaning of Christmas. 

Tomorrow @ Acts 21-22

Nehemiah 5-9 NLT)

Discover His heart: He is blessed when we show respect and honor to His Word

Sometimes we forget the impact of scripture on our lives.  If we take a moment to think about it, we will remember occasions when we were distraught over a situation but a verse from the Bible brought comfort and strength to us.  Then, there have been numerous times in my own life when I have been reading His Word and a particular scripture gets all up in my business, if you know what I mean.  This is when the conviction of the Holy Spirit invades my life, and I am reduced to tears of repentance.  I really don’t enjoy the process, but the peace and joy that follows makes it all worthwhile.  The entire nation of Israel experienced the convicting power of the Holy Spirit when the Levites read from the Book of Moses. 

@ Nehemiah 8
“Ezra the scribe stood on a high wooden platform that had been made for the occasion… they saw him open the book, they all rose to their feet.” (4-5)  As Babylonian captives, 42,000 plus Israelites returned to their home of Jerusalem.  Their Temple had been rebuilt under the guidance of their spiritual leader, Ezra, and the walls of their city had been rebuilt under the direction of their wise governor, Nehemiah.

With purpose in their hearts, they had assembled together for the reading of God’s Word, and as the book was opened, they rose to their feet to show honor and respect for His Holy Word.  Perhaps this example is why we often stand for the reading of God’s Word when we assemble together in our churches.  It’s only right that our position and demeanor should distinguish between man’s words and God’s Holy Word.  Nothing we say in our own strength can compare to the perfect, trustworthy and pure words of God. (Psalm 19:7-8)  At the very least, our hearts should stand at attention when we read or hear His powerful Word.

Apparently the Israelites had a lengthy Bible Study that day as they stood assembled together.  Over the 70 years of captivity, Aramaic rather than Hebrew had become the first language for many of the younger Israelites.  Ezra, Nehemiah and the Levites went to great lengths to translate and interpret the scriptures so that all could understand their meaning.  This is the role of our pastors today as well, to read the Word of God and explain it in a way that all will understand.  Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”(4:6) Thankfully, the Holy Spirit anoints His Word and the lips of His servants, and He touches our hearts as we listen.

“Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were interpreting for the people said to them, ‘Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the Lord your God.’ For the people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law” (9)  Just like King Josiah when he heard the words of the law for the first time, the hearts of the people were tender to God’s Word and they were remorseful for their many sins of the past.  The scriptures had revealed to them the high cost paid for their low living.

But now the people had repented, the Temple was standing and the walls had been rebuilt – it was time for celebration!  “And Nehemiah continued, ‘Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” (10)  With sins forgiven, it was time to celebrate the goodness of the Lord in their lives.

God doesn’t want us to live in guilt over our past sins and mistakes.  “If we confess our sins to him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (I John 1:9)  It’s time to celebrate and put on the garments of praise for the spirit of heaviness! (Isaiah 61:3)  Then His joy will be our strength to celebrate His goodness and to live in obedience to Him.  It’s difficult to sin against God while celebrating His goodness and mercy with great joy in our hearts…it really is. 

Moving Forward:  With joy in my heart for His forgiveness and grace, I move through this day celebrating His goodness. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 140-142

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