Psalms 114-116 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He alone deserves our praise and worship

I have never been a big American Idol fan. There I’ve said it! I realize I’ve opened myself up to much ridicule and rejection; but that’s alright, I can take it.  From the limited Idol I’ve watched, I’ve mostly heard very bad singing and mindless pontificating from semi-qualified judges at best.  Due to its vast popularity, I’m assuming very few share my viewpoint.

Moving past entertainment, I don’t really understand the whole idol thing in general.  The worship of icons, statues or any tangible thing seems so limiting.  Would something I could hold in my hand or control in any way really deserve my worship?  I don’t think so.  The writer of Psalm 115 didn’t get it either. 

@Psalm 115
“Their idols are merely things of silver and gold, shaped by human hands.  They have mouths but cannot speak, and eyes but cannot see. They have ears but cannot hear, and noses but cannot smell. They have hands but cannot feel, and feet but cannot walk, and throats but cannot make a sound. And those who make idols are just like them, as are all who trust in them.” (4-8)

The one thing these idols can do, and do very well I might add, is collect dust.  But idols come in many different shapes, from long sought-after objects to individuals who require much of our attention.  The reason we’re drawn to the tangible to give our respect and devotion is due to our humanity, our desire to touch and to hold.  But any person, place or thing that we can hold or manipulate in any way disqualifies itself of receiving our worship and devotion.

Although these counterfeits scream for our attention and affection, the One who deserves our worship cannot fit in a box, on a shelf, in a room or…anywhere.  “How amazing are the deeds of the Lord!  All who delight in Him should ponder themEverything He does reveals His glory and majesty.  His righteousness never fails.” (111:2-3)  “He hears my voice…He bends down to listen…The Lord protects…He has saved me from death…The Lord cares deeply…” (116:1-5) “Who can be compared with the Lord our God, who is enthroned on high?” (113:5)  He hears, He protects, He saves, He cares – just to mention a few of the limitless attributes of our living God.

“Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!  He is to be feared above all gods.  The gods of other nations are mere idols, but the Lord made the heavens!…Give to the Lord the glory He deserves!…Worship the Lord in all His Holy splendor.” (Psalm 96:4-9) Worship the Lord, worship the Lord alone! 

Moving Forward: Let idols and counterfeits entice all they want, I will give my devotion today to the only One who is worthy, the true and living God. 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 26-27

Psalms 93-95 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He welcomes our worship as He watches over His flock

@ Psalm 95
“Come, let us sing to the Lord!  Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.  Let us come to him with thanksgiving.  Let us sing psalms of praise to him.  For the Lord is a great God, a great King above all gods.” (1-3)  When we think about God’s greatness, there’s so much praise to give Him that sometimes we just have to get rowdy with it, joyfully shouting to Him because of our salvation, because He alone changed everything for us.  When we really consider this fact, it’s hard to contain or hold our joy, so why do we so often do just that – contain our joy?  Maybe we’re just not taking the time to consider His greatness.

Just the other day I felt like I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, and apparently I looked liked it.  A friend of mine looked at me and said something to the effect, “Phyllis, you’ve got to get your praise on.”  While the challenges I was facing that day were nothing to bring on a shout, I turned my focus from those challenges to the faithfulness of the Lord, and everything changed.

I started to thank Him for my salvation and His goodness to me.  I sang praises to Him for who He was, “a great God, a great King above all gods” with the resources of the universe at His disposal.  After all, “He holds in his hands the depths of the earth and the mightiest mountains. The sea belongs to him, for he made it.  His hands formed the dry land, too.” (4-5)  My challenges had not yet changed, but the burden of them lifted, and I felt 50 pounds lighter, something, of course, I always like to feel.

Later that day, I knelt to thank Him for my friend and for the joy that came out of the gloom.  My heart became quiet.  I found no words to say and could only pause in His Holy presence as a peace and a rest flooded my being that nothing else, no substitute, could ever bring.  “Come, let us worship and bow down.  Let us kneel before the Lord our maker, for he is our God.  We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care.” (6-7)  Tucked there under the folds of my Shepherd’s garment, I was humbled by the knowledge that He was taking care of all my needs, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want..” (Psalm 23:1)

Whether in rowdy praise or in humble adoration, Psalm 95 calls us to worship, “Come, let us sing to the Lord!  Let us shout joyfully…Come, let us worship and bow down.”  Something to consider today. 

Moving Forward: Gettin’ my praise on today, moving forward with a song in my heart and a praise on my lips, remembering “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 16

Mark 13-14 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is blessed by the sweet fragrance of our worship

When I was very young I was given a tiny bottle of perfume.  It wasn’t cologne.  It was the real deal – perfume.  I remember opening it, enjoying its sweet fragrance and thinking that it was something only for special occasions.  Over the next few Sundays I dabbed it behind my ears and on my wrists like my mom had taught me, and I have to admit that I felt pretty special.  The perfume was a gift of great value for such a young child, and I used it sparingly.

Somehow the perfume was misplaced, and after a while I forgot about it.  When I discovered it several years later, it had become rancid and stale and had lost its value to me.  That was when I understood that some things need to be spent and enjoyed when they’re fresh and available.  This was a lesson that dear Mary understood very well.

@ Mark 14
Chapter 14 portrays the story of the woman who anointed Jesus with perfume.  We learn that she was Mary, of Mary, Martha and Lazarus fame.  There was just something about Mary.  Mary was excessive. Mary was extravagant. Mary was irrational in her worship of Jesus.  According to the dictionary, worship is great or excessive love, admiration, and respect felt for somebody or something, and Mary was all over that.

In fact, we read in Luke 10 that Mary had an adoration problem when Martha could not pull her sister away from the Lord’s presence to help in the kitchen.  So this excessive use of her resources does not come as a surprise. Mary didn’t hoard or save.  Mary didn’t open her jar of spikenard with great care so that she could save some for other occasions.  No, she gladly broke it open to saturate her Lord with a year’s worth of wages.  Can you imagine giving to the Lord something equal to this entire year’s wages?  Not holding back some for a rainy day, but giving it all?  Mary got it – she understood worship.

All through the ages God had been looking for a people, made in His image, whose desire to give themselves to Him is equal to His giving of Himself to them.  In our humanity, we’ll not achieve this, but He responds to our desire to do so.  Mary’s selfless worship of Jesus that day reflected God’s undying love for us, the gift of Jesus who was His most precious treasure, and it also reveals His desire for intimacy with us. “I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.” (9)  Just as we’re doing today

Some of those present that day did not appreciate her extravagance, Judas to be sure, because they just didn’t get it – unabandoned worship was off their radar.  I’ve found that sometimes it’s easy to justify economizing my resources, time and attention rather than lavishing them on the One who most deserves them. It’s at those moments that I just don’t get it.  He’s waiting for my love for Him to resemble, as best as this human body possibly can, His love for me – excessive, extravagant love.

Jesus left the dinner that day carrying with Him the sweet fragrance of Mary’s gift.  “She has done what she could and has anointed my body for burial ahead of time.” (8)  Her gift permeated the Last Supper, it surrounded the betrayal and arrest in the garden and it lingered in the streets of Jerusalem as Jesus was led to His death.  Oh, how I want my love today to permeate heaven, to fill His nostrils with a sweet fragrance of my excessive, extravagant love for him, to somehow reflect His love for me.  But for this, I understand it takes some breaking, some spilling out…some excess. 

Moving Forward:  My prayer today, “Broken and spilled out, and poured at Your feet. In sweet abandon, let me be spilled out and used up for Thee.” (G. Gaither) 

Tomorrow @ 2 Corinthians 4-5

Psalms 15-17 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He grants entrance into His presence for those who live righteous lives

Advice floats down through the decades, words of caution, helpful hints and all the sayings that mom passed down.  I remember hearing advice such as, if you want to know how a man will treat you after you’re married, find out how he treats his mother now.  Or, if you want to know how a man will treat his children, see how he treats his pets.  I’m not certain these would be proof-positive, but they might give an indication of future behavior.  When I’ve sought employment in the past, I will admit that I made careful observation of how the potential employer treated others in the workplace. Come to find out that in our reading today David believed that God has his own kind of litmus test, if you will, for those seeking a visit with Him. 

@ Psalm 15
“Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord?  Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?” (1)  This is an appropriate question for someone like David who’s greatest desire was to live in the presence of God all the days of his life (Psalm 27:4)  In verses 2-5, David gave ten principles regarding worship before the Lord.  These principles are not about how much God loves us or about our freedom to call on Him at any time. They reflect David’s heart on who may worship in God’s sanctuary?  Those who:

  • Lead blameless lives. Our hearts are motivated by the desire to live a life of integrity before God and others.
  • Do what is right.  Our actions promote good.  They may not be the easy thing to do, but they are the right thing to do.
  • Speak the truth.  Our words are not clouded by little white lies and deception.
  • Refuse to gossip.  Even when it may hamper our popularity and acceptance with some, we refuse to backbite and speak unkindly about others.
  • Refuse to harm a neighbor.  We do not negatively influence how others view our neighbors, co-workers and others in order to promote ourselves.
  • Refuse to speak evil of a friend.  We treat our friends with loyalty and honor in the presence of others.
  • Show honor to God’s faithful followers, not to the ungodly.  We do not celebrate those who live ungodly lives, but honor those who are faithful to God.
  • Keep promises even when it hurts.  We are faithful to our word, and others can depend on it regardless of how it affects our own well-being.
  • Lend money without charging interest.  We lend to those who are in need without attempting to get rich off of them.
  •  Cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent. There is not an amount of money that could cause us to compromise our integrity.

It’s interesting that David’s answer to the question of who may worship in God’s sanctuary has nothing to do with how we approach God on the outset, but everything to do with how we approach our relationships with others.  It’s in our treatment of others that we show God how much we truly love Him, “He loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins…since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other…if we love each other, God lives in us, and His love is brought to full expression in us.” (I John 4:10-12)

Psalm 15 ends with a promise, “Such people will stand firm forever.” (5)  For those who serve God in this way, no storm can move them; no hazards can displace them because they have not given place to the enemy.  Their righteous lives of integrity will allow them to stand firm forever before Him in worship.

Moving Forward:   May nothing I do or say to others today disrupt my worship before the Lord.  I want to stand firm in His presence. 

Tomorrow @ Job 11-12