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Isaiah 29:9-16

Worship that pleases God requires your whole person to be involved.

All too often we show up on Sunday mornings because it’s our habit, or we have obligations to fulfill, or our spouse expects it of us. Our bodies are in the sanctuary, but our minds, hearts and spirits are far, far away. We repeat the words of scripture, we sing the songs, we politely listen to the sermon and we depart. We showed up, but we weren’t present to the wonder of worship.

Annie Dillard, in her book Teaching a Stone to Talk hits the nail on the head.

On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.

God issues a warning that should be heeded -  Worshipping with only your lips and words without your heart being involved causes the voice of God to be quieted.

During the worship service, don’t just hear the words, listen to the voice of God. Expect to be shown some wonder of God’s majesty; don’t tune out when prayers are offered from the front of the sanctuary, let your spirit connect with the Holy Spirit as the prayers rise up as incense into God’s presence.  Jesus is here, ready to meet you. He says “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” Listen with your heart.

Answer this question honestly, Why do you go to church? How will your worship experience be different if you draw near to God with your heart? Do you find the church service boring? Try praying for the singers as they lead, for the preacher as the word is shared. Get involved with the service. Worship is not meant to be a spectator sport.

 

“In the year that King Uzziah died….” Isaiah 6:1

King Uzziah began his reign as a good king, doing what was favorable in the sight of the Lord and as a result God prospered and strengthened him. But “when he became strong he grew proud” and considered himself sufficient to carry out the priestly duty of standing before the holy God and offering sacrifices. In his pride he thought he was good enough, clean enough to face God’s holiness. He didn’t need the priests, he could handle it.

Wrong! When confronted by God’s priests with the truth of his apostasy, he raged and was struck with leprosy, living in isolation and disease until his death. (2 Chron 26)

Isaiah had a very different response to the holy God.

“Woe is me…” Isaiah 6:5

In the presence of the holiness and the glory of God, Isaiah realized his lack. He knew he had the stain of sin on his lips and supposed he was lost. Uzziah assumed he was enough; Isaiah knew he was not.

God graciously gives glimpses of his holiness so we can recognize the infinite gap between his greatness and our smallness; this awareness is the beginning of true worship.

The true way to be humble is not to stoop till thou art smaller than thyself, but to stand at thy real height against some higher nature that will show thee what the real smallness of thy greatness is. …. Phillips Brooks

It’s amazing, isn’t it? The holy God, the one who lives in unapproachable light comes to you as he came to Isaiah. What other response is possible but to trust his grace?

Don’t be like Uzziah, taking your connection with God for granted and forgetting that you need God’s mediator standing between your unholiness and God’s perfection.

God’s purifying fire of love touches your sin-stained lips, imparting his worthiness to you through Jesus Christ. When you are touched and transformed by such a fire, you are able to hear God’s call and you are ready to respond with a willing and eager heart.

  • When have you had a glimpse of God’s greatness? How did it feel? What was your response?
  • It’s easy to forget in whose presence we stand when we enter worship. How can you ensure you don’t take God for granted?
  • What prevents you from saying, like Isaiah, “Here am I; send me!”?

Originally written for CBC’s weekly devotional thought.

Patient Hope

2 Peter 3:3-15a, 18

…in the last days scoffers will arise… (verse 3)

Scoffers come in many forms. Family members who don’t understand your faith, friends or co-workers who ridicule it; cultural systems that diminish or mock your beliefs. But perhaps the scoffer that is the hardest to handle, is the one that lives within your own head. Can you hear the voice of the scoffer?

  • “You’ve been faithful, where is the answer to your prayer?”
  • “Why keep trusting God’s promises? Things will never change. Today is the same as yesterday, why do you expect tomorrow to be any different?”
  • “Why not just have a little fun, live for today?

Peter reminds us how to address these mocking voices.

Don’t be surprised by their appearance. Your desire to live for the glory of God makes the enemy of God very unhappy. As Peter describes in his first epistle, the enemy prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Your righteous life is his appetizer! Your doubts do not necessarily suggest there is something wrong with your faith; they may indicate a space in your heart where God is expanding God’s territory or a space where your trust in God is a threat to the devil’s devices and he is out to get you!

God creates and God re-creates. The Trinity created the universe out of nothing; and when the world was destroyed by a flood because of evil, God re-created the earth. God did not and does not abandon the creation he loves. The scoffing voices may suggest otherwise, but God is powerful and committed to ensuring your complete wholeness. His timing may be different than yours, but remember: “God is not slow, he is thorough.” The apparent delay in the promise being fulfilled is purposeful, founded in love, not neglect.

A day is coming, we are promised, when Jesus will return. He will bring with him complete justice and salvation. We don’t know the day or hour, but we are to live in the hope of his appearance.

Who/what are the scoffers you encounter in your life? Where in your life do you feel God is slow in keeping promises? Peter reminds you of God’s power to create and to re-create according to God’s loving purpose. How does this impact your doubt?

Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. (verse 14,15)

 Written for weekly devotional for CBC

John 15:7-17

Jesus tells us we can have whatever we ask on one condition: that we abide in his love. Abiding in his love means to dwell within the shelter of his loving character. His love is our home, the place we are welcomed, safe and our needs are met. From this place of being totally encompassed by the love of Jesus, what could possible be missing from our life that we would need to ask for? The answer: relationships.

The relationship Jesus experienced with his father is the model for our relationships, with God and with one another. Our scripture today paints a picture of such friendships.

Healthy and fruitful relationships require a connection to a source of love that is greater than our human affections. When we are convinced that we are completely loved and totally provided for, we are free to love the other without a hidden agenda. We can offer ourselves in love to the other for who they are, not who we need them to be. Love abounds. How can you ground yourself in God’s great and abiding love for you? Make the conscious decision to offer yourself in love to someone today, without expectation of return. How does this feel?

Jesus’ love led him to lay down his life for his friends. That probably won’t be the case in our relationships, but sacrifices will need to be made. Putting another’s interest above our own (Phil 2) means we may not get our way. Ouch. But we love in the same manner of Jesus when we suffer such self denial. In what way can you lay down your life for your friend? (Letting them choose the restaurant, giving them the comfortable chair.) Practice this today and notice how it impacts the nature of your friendship.

Jesus shared with his friends all he had heard from his Father, we should also share with one another the way God is working in our hearts. Take the risk of moving a casual conversation to a deeper level, tell a friend what God is teaching you about the life of the Kingdom. This is the path to deeper, more fruitful friendships.

We are not God, we do not have the capacity to love all people equally; but we can choose a few friends who we can commit to loving as best we can, offering them a physical reminder of God’s tender and present love. As has been said, we can be “Jesus with skin on.” Who can you choose to love?

Jesus said, “This is my commandment that you love one another.” Such loving relationships produce fruit that will last throughout eternity.

With you on the journey,

Debby

Written for CBC’s weekly devotional thought.

Who you are!

You are made by God and you are called good. You are made in the likeness of God and you reflect God’s image. Although this image has been distorted through sin done by you and to you, God has not forgotten who you are and whom God made you to be. God knew you before you were born, named you before you were even formed in your mother’s womb. In love, God has chosen you and the Holy Spirit works ceaselessly to restore the unique God-image you alone can reflect. - The Mentored Life 

At his baptism, Jesus was named

  • beloved
  • child of God
  • God’s delight

When you follow Jesus into the anointing waters of baptism, you also are named

  • beloved
  • child of God
  • God’s delight

Every person will express his or her God given identity in a way that is unique to them, but these three names form the essential truth about our identity.

Growing into this identity is the “stuff” of our life of discipleship.

“What God’s voice tells us is the true story of God’s incredible love for us. No other storyteller, however gifted, can paint for us the full, living portrait of who we are and have been and who we are becoming. Let us listen attentively, lest we forget and try to remake ourselves according to some other image.” from Magnificat

“God is who He says He is, and I am who God says I am.” Anonymous

Who are you? You are God’s beloved child, in whom God delights. Enough.

Making room for Sabbath

Sabbath, a day of rest; modeled by God in the creation account, commanded by God on Mt. Sinai and explained by Jesus as he walked with his disciples. Honoring the Sabbath is not just a cessation of activity. This might rest your physical body, but Sabbath is intended to refresh your whole self – body, mind and soul. How can we enter into the rest that re-engages us with God and God’s ways?

1. Sabbath is bracketed by thanksgiving and praise. Begin your day by recognizing God’s constant love. Even before you rise from your bed announce to yourself, “This day is God’s gift of love to me.” Spend time telling God and each other about God’s goodness. Recall God’s wondrous works; stand in awe of God’s creation, be humbled by God’s work of salvation on your behalf, rejoice that God’s work continues to transform you into whom God created you to be. Singing is a great way for the joy of the Lord to be experienced. Raise your voice in praise through the day.

Psalm 92:1-5 It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night, to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre. For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy. How great are your works, O Lord! Your thoughts are very deep!

2. Sabbath reminds us of the end of the story (part one). God’s plan is for all evil to cease. It may seem as if the wicked have won the day. Worn down by both global and personal injustices in our world, it is easy to get discouraged and lose hope. This is another reason we need Sabbath rest. As we ponder God’s works and listen to God’s words, we are reoriented to the truth: God’s enemies shall perish. Evil will end. God’s righteousness will prevail. Remembering this give us courage to face the day and strength to fight the good fight.

Ps 92:6-11 The dullard cannot know, the stupid cannot understand this: though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever, but you, O Lord, are on high forever. For your enemies, O Lord, for your enemies shall perish; all evildoers shall be scattered. But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox; you have poured over me fresh oil. My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies; my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants.

3. Sabbath reminds us of the end of the story (part two). Evil will perish, but God’s children will flourish. Life will continue to grow within us. Age will not diminish our beauty and fruitfulness. We are forever planted in God’s house.

Ps 92:12- 15 The righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. In old age they still produce fruit; they are always green and full of sap, showing that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

Our Sabbath day ends with recounting the many ways God’s faithfulness has been our rock and our salvation. We can sleep in peace, having been refreshed by God’s oil of gladness and truth.

Facing Truth

truth road sign arrowReorientation toward truth 

God made you you on purpose, and God needs you to be you. In order to live from the freedom of your God given identity, you will need to replace the lies that you have come to believe about yourself with God’s truth concerning you. As Jesus said, “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”

So how does this happen?

  1.  Identify the lies that hold us in hiding. See herehere  and here for help in identifying these lies. 
  2. Replace with lies with God’s truth. For more help read this post  A Return to Trust.

In my last entry I shared some of the lies that have held me captive. “I am powerless, there is no hope.” Here is how these lies can be replaced with truth. It’s not an easy process, sometimes it helps to have a trusted spiritual director who can walk through this with you. I’d be honored to walk with you through this exercise. Contact me if you like.

Identify an inciting incident – Prayerfully recall a specific incident from childhood that typifies how you began to believe the lie. My lie was a sense of powerlessness, yours will most likely be something different. On a family camping trip, when I was around seven years old, I was holding my mom’s hand as we walked on a small dam across a tiny creek. It was a hot day and the pond the dam created looked so inviting and cool. My mom kept saying, “Don’t go in the water” as she would push me toward the pond with a smile on her face. It was very confusing for me. I kept trying to not go in the water because that is what she told me to do. Her words said one thing, and her actions said another. I didn’t know which to obey.

Experience the feelings related to that incident – Revisit the scene in your imagination, let it come alive and get in touch with what you felt at the time.  I felt confused. I wanted to do what was asked of me, but I couldn’t determine which demand I should obey: to stay out of the water or to let my mom push me into it.

Messages/tapes that play – As a result of such incidents what messages does your subconscious hear and live by? Any decision I make will be the wrong one. I’ll get in trouble whatever I do. 

Vows I make (beliefs I hold) – What is your response to these messages? How have you determined to act in response to their demands?  I will not make any decision on my own. I will keep still and let others decide for me. 

Impact of vows – How has keeping this vow, holding these beliefs impacted your life? – I’m indecisive, passive, untrusting. I don’t know myself, I blame others for my failures. 

Relive incident with Jesus – Prayerfully re-imagine the inciting incident but this time Jesus is there with you. What does he say/do? How does he act? Notice your feelings as you re-experience the event. How does what you learned of him in your scripture study impact the outcome of this scene? Jesus walks behind us on the dam as I cross it with my mom. I know he’s there. When my mom begins to tease me by issuing conflicting messages, I hear Jesus behind me saying, “You are not crazy for being confused. Your mom is teasing you, she’s trying to be playful. She’s not trying to harm you. Relax, you can trust your instincts.” Jesus then comes between us, puts his arms around our shoulders and we all jump into the pond with surprise and laughter.

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