Friday, October 30, 2015

Encounter Worship

And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.  Acts 4:31 NASB

Two cows standing in a field saw a milk truck pass by. The truck had painted real big on its side, "Prairie Farms Milk – Homogenized – Sanitized – Vitamin Enriched" One cow spoke up and said, "Makes me feel kind of inferior!"  It seems comparisons can always cause us to sense something that we are short of.  I sort of felt this way when I came across the web page for a popular Baptist Church with all its programs, opportunities and ministries. 
It's no secret, pastors and people dream about how they would like for the church to be … perfect choirs, perfect programs, perfect sermons (just the right length) preached by perfect preachers, and of course perfect people.  Why with that combination everyone would want to come to church. But since there are no perfect churches filled with perfect choirs, programs, sermons, preachers, and people … why do we come?  What is or should be the reason that draws us together again and again?
We come to church to encounter the living God. Oh we enjoy the choirs, the programs, sermons (well maybe not) and people but that cannot be our purpose for gathering.  It must be to encounter the Living God.  Jesus told us, "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst."  Matthew 18:20 NASB  He is present as He promised when we gather.
We ought to experience the presence and power of God in church, but many times we do not. In those times we are preoccupied with everything else, our schedules and calendars, we honestly do not encounter the living God.  I believe the church today is hungry for such encounters. We long to come to church and sense the manifested presence of our supernatural God. We just need to get into the habit of "expectation."  What do you expect when you come to gather with the church?
From the passage in Acts it is evident that prayer was a vital part of worship in the early church. You might say they stayed prayed up.  They had to!  They didn't have choirs, programs, preachers and people to fill the time.  They depended on prayer to see them through. 
Their prayers were combinations of adoration, confession, repentance and then request for God to use them.  These prayers ushered them into a supernatural encounter with God.  Notice what it says.  "And when they had prayed . . ." they encountered God! I doubt anyone there that day declared, "Ah Church, it is boring!"
"We do not sense the presence of God because our circumstances don't require it." (Rev. Darryl Dash)  We've got everything worked into a routine … choirs, programs, sermons, preachers and people. Who needs a supernatural God? We do if we want the kind of encounter worship the early church experienced! 

Scripture to Claim:

Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe;  Hebrews 12:28 NASB

Thursday, October 29, 2015

What is Required?

Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the Lord’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?  Deuteronomy 10:12-13

For the last two days we have been looking at what is required for living a Christian life.  We have examined the requirements in the verse above: to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve Him, and finally, to obey Him.
To Keep the Lord’s Commandments and His statutes…
A parent is satisfied when their child does something they are supposed to do even if they only do it because they are made to do it.  They are even happier when they do the right thing because they want to please their parents, but parents are the happiest when they see their kids do the right thing just because they know that it is the right thing to do.  Any good parent would not be happy with partial obedience.  Partial obedience = disobedience.  God does not want that from us either. 
Plainly put, Jesus says that if we love Him we will keep His commandments.  If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. John 14:15 That is pretty black and white.  He doesn’t say, if you feel like it, or you can obey some of His commandments, like 50% or 30%.  No partial compliance.  He wants all of us.  He wants all of our allegiance. 
When we love someone, we are committed to them and we want to please them.  We want to honor their requests and respect them and what they ask of us, as long as it is honoring to God and they are not asking us to sin.  Jesus is certainly not asking anything of us that He wouldn’t do.  If fact, in John 14:31 Jesus says …but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. Obeying  the Lord’s commandments shows the world that we do love Him.  It shows God that we love Him to.  Words are cheap if there are no actions to follow up those words.
Love is a verb and our actions prove our love.  Love provides the motivation and desire for our obedience to the Lord and His commandments.  When someone is asked, “Who do you love?” the answer is already evident by the lifestyle and values.  Jesus knows that the best motivation for our commitment is not consequence but love.  Who or what do you love? 

Scripture to Claim:
He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.
John 14:21

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

What is Required?

Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the Lord’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?  Deuteronomy 10:12-13

When we give our life to Christ, what does that mean for us?  What is required of us after that?  Yesterday we learned the first part of the verse above said we are to fear (respect with reverence and awe) Him and walk in His ways.  Today we will be discussing the next steps in what is required of us by Christ in striving to live a Christian life. 
…and love Him
The first and greatest commandment is to Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Matthew 22:37. 
Love for our Lord enables us to trust Him.  If we love God we can face whatever comes our way because we trust Him to see us through.  We can be sure of this: If Jesus is not the object of our affections, something or someone else is! But is it worthy of our love? We love him, because he first loved us.  Jesus gave us the ability to love in the first place, so we should love him above everything and everyone else. To love Him, and to serve Him with all your heart, and with all your soul; that is the best service that springs from love.  Service from love is hearty and sincere, and performed in the best manner we are capable of. Have confidence in God as your father and friend, and trust him in all your needs, and love him in return for His love.
…and to Serve Him
Here is the connection: Because we love Jesus we serve Him. It would be wrong for our love to do nothing. True love always longs to show itself in action.
Many people come to church in order to be served rather than to serve. The Bible is specific in saying that we all have jobs in ministry: And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; Ephesians 4:11-12 God has given each of us specific gifts for two purposes – to serve others and bring praise to God.  Serving isn’t about us getting recognition or glory.  It is about bringing Glory to God! We are acting on His behalf and representing Him.  When we make others see that it is all about God and He is one who gives us the reason and the strength to serve, they can see the difference it makes in our life.  It is a testimony to having a relationship with Jesus Christ. 
God provided us with eternal life, salvation.  The least we can do is serve for the kingdom so that others can come to know Him.  After all, someone who was serving most likely touched your life and contributed to your salvation. 
Scripture to Claim:
And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment.
Matthew 22:37-38(NASB)

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