There are many ways that our worship of God can be stimulated. Meditation on His Word, a special song, a moving message, or just reflection of the countless things He has done for us. David gives us a window into his own experience of worship. Consider his words in Psalm 19. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun” (Psalm 19:1–4).
The heavens with its countless stars set in perfect formation, the moon, and the sun all speak in powerful unison of God. This produces worship. But do they declare the mercy, grace and love of God, or His infinite character? These are only seen in their fulness in the face of Jesus because “in Him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell” (Colossians 1:19). The “glory of God” in the heavens is wonderful, but “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6) is greater and stimulates transforming worship (3:18). Notice the pleasure of God seen through the fulness of Himself in His Son – residing there without the slightest hindrance.
Any worship that ignores Christ as the full expression of God is not worship. Let me put this in a more positive statement; the more we get to know the Son, the more we will know God the Father and the more our worship will grow in quality and genuineness.
The question we must ask ourselves is: “am I stimulated to worship through a growing relationship with God’s Son?” Honor of God comes through honoring the Son (John 5:23). In the same way, worship of God increases by increased love and obedience of the Son.
In all my years as a Christian, God has allowed me to visit and experience many places of worship. Some stand out in my memory more than others. During a training trip to Cambodia in 2013, I was invited to speak at a church in Phnom Penh. It was located adjacent to the city dump where people survive by recycling plastic, bottles, and metal from the garbage. The small building on stilts was all made from scraps of lumber that was rescued from the dump. The path leading to this make-shift hut was muddy and littered with rotting garbage.
As I approached the hut with my guide, I noticed a ladder made of sticks leading up to the floor of the hut. In my condition even in those years, I wondered how I would make it into this little building. But there was one thing that pushed all the fears and concerns aside. Those who had already gathered were singing hymns of worship. Their genuine love for Jesus came through in every note and word they sang. I was deeply moved by their joy in such circumstances.
Yes, I have even been in grand cathedrals where I did not hear one note of praise or one word of worship. They were an empty shell devoted as a museum of history. DEAD!
“Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?” (Isaiah 66:1). How would you answer this question? Would you refer to the next building project that cost thousands or millions of dollars, rupee or baht? Or would you point to the work of the Spirit in believers who are “being joined together, growing into a holy temple in the Lord…a dwelling place for God by the Spirit?” (Ephesians 2:21-22). Your answer tells the world what God means to you!
“Worship is to feel in your heart and express in some appropriate manner a humble but delightful sense of admiring awe and astonished wonder and over-powering love in the presence of that most ancient Mystery, that Majesty which philosophers call the first Cause, but which we call “Our Father which art in heaven.”” (D. J. Flint, A. W. Tozer, Christian Publications, 1964, page 90.
Jesus made it clear to the woman in John 4 that worship did not depend on a place or a building. “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (4:23–24).
Notice the emphasis Jesus places on the spirit of the person who engages in worship. Truth must be governing the inner man. This is not an option! Anyone who presents worship to God the Father “must worship in spirit and truth!” This is extremely challenging to me and should be for all of us. So often we enter worship as a routine, but our hearts and minds (the inner man) are not worshipping with purity and truth. God is “seeking such people to worship Him.” The next time you gather with the children of God for worship, think seriously about what is going on in your heart. Does it drive you to repentance and renewing your relationship with God through receiving His forgiveness based on HIS truth?
One more note on this subject: consider your relationship with God. Does your life respect Him as “our Father?” “This people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8). May that not be of you and me!
Yesterday we were touched by Jesus speaking to His disciples, and through His Word to us, that He has chosen us and brought us into a relationship on an intimate “friendship” level. Deep friendships like this have a love for each other that is not ordinary nor known in the world.
We often refer to John 15:1-17 as the invitation to abide (remain) in Jesus so we can bear fruit. Fruitfulness cannot happen without abiding in Christ. At the same time Jesus introduces His love for us as being the same kind of love the Father has for Jesus (verse 9). Then Jesus says, “Abide in My love.” In other words, divine love was the uniting factor between Jesus and the Father that result in a life of perfect fruitfulness. As we remain in Jesus’ love for us, our relationship with Him will automatically result in joyful, fruitful obedience.
That is why Jesus says, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (15:10). Let us change that word “if” to “because” for a moment, to get this point across. The two active verbs “keep” and “abide” go hand in hand, and one cannot be experienced without the other. That leaves us with a principle which can be stated this way—"the more I abide in Christ the more I will do His Word which will result in knowing His love more.”
If you do not know God’s love for you in Jesus Christ, I beg you to stop what you are doing and ask God to speak to you through His Word. There may be an area of disobedience in your life that He is putting his finger on. You will immediately sense His love for you as your heart is changed by the Holy Spirit. He will produce His fruit in you; “love, joy, peace…” (Galatians 5:22).
It is amazing that Jesus called frail men and women to accomplish God’s plan and purpose! There is absolutely nothing in any of us that deserves this choice. He makes it very clear about who does the choosing; “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” (John 15:16). His choice was not just to get certain things done that God wanted accomplished in this world. They are best accomplished through persons who enter into a relationship with Him and His Son Jesus Christ. That is the thrust of John 15. Aside from “abiding in Christ,” connected to the source, what does this relationship look like?
“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (15:15). In this “friendship” relationship, Jesus shares everything He has heard from the Father-- divine secrets; mysteries and plans that cannot be known or understood by men or women who are not connected to the vine – the source.
Oswald Sanders says; “Friendship begets intimacy, and in times of difficulty and danger, it is a great strength to have a staunch friend alongside. God gave David that compensation in Jonathan… David’s capacity for friendship was one of the qualities that made him a man after God’s heart.” (Enjoying Intimacy with God, pages 48-49).
What is your relationship with Jesus? Do you consider Him more than your Savior? In your time alone with Him, has He shared divine secrets from His Word that inspire your mind, heart and life with a Spirit-filled purpose?
I had an interesting conversation with someone today about the place that dreams have in making decisions in our lives and the Lord’s work. They can be used by God to give direction as it happened with Paul in Acts 16:6-10. “A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us”” (16:9).
Before this vision occurred, it was the Holy Spirit that prevented Paul and Silas from going to Asia, not a vision (6). Then it was “the Spirit of Jesus [who] did not allow them” (7). Verse 10 affirms that “God had called us to preach the gospel” to those in Macedonia. How much should we lean on visions and dreams for spiritual direction in the Lord’s work or in our personal lives? We learn from their experience that the great influence in making a decision came from listening to the Holy Spirit.
God gives some very important instruction to the Prophet Jeremiah. “Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:28). The comparison gives us insight into the importance of both. God is not saying that dreams are wrong or that we should not tell them. On the other hand, He places much more emphasis on the person “who has my word” let that person “speak my word faithfully.” As if to give further clarity to what He is saying, God gives the analogy between dreams as straw and speaking His Word as wheat. Straw has served its purpose and is no longer useful, but wheat has in it the potential to reproduce and multiply.
Be careful that you do not put more emphasis on the physical aspects of life above the authority and power of God’s Word. The very nature of Scripture accomplishes what dreams cannot.
In May of last year, our prayer request for Ecuador included an explanation of what we call “The Quito Factor,” and we include it here as a reminder of the importance of our praying for South America. We sensed God’s desire to use the churches of Quito in powerful ways throughout all of South America and beyond. We called this move of God’s Spirit, “The Quito Factor.”
Our training manual, God’s Plan for His Church, has just been translated into Spanish, and Tim and Randy are going down to celebrate the launch of this new and needed training. There are around 442 million people who speak Spanish, which is the second most spoken language in the world. Mandarin is first, and we just finished that translation as well!
I hope you see that this trip and your prayers are most important! There are still some minor details we are working on to resolve before printing and our arrival on the 25th. We are all pressing in that every people group on the earth will be reached with the Gospel IN OUR LIFETIME! This is why we pray…this is why we go!
“The Quito Factor” -
Quito has a history of great mission outreach. In 1931, Clarence Jones started World Radio Missionary Fellowship, which brought the gospel via the airwaves to closed countries during the Cold War. But in the 1930’s, most doubted that the Andes Mountains would be a good place for radio. Jones, however, followed God with bold faith. Today Quito is considered the prime spot in the world for radio, and only God knew it in 1931. This trust in God is The Quito Factor.
Several miles from Quito, in the 1950’s, Jim Elliott, Nate Saint and three others gave their lives to reach the savage Huorani tribe, who after their deaths, came to faith in Jesus. Their sacrificial faith is The Quito Factor!
With a history like this, we believe God wants to use those in Quito for a bold new movement bringing God’s Plan for His Church to the entire continent of South America…and to the world. Empowered by God’s Spirit and committed to God’s Word, these leaders are THE QUITO FACTOR! Let us join in prayer for South America…for THE QUITO FACTOR!
Please PRAY for:
1. Fresh Wind of the Holy Spirit to blow upon key Ecuadorian leaders who are taking God’s Plan for His Church throughout the region surrounding Quito. Their passion is that South America would become a strategic center for Christ’s mission to the world.
2. This is a very short, but strategic trip. This movement needs revival and renewal. May God do it!
“And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of disciples multiplied greatly…” (Acts 6:7)
We live in a cruel world with Satan as the master-mind behind attacks on so many faithful followers of Jesus. He uses different means depending on where we are in the world and our specific circumstances. What we may suffer in the Western World is not the same as in Iraq, Pakistan, China or North Korea. As disciples of Jesus, we will suffer in some manner.
Peter tells persecuted believers to “Resist him (your adversary the devil),firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:9). Whatever degree of persecution or suffering for Christ we are going through, the admonition is the same for all; “Resist him (your adversary the devil),” not in carnal ways, but by “actively opposing the pressure or power” from the devil in yourself so that he does not weaken your faith. Stand “firm in your faith.” Be not moved away from our hope in Christ!
Paul adds to the verse we have been looking at; “Only…I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.” (Philippians 1:27–28). Notice that Stand together “firm in your faith” becomes a message to those who oppose us. If we are living the Gospel, their opposition is not against us, but against the Author of the Gospel.
These attitudes are necessary if the power of the Gospel is going to reach the lost. Live by the promise and power of God, not by the fear and intimidation of men.
That title is a term which Paul uses to include everything we do and experience, from the private to the public. This phrase is in the context of Philippians 1:18c-30 which we have looked at over the last four days. Let’s look at this phrase in the immediate context:
“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.” (1:27–28). Notice that the Gospel is referred to twice in this sentence; “gospel of Christ…faith of the gospel.” What is Paul driving at?
Jesus left us here to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthews 28:19) and “witnesses” (Acts 1:8). That was for the sake of the Gospel being preached “to the end of the earth” (1:8). This cannot be done as a mere intellectual exercise or expressing doctrinal truth. There must be a consistency between what is said about Christ in the Gospel and the way we live. The boldness of Peter and John did not come from education or status. It came from the formation of Christ in them through spending time with Jesus and the power of the Spirit transforming them as they looked on His glory (Acts 4:14; 2 Corinthians 3:18).
I firmly believe from Scripture and from personal time with the Lord, that unity in the Gospel among believers will result from spending time with the Author of the Gospel. This will increase the convicting power of the Gospel as it is proclaimed, because the Spirit has been making it visible in our daily walk before the world. Is this happening to you?
Let us continue to think about Paul’s determination to remain in his earthly condition as long as God wanted him to. It was in order that believers would “progress” in spiritual growth and have joy in doing so. “Progress” in and of itself was not his goal. There was a BIGGER PICTURE in Paul’s mind that he wanted to accomplish before leaving the world for another.
“So that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:26–27).
In no way was Paul attempting to receive glory for himself. He was concerned that his remaining here would provide “ample [plenty of] cause to glory in Christ Jesus.” That would only happen if they “progressed” and stood “firm in one spirit, with one mind.” Disunity in the body of Christ hinders spiritual progress more than we realize. Paul knew this and puts the challenge to these believers to make sure their goal was the same as his – the “glory in Christ Jesus.” Unity in the body of Christ is not mere agreement, even if we have differing opinions. NO! The Spirit’s unity (Ephesians 4:3) is based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Standing side by side in the Gospel will ensure unity and progress.
What is your progress score? Is Jesus Christ being glorified through your standing firm with other believers as single-minded in the Gospel?
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