worship


For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind,

and declares to man what is his thought,

who makes the morning darkness,

and treads on the heights of the earth—

the LORD, the God of hosts is his name!

Amos 4: 13

 

The Israel of Amos’ day was not in a good place, and neither was the world around them. Yet, this was a time when things looked great in Israel, for the nation was wealthy and its economy was growing rapidly. It was enjoying a time of relative calm and peace, and Assyria to the north was dealing with its own internal issues and was no longer threatening Israel and Judah. Yet, this prosperity and peace were gained by the few who were powerful at the expense of many who were being oppressed. Their worship was only nominally focused upon the one true God as they sought to find favor from any form of deity that seems good or helpful in the moment. The Israelites were certainly glad and thankful for the help when an enemy was defeated or was being held in check by various forces and causes that did not require the expenditure of Israel’s wealth or other resources, but they were mostly reliant upon themselves and in their leader’s wisdom and guile for this worldly success.

 

At this time, God sent a prophet to speak about the situation in their land and the one in the world around them, too. He speaks of God’s anger and distress at the way that people are living, and Amos focusses on the unjust and oppressive tactics that have been utilized in order to gain power, wealth, and position. This is true for the nations around Israel, and it is sadly true for God’s own people as well. Although God allows us to make our own choices regarding the way that we will live and for the direction that our nations will go, He will not let us continue in an ungodly direction indefinitely. He has the power and the universal authority that it takes to change things when the time is right from His point of view to do so. This reality is what Amos is reminding us of in this verse. This God who we are ignoring and trivializing by the way that we are living is the same God who formed the ground that we stand upon and who shaped the mountains where we go to worship.

 

Even more impressively, the Lord has formed and shaped us into beings that can think and act upon those thoughts. Our capacity to build up and to create the world that gives us our wealth and comfort is something that God, Himself, has gifted to us. However, His intent in so devising people was that we would care for this world in a loving and a just manner and that we would worship Him with the totality of our beings. Just care for our world and for all the life that is upon it is the objective of our God-given mission on the earth. Worship of God is the means by which we stay true to that calling and is to be the central focus of all that we do in the course of life. When we stop orienting the totality of our love, adoration, and praise toward God, we start to lose our ability to truly love and care for others as Christ desires for us to do. As we turn away from worshiping God with all that we are, we tend to start worshiping ourselves and the possessions that we desire and enjoy, and this state of heart and mind leads us into thinking and acting in a manner that is much like the Israelites in Amos’ days were doing. As the prophet reminded them and tells us, God is not pleased by this behavior, and He will not wait forever before He makes things right in the world.

 

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O LORD, you are my God;

I will exalt you; I will praise your name,

for you have done wonderful things,

plans formed of old, faithful and true.

Isaiah 25: 1

 

There are days when the prophet’s idea gets lost in all of the noise and the confusion of life. I admit that I do forget, if only for a few heartbeats, that I serve the true King, who is fully engaged and absolutely in charge of the world where I dwell. There is nothing that is beneath my Lord’s dignity to touch, and no aspect of my life is so insignificant that God does not care about it and for me through it. This is the nature of God. He loves His creation in ways that make the love of the best of fathers seem distant and neglectful. The Lord not only says that He would die for us, He literally suffered awfully and took on death in its fullest expression so that we would not need to endure its ultimate end. This is the sort of God that I do know, and this is the God who is Lord over my life in all ways and at all times.

 

One of the most remarkable things to me about this relationship with God is the fact that it was not of my devising or creation just as it was not the creation of any other person. God planned to remain close to people, and He devised the means for that to happen. He did all of this from the beginning of the existence of this world, and He did it with nothing except love as His motive. God loves this world that is the creative work of His hands with such passion and devotion that He gave Himself, in the form of the Son, over to all that is evil in this world and then He defeated evil and took its power over life and death away from it forever. In so doing, we were set free from the living prison that is sin, and we were sent into life with the capability and the capacity to engage our days with that same love as our motivation and with the wisdom of eternity as our guidance for the journey.

 

This is the nature of the plan that the Lord formed for the benefit of His people and for the salvation of His creation. His plan is truth embodied, and the Lord’s expressed will to carry it out is founded upon His faithful desire to reconcile all that is distanced or separated, all that is broken, in creation. This deep and unshakeable love, a love that the Lord pours out on me continually, is something that I should never stop remembering and recognizing in my mind and in my heart. It is the true song of my heart, and God’s love for me is the solid ground that my feet can count upon even when all else seems to be crumbling away and failing to support me. This is a love that demands righteousness of me when I would rather take an easier path through my day, for Christ does grant to me the freedom to be holy and set apart from the ways of this world in order for me to live in the full expression of God’s truth, grace, and mercy. So Lord, I desire to praise You with my words and to lift You up for all of the world to see in the way that I live my life today!

He who testifies to these things says, “Surly I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

Revelation 22: 20

 

Persecution, trouble, and trials are not new, and they are not reserved for a place in ancient history, either. They are a part of the reality of a world gone far off the rails of righteousness as it has continued to exist in a rebellious state when it comes to following God and to honoring Him as Lord and King. As he set down these words of revealed truth, John was living in an age where it was dangerous to be a follower of Christ. Today there are many places and situations in our world where that is still the case. We also live in a time when interest in God’s truth and people’s will to follow His just and holy path of love and care for all seems to be far out of fashion. This is a time when the ancient plea and expression of deepest desire, “Come, Lord Jesus!” is more powerful and desirous than it ever has been.

 

We long for all to be set right in our world. We desire to see the pain, grief, sorrow, and trials of our days come to an end, and this is something that Jesus has promised to do. He will return to walk upon the earth in tangible, physical form, and when He does this, the forces that are arrayed against God will be thrown down and permanently defeated. Their influence and effect will cease, and all that has been broken, torn, and shattered in our world will be restored to the perfection of God’s original work in creation. This restored state is a beautiful dream and the hope of all who know Christ. It is also a desire, a dream, a hope, and an aspiration that we can all embrace and enter into during these turbulent days that we are in now. This is true even as we await that promised restorative return.

 

The plea for Jesus to come is one that we can embrace ourselves today. He is not absent from our world, and He is not distant from each of His people, either. As a reminder, when Jesus left us He provided His Spirit to dwell in this world and within His people. Also, God has breathed out His Word of Truth for us to enter into and to follow in all aspects of life. The Lord has never been absent from us; so, each of us has the opportunity to enter into the love, peace, grace, and justice that is Christ’s heart and calling for His people. As we desire to live as redeemed people and submit our lives to the Lord’s leading, He is faithful to work within us to transform us into people who live more fully in the reality of redemption. Christ wants each of us to live as people who are actively bringing the hope of that new life into the world that we touch, and that restorative work begins by personally speaking out this plea of submission and commitment, “Come, Lord Jesus! Come into me fully and use me to live and to work for Your glory today!”

The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

Psalm 19: 1

 

This is such a great reminder of what it means to know God that I want to reflect upon this verse again this morning. It is still dark outside as I sit here at the keyboard and put a few thoughts down; yet the glory of God is present. It is tangible and real in the night sky, and it seems to saturate the air that surrounds me. My Lord is with me in every aspect of the world that surrounds me. He is even made known to my heart and my mind in the pre-dawn silence of the city streets. The presence of the Lord is real on days when things are going very well in my universe and it is just as solid on ones that I do not look forward to experiencing. God is consistent, and His consistency is spoken in love, care, mercy, grace, healing, and redemption. God touches the places in my spirit that need attention, and He sends me out into the day with the confidence that I require for the tasks at hand.

 

This is all made more noticeable as I take time and look around to see the wonder and the mystery of the expression of His hand in the world. God has written his story of life into His Creation, and He has scribed it onto the hearts of people as the centerpieces of that Creation. In fact, the presence of the Lord in the world is called out most noticeably by the people that dwell here and in the ways that they live out Christ in their day to day lives. The Lord takes each of us who will yield ourselves to His will, and He gives us a place in this world and a purpose to fulfill in His Kingdom. We are significant even when we are compared to the great expanse of the heavens. Each of us has meaning in God’s design for this world, and we have value to the Lord in the way that He desires to bring about restoration and redemption in the world.

 

It is important for us to not lose sight of this reality. Each person on the earth is important to God, and each of our lives matters to Him. Christ is here to save anyone who will turn to Him, and He desires to enter into the lives of all people regardless of what we may have done or how we might have lived in the past. Every person on this earth is a part of that great expanse that declares the work of God’s hands, for we are all the result of His divine creation and the product of the Lord’s hands. So, as I look around, even in the early morning stillness, I am surrounded by images, by faces, of the people that are the most significant and important aspects of the expanse that is the created universe, and Christ speaks love, grace, and understanding to me as His desired blessing to be conferred onto each and every one of these precious souls. So, blessing others with Christ’s presence is my calling for today as I go out into the world.

 

For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

2 Corinthians 5: 1

 

Living in this world tends to create a solid image of the certainty of this first statement. Everyday and all around us we hear about and even experience events that take take hold of our lives with the iron grip of chaos, destruction, and loss. People’s lives are turned upside down, and we are thrown about by forces that we don’t control and by circumstances that slip up on us with the stealth of absolute darkness and the swiftness of demonic zeal. These events can take our homes, destroy our churches, and even shake our faith to the point of serious questioning of our relationship with God.

 

The Lord knows our world just as He knew the very similar one that Paul lived in; for, you see, the forces of evil have been loose on earth since the early days of our human history, and Satan wants to take our weak spirits into his hands and give us the sort of trials that strike us in our areas of greatest vulnerability. The Lord protects us, and He strengthens us so that we can handle these attacks. He also promises us with a certainty that is absolute that this life and this world are not all that we have. In fact, the most magnificent structures and the greatest thoughts that we can enjoy in this life are nothing more than dim shadows of what we will experience in our next lives with God in Heaven.

 

Therefore, we can remain hopeful despite everything that is happening in our world, and we need to continue to seek the face of God in the center of our circumstances. It is this solid, tangible hopefulness that sets God’s people apart from the rest of humanity, and it is this ability to see beyond the moment to an eternal perspective that keeps us going on during times when our immediate world has been turned on its side. Our families, friends, neighbors, and communities are desperately looking for hopeful signs in these troubled times; people of faith who stay focused on the Lord’s promises can bring the light of salvation into their hearts and the hope of redemption into their souls.

 

And light will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

Revelation 22: 5

 

Darkness is a theme that hovers over this day in our Christian calendar, for Good Friday is the heaviest day of the year in emotional content and with its blanket of harsh reality. This day is loaded with the most significant darkness before the dawn content of any day in earth’s history. This is that point when all of our rebellion against God’s reign and struggle to find our own way in a world that was created to fully support our journey but was not quite sufficient for us in our own appraisal of things came to a singular point of focus. Anger, violence, and death had their pinnacle moment, and their intense gathering in was aimed with laser point intensity on all that is love and was set to attempt to destroy the one who promised life where death had conspired to appropriate control.

 

As we know the next aspects of this story, we recognize that the darkness was temporary. Sight was returned to our darkened eyes in the dawn of resurrection, and that brought with it the absolute overthrow of death’s power over life. But death and its darkness are still with us. We are subject to the pain that comes with loss of loved ones, and we all enter into the process whereby our bodies and our minds move away from full vitality and head in various degrees and at an individual pace into decline and decay. In this world we do not know immortality, but through Christ, we can go into the darkness of death in this life and then follow Him and join with Christ in the glorious light of the dawn of our own eternity. Christ endured the deepest darkness possible so that we would not be required to know that sort of painful separation from God.

 

Now, in Christ, we can dwell today in the radiant light of salvation while we also look forward in the certain hope of eternity with God. We will see that day that is promised by Christ in the Revelation account. We will know the pure joy when all sin ceases to be as Creation is made anew into the form, shape, and function that was God’s intent at the inception of it all. Christ has claimed our eternity for each of us who turn to Him. In Him and by His Spirit we walk today in the presence of this great and unceasing light. Although the physical properties of our world still require various forms and sources of light to grant to us the sight that we need to navigate our way, Christ gives us a form of the same light that will eliminate the need for any other in that final restoration, and He fills our hearts, minds, and souls with it today. Even on this darkest of days in our calendar, the glory of Christ’s redemption fills the world and illuminates the path that we are to follow.

Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;

by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,

make many to be accounted righteous,

and he shall bear their iniquities.

Isaiah 53: 11

 

Isaiah wrote these words about 700 years before Jesus was born; yet, He describes exactly what Jesus would accomplish in His short time with us on earth. He truly suffered in many ways. Jesus felt what the Father also feels, for the weight of people’s sin was heavy upon Christ throughout the days of His life. He walked in the paths of our pain, and He responded to the needs of our souls for reconciliation with God and for the deep healing that would bring about a return to dwelling in the presence of our Lord. Then, after living among us and entering into our lives for a period of time, Jesus took all that we had done to separate ourselves from holiness and He also grasped to Himself every aspect of sin that would come in the future so that anyone who would choose to be reconciled to God could be so saved. This great sacrificial act was needed so that you and I could know the fullness of life and enter into the reality of being alive for eternity.

 

So, Jesus brought many people out of death and into life. His offer of grace and peace with our Creator is extended to everyone; yet, some say yes to it and others continue to reject this free gift that Christ holds out to us. Because of the fact that many do not choose to hear and to accept the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God calls all of us who do know Him to speak out about this faith that has saved us and to live openly in the freedom that Christ has given to us in order for the world to see how and why submission to Christ brings about the sort of joy and peace that it does. Christ desires that each of His people would live so that our lives would be an on-going testimony to His great love and to the way that we have been released from captivity to sin. In Christ, we have a purpose in life that is noble and that conforms to God’s desire to redeem the world and that joins in His plan to accomplish this goal.

 

On that day over two thousand years ago Jesus carried away my sin, and He did the same for everyone else, too. Now we each are granted that opportunity to embrace God’s gift of redemption. If we have already done so and entered into the new life that Christ’s presence grants to us, then we are traveling along a road that leads ever farther into God’s will. This is a journey of faith that asks us to continually submit to the Lord and to yield ourselves to His transformative work within us. It is also a life of entering into the deep joy that comes from dwelling in Christ’s presence. For people who have not accepted the gift that Christ’s death and resurrection provide, this day grants to them an ideal time to turn life around by surrendering to the only one who can save the soul and to the singular source of that new life, Jesus Christ.

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