Month: April 2012

Matthew 5:1-12

Take a minute to read the passage above.  If you have read it before, attempt to read it this time as if it is the first time you have encountered the ideas and the content within the passage.

There was a guy who worked with me one time who had a very odd sense of fairness.  We had been working on some big projects that made for a pretty busy week.  By the time Friday came, we only had a few more things to do, but my coworker informed me that he was going to be using his Friday in the office to relax and watch some movies at his desk.  When I inquired why he thought that was a reasonable thing to do, he informed me that he had worked really hard all week and he deserved some down time now.  He could not be convinced that the expectation was that, when at work, we are to work hard all the time.  In his mind we owed him some down time because of all of his previous hard work.

If we are honest, there is a major part of us that would love figure out a way to make God owe us some type of blessing for the things we do as a part of our faith.  It is in our nature to think that if we do something for God, then he owes us something in return.  On our best days we see this attempt to manipulate God as something deeply misguided.  On other days, we wonder why we don’t have what we want to have when we have been doing our “best” to follow God.  Surely that would be fair.  Or, could it be that God expects us to work hard every day to follow him and do his will?

In our passage today we are introduced to what are typically called the Beatitudes.  These are essentially wisdom statements made by Jesus at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount that inform us how we might be blessed by God.  Understand, however, that these are not formulas to getting a better job or a bigger bank account.  It is not: be humble get a promotion.

The Beatitudes allow us to see the type of character that a true disciple of Christ would exhibit in his or her life.  One way to approach these Beatitudes is to see the first four as the attitudes with which we approach God.  This would mean that we approach God with humility, brokenness over sin, and a desire to live obediently.  The next four would be the way that we are to live out our faith in the world.  This would mean that as disciples we are called to be peacemakers, to show mercy, to demonstrate purity, and to be willing to face persecution through steadfastly clinging to our calling as disciples.

Again, it is important not to see this set of statements as a way to make God do anything for us.  If the only blessing we experience as a result of living this way is eternal life, I would say we got a pretty good deal.  However, as many followers of Christ would tell you, the actual blessings typically come as you live life the way that God intended for you to live.

Take some time today to really ask yourself what you expect from God.  Do you think that God owes you because of your devotion?  What motivates you to spend time with God or to practice spiritual disciplines?  Do you give so that you might receive or do you give because God is honored through your giving?  Ask God whether your motivations need to change.  Ask him to reveal the ways that he has already blessed you.

The Beatitudes

Romans 6:4-14

One of my proudest driving moments happened while I was in college.  I was driving with several friends in my car on the way to the movies.  As we are going down the road, a car pulls right out in front of us.  Because we are going about 40 mph, there is no chance that we can stop in time.  Instead, I hit the wheel hard and pass right behind the car and turn into the driveway that the car had just left from.  We were probably several feet from hitting the other car, but it felt like inches.  I was able to stop in that parking lot and regain composure.  It was truly one of those moments where your life flashes before your eyes because you things are about to end for you.

My experience may not have been all that life-threatening, but there some people have literally fought off death, and because of it, their lives have never been the same.  You see, life changes when you find that you have escaped death.  Just ask people who miraculously survived a major car accident or who have fought an intense battle with cancer.  When you pass from impending death to miraculously being alive, your perspective changes.  You priorities are realigned.  You see your future very differently.

In the passage for today, Paul is reminding us that, because of Jesus’s death and resurrection, we too have passed from death to life.  As Paul notes, we were dead in our sin.  Our sentence was declared, and we had no hope of changing anything.  However, because of Jesus we are able to find life.  Where there was no hope, we have been given hope.  Where there was no future, we have been given a future.

We weren’t only given a future, however.  We were also given a purpose.  We too find ourselves faced with re-prioritizing our lives.  Jesus conquered death, but he also allowed us to conquer sin.  As people who are alive to Christ, we understand that our calling is to live for Christ and not this world.  Once we were slaves to sin because it had mastered us and decided our fate.  Now Jesus is our master, and he has rescued us from our former master.  As we seek to live for our new master, we must put away the instructions of our old master.  As we do so, we will continue to recognize what it means to live a new life.

Take time today to consider who influences your decisions.  Is it your former self with the selfish desires?  Or, do you live in obedience to Christ?  Do you seek to know God’s word so that you might know what to obey?  If you were to make a line with sin on one end and Christ on the other end, where would you chart your life right now?  What is one thing that you can do today to move yourself closer to Christ and further from the sin that once demanded your death?  Whatever it is, do it.


1 Corinthians 15:12-28

He is alive!  That is the source of our celebration and the impetus for our reflection.  Jesus’s resurrection is the foundation for hope that we have.  As Paul points out, sin came through one man, Adam.  Adam’s sin could not be overcome by anything but extraordinary means.  While Adam’s death stood, we too were dead in the same sinful state that took Adam out of the garden of Eden.   All of humanity’s combined efforts could not change our status before God.  Death reigned and it could not be mastered.


Until God intervened in our world on our behalf and sent his only son who would conquer death through his own death and bring life through his own resurrection.  Where Adam brought death, Jesus brought life.  Where Adam brought separation and shame, Jesus brought grace and peace.

As we celebrate Easter we celebrate that which has given us life.  We celebrate that our hope and our faith is not in vain.  We celebrate that Jesus took dominion over death so that we might experience life.  Our life is a life of hope, hope in a future that exceeds anything this world has to offer.

Our life is a life lived free from the weight of our sins.  Through Jesus, God’s grace has come in and changed the future of those who He would call His own.  While Adam began in the garden and was expelled because of his sin, we began in ignorance because of our sin, but because of Christ, we find God calling us into the garden once again.

Celebrate today.  Celebrate what it means for Jesus to be alive.  Celebrate and dwell in the life that you have been given.  Thank your God for his mercy that He has bestowed upon you.  Show honor to our living Savior.


Psalm 42

What is something in this world that you don’t think you could live without?  Maybe it’s something as simple as coffee or chocolate.  Maybe it’s something more complex such as friendships or family.  All of us have something that we feel a deep longing for.

In Psalm 42 we see that the writer of the psalm has an intense desire to be in the presence of God.  There is a tendency to see the first two verses as describing a calm desire to spend some time with God.  In reality, this psalm is one written out of agony and painful longing.  The writer feels as if they will die unless they can encounter the presence of God.  What might our lives look like if we had this kind of longing for our God?

As we live out our worship, being in the presence of God becomes a central desire for our hearts.  We long to worship because we long for God.  Having a longing for God means that we search for him throughout our day.  It means that we see his hand in the events of the day.  It means finding fulfillment and joy when we spend time with him.

In the Old Testament longing for God’s presence often meant longing to be in the Temple.  The Temple was the place where worship could happen.  In our day things are much simpler as we can experience God much easier.  In the New Testament Christians are called temples of the living  God.  We understand this to mean that God can relate to us anytime and anywhere.  We know that we don’t have to be in church to experience his presence.

When we understand who God truly is and what God has done for us, we will long for his presence.  It is likely that we have all experienced times in our lives that we needed to hear from God or feel his presence.

Have you ever had a time that you really needed to hear from God?  What was it like to be waiting for him to answer?  What was it like when he finally did answer?  Maybe you need to hear from God right now in your life.  Maybe you are like the psalmist who is in agony because God seems far away.  Take heart and know that God is your Savior and your hope.  Ask him to make himself known.

Living Our Worship

Psalm 130

In the hymn Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, the chorus reads:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

These words have spoken to many generations of believers.  They are a call for surrender and for faith.  They are a call to turn our focus to God.

As we turn to God, we discover that we can live a life lived in God’s glory and his grace.

In Psalm 130 the psalmist is calling out to God for rescue and for mercy.  He wants to experience God’s glory and God’s grace.  Despite his troubles, he knows that God has the power to redeem him.  We know that this redemption will ultimately come through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

When we live a life of worship, we live a life in light of God’s glory and of God’s grace.  We live in light of God’s glory by recognizing that he is worthy of living for.  We live in light of God’s grace by acknowledging each day our need for his forgiveness and by accepting his unfailing love.

We also live out our worship by living in hope.  While true Christians have experienced God’s salvation through Christ, we still await the time when we will have full communion with God in heaven.  We set heaven as our hope all the while living to God’s glory here on earth.

It can be hard to wait for God to do something in our lives.  However, we find strength in knowing that God has already done so much for us.  Because of his work in the past, we know that we can put our hope in him for our future.

Take a few minutes to consider where your focus is.  Have you been able to make God your focus?  What things are keeping you from remembering God’s glory and God’s grace?  Ask God to remind you of these things today as you go through your daily activities.  Pray that these things would color everything that you do and say.

Living Our Worship

Psalm 150

Have you ever wondered why we sing in church?  It seems like a natural thing for us if we have grown up in church, but why of all things do we sing?

Celebrating God through music and through our voices has been a part of our response to God for thousands of years.

Our hearts are lifted up through music, and some of our most honest expressions come in the form of a song.  We use songs to express our love for other people.  We use songs to tell emotional stories of our lives.  We use songs to worship and honor our God.

Psalm 150 is a call for all people to worship God with our voices and our instruments.  The psalmist calls for every living thing on the earth to sing praise to our God who is worthy of all praise.  It is fitting that this psalm comes at the end of the book of Psalms.

When we sing praises to God, we don’t passively recite words or hum along.  No, we sing with conviction and passion.  We sing praise to our God who is worthy of our best.  No love song should be sung begrudgingly.  No patriotic song should be sung without considering the meaning.  The same goes for our worship songs towards God.

It is easy to fall into the trap of routine when it comes to singing in worship.  We can easily find ourselves just saying the words without ever reflecting on what they mean for our lives or for our relationship with God.  However, when we take time to own the words that we are singing and take the time to apply them to our lives, we can experience true worship.

What do you expect to happen in worship?  Do you expect to hear from God?  Do come excited at the opportunity to simply celebrate God and his work in your life?  Take some time to evaluate your understanding of worship.  Ask that God would correct any misunderstandings you might have.  Pray that God would allow you to experience genuine worship, and at some point today, lift your voice in song to God.

Living Our Worship

Psalm 86

I don’t know how you start your day.  Maybe you stumble into the shower with all of the energy you can muster.  Maybe you blindly grope around until your hand finds the coffee that sustains your life.  Maybe you just pop right out of bed and get going (like that really happens).  However you start your day, perhaps the most important thing we can do is remember that it is a gift from God.

Psalm 86 is a great summary of how we ought to relate to God and worship God.  This psalm could easily be one of our daily prayers.  Within its verses we see the prayer of a true disciple.  There is a call for mercy.  There is a confession of trust.  There is a declaration of God’s power.  There is a request for an undivided heart.  There is a message of hope.

As sinners saved by grace we are in need.  We need God’s grace every day, and we celebrate that he is faithful in giving it each day.  We also need God’s presence every day.  Sometimes we act as if we only needed God long enough for us to commit our lives to him.  We needed his forgiveness and his grace during the moment that we became a Christian.  From that point on we decide to treat our faith as something that we did a while ago rather than something that we are living out each day.

In reality, we need to be reminded of the Gospel every day.  We ought to celebrate each day what God has done for us through Christ.  We ought to live in awe of God’s promise and what God has done.  It’s not that we need to be saved over and over again.  It’s that God did something so amazing that we cannot help but have it change everything that we do.

Our lives as Christians are lived in response to the Gospel.  When we pray, worship, and celebrate Christian community, we do so because God made a way for this to happen.

Take some time to make this psalm your prayer today.  As you pray this psalm, truly embrace the words and see how they apply to your relationship with God.

Living Our Worship

Psalm 133

Families are full of complicated relationships.  In no other relationship is there so much potential for love and so much potential for pain.  The reality is that any time that you do life together so closely, there are bound to be ups and downs.

The Bible certainly attests to some very difficult family relationships.

Cain and Abel.

Joseph and his brothers.

Jacob and Esau.

It’s not just families where broken relationships can occur.  They happen among friends, classmates, and even in churches.  Disharmony is an easy trap to fall into, but if we want our lives to be full of true worship, we must seek unity with our earthly brothers and sisters and our spiritual brothers and sisters.  We cannot allow our relationships to be broken.  We cannot allow ourselves to lose our love for our neighbor.

Worshiping God is so difficult when we are experiencing broken relationships.  You have likely felt this way.  It is hard to celebrate God when our thoughts are focused on a battle that we are having with another person.  Perhaps this is why in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:23-24 we see Jesus saying:

“23 Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you,  24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”

When we live and worship in unity, we are experiencing what it is like to live as God intended.  We are also experiencing what it will be like to worship in heaven.  We understand that where there is unity, there is life.  We understand that God honors unity by bestowing his blessings to those who live harmoniously.

Is there a broken relationship in your life that is keeping you from experiencing true worship and true joy?  Ask God to help you heal that relationship.  Consider taking that scary step of seeking reconciliation with that person.  As you do, know that God will honor your commitment to unity.

Living Our Worship

Psalm 115

Last year I had the opportunity to go to a place of worship in Nashville.  It was a beautiful building and the people who were worshiping there were doing so with passion and with devotion.  Unfortunately, the objects of their worship were statues of many shapes and sizes.  We had been given the opportunity to visit this Hindu temple to learn more about their culture, and while I was impressed by their devotion, my heart was broken by their desire to worship these idols made of wood.

We were designed to be worshipers.  We have a desire that God has put into us to praise those things that are higher than ourselves.  This desire can lead us into the most powerful experiences of God’s presence.  It can also lead us into worshiping creations rather than our Creator.

In Psalm 115, the people of Israel are asked about their God.  Where is he?  Why can’t he be seen?  It’s a good question when your frame of reference to a god is an idol or a statue.  It’s not a great question if you serve the one true God whose dwelling is in heaven.

While most of us would not build idols for worship, we certainly have a tendency to worship things in place of God.  Maybe it is another person such as a spouse or boyfriend.  Maybe it is a car or a house.  Maybe our object of worship is ourselves.  We may not sing songs to these things or sacrifice to them, but when they become something we could not live without, we have made them into our idols.

God desires to be the most important thing in our life.  He does not want to be a part of your life.  He wants your relationship with him to be the foundation of your life.  The Christian faith was never meant to be part of who we are.  It was meant to be the definition of who we are.  When our lives are not based in our relationship with God, it is typically because we have decided that other things are more important than God.

Take some time to identify the things that have become idols in your own life.  Chances are there are some things that you have begun to worship in place of  God.  As you identify the things that have been living for, compare what they have to offer to what God has to offer.  Ask God to help you refuse to serve things.  Instead, ask that he would reveal himself to you in a way that makes serving anything else seem incredibly foolish.


Living Our Worship

Psalm 146

In the first week of devotions, we sought to discover what worship really looks like.  In the second week, we celebrated the character and nature of our God.  This week we will be looking at how we might live out the worship of our God and King.

Today, we are looking at trust.  There are plenty of things that can give us comfort.  We can put our hopes into all sorts of things.  We may put our trust in our bank accounts or in our jobs.  We may put our trust in ourselves, believing that we are in control of the future that we desire.

But what happens when the things that we have put our trust into fall apart?  Where do we turn?  Who is our help then?

Psalm 146 reminds us that our help and our hope is the Lord.  While our inclinations are to put trust into many other things, only God is the true source of salvation and of help.

We don’t just put our trust in God because he tells us to, though that might ought to be enough.  Instead, the psalmist reminds us of the things that God does in our midst to rescue our fellow human beings.  He gives food to the hungry.  He gives sight to the blind.  He sustains the fatherless and the widow.  He sets the prisoners free.  He upholds the cause of the oppressed.

And in the back of our minds we perhaps remember someone else saying something along these lines.  In Luke 4, Jesus chooses to read these words from the prophet Isaiah:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Spend some time thanking God for all of the ways that he works in the world.  Pray that your trust in his ways would increase, and that you would find peace knowing that God is worthy of our trust.  Ask God to help you to trust his plan for your life, even when you might think your plan is better.

Living Our Worship