Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God


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30 Worship seeing the whole picture – Part 1

Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

As we close out our series on worship we come to probably the most popular and also the most profound statement made about “true and proper worship.” It is sad that worship, what God desires, has become so divisive. We have turned worship into war, leaving the church void of its wonder while the enemy gets the victory. Why because we have put our preferences ahead of praise. In the Book of Exodus we find God’s people, the Israelites, in slavery in Egypt, they had been held in captivity for over 400 years. God sends Moses to go to the Egyptian Pharaoh and say, “Let my people go so that they can worship me.” The purpose of freedom then is to pursue God and He knew that His people could not worship him fully and freely if they were living in captivity, held in bondage as slaves. So God delivered them out of bondage and into freedom so that they could worship, in essence He said, “Now you are free to worship me, to live for me, to be with me.” Jesus, later talking to his disciples, conveys the same message in Matthew 16:24, “If anyone would want to truly be my disciple, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” We view the offering of ourselves as giving away our freedom yet what Paul reveals in the sacrifice of self is that we actually become free to serve. Today we are held captive by our wants and cares, yet Romans 12 offers us worship that is free from the weight and worry of living for self if we only:

  • Let our behavior flow from our belief.

Every time you come across the word “therefore” in the Bible you should always ask what it’s there for. Here in chapter 12 of Romans, Paul is making a shift from doctrine to duty, from creed to conduct, from principles to practice, from the indicative to the imperative and from beliefs to behavior. You can spend time studying, meditating and even memorizing your way through the first eight chapters of Romans but if all you do is learn it but never live it then what good is it! It is not enough to simply embrace truth, at some point the truth we believe must embrace us. Today you hear people saying that it doesn’t really matter what you believe but it does, because what we believe ultimately determines how we behave. It’s as if Paul is saying, “Based on everything that I’ve just preached, this is what you now need to put into practice.” I find it interesting how the first two letters of “doctrine” form the word “do.” Sandwiched between the doctrine and the go do is the deep doxology found at the end of Romans 11:33-36 “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond finding out. ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?’ For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory! Amen.” After spending so much time discussing doctrine Paul is overcome by the depth of God’s glory. I love Paul’s progression from doctrine to doxology to go do, so is your behavior in sync with your beliefs?

  • Answer the appeal.

Based on the reality of everything that God has done, Paul says, “I urge you, brothers and sisters…” This is a call to worship, even though Paul could have used a command here, he instead makes an appeal from love not law. Paul reminds us that worship is built around relationship not rules and he reminds us of this in Ephesians 4:1 also: “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” The term brothers and sisters is a term of warmth that literally means from “one womb” Paul reminds us that we are members of God’s family. He is begging believers to respond to God’s revelation, to answer the appeal. So as a disciple of Christ what will be your decision?

  • Are motivated by mercy.

Paul makes this plea “in view of God’s mercy.” It’s interesting that Paul doesn’t say, “In light of God’s grace” but instead focuses on mercy. Why, because God’s grace is demonstrated when we get what we don’t deserve, whereas His mercy is what keeps us from getting what we do deserve. One of the problems with this passage is the translation, the original word for “mercy” is actually plural, referring to God’s multitude of mercies. Like we see in 2 Corinthians 1:3 in the KJV: “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort.” God’s mercy is not a onetime event but an ongoing, overflowing reality that marches into eternity. It’s plural like a parade that He puts on for us, which rolls by through the hours and days into the decades, His mercy that He has put on display each day of our lives. Paul is teaching us a very valuable lesson here for he is reminding us that the prerequisite to worship is mercy, and the prerequisite to mercy is doing something wrong. If you have messed up you qualify for mercy and so you also qualify for worship. When it comes to worship few of us feel worthy, the problem is that we let what’s wrong with us keep us from worshipping what’s right with God. Isaac Watt’s who wrote the amazing hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” understood God’s mercy when he penned the words: “Love so amazing, so divine; demands my soul, my life, my all.” Many of us get this wrong, we think we have to sacrifice or perform to get God’s mercy, because we have it backwards. God gives a multitude of mercies separate from anything we do which should cause us to surrender everything we are and sacrifice everything we have. Sometimes the issue is not one of trying to achieve, we know that we’ve been forgiven, but we overestimate our goodness while underestimating the amount of mercy we have received. Jesus reminded us of this in Luke 7:47 when He said: “But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” Our worship is always a reflection and response to what we value, and if we value God’s mercy we’ll be motivated to give Him our lives. So what are you worshipping and how do you know? Well just follow the trail of your time and your spiritual temperature, what has your affection, your energy, your money and your loyalty? At the end of the trail you will find a throne and what is on the throne is what you value and worship most. God’s mercies have been multiplied to you, they are plural because He is consistently and constantly full of mercy. So where is your worship?


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29 Journey of worship – Part 2

Matthew 2:1-2, 10-12

1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.

The journey of worship involves:

  • SACRIFICE. Vs 11

We want worship that is convenient yet true worship costs, 2 Samuel 24:24 says: “I will not offer to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost [me] nothing.” It is not a matter of what we get out of worship, but what we give. The wise men came prepared to worship with worthy gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Yet the sacrifice was not just the giving of their gifts but the price they paid on the pilgrimage. They gave themselves to the journey, sacrificing their comfort and their safety, as travel in those days was often dangerous. It wasn’t just the cost of comfort and convenience it would also have cost them financially in food and lodging. Yet the greatest gift of sacrifice they gave to God was themselves, not just their treasures but their time. What God wants most of all above everything else is YOU. He wants your whole heart, your undivided attention. So what will you give Him, what effort will you make to worship God, will you give Him your best? Are you willing to give up not just your comfort but control and follow Christ?

  • SUBMISSION Vs 11

When they arrived scripture says that they bowed down. Yet self doesn’t like submission because we don’t see how it makes sense, especially when we see grown men bowing to a child. Our sin nature fights bowing and serving yet when the wise men saw the star they were overjoyed and when they saw Christ they bowed. Why, because they knew who they were seeking, the one Born KING OF THE JEWS. When you view Christ as King Submission always makes sense. Submission is an acknowledgement of God’s sovereign right to control over your life.  Jesus Christ is called Lord 747 times in the New Testament with the crowning reminder being Revelation 19:16 “On his robe and thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords.”  We often make worship about what we want but in your journey of worship do you really suppose God will let you “do it your way”? The question of worship is will you do it God’s way, because submission always results in a dependence on God and obedience to God.

  • SHIFT IN COURSE Vs 12

Verse twelve reminds us that the journey after we worship Jesus is a changed one. “Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.” Isn’t it interesting that after they worshiped Jesus they could not go back the same way that they had come? Once you have met God you will never be the same. An encounter with God changes everything. Jacob wrestled with God and never walked the same the rest of his life. Isaiah stepped into the presence of God and proclaimed “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.” Isaiah 6:5 He was never the same again. Obeying God and going home by a different way meant more unknowns, more difficulty, more dependence on God. When they left the house the journey of worship was not over, we make worship a destination and experience when in reality it is a journey. Experiences may excite us but it’s the journey that moves us. Job was a man who journeyed with God and it changed him. He started questioning God over and over again concerning his suffering and when God shows up Job says. “I’m speechless, in awe—words fail me. I should never have opened my mouth! I’ve talked too much, way too much. I’m ready to shut up and listen.” Job 40:4-5 (MSG) Job met God and became a changed man, which is what happens when we walk into the presence of God. That is what happened to the wise men when they encountered Christ, they were changed as everything become different. How about you, are you looking for a change in your life? Find Christ this Christmas and I can guarantee that you will be changed, things will be different. So will you step out in faith and seek Him as the wise men did?