Monthly Archives: November 2013

Worship with a Heart of Thankfulness

Peninsula Community Church

Worship from a Heart of Thankfulness

November 24, 2013

Colossians 3:12-17 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father.

As we navigate through life so often we can become distracted by the cares of life and we can become so self focused on our problems and our issues that we can literally forget that we have so much to be thankful for. 

I am always amazed at the settlers who traversed great difficulty to settle in the west. The story is told of one of these wagon train parties. They were on the Oregon Trail and water and food had been scarce for several days. Some of the wagons were broken down, with consequent delays amid the stifling heat. A general feeling of fretfulness had succeeded the early optimism and cheer. So it was decided that, at the next night’s stop, a meeting would be held to air their troubles. When the settlers had gathered around the campfire, one of them arose and said, “Before we do anything else, I think we should first thank God that we have come this far with no loss of life, with no serious trouble with the Indians, and that we have enough strength left to finish our journey.” This was done, and then there was silence. No one had any complaints to make.

I want to take a moment to look at the reasons we can and for that matter should have a thankful heart. I want to do so in the context of living a transformed life where our heart has been impacted by the work of the cross. 

The first reason we should be thankful is that we have been chosen by God. Notice in Paul’s opening statement who he is talking to. He is talking to those who have been chosen by God to be his people. This is not to solidify a doctrine of preselection or determination but that the fact that we have all been chosen by God to be His children. The sad fact is that while all mankind has the right and open door to come to Christ, not all do. Many are called but but few are chosen (Matthew 22:14). 

Now if we to stop at this point, we would have more than enough to be thankful for. We are chosen by God. You see one of the greatest needs of man today, according to psychologists, is the need to belong. By being chosen, He is saying to us that we belong. We have a place at His table and in His family. I don’t know how many of you have been in a family or a situation where you have felt rejected or have been denied access to the family. I have and I know that pain that comes from that but I also know the joy of being accepted by God the father when no one else would accept me.

The second reason we can be thankful is that in Christ we are considered to be holy. This is not something we have to strive for and that we have to make happen. It is a work of the Holy Spirit. When we accept Christ, we are already holy. Our holiness has been deposited in us at the point of salvation, but we must develop it and build on it. We are holy. This is an act of the heart. Holiness is an outflow of the work of righteousness in our hearts. It is the transformational work that God has done in and through us. We must understand that we are made holy by the work of the cross. This means all past sins and actions have been removed and cannot be held against us any longer. 

Ephesians 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

We are holy because He is holy, just as we are righteous as he is righteous. When we do not realize that we are already holy, the tendency is that we begin to strive for what we already possess and that can cause us to to be ungrateful. So much of our lives is based in trying to be good enough. We are trying to act right. We are trying to say the right thing. Now let me say that this is an important aspect of our lives and we need to guard our hearts but too often we are striving to accomplish what has already been done for us and through us.

The third reason we can be thankful is that we are loved. God loved us before we considered loving Him.  Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. How often do we fail to understand how the volume of love that God has for us? Too often we fail to love ourselves and to love others because we have a misunderstanding of God’s love of us.

We are loved by God. Wow! is that something to be grateful for. Can you imagine someone loving you unconditionally? A few weeks ago a couple of us went to the Chris Tomlin concert in Salisbury. During the concert we were privileged to hear Lou Giglio speak about the prodigal son  (Luke 15). He reminded us that the father was ready to lavish great gifts and blessings on the son even though he had squandered his inheritance. This speaks to us that no matter what we do and no matter what act we commit, when we turn our hearts back to the father, he is there because His love extends beyond our sin and our failures. But when we compare the prodigal son with the oldest son who stayed home we are confronted with one who acted more out of jealousy than a recognition of what he already possessed. He already had everything he needed but he missed it. Who had the greatest heart of thanksgiving.

As we continue to read this portion of scripture, we find the evidence of a thankful heart. First, a thankful heart is one where Biblical peace is at work. We must understand that peace is not the absence of problems or difficulty. Peace is having the confidence that God will work every situation out for our good. Peace is knowing that you have made the right choices based on a correct understanding of God and His Word. When we have a right understanding of peace we are positioned to have a heart of thanksgiving. 

Secondly, a thankful heart is one where Christ’s word is overflowing in our hearts. David stated that he hid the Word in his heart so that he would not sin against God. I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you (Psalms 119:11). The Word of God keeps us from sin. The Word of God keeps us at peace because we know the end of the story. We also have the promises of God which we can hold onto. Having the Word of God in us positions us to be thankful. 

And finally, a thankful heart is evidenced in Christ’s name being lifted up. When we lift up the name of Christ, it is hard to be ungrateful because we are overwhelmed with the great gifts that have been bestowed on us. This is not a casual confession. It is one based on the understanding of who God is and what he had done.

 

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Worship in Action

Peninsula Community Church

Worship in Action

November 10, 2013

Matthew 22:37-40You 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 first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

If we were to read the scriptures that precede this quote by Jesus, we see a tactic used by the religious leaders of Jesus time. It was a common tactic then and it is still a tactic that is used today. Rather than deal with truth, the religious leaders of Jesus day would use questions that were designed to trip Jesus up or cause confusion in His followers and those around them. They also wanted to get Him to say something they could use to discredit Him. What they were attempting to do was to exert their spiritual intelligence into spiritual issues when in fact the opposite was true, as evidenced by their lack of wisdom and Jesus’s answer to their questions. Why was this so? It was because Jesus was wise and was not about “gotcha moments” which the Pharisees relished.

Here in our story, “a lawyer,” asked Jesus the million dollar question of their day. What is the greatest command in the law? This was an ongoing debate among the religious scholars of the day. In fact, they would spend countless hours debating this question. For this reason, the lawyer considered it necessary to ask Jesus the question. As he asked the question, can you imagine the crowd pushing in to hear Jesus’s response? It was an EF Hutton moment. As the lawyer posed his question, it became apparent that the reason for this question was not a desire for truth but a hope that Christ would choose one law over another and one law as being more significant than the others. The goal was to use the answer Jesus gave against Him and to say that He did not hold to all of the law. 

I do not believe the Pharisees nor the crowd anticipated or expected the simpleness of His response. Jesus replied 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 first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. 

His answer was filled with wisdom and an exactness that only Jesus could give. By answering the way He did, Jesus ended the debate. He deflated the motivation behind the question. Notice that Jesus does not destroy the person asking the question, he simply and wisely answers the question being asked. Once again this was not a “gotcha moment” for Christ. The easiest answer of the day could be summed up in the idea that the greatest commandment is to love God and right behind it is the command to love others.

As we look at the issue of worship, we are reminded that all we are is worship. The passage before us once again speaks to a worship where we offer all we are to God. As we understand worship, we understand that worship is as much about who we are as it is what we do. For that reason, I would like for us to look at a couple of things this morning about doing worship. You see who we are should result in action. It is out of who we are that we react and act. Who we are will determine the validity of our worship.

First, worship is to be whole-hearted. As we are being transformed, we begin to give over to God everything that we have and all that we are. In our scripture text today, we find that Jesus makes the statement that sums up our life’s mission as passionate followers of Christ. He states “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first commandment.” Jesus understood that living our lives as passionate followers is not an act that is to be taken lightly. It involves our total being. This applies to our worship as well. 

It is for this reason that Joshua in one of his last messages to the Children of Israel, commanded the people to choose whom they would serve. If they were to serve God, then serve God. If they were to serve other gods, then serve serve those gods. He is not condemning them, He was simply challenging them to make a decision. Listen to what Joshua instructed Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:14-15).

What Joshua was saying in essence was get in all the way. Don’t sit on the fence. In our culture, today, we have people who tend to be fence sitters. They are afraid to make a commitment as they are afraid of what the outcome might be. God however is calling us to make a choice and to get off the fence. He is calling us to stop wavering or waffling between two gods. 

Jesus also emphasized this in the New Testament when he said that we cannot serve two masters. Notice what He said here. No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money (Matthew 6:24). 

Whole hearted worship means we give God everything. We also surrender all we have to God in worship. We don’t do it halfway. I remember as a child that my dad would ask me to do a project around the yard. If I were not too excited about it, I would quickly find a way to speed up the job or cut corners so I could get done early. The problem however is that I would not finish the job correctly and would most likely have to go back and do the job over again which took even more time and energy.

Second, worship is the yielding our hearts and minds. Notice in the passage before us that Jesus includes every aspect of who we are. While we worship from the heart, we do so with an intellectual understanding of who we worship. As we know the one who we worship better, which is an act of the intellect, we will worship Him more from the heart. The reason is that He will be trusted, and He will be understood. We will not fear Him in the sense that we avoid Him or run from Him.

If we do not know what or who we worship, we will worship anything or anyone. We will become wishy washy or as James said, we will be double-minded in all that we do. We will be tempted to worship the next best thing that comes along rather than trusting in God for His will to be accomplished. 

While our hearts must be engaged, we must engage our intellect so that we understand the purpose and reason why we do what we do. In so doing, we must yield our hearts and minds to worship.

Worship is a physical act. While worship is an act of the heart, worship is expressed through the physical being. We raise our voices, we lift our hands, we engage those around us. Worship is something we do. It is an outward expression of who we are and what we have become. I challenge you to read the scripture to see all the outward expressions of worship that are listed.

Worship flows out of our transformed life. True worship flows out of the work that has been accomplished in us. How can we not worship him when we recognize all that he has accomplished on our behalf? When we are transformed our worship is changed. We begin to focus our whole being in worship. We can then worship freely without fear and without reservation.

So are you giving Him everything today or you holding back? It is your choice.  

 

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