Prayer Mulligan

2 Chronicles 30: 20

So the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people.

King Hezekiah called for the celebration of Passover. He sent messengers to all the tribes to gather in Jerusalem for the ceremony. There were a few problems. It was the wrong time of the year, there were not enough priests who were ceremonially clean, the people were not purified, well, you get the idea.

The tribes of Israel and Judah had fallen away from the Lord and not continued the ceremonies and feasts of tradition. Hezekiah decided to reintroduce these traditions regardless of the time of year. There was very little right about the preparation or process but Hezekiah said a prayer. He asked the Lord to bless the people in spite of themselves, literally to pardon all those who seek God. God’s response was to heal the hearts of a troubled nation. In fact, the people were restored to their former status and celebrated with great joy. At the end of the seven day feast there was so much joy among the people that they extended the feast for another seven days. Hezekiah contributed 1000 bulls and 7000 sheep for the feast. The princes gave 1000 bulls and 10,000 sheep. The people celebrated God and their great history. They reminded themselves of who they were and they turned back to their Lord and God. God was waiting with open arms and granted them fellowship and blessing.

One of the lessons we can take away from this passage is that everything does not have to be perfect in order to worship God. You don’t have to have the perfect music and the perfect time with the right people, etc. What is required is a heart turned towards God. If we seek Him, even in our brokenness and failures, He is gracious and kind to hear us and bless us.
Yahweh was waiting for Israel and Judah to turn back to Him. He watched them every day, longing for their hearts to turn to Him. Day after day He waited just as He does for us. Today I’m too busy. Yesterday I didn’t feel well. The day before that I had company. You get the idea. Before you know it, days and days have gone by without our taking the time to celebrate the Lord or to worship Him. If we didn’t eat we might not say any prayers.

Thank God (literally) that He is kind, forgiving and willing to wait for us. He poured out His blessing on them as soon as they called Him. They could have enjoyed that healing and the Lord’s grace any prior day. It wasn’t that God wasn’t willing. They were lost in the tall weeds. Bless Hezekiah. He had a vision for returning God’s people to their former position in God. He called for the feast, and bless God, the people responded.

Take this story and apply it to your own life. No matter what ways you feel you have stumbled, God is waiting to restore you to your former glory. Today can be your Passover feast. It can be the day you celebrate the curse passing over you. Have a great day!

Big Worship

Psalm 95: 6

Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.

This is a famous scripture on worship. It is a call to worship. It is also an Old Testament call and we certainly think differently on worship these days, but, do we have a good definition of worship now? Do we really know what worship is? How many of us kneel to worship? Do we consider kneeling or bowing down a form of worship? Search the Old Testament and you will find a lot of bowing down. I am not saying there is anything wrong with it. I am simply suggesting that the reality is that our ideas about worship have changed yet we haven’t fully grasped, especially in a way we can recite, what our current ideas of worship include. Today, I would like to suggest something for you to think about and perhaps include in your definition of worship.

I had the thought last week that the highest form of worship is fellowship with God. Is that a stretch? Imagine yourself as the first person on the earth. What did worship look like then? Worship to God is not what we, as humans, make it to be. When men have sought worship for themselves it usually involved a lot of bowing and kowtowing. God does not have an ego problem. He does not need people groveling on the ground before Him in order to feel good about Himself. I think there must be more to it than submission.

I had a splendid time with the Lord one day last week; you know, one of those days when His presence was just louder and stronger than some others. At the end of the day, I remarked at my journaling especially. His tone was so different from normal. He was almost childlike in His enthusiasm. Over and over I tried to capture the word for His tone. Was it more personal, more intimate? One thing that became clear is that it was less deific, less like the all-powerful God and more like a Father, even like a friend. I heard His enthusiasm, even excitement. This led me into further contemplation until I arrived at the epiphany that worship is fellowship.

There is not greater level of worship than fellowship with God, nothing He would prefer than time with you. You see, to fellowship with God is to express many things you believe and even feel about Him. First of all, if your fellowship is “hanging out with God” what does that say? It says that you believe He is real, that He is more than a far removed deity, that He cares about your thoughts, that He wants to spend time with you and that He is a personal Father, a personal friend. Can you see this? Worship can become so formal or ritualistic that it takes on the form of an idol. Even in our personal worship time, many of us have stagnated so that our worship has lost any true flavor. God is not a God of ritual. That is all us. We turn worship, praise and prayer into religion and that is not what He wants. He wants us to hang out with Him, to talk with Him as if we are conversing with our very best friend. Do you see why, then, I think this is the very highest form of worship. It is an absolute admission that God is my friend and that I want to spend time with Him. I am declaring to Him that spending time with Him is important to me. It is not something I have to do but rather something I want to do. What would you say if your kids just wanted to come hang out with you. Is there a higher compliment, especially when they don’t want anything from you?

Don’t get me wrong. There should be no reconstruction of this devotional to say I do not believe in worship. According to Wikipedia worship is “the expression of reverence or adoration.” Two comments on this definition: first, it is a human definition, second, there is no articulation of groveling in the dirt. As a human definition goes, I think it is appropriate but ask yourself how God would define worship. Secondly, even in this definition, which must fall short of God’s, the essence is being in love with God. Adoration is at the head. So, worship God with your time. Leave the religion on the altar and just hang out with your best friend.

Power in Praise

Acts 16: 25 – 26

But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.

I am a participant in a Divine Conference Call on Thursday’s. Besides seeking God and studying His Word, we have also been taking James advice from James 1: 22 which reads, “Prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” Each week we perform a practicum. One week we focused on reading our Bibles every day. Another week we concerned ourselves with praying every day, and so on. This has proved a good experiment. We find our weaknesses and our strengths. We have learned the areas where we need to press in and the areas which come easily to us. The greatest thing I have learned comes from the week we determined to praise and worship God for at least five minutes every day.

First, I found that this was the most challenging of all the practices. We endevoured to lean into the worship side of things by which I mean, specifically, worshiping God for who He is rather than for what He has done. It was not a time of thanksgiving, nor a time of prayer. It wasn’t about what God has done for us but simply glorifying Him in His grandeur and majesty. The second thing I discovered from this practice was from my own experience. I found that nothing opened me to the Spirit mentally, emotionally and spiritually than worship and praise. I heard God better that week than any other week. Although I find worshiping God harder than reading my Bible, I also found that by pressing through, I learned more about glorifying Him with my words. Singing His praises releases something in me. It takes me out of my intellectual self and I connect with simply being a child of God.

God often, I could perhaps even say always, meets me over His Word. That is where we commune daily. However, this worship of God for who He is was the hardest and yet most successful of all the weeks of our practicum. I know that when I sit down with my Bible, the Father will sit right next to me. I guarantee the Holy Spirit will teach me something I did not know before. However, as I praised God, the Spirit was released in an entirely different way. All of a sudden, I was hearing God’s voice speak so much that I could barely continue for having to write things down. I began getting ideas. The flow of the Holy Spirit was exactly like the river of living waters.

You see, in today’s passage, how praise released the power of God into Paul and Silas’ situation. It can, and will, do the same thing for us, but we need to practice. We must learn how to open our hearts and let sincere praise flow forth, honoring the God of our hearts. We need to learn to connect with the intimate love we have for the Father. From that place of intimacy, it becomes a simple matter to let words of adoration and praise flow out. I adjure you to join us in our practice of the Word of God. Practice worshiping our God. Practice lifting worship up to Him. I believe you will find a new and deeper connection with Him when you do. Will you join us? Will you put feet to your faith and let God see and hear your Christian conviction?

Filling Station

Acts 2: 4

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.

Back in the old days, we called gas stations, filling stations. You drove your car into the station and someone would come out and fill it up with gasoline. It was good. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a Holy Spirit filling station, a place where we could pull in and be topped off with the Spirit?

Yesterday, we looked at Ephesians 5, verses eighteen and nineteen. In verse eighteen, Paul tells us to “be filled” with the Spirit. His directive is a bit challenging. He writes “be filled” as if there is a filling station we can visit to fill us up with the Holy Spirit. It would have been good for us if he would have continued to write, how we should be filled. Was it so simple for the believers of that day that instruction was not needed?

Today’s passage is from the account of the Day of Pentecost. Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they received this promised pouring out from God. The Bible says, “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place” (Acts 2: 1). The first thing we learn is that they obeyed the Word of the Lord. That is always a good starting point. Secondly, what were they doing? This was a Jewish feast day therefore, we might safely assume they gathered together to worship and honor the Lord. They gathered in his name. And they were filled. It seems the key to their being filled by the Spirit was obeying Jesus’ word.

Another good example comes from Acts 4: 31, “And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.” Here we find believers gathered together, praying.

God sent Peter to Joppa to the home of Cornelius, A Roman soldier. Even though Cornelius and his household were all gentiles, the Holy Spirit fell upon all of them even while Peter was still preaching (Acts 10: 44).

While I am not saying that the Holy Spirit can only fill you when you are assembled with other believers, I am saying that being in a Spirit filled environment certainly does recharge your batteries. An atmosphere of praise and worship invites the presence of the Holy Spirit. I believe the early church celebrated Christ with such enthusiasm and spoke so boldly about Christ, the anointed one, that the Holy Spirit was constantly being poured out. Praise and worship are powerful tools that many of us overlook far too often. As you immerse yourself in the Spirit you will find your faith grow stronger, your ability to hear improved and you will immerge renewed in your faith.

Beautiful

Psalm 27: 2 – 3

When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, my adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear; though war arise against me, in spite of this I shall be confident.

This is one of those passages where we really need to slow down and savor every word. How amazing these statements are! David wrote this about the actual challenges he faced. His enemy tripped and fell when they arranged themselves against him. Where would your heart be; how strong your confidence if a host quite literally surrounded you? Why David’s immense confidence?

David had experience with God’s power; specifically His power to protect and rescue him. In verse two David tells us very clearly that his enemies, who were evildoers, pursued him meaning to devour him. These were angry, violent men who meant to destroy David physically and even to wipe the memory of him off of the face of the earth. David stood and beheld the glory of the Lord though. He watched as his adversaries “stumbled”. Do you know who the stumbling block is? Jesus is the stumbling block. David was saved many times by the mighty hand of the Lord.

Why were David’s enemies unable to defeat him? I believe the answer is in verse 4 of this same chapter. David writes, “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple.” There is David’s secret weapon. He adored God. He thought the Lord beautiful, so beautiful, in fact, that all he wanted to do was to be in the Lord’s presence and admire Him. Wow! No wonder his enemies stumbled. How could they even get to David? Well, they couldn’t and I imagine part of the reason is because an angelic host camped around him. I believe they were drawn to David’s adoration of the Lord. God inhabits the praise of His people. That makes a pretty amazing shield but I just think that all sorts of heavenly beings are attracted to an atmosphere of adulation. I can believe they want to soak in those genuine and sincere feelings. They must have flocked to David’s side to join in the worship David offered our God. In a very real sense, though this is a spiritual reality, David’s enemies couldn’t get to him through the heavenly host. They stumbled over angels.

The spiritual things of the world are quite real. Angels are real. We do not interact with them very well because we are very anchored in the three dimensions of the physical world. There is a fourth dimension, though and believe me, spiritual beings can interact with the physical world. Angels actually are ministering spirits that our Father has provided to us. So, just because you do not see them easily, doesn’t mean they aren’t there. You usually cannot see air either but I bet you depend on its presence. I believe that David’s praise, worship, admiration and adoration of the Lord, brought heaven to earth in a very real sense and he gained very real, tangible and substantive help because of it. His desire was to spend his days admiring the one true love of his life, the Father, and it brought the power of God to bear in the earth.

Building Foundations

Psalm 112: 1 & 7

Praise the Lord! How blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments. He will not fear evil tidings. His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.

The word “fear” in the above passage means to revere and worship. Therefore, blessed is the person who reveres and worships the Lord, who treasures the Word of God. That person need not live in fear of anything. The Word of God is alive in his (her) heart. When you have developed an intimacy with the Word of God, your trust grows to the point that fear becomes an insult. Fear just begins to recede as the Word of God grows in your heart. You really do not have to do much; it just begins to happen increasingly. You find you believe more in the Word of God than you do the evil forebodings that want to take root in your mind and heart. Then your faith increases because your heart is rooted in the Word. Knowing God’s will makes you steady as well as making your heart steadfast. You become a firm fixture who is not easily blown from place to place. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and you will not be easily shaken. The Word is the foundation upon which that trust is built.

Serenade for the King

Psalm 14: 6

I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.

Sometimes we really do not slow down enough to take account of all the Lord has done for us. When the world is swirling around you, it can be very difficult to notice all of the kindness your Father has shown on you. When you really do take account of your life and all that you have, you will see His fingerprints on many things. You will see many blessings and many times He has protected you. You weren’t just lucky, you were blessed. When you really stop and take notice of Him in your life, you will find plenty to sing about. You will find plenty to praise Him over. That praise and thanksgiving brings you closer to the Father and you will find more and more to praise Him over.