God Invites Us to Worship Him! – Psalm 95

If God were to grade you for the way you worship on Sunday mornings, what grade do you suppose God would give you?

 The psalmist in Psalm 95 summons us to worship God! Scholars believe this psalm was sung during one of the great Jewish pilgrim celebrations. We learn from this psalm that worship involves an enthusiastic recognition and celebration of God’s supreme worth.

As I have taught, we do not attend worship primarily to be fed from God’s Word but rather to recognize and celebrate God’s supreme worth; to acknowledge His Lordship over creation and us. Worship is not about me. It’s not about how I feel about the music, what I learn, new insights I’ve gained, how warmly I was welcomed, etc. Rather, worship is about God!

We read in Psalm 95 of the invitation to worship God in vs.1,2 and 6. The psalmist also writes of the incentive to worship in vs.3-5, vs.7. We are motivated to worship by the fact that God operates as “the great God” (vs.3) and “for he is our God” (vs.7).  Finally, the psalmist writes of the instruction: God speaks to us in worship! Note vs. 8, “Today if you hear his voice…” The Jews had a history of not hearing God speak due to their hardness of heart. Do you have trouble hearing God speak to you? If you do, check out you’re the condition of your heart. Perhaps you have trouble for the same reason: hardness of heart! Confess your hardness and pride to God, ask for a tender, broken heart and move on so you can hear God speak to you! It will be much easier to worship when you enter with a heart in tune with God.



Travel and Arrival (Honduras 2014)

Team Honduras 2014 has arrived at Hospital Loma de Luz safe and sound. All 20 of our bags arrived safe and sound. We had the cargo hold on the first flight between Medford and SFO so full that they had to use a couple of the front row seats to hold carry-ons. Our bags contained hundreds of pounds of donated medical supplies, lap tops, books, and missionary requests for goods.

Our three flights were uneventful other than the miracle that God performed as we were preparing to push back from the SFO gate. An elderly gentleman sitting with his wife two rows ahead of us collapsed in the isle with what appeared to be a stroke. His left side was paralyzed, weak grip in his left hand and drooping face. Paramedics were quickly on-scene to get him to a hospital in San Francisco. Had it happened 10 minutes later, it would have been an even more serious medical emergency once airborne. Please pray that this gentleman receives full healing and that his wife receives comfort. She was really scared.

Dave and Mariah Fields were waiting for us at the airport. We arrived pretty much on schedule. We have a comfortable van that Dave arranged for us to ride in. He also has an enclosed trailer this year which was perfect for hauling the donated supplies. The seven hour drive to the hospital were uneventful other than a few drivers that passed us in precarious stretches of road. God is good and delivered us to the hospital safely.

Tomorrow we rise early for church. After church we will check out the beach before a busy week with Amber delivering babies and the rest of the team installing fans in the church and working on other hospital construction needs.

Some photos have been included from our first day on the ground in Honduras. Blessings from the Honduras team.

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Time’s Up – Psalm 90

Psalm 90 tackles the subject of time. The key verse is vs.12 “Teach us to number our days aright that we may gain a heart of wisdom”. If we reflect on the meaning of this verse, we discover that the psalmist teaches us this truth: wise people view time realistically and use it carefully.

Do you view time realistically and use it carefully? Have you always been careful with your time? I remember wasting a lot of time during my senior year of high school. I cut classes, participated in school pranks and spent a lot of time just hanging out with my friends. I argued a lot with my father. I had just started reading my Bible and didn’t really understand the importance of using time wisely. The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:15-16, “Be very careful then how you live, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil”.

In Psalm 90 the psalmist describes how we should view time realistically and use it carefully. In vs. 1-6 he teaches us to remember that we have a limited amount of time on earth. In vs.7-10 he teaches us to recognize that our sin distorts a godly use of time. In vs.17 he helps us realize that the only work we do which endures is work that God has established.

William James, the great philosopher, said the value of life is computed not by duration but by donation. Jesus lived to be only 33 years old on this earth but consider his donation! What a priceless gift He gave us: His sacrifice on the cross which purchased the gift of salvation for all who place their trust and faith in Him!

What kind of donation will you leave for future generations? How will you be remembered? If you want to leave something of lasting value, of real significance, make sure that you use your time for the work God has established for you. Find out what God wants you to do, get moving and do it!



Fully Committed – Psalm 86

David wrote Psalm 86. We might call this a “psalm of prayer” because he directs his attention directly to God and speaks to God. David uses the pronoun, “you” or “yours” in referring to God thirty times in the seventeen verses.

The key verse is vs.11 “Teach me your way O Lord and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name”. David asks God for an “undivided heart”. David longs for a heart fully committed to the Lord! We learn from David that commitment to God requires your whole heart! God’s not happy with half-hearted, lukewarm devotion and commitment to Him! May God grant each one of us whole hearted devotion and commitment to Him!

Many idols tempt us and try to divide our hearts. These idols can be our dreams, plans, work, school, families, money, material assets, etc. It takes a strong commitment, a whole-hearted commitment to the Lord to refuse to yield to the temptation of these idols.

David writes that a person with a whole hearted commitment to God has a heart completely devoted to God, a certainty that God will answer their prayers and a desire to imitate God consistently. Would your faith and life be characterized by these traits?



Passionate Worship

PSALM 84 

The psalmist in Psalm 84 encourages the reader to worship God passionately!   This means we should be willing to express a strong liking, an ardent affection for God. This doesn’t mean that we have big emotional outbursts featuring lots of laughter or tears or rolling in the aisles. But it does mean that we fully engage our hearts, minds, souls and wills as we worship God! In modern parlance, we’re “dialed in” to the worship experience on Sunday morning. Some people try to limit worship to a strictly cerebral experience; they check their emotions at the door. Others limit worship to a strictly emotive experience; they check their minds at the door.

God wants us to be fully engaged with all of our faculties as we worship Him. Generally speaking, in our tradition, most of us could stand a bit more emotion in worship. We’re not called “the frozen chosen” for nothing!

In order to worship God passionately, the psalmist encourages us to bring some important ingredients to worship with us.

God wants us to bring a yearning for Him to worship. Note how the psalmist writes, “my soul yearns, even faints for the courts of the Lord (vs.2).  Further, God wants us to bring a sense of anticipation and desire to be changed to worship. (vs.5-7). Finally, to worship God passionately we must bring a desire to communicate with God (vs.8-12).  Note the passion in the psalmist’s desire to communicate in vs.8 “Hear my prayer O Lord Almighty; listen to me, O God of Jacob”.

Psalm 84 provides some practical helps on how to make our worship experience more meaningful: we should worship God passionately and we should bring a yearning, sense of anticipation and desire to communicate with God. Let’s do this each Sunday morning!



Weekly Devotional-Defending the Powerless-Psalm 82

Psalm 82 tackles the issue of how we should treat weak, oppressed and powerless people. The psalmist argues that we should defend the powerless. He writes, “defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked”. (vs.3-4)

The psalmist lived in a day and age in which the wealthy and powerful took full advantage of the poor. They were stealing their land, bribing judges to make decisions favoring them, ignoring the Sabbath, and the Mosaic Law. God raised up prophets such as Zechariah and Malachi to speak to these wealthy people about their sin. God also raised up the author of Psalm 82 to speak prophetically to the people.

Who are the powerless today? The unborn, victims of human trafficking, migrant workers, the mentally ill and homeless. Defending these groups of people means engaging in ministries of compassion which will address their basic needs. It means speaking up for them since many of them cannot speak for themselves.

The Bible teaches us that every human being has been created in the image of God. This image has been severely tainted by sin but we are still image bearers of God! This means we should treat every human being with respect and dignity, regardless of condition. Let us be a church that engages in ministries which defend the powerless!



Weekly Devotional – Lord of the Nations – Psalm 67

Psalm 67 is a psalm about missions. The psalmist opens the psalm with this beautiful verse, “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us”.

We then read about the purpose of our blessing, in vs. 2 “that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations”. Here’s what the psalmist is saying:  we have been blessed by God to be a blessing to the nations!

Every Sunday at the close of the worship service I raise my hands and announce the priestly blessing from Numbers 6:24-26. You can probably recite it from memory! I raise my hands, representing the laying on of hands of all of you, and pronounce this priestly blessing. We ask you to lift your hands slightly, indicating your response of receiving what God intends to give you so graciously.

God blesses us so we can go out and be a blessing to others! We have been blessed by God to be a blessing to the nations! Our blessing should inspire people everywhere to know God’s ways and His salvation,(vs.2) to inspire every nation and every tongue to praise and worship God (vs.3+5) and to inspire joyful response and growth.(vs.4+6).

Not all of us are called to serve in missions as our full-time employment.  But we are called to “make disciples of all nations”. Here are some practical steps you can take in being a blessing to the nations: 1) pray for our missionaries who serve God so faithfully! 2)  Support justice and freedom for all people, everywhere 3) participate in one of our short term mission trips such as Mexico or Honduras. Remember, we have been blessed by God to be a blessing to the nations!



Weekly Devotional – Why It’s Good To Be Close To God – Psalm 73

The very first verse of Psalm 73 summarizes the theme of the psalm: People close to God experience God’s goodness.  Psalm 73:1 says, “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart”.

Do you experience the incredible goodness of God or does life seem to consist of one problem or concern after another?

Asaph, the author of this psalm served as a musician in the Temple. He shares his personal journey of faith in the psalm. He tells us that God’s goodness was obscured for him as he considered the inequities of life. He saw the prosperity of the wicked, their pride and arrogance and it bothered him! As we look at our world today, we also see that life can seem very unfair. Some use this as an excuse for refusing to believe that God exists.

When Asaph entered the sanctuary of the Temple he gained new perspective about the wicked and injustices of life. Attending worship regularly can help us gain a godly perspective on life. It helps turn our attention away from ourselves to God and His people. Asaph came to see that God will judge the wicked and God’s goodness will prevail! He realized that bitterness led him to be “senseless and ignorant”. (vs.22) We must be careful of fostering the root of bitterness in our lives! Bitterness prevents us from experiencing the goodness of God.

Finally, yielding to the preeminent position God wants to have in our lives can help us experience God’s goodness. Look in vs.23-28. Asaph describes the blessings of God: His presence, care, counsel, strength. He concludes in vs. 28 “But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds”. 

People close to God experience God’s goodness! Are you experiencing God’s goodness in your life? If you aren’t, you might reconsider the role God plays in your life.



Let’s Meet At My House Before The Game!

In Psalm 122 the psalmist writes of worshiping the Lord in the Temple in Jerusalem. He discovered great joy in worship! The key verse is the very first verse of the psalm, “I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord”.

How often do you attend worship services on Sunday mornings? Once a month? Nearly every Sunday? Be honest! Once every couple of months? Nearly half of our church attend our worship services infrequently, meaning less than twice a month.

To those of you who attend worship infrequently, I want to challenge you to change and begin attending worship more frequently. Jesus attended worship in his hometown of Nazareth on a regular basis. We read in Luke 4:16, “He went up to Nazareth where he had been brought up and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue as was his custom”. (italics mine)

If Jesus, the eternal Son of God sensed a desire and need to worship God the Father regularly, how much more should we!! Let me encourage you to make regular worship attendance a high priority in your life!

In Psalm 122 we observe that regular worship attendance helps us experience the joy of the Lord (vs.1), keep a godly perspective on life (vs.3-4) and promotes caring for the needs of others (vs.6-8). So, we observe that worshiping the Lord regularly has some wonderful benefits for us too! See you in worship!



Weekly Devotional – Enduring Strength – Psalm 73:26

Are you tired? You might be physically tired, emotionally exhausted or weary of intense mental concentration. You might even be spiritually tired! Following Christ can be difficult at times and this difficulty can become tiresome.

Asaph, a Temple musician, wrote Psalm 73. He wrote in Psalm 73:26 “My flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever”.

We learn that we should let God’s enduring strength revive us! Unlike our human strength that has significant limits and often fades and dissipates, God’s strength knows no boundaries. God has a limitless supply of strength! He is all-powerful! God wants to give us His strength to live. In Psalm 29:11 we read, “the Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace”.

Let’s consider our text carefully. Psalm 73:26 states, “My flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever”. Note the huge contrast between the psalmist’s strength and God’s strength: Asaph writes of his struggle in the first part of the verse: “My flesh and my heart may fail”…and he contrasts this with God in the second part of the verse: “but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever”.

“My flesh and my heart” describe the entire human being: “my flesh” describes my physical flesh; “my heart” means the totality of the self, everything about me except my physical flesh. When Asaph says these “may fail” he means that the strength of our physical being and our inner self will come to an end. They have definite limits!

In the second part of the verse we read “But God is the strength of my heart”. The word for “strength” means “rock”. Rocks have substance, weight and strength. Have you ever tried to move a boulder? Further, “God is my portion forever”. The word for “portion” referred to land allotted to families. Land was extremely important to the Jews. They’re still fighting for it today! Land in Israel was passed down through the generations. So, when the psalmist writes, “and my portion forever”, he means God is our inheritance, our legacy! He will be this “forever”.

God wants to give you strength today, in whatever way you need it! Ask the Lord in prayer to supply your need.