Sunday, September 04, 2016
Impediments to Worship – Not knowing God (i):
We have seen that to worship God is to give God the glory, reverence, awe, honor, exaltation, praise, thanks etc. that He is worthy of and rightfully deserves (Psalms 96:8). Just as unless we know about a person we can neither speak about any of his qualities, nor exalt or glorify him before others; similarly unless we know the attributes, qualities, works, capabilities, stature, power, wisdom etc. of God we cannot glorify and worship Him. Just as the more closely and personally we know the person, the better we are able to speak about him, similarly the closer and more personally and experientially we know God, the better we will be able to worship and glorify Him. To know about a person is not the same as actually knowing a person, though in either case we can speak about that person to some extent atleast. But worshiping God in truth can only be when we actually know Him.
I recall an incidence that occurred quite some time back with me; I was having a conversation with one of my close friends, and in that conversation the name of a then important and very high ranking national leader came up. Without breaking the conversation, taking that leader’s first-name very casually, my friend remarked, “Oh him! I know him very well”; then, continuing on in the same breath, he looked at me with a twinkle in his eyes and a mischievous smile on his face and added, “but whether or not he knows me is a different story altogether!”
The fact of the matter is that my friend knew only about that leader, but did not know him in the sense of having a personal and close relationship with him. Although he could have narrated many things and could have talked at length about that person, but this was no proof that my friend and that leader had a close personal relationship and knew each other well. The same situation exists with many of us regarding our relationship with God. We know about God, we can speak up many things about Him by virtue of our intellectual knowledge about Him, but the only thing that matters is do we have a close and personal relationship with God; have we experienced Him first-hand? Is it not that most of the times we only know about Him, and not actually know Him personal and close? Is it not true that for most, their relationship with God is perfunctory, casual, superficial and mechanical so as to fulfill some ‘religious’ requirements, practices and rituals?
Even the Born Again children of God – how well do they actually and experientially know their heavenly Father; know His desires for them; know of the expectations He has from them; know His will and assigned work for them; know His Word that He has given to guide and teach them His ways? Is it any wonder then that even Born Again Believers find it very hard to open their mouths and worship God or even utter a few words of thanks for Him publicly?
(To be continued…)
Friday, September 02, 2016
Victory through Worship
We had started on the theme of Worshiping and Glorifying God, and seen that prayer is about receiving from God while worship is about giving to God. To learn and understand the blessedness of worship and of giving for God, we have been looking into examples from God’s Word illustrating the theme of giving and getting from God; and essentially these examples and illustrations have been related to physical or material things, but with a spiritual angle as well.
We will conclude this sequence with a final example that illustrates how giving worship leads to victory and abundant blessings. Please read through 2 Chronicle 20; paucity of space does not permit a full discourse on this chapter. Very briefly stated, the Godly king Jehoshaphat finds himself under an impending attack by a collective army of the Ammonites, Moabites and Edomites. Realizing his perilous situation, he turns the matter over to God and involves his people to pray for deliverance by divine intervention. God assures him that God will fight for him and he will suffer no loss; all he had to do was prepare his army, take them to the battle site and set them in battle order and then sit still to see what the Lord will do (2 Chronicles 20:14-17). Jehoshaphat and his people accept the Lord’s message and worship Him for it (vs. 18-19). The next day king Jehoshaphat led his army to the battle-site, but marching ahead of the army were people praising and singing to the Lord (v. 21); and “Now when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated” (2 Chronicles 20:22). After the attackers had been annihilated, it took Jehoshaphat and his people three days to gather the spoil from their dead enemies (vs. 24-25); following which they all gathered again to worship the Lord in the valley of Berachah (vs. 26-27).
Jehoshaphat and his people prayed once, but worshiped thrice, out which the first two instances of worship were in very difficult and trying circumstances where defeat and death were staring at them in their face. Now read again the instructions given to them by God through Jahaziel (2 Chronicles 20:14-17); at no place will you find mention of God asking for worship – God only asked for them to go to the battle-site, position themselves and then stand still to see what He does. But their Faith in God and in the promised outcome, prompted and encouraged them to worship God even before He had acted, and quite understandably after He had acted on their behalf. In the battle field, it was as they worshiped that God started to act (v.22) and the enemies were eliminated. Their giving worship to God not only got them victory in an impossible situation, but also got them an unexpected bonus of abundant wealth.
Learn to have faith and worship God in and for difficult and inexplicable situations in your life instead of worrying, complaining, grumbling and being despondent about them, or seeking the help of the world for being delivered from them; the results will be stupendous beyond imagination.
We will now start looking into impediments to our worship, things and factors that keep us from truly worshiping God.
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Guaranteed from Heaven
The spiritual principle of God multiplying and returning manifold back to us of whatever we invest for Him and for His work in His will is not conjecture, but one stated by none other than the Lord Jesus Himself; and simultaneously He has also assured us that of whatever we invest for God, the returns will be a hundredfold.
To a query put up by Peter, “Jesus answered and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel's, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time--houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions--and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30). Take note of the assurance given in the infallible words of the Lord – a guaranteed from heaven hundred-fold return on whatever investment we make for the sake of the Lord and the gospel.
The Lord here is making an offer of double returns – hundredfold on earth, and eternal life in the age to come. Don’t get put off by the words ‘with persecutions’ – we face them even in our secular jobs which we do for the world. Which one of us can say that we have no problems or issues in our secular jobs? We all have them; we all put up with them, and we all continue to work with them, well knowing that they will always be there. If we were to be given an offer by a CEO of a company of an absolutely guaranteed hundred-fold return on each and every investment we make under that offer in his company, although along with some problems; how many of us would let the offer of increasing our worldly wealth a hundred-fold pass? If we are willing to take those ‘persecutions’ in our stride for returns on secular jobs on the assurance of some man, why not be willing to do the same for the Lord?
The answer to this predicament is in the incidence immediately preceding Peter’s query and the Lord’s answer – read Mark 10:17-18, to see the full picture. The Rich Young Ruler had a desire for eternal life, a reverence for the Lord and he did believe that the Lord will provide him the answer to his quandary; but what he did not have was the trust to act on the Lord’s solution. The Lord did provide him the solution (Mark 10:21-22), but it was too radical, too unexpected and seemed too steep a price to pay; and he left disappointed, just as he had come. What the Lord was asking him to do was no different from what the Lord had taught His disciples – Give to Get: “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38).
This is the same place where most of us falter and suffer loss – despite our reverence for the Lord, our belief in Him, our desire for eternal things, we are not willing to take the Lord at His Word; we want to listen to what He has to say to us, but do not have the courage to obey Him. We are not willing to let go of that which God has placed in our hands but is asking us to let go. God wants us to have faith in Him, that when we voluntarily empty ourselves at His behest, He will fill us up with even more and even better. It is only when we give, when we empty ourselves that we make available to God the required space to fill us up abundantly with new and better blessings.
It is said that ‘better’ is often the enemy of the ‘best’; don’t let the ‘better’ which you now have prevent you from getting the ‘best’ that God wants you to have. Invest, sow what you have for God’s kingdom in His field, and prepare to receive the bountiful harvest.
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Giving to Get
An abundant-beyond-belief return on any investments made as per God’s instructions has always been an assurance from God. When God gave His Law to the Israelites, a significant section of the law was on bringing tithes, offerings, first-fruits of produce and of material increase to the house of the Lord, and on meeting the needs of the poor. This obedience to His instructions was meant to bless and prosper the obedient; in this context God had said: “Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!” (Deuteronomy 5:29).
The history of Israel through the ages is ample evidence that God’s people have always prospered when they obeyed God and gave of their possessions to Him and for His work. But when they did not do so, they always suffered; and what they tried to keep back and safe-guard too did not remain with them.
Under King Hezekiah came about a great reformation; God’s people submitted to God’s Word, corrected themselves, and once again started to bring in their tithes and offerings to the house of the Lord to meet the needs of the priests and of the house of God (2 Chronicles 31:1-11). As they faithfully brought in their tithes and offerings, God blessed them abundantly; so they could bring in even more from their increase to the house of the Lord, and it was so much that even after the needs of the priests and of the house of God had been fully met, a great abundance was left over and laid in heaps in the house of the Lord, since there was no more room left to store it all; king Hezekiah had to ask for more rooms to be built to store the tithes and offerings: “And Azariah the chief priest, from the house of Zadok, answered him and said, "Since the people began to bring the offerings into the house of the Lord, we have had enough to eat and have plenty left, for the Lord has blessed His people; and what is left is this great abundance." Now Hezekiah commanded them to prepare rooms in the house of the Lord, and they prepared them” (2 Chronicles 31:10-11).
Later, as Israel once again deviated away from following the Lord and fell into serious problems, God reminded them: “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this," Says the Lord of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10).
Through the wise king Solomon, the Holy Spirit of God had it recorded that: “Honor the Lord with your possessions, And with the first-fruits of all your increase; So your barns will be filled with plenty, And your vats will overflow with new wine” (Proverbs 3:9-10).
Take note of those words – “Honor the Lord with your possessions…”; as children of God we need to realize and acknowledge that all that we have is because the Lord our God has graciously granted it to us (Deuteronomy 8:18). Our possessions, whether they are physical wealth and material riches; or some skills, talents, capabilities and intellectual abilities; or some spiritual gifts – whatever, they are all from the Lord because of His grace upon us. They all are the seeds that the Lord has given to us for sowing in His field – the people of the world. We can selfishly use up this seed for ourselves and finish it off, or sow it and reap a bountiful harvest that will bless us as well as bless others, the choice is ours. Unless we learn to go out into God’s field, open our hands and sow this seed into God’s field, we will not get to experience the abundance of the Lord’s blessings (Proverbs 10:22).
The cause-and-effect relationship
One of the principles unceasingly and uniformly operative in the lives of children of God is: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7); and this is stated in a slightly different form in “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6). In other words, our input for the Lord, in quantity as well as quality determines the output we will receive from the Lord.
When we receive from the Lord, whether in response to prayers or worship; if our hearts are drawn to acknowledge and witness for His work and blessings in our lives – letting the light shine before men (Matthew 5:15-16), if we openly and sincerely, in spirit and in truth, thank, adore and worship Him for what He has done for us, God does not remain a debtor to what we give Him. He pours back even more blessings in response to the worship we give to Him. As the quality and quantity of our worship rises, the returning blessings from the Lord too increase proportionately! The cause i.e. receiving, leading to its effect i.e. worship, which in return sets into motion the next cycle of receiving and worshipping; and this cycle continues to increase – the upward spiral, making us more and more blessed and fulfilled from the Lord. This cause-and-effect relationship is available and applicable to every Believer; to put it to proper use is up to us.
I say this from personal experience - give glory to God, He will give glory back to you; give honor, get back honor; give respect, get back respect; give awe and reverence, get back awe and reverence; exalt Him, He will exalt you; give Him of your time, He will give time back into your lives; give Him priority, He will provide priority for you; work for Him, He will work for you; fulfill His needs on earth, He will fulfill your needs not only on earth but in heaven as well. All this may seem difficult and inexplicable; but step out in faith, and God will not let you down.
Through prayer you will only get that which is within the limits of your thoughts and perceived needs; but worship will enrich and bless you beyond the limits of your imagination (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Inducing us to worship is God’s way of providing to us the abundant life which our Lord desires for His people: “…I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Worship is not so that we may blow God’s trumpet; but so that from God we may receive an abundant harvest of what we sow for Him.
Some more examples to illustrate this cause and effect relationship follow.
Monday, August 29, 2016
The Blessedness of Worship
As I have learnt from God of Him and His Word, I have come to realize how marvelously and intricately the whole Word of God is inter-related and inter-connected, every part supplementing and supporting the rest. As we delve deeper into God’s Word, the beauty of this marvelous intricacy adds further credence that it indeed is the Word of God, and fills our hearts even more with worship and adoration for Him.
The immediately previous section, “The Imperativeness of Worship” closed anticipating why God desires worship. Some might assume that God is an egoist who likes to see people ‘blow His trumpet’ for Him; but that is not the case at all. A cause-and-effect relationship is applicable in the life of every Born Again Believer i.e. every child of God through repentance of sins and Faith in Christ Jesus (John 1:12-13); it is through this cause-and-effect relationship that God leads the worshiper, worshiping God in spirit and truth, onto an ever-rising spiral of blessedness, not only for eternity in heaven but even for our present life here on earth.
During His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus said: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35); i.e. the Lord’s Words are infallible, incontrovertible, irrevocable and absolute; they will always stand true, no matter what and at any cost. With this in mind, look at another statement of our Lord Jesus: “…And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).
In Lord Jesus’ own words, there is blessedness in both receiving as well as giving; nevertheless, the Lord says that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
We pray to receive from God; prayer is to ask and receive from God; but in worship, we give to the Lord – we give thanks, we give glory, we give adoration, we give honor, we give respect and awe, we give diligence and obedience to His Word. Prayer is all about receiving and worship is all about giving; hence, although there is blessedness in both praying and worshiping, but to worship is more blessed than to pray.
We will look into some examples from God’s Word to illustrate and understand the cause-and-effect relationship and the blessedness of giving to God, ahead.
Sunday, August 28, 2016
The Imperativeness of Worship
In His conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, the Lord Jesus said something of paramount importance – something that is often quoted and referred to, but also not taken and understood the way it ought to be: “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him” (John 4:23).
While this verse is often interpreted and taught as teaching to pray and God seeking those who pray; but what the Lord actually said is that God is seeking is worshipers, not ‘pray-ers’.
The Greek Word translated as worship here is ‘proskuneo (pros-kï-ne'-ō) which means, to crouch or fawn toward (face down), while expressing homage (i.e. with a servile kiss or display of humble adoration), or to fall prostrate (face down) in adoration or homage’. Similarly, the Greek word translated as worshiper is ‘proskunetes (pros-kï-nee-tees') which means an adorer.’ Whereas the Greek word translated as pray, or to pray, or praying is ‘proseuchomai (pros-ev'-cho-mai) meaning to pray to God, i.e. supplicate’.
There is no dearth of people who pray to God; even non-Christians and non-Believers or those only interested in getting something form God or having themselves extricated from a situation do so, and God listens to all of them. But He is not looking for people who pray i.e. ask for from Him; He is looking for worshipers i.e. those who will prostate themselves before Him in humble submission with an attitude of utmost adoration or respect for Him and glorify Him.
From this verse we also see that true worship is “in spirit and in truth” i.e. neither external nor contrived or a pretense, but is heartfelt therefore flows out from within, and is directed to God the Father – a practical enactment of the first and great commandment of the Lord: “Jesus said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38).
Our loving and caring Heavenly Father has an abundance of ‘pray-ers’ calling out to Him, but His heart yearns for worshipers and their worship in spirit and truth – and for a very good reason, as we will see subsequently. As a child of God it is imperative that we rise up to our Heavenly Father’s expectations of us and grow up to be a worshiper instead of just remaining a ‘pray-er’?