Location, Location, Location – John 4:1-26

Jesus told her, ‘Believe me, woman, an hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…. But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and in truth'” (John 4:21-24, CSB).

Mount Gerizim was the Old Testament location where God was to pronounce blessing on the Jewish people upon entering the promised land: “When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim the blessing at Mount Gerizim and the curse at Mount Ebal…. When you possess it and settle in it, be careful to follow all the statutes and ordinances I set before you today” (Deuteronomy 11:29, CSB). This ceremony was solemnly performed after the Israelites began to take possession of the promised land (see Joshua 8:30-35).

During Jesus’ time Samaritanism was alienated from Judaism. This alienation had evolved over many centuries starting with the division of Israel into northern and southern kingdoms and the bad influence of evil kings in the northern kingdom. The conquest of Israel (northern kingdom) by Assyria and the resulting importation of foreign colonists greatly modified the Jewish religion in that region.

Continue reading

Casting Crowns – Revelation 4:9-11

Casting Crowns“The twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:9-11, ESV).

The twenty-four elders may represent the orders of priests serving in the Old Testament temple or they may symbolize the unity of God’s people as encompassing the twelve tribes of Old Testament Israel and the twelve apostles of the New Testament church–like the new Jerusalem’s twelve gates and twelve foundations in Revelation 21. Their thrones resemble those of God’s heavenly court in Daniel 7.

Continue reading

What’s In a Name? – Isaiah 56:5-6

rose“I will give them, in My house and within My walls, a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters. I will give each of them an everlasting name that will never be cut off. And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord minister to Him, love the name of ‘Yahweh’ and become His servants” (Isaiah 56:5-6, HCSB).

The Shakespearian character, Juliet asked Romeo: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Juliet’s question means that what really matters is not what someone is called but what someone is.

Continue reading

Who Needs Whom? – Psalm 50:7-15

wholeworldinhishands1“Listen, My people, and I will speak; I will testify against you, Israel. I am God, your God. I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices or for your burnt offerings, which are continually before Me…If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and everything in it is Mine…Sacrifice a thank offering to God, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call on Me in a day of trouble; I will rescue you, and you will honor Me.” (Psalm 50:7-15, HCSB)

God did not need the sacrifices of Israel to be exalted.

Since God already owned every kind of animal, He did not need their sacrifices to make Him glorious or almighty.

Yet, Israel continually offered sacrifices to God.

So, a lack or religiosity was not Israel’s main problem. They certainly knew how to be religious!

The problem was that their religious practices were not transformative! The burnt offerings sacrificed in worship to God did not seem to make a difference in them.

So their sacrifices made no difference to God!

And, today, our best religious practices do not exalt God. Even being our religious best does not make God more glorious or almighty!

God is God, Exalted, Glorious,and Almighty, regardless of anything we can say or do.

So, what God was trying to tell Israel then, and us today, is that it’s not He Who needs us, but we who need Him!

God does not need our worship or our religious practices to somehow make Him omnipotent. He IS omnipotent!

Our worship is a celebration of God’s majesty, His exalted state of being. Our worship is a pledge of our allegiance to Him, a surrender of our lives and wills to His authority.

We cannot give God something He needs, but we can offer ourselves fully and completely to God and then He will be everything we need.  

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1, HCSB)

A Tenth of Everything? – Genesis 14:19

“And Abram gave him a tenth of everything” (Genesis 14:19, HCSB).

When an alliance of kings from the north captured Lot and took him prisoner in a war with the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah where Lot lived, Abram (Abraham) and his 300 fighting men mounted a surprise attack and rescued Lot and his family and recovered all of Lot’s possessions.

The king of Sodom and Melchizedek, the king of Jerusalem and a priest of God, celebrated Abram’s triumph.

Although Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of everything he owned, he refused to take anything from the king of Sodom. Abram did not want the king of Sodom to take any credit for his prosperity because Abram knew it was God that blessed him.

Abram recognized God was the enabler of his victory and the provider of his prosperity. Abram recognized that his blessedness was by the power and sovereign will of God.

If you want to be totally and completely in God’s will, then you can’t just give Jesus your heart. You also have to give him your money!

You can’t separate one from the other and Jesus made that perfectly clear: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21, HCSB).

Some people may not tithe because they don’t really understand how God provides and meets our needs.

God does not provide for us by giving us more and more of what we already have or think we need.

If we are experiencing financial difficulties, we think that more money is the solution to our problem.
     If our home is too small, we pray for a bigger one.
          If our car is too old, we pray for a newer one.
               If we are sick, we pray for good health.

But the biblical pattern for receiving God’s provision and blessing is for Him to extend the resources we already have to meet our needs as they are offered totally and willingly to God.

Tithing is a way of doing that with our financial resources. Tithing demonstrates that we, like Abram, recognize God’s sovereignty over our lives, especially our finances.

When you tithe, you offer the basic needs of your life totally and willingly to God and by having less resources you actually give God more space to enact His supernatural care over your life.

Then God extends the 90% to cover 100% of your needs!

I know it seems contrary to good sense and everything we understand about economics, but in the economy of God’s Kingdom, less is really more!

By having less of our own resources, we make room for more of God’s provision!

It’s a faith thing!.

When you give a tenth of everything you have to God, He makes available all of everything He has to you!

“Bring the full tenth into the storehouse so that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this way,” says the Lord of Hosts. See if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing for you without measure” (Malachi 3:10, HCSB).

Compartmentalized Religion – Matthew 5:23-24

“So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24, HCSB).

In this verse from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus confronts His listeners with a really radical view about worshiping God.

In fact, His listeners probably asked themselves, what does the first have to do with the second? What does “offering your gift on the altar” have to do with “be reconciled with your brother?”

We know, of course, that in God’s Kingdom the latter has everything to do with the former. You can’t truly worship God when you’re carrying around a grudge for another person.

Loving God is all about loving people.

But even with the Sermon on the Mount to guide us, we sometimes still compartmentalize our religion.

We tend to want to practice our religion at church but not necessarily at home, at work, and certainly not in our relationships with other people–especially when they don’t like us or we don’t like them!

But Jesus said that our religion is a heart thing; therefore, we can’t put it away somewhere on Sunday evening and then take it back out the next Sunday morning.

When God’s Spirit indwells you, it’s comprehensive! The totality of your behavior in every aspect of your life should be considered an act of worshiping God.

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship (Romans 12:1, HCSB)

[Written in memory of my good friend and mentor, Dr. Otey Johnson]

The Joy of Giving – 1 Chronicles 29:9

“Then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the Lord. David the king also rejoiced greatly.” In preparation for building the temple, King David accumulated precious metals and stones and wood for its construction. In addition to all the materials he accumulated as King, he gave a substantial amount of gold and silver from his personal wealth. Then he asked the leaders of Israel what they would give. They also gave a substantial amount of precious metal and stones from their personal wealth to help pay the costs of the temple construction. After these gifts were given the Israelites were joyful because everyone had willingly given without being commanded. They gave freely to the Lord and the result was that it made them happy! David acknowledged that what they gave was only what God had given them in the first place: “For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you” (vs. 14). Giving to God is not a burden but an expression of our worship of Him. When done willingly and freely with a whole heart, giving makes you happy! But always remember that when you give to God you are really just giving back to God what He has blessed you with in the first place.