ENTER HIS GATES WITH THANKSGIVING

Ps.100:4 – Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

Thanksgiving week is upon us. I love it. I enjoy watching the secular news folks tie themselves in pretzels as they avoid the inevitable. Who are with thankful to? In order to be thankful we have to acknowledge the Creator. More than that, giving thanks points to the sovereign nature of our Creator. Giving thanks not only points to His sovereignty it also points to His goodness. In order to give thanks you must acknowledge the personal nature of the Lord, humble yourself acknowledging your dependence on His goodness, and respond to His goodness with worship bathed in giving thanks. Here is how Charles Spurgeon describes it.

“In all our public service the rendering of thanks must abound; it is like the incense of the temple, which filled the whole house with smoke……So long as we are receivers of mercy we must be givers of thanks. Mercy permits us to enter his gates; let us praise that mercy……And into his courts with praise. Into whatever court of the Lord you may enter, let your admission be the subject of praise: thanks be to God, the innermost court is now open to believers….Be thankful unto him. Let the praise be in your heart as well as on your tongue, and let it all be for him to whom it all belongs. And bless his name. He blessed you, bless him in return; bless his name, his character, his person. Whatever he does, be sure that you bless him for it; bless him when he takes away as well as when he gives; bless him as long as you live, under all circumstances; bless him in all his attributes, from whatever point of view you consider him.”

David said in today’s verse that we can actually enter the gates of His presence with thanksgiving. As we worship and give thanks for all He has done for us in Christ, we suddenly become flooded with the amazing sense of His presence. This attitude of thankfulness drags us out of the realm of self centered ungratefulness and brings us immediately into the courts of our King. Acknowledge Him and His kindness in your life. Lift up your voice and worship Him. As you do your enemies will be scattered and your heart will overflow with the goodness of the Lord.

WORSHIPPING OUR WAY TO CALVARY

Matthew 26:30. And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

This verse always strikes me. Just think about it, Jesus led His disciples in worship as He intentionally marched toward Calvary. He was strengthening Himself in the Lord and also showing His disciples how to face diversity. How many times have you struggled with trials and fallen pray to the dark thoughts that seem to hem us in? There is a better way. There is a way to avoid depression and actually taste the sweetness of heaven’s joy in the midst of your own personal Gethsemane. Check out part of what Jesus sang that night.

 

Psalm 113

1 Praise the LORD!

Praise, O servants of the LORD,

Praise the name of the LORD!

2 Blessed be the name of the LORD

From this time forth and forevermore!

3 From the rising of the sun to its going down

The LORD’S name is to be praised.

4 The LORD is high above all nations,

His glory above the heavens.

5 Who is like the LORD our God,

Who dwells on high,

6 Who humbles Himself to behold

The things that are in the heavens and in the earth?

He was focusing on the glory of God displayed in creation and also acknowledging the amazing love of God’s care for His creation. What a picture, the Creator Himself leading His creatures in a song. Here are comments from Charles Spurgeon on today’s verse.

“To his last great battle the Champion goes singing, attended by feeble followers, who could not protect him; but who could sing with him. I think he must have led the tune; his disciples were too sorrowful to sing until his clear voice started the Hallelujah Psalms; but they joined him in the holy exercise, for “they” as well as their Lord sang the hymn. When you are about to face a trial, offer a prayer; but, if you can, also sing a hymn. It will show great faith if, before you enter into the burning fiery furnace, you can sing psalms unto the Lord who redeemeth his people. Now let us read Paul’s version of this same matter.”

So what kind of trial are you facing this year as we prepare to celebrate the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord? Whatever it may be; whether sickness, death, family crisis, or financial chaos, turn your eyes toward heaven. Join with Jesus and march boldly toward the cross in worship.

THE WORSHIPPING CHILDREN

Matt. 21:15,16 – But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise’? “

Pride is a huge problem for all of us. It seems like much of what the Lord does in our lives is to deal with arrogance so that we can be vessels that He can actually work through. The tendency that all of us have is to take credit when the Lord uses us in any way. Childlike humility is the sure evidence of a deep work of Christ in someone’s life. Jesus often pointed to children to portray something He wanted to see in His followers. He told them unless they were converted and became like children they would never see the kingdom of God. At the triumphal entry the worshipping children were a prophetic type of the children of God worshipping at the coming of the Messiah. Here are some thoughts from Spurgeon on this passage.

“How often will children tell us of a God whom we have forgotten! How doth their simple prattle refute those learned fools who deny the being of God! Many men have been made to hold their tongues, while sucklings have borne witness to the glory of the God of heaven. It is singular how clearly the history of the church expounds this verse. Did not the children cry “Hosannah!” in the temple, when proud Pharisees were silent and contemptuous? and did not the Savior quote these very words as a justification of their infantile cries?….He who delights in the songs of angels is pleased to honor himself in the eyes of his enemies by the praises of little children.”

So how do we deal with pride and hardness of heart that keeps us from the purity of worshipping the Lord like a little child? That quality, childlikeness, is the work of the Spirit in our hearts. The influence of the Spirit allows us to see Christ more clearly. Seeing Him deals a death blow to the pride that blocks us from worship. Seeing His greatness humbles us, how can we be great in our own eyes when we are slain by His magnificence? So take a look at Christ, entering Jerusalem on a donkey and then returning a second time in His glory. One look and you will be singing and dancing with the children.

THE HEAVENLY WORSHIP LEADER

Rev. 19:4-5 And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” And a voice came from the throne, saying, ¶ “Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great.”

After all the stunning things John had seen, this had to be at the top of the list. The Apostle John had a series of visions when he was caught up in the Spirit while praying on the Isle of Patmos. In this vision, he is observing the celebration taking place in heaven at the judging of the great harlot and the preparation for Christ to return for His bride. Here, he hears the voice of the resurrected, glorified man, Jesus Christ, exhorting the creatures in heaven to join with Him in worshipping the Father. What an amazing mystery! God the Son leading in the worship of God the Father. Wow! What an amazing scene. Our Lord Jesus in His glory still displaying the humility He portrayed on earth. What an awesome Savior. Here is a short clip from Jonathan Edwards observations on this passage.

“This may be looked upon as the voice of Christ, who “is in the midst of the throne” (Revelation 5:6), who overcame, and is set down with the “Father in his throne” [Revelation 3:21]. “The throne of God and the Lamb” are the same (Revelation 22:1). This is not the voice of God the Father, because the voice says, “Praise OUR God.” But supposing it to be the voice of Christ, this well agrees to what Christ says, “Go tell my brethren, Behold, I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” [John 20:17]. Thus Christ leads the heavenly church in their praises. In the following verse we have an account of the church’s compliance, and following of Christ in praising God. Christ speaks of praising God “in the great congregation,” in Psalms 22:25, and Psalms 35:18, and Psalms 40:9–10.”

As Paul says, great is the mystery of godliness. Jesus Christ is still a man, He became one of us for eternity. He is leading the great congregation in worship. I can’t wait to be in that throng. Actually, Jesus led his disciples in worship when He was here on earth. After the last supper the scriptures said that Jesus led them in a hymn. As He was walking to His betrayal and His ultimate death He was singing. Why is Jesus a worshipper? Because He has the greatest revelation of the majesty and greatness of God. He has known His Father from eternity. Now, in His humanity, He not only represents us before the Father as a priest, He leads us into the Father’s presence as part of His heavenly ministry. This is the way into the place of intimacy with God. We don’t have to wait until we are actually in heaven to join this worshipping throng, we can join in now. We can join our voices with the angels, the elders, the redeemed, and with Christ Himself singing holy, holy, holy to our God.

LESSONS FROM A HARLOT

Jn. 4:13,14 – Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

Jesus loved to shock people into reality. This story in John 4 is an example of Jesus and His tendency toward shocking and borderline scandalous behavior. For us twenty first century readers we may not catch the radical nature of this story at first glance. Jesus is stepping on centuries of racial tension by going to Samaria, engaging a questionable woman in conversation, and actually asking her for a drink of water. This is unthinkable to Jesus’s disciples and unthinkable to the Samaritans living in this village. What was Jesus after? What He is always after, He was looking for worshippers. So What does He do? He decides to find a woman of the night to teach the world a lesson about worship. Here is a description from John Piper.

“Sometimes casual sleepers need to be shocked. If you want them to hear what you have to say, you might even need to scandalize them. Jesus is especially good at this. When He wants to teach us something about worship, He uses a whore!

“Go call your husband,” he says to the Samaritan woman.

“I don’t have a husband,” she answers.

“That’s right,” Jesus says. “But you’ve had five, and the man you sleep with now is not your husband.”

She is shocked. We’re shocked! But Jesus simply sits there on the edge of the well with His hands folded, looking at the woman with razors in His eyes, ready to teach us about worship.”

So what was the Lord’s point? Worship is closely associated with pleasure and satisfaction; this woman was in search of both and had found neither. So the Lord offers her what she was looking for in all of the wrong places. He told her that if she would come to Him and ask, He would give her living water that would satisfy her thirst for the rest of her life. He was offering her forgiveness for her past and a solution for her future. He is offering us the same thing today. What well are you drinking from? Is it sexual sin, or alcohol, or maybe even a career, or even something as wholesome as your family? It’s all the same and none of those wells can quench our thirst. Just leave your bucket by that worldly well and ask the Lord for a drink, like He promised, you will never thirst again.

PERFECTED PRAISE

Matt.21:16 – and said to Him, “Do You hear what these children are saying?” And Jesus *said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘OUT OF THE MOUTH OF INFANTS AND NURSING BABIES YOU HAVE PREPARED PRAISE FOR YOURSELF’?”

There is something special about children and revival and worship. Jesus went so far as to say unless we are converted and become like little children we will never enter the kingdom of God. What is it about children that qualifies someone to enter God’s kingdom? I think the mystery is hidden in today’s verse. Do you see it? The pharisees couldn’t enter the kingdom because of worship. What stops a person from true worship? It centers around ego, image, and pride. Only the humble, those who acknowledge the greatness of the Lord, are capable of worship. True worship begins when someone sees God’s greatness. In that light they also see their own smallness. People who are self important and stuck on other’s perceptions of themselves can never worship. David said it like this , Ps.34:1,2 – “I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.” George Whitefield was often pelted with rotten eggs and worse while he preached. Check out his observations of children.

“Whitfield says, “I cannot help adding that several little boys and girls, who were fond of sitting round me on the pulpit while I preached, and handed to me people’s notes—though they were often pelted with eggs, dirt, & c., thrown at me—never once gave way; but on the contrary, every time I was struck, turned up their little weeping eyes, and seemed to wish they could receive the blows for me. God make them, in their growing years, great and living martyrs for him who, out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, perfects praise!” He who delights in the songs of angels is pleased to honor himself in the eyes of his enemies by the praises of little children. What a contrast between the glory above the heavens, and the mouths of babes and sucklings! yet by both the name of God is made excellent.”

Praise and worship is quite liberating. Not only is praise perfected in us when we are converted and become like children, we too experience the power of being adjusted and repaired in that atmosphere. I don’t care what the big boys and self important say, I’m gonna worship Him anyway.

WHAT CHILD IS THIS?

Lk.2:7 – And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Everything changes when your eyes are finally opened. The world is a different place. As the saying goes; the grass looks greener, the sky looks bluer, even the birds seem to be singing differently. Christmas itself takes on new meaning, finally you see Christ in the whole celebration. My first Christmas as a Christian found me rediscovering the old Christmas carols. I really never noticed the difference between Jingle Bells and Oh Holy Night until my eyes were opened to see Christ in Christmas. I was mesmerized and even overwhelmed as I saw the gospel story so clear in many of those beloved songs. Many of these Christmas songs that are played on radios, in the malls, and even the Christmas movies are loaded with solid Bible theology; who knew! Here are the words to one of those precious Christmas carols, take time and reflect on the power of these words.

WHAT CHILD IS THIS?

1. What Child is this who, laid to rest

On Mary’s lap is sleeping?

Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,

While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King,

Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;

Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,

The Babe, the Son of Mary.

2. Why lies He in such mean estate,

Where ox and ass are feeding?

Good Christians, fear, for sinners here

The silent Word is pleading.

Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,

The cross be borne for me, for you.

Hail, hail the Word made flesh,

The Babe, the Son of Mary.

3. So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,

Come peasant, king to own Him;

The King of kings salvation brings,

Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

Raise, raise a song on high,

The Virgin sings her lullaby.

Joy, joy for Christ is born,

The Babe, the Son of Mary.

This song carries enough spiritual ammo to preach an entire conference on the mystery of God becoming a man. It speaks of the humility of His birth, surrounded by shepherds, oxen, and donkeys. It speaks of the fear of God, His still small voice, and His death and suffering for our sins. It also speaks of the glory of the Word becoming flesh, prophetic offerings, and the miracle of the virgin birth. How could I have missed this for all those years? I just want to be sure I don’t miss the power of the Christmas message this year.

SONG OF HEAVEN

Matt.5:8 – Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

You ever think about the sights and sounds of heaven? In Revelations 14 John tries to describe the singing he heard in heaven. It sounds strangely similar to the way he described the Lord’s voice in Revelation 1. He said the singing had the sound of many waters, like the ocean. Why was the singing so different from the singing on earth? (You know John had heard some powerful worship in his lifetime). I think it all has to do with perception. When you see something worth worship, the worship takes on a new fervency. With eyes wide open the worshippers in heaven are totally unrestrained. Here is how Jonathan Edwards described that scene in his Thanksgiving sermon in 1734.

“They that see God cannot but praise him. He is a Being of such glory and excellency, that the sight of this excellency of his will necessarily influence them that behold it to praise him. Such a glorious sight will awaken and rouse all the powers of the soul, and will irresistibly impel them, and draw them into acts of praise. Such a sight enlarges their souls, and fills them with admiration, and with an unspeakable exultation of spirit.

’Tis from the little that the saints have seen of God, and know of him in this world, that they are excited to praise him in the degree they do here. But here they see but as in a glass darkly; they have only now and then a little glimpse of God’s excellency; but then they shall have the transcendent glory and divine excellency of God set in their immediate and full view. They shall dwell in his immediate glorious presence, and shall see face to face. Now the saints see the glory of God but by a reflected light, as we in the night see the light of the sun reflected from the moon; but in heaven they shall directly behold the Sun of righteousness, and shall look full upon him when shining in all his glory.”

So what about where we are today, do we have a heart of thanksgiving this Thanksgiving in 2018? If Jonathan Edwards is right maybe that is determined by what we have seen of the Lord. Take some time as we celebrate Thanksgiving and reflect on the beauty of the Lord. Maybe you will be struck by His magnificence and be caught up in the heavenly song.

EXPOSED BY WORSHIP

John 12:3 Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

It’s funny how worship can expose the heart of everyone involved. Mary had just poured out the fragrant oil on the feet of Jesus when another fragrance filled the room. It wasn’t enough for Judas to have his own opinions, he had to attack Mary and her extravagant display of affection. Why do you allow this kind of affection? Why do you allow this kind of waste? Shouldn’t we have fed the poor instead of wasting the oil on your hands and feet?

Have you ever wondered what was really eating at Judas? Sure, he was bummed about the apparent waste of resources (he had other ideas of how to use the money). That wasn’t the real issue; the real issue was the pubic display of affection. Judas couldn’t let that slide. It put too much pressure on him and the others. Were they expected to worship this way too?

What Judas did’t quite understand was what had made Mary this kind of worshipper? What had changed in the last few days? From something Jesus said we can see into the heart of Mary’s actions.

“For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial.”

That was it! Mary seemed to be the very first from the inner circle to get the implications of His death. This is why He had come. Mary finally understood the source Of His mercy and her forgiveness. He was the sacrificial lamb that John the Baptist had prophesied about. Jesus had come to die. This is what exposed Judas’ heart. Judas wanted the power that would result from a revolution, His death would be the end of those hopes and plans. That’s why that blasted fragrance was so disturbing; it was the smell of Mary’s worship. This was the fragrant worship that sprung from revelation. Jesus had come to die for sinners, this was Mary’s only hope.

This brings us to us. Who is Jesus to you. Is He just a way for us to accomplish our earthly dreams; maybe business, ministry, or even family. Or is He more than that, maybe He is way more than that. How will you know? You will know when you next find yourself in a room where that aroma of worship begins to be poured out. It has a way of uncovering the condition of our hearts.

HARLOTS AND WORSHIPERS

John 4:23 – But the hour is coming, and is here already, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for indeed the Father is seeking just such people to be his worshipers.

One of the tragedies of the fall of man is our twisted vision of life, especially the enjoyment part of life. We all tend to seek for joy and ultimate satisfaction in places that can never complete us. The world sells a bill of goods that many of us have bought. We are told that we can find our ultimate happiness if we just get the right partner in life. That’s the story of the woman at the well in Samaria. She bought the lie five times and was now working on number six. The hard lesson was that no man can ever fulfill you. That’s when Jesus showed up seemingly changing the subject. He wasn’t changing the subject at all, ultimate satisfaction belongs to worshippers. Here is how John Piper explains it.

“The first thing we learn is that worship has to do with real life. It is not a mythical interlude in a week of reality. Worship has to do with adultery and hunger and racial conflict. Jesus is bone weary from the journey. He is hot and thirsty. He decides: “Yes, even now, just now, I will seek someone to worship the Father—a Samaritan adulteress. I will show My disciples how My Father seeks worship in the midst of real life from the least likely. She is a Samaritan. She is a woman. She is a harlot. Yes, I will even show them a thing or two about how to make true worshipers out of the white harvest of harlots in Samaria.”

Rather than judging this woman Jesus gave her love and understanding. What was He saying to her? She was just drinking from the wrong well. Like everyone else she saw religion as an irrelevant separate part of her life. Like most people, she had her religious beliefs but they had nothing to do with joy or the rest of her life. Sometimes we have to be stopped in our tracks by the uncomfortable truth, we have wasted our lives in unfruitful pursuits. Jesus came to lead the woman at the well to that well of living water. It was that living water that changed her from a harlot to a worshipper.