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My Tears in a Bottle

October 12th, 2017

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. (Psalm 56:8 NLT)

Are our sorrows forgotten by God? Are our challenges, difficulties, and sadnesses recorded? In sorrow and pain we often feel quite alone, but are we truly alone?

This verse should resolve those questions for our hearts. God keeps account of them. The word translated “sorrows” above, could be understood to mean purposeless roamings, or even to tossing and turning in bed. Often these things seem purposeless, mere reactions out of the pressures we are under.

As a psalm of David we can imagine him referring to the years he was hiding out from the wrath of King Saul - running here or there to random places. Are these places remembered by God? Did they have His blessings when they were used? My wife and I as missionaries, over more than forty years of marriage, have lived in more than thirty places, but each one was a home for the time we were there. Each had God’s blessing.

What makes life truly memorable is not the ease and comfort of our circumstances, nor the public attention we may have gathered for a brief period. It is the fact that God was with us as followers of Christ. He brings purpose, dignity, and meaning. He collects our tears, and records each day. And let us always keep before us the reality of His mercy, that He forgives all our sins and heals us as well.

One of the difficulties of growing older is the loss of shared memories. When those friends and family members with whom we lived, worked, and endured or celebrated life pass away, part of us dies as well, for we lose those with whom we lived our lives, those who know our histories.

Yet no memory is truly lost to God. He still recalls them all, and can warm our hearts through all of our lives. He turns our seemingly meaningless roamings into holy pilgrimages, where at each leg of the journey we have learned something about life, about ourselves, and especially about Him.

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My Sacrifice

October 11th, 2017

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:17 NIV)

What can we bring to God in our worship?

The Israelites were taught to never appear before God empty handed (Exodus 23:15; Deuteronomy 16:16). They were to bring a suitable sacrifice to God when they worshiped. But over the centuries this came to be an excuse for hypocrisy. Their hearts were far from God, filled with lusts and pride and anger, but they thought that it did not matter so long as they brought the material sacrifice. So, they would go through the motions of worship.

We are a bit at a quandary here, because we often say to each other to just act as you should and your emotions will follow. That is not completely untrue, that many things we do in life, not because we want to but because we ought to, and we find that after we start the action our emotions support us. But we should understand that this is very different from what the Israelites were doing. They decided that emotions did not matter at all, and, in fact, they could run in an entirely different direction. You may hate your brother, under this type of thinking, and still go and worship with a sacrifice.

Or you may have a ruined relationship with others, one of anger and fighting, and ignore your own responsibility to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Levi. 19:8), and still go and offer your sacrifice. This is the problem behind the teaching of Christ:

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. (Matt. 5:23-24 NIV)

So God spoke through David that what they should really first bring to God in worship is broken and contrite heart, one that is repentant over sin and comes humbly to God. That person is the one justified and whose worship is acceptable.

What about Christians? Do we come to worship with something in our hands? Do we offer something to God in order to worship?

We believe that Christ is the sacrificial Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. The Old Testament believers, when they brought sacrificial animals, they expressed their faith that God would one day provide the suitable sacrifice for them. But a Christian comes to worship with faith in his heart that the sacrifice has already been made. As the old hymn says, “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.”

And like the Old Testament believers, we are also to bring hearts that are surrendered to him. Our hearts should have our old human stubbornness broken and they should be surrendered to Christ, meek and moldable. A broken and contrite spirit is to be the attitude of every worshiper. This is evidenced in a life that seeks to live in peace with all, to do the right thing, and to honor Christ.

Our giving, whether done in the worship service or by modern banking before the service begins, is an expression also of gratitude. We do not give in order to be accepted - our financial gifts do not win our salvation. We give out of gratitude and out of faithfulness to God. Our giving is an expression of our faith in Christ and of our surrendered hearts to Him.

Randy Alcorn wrote:

By giving, we enter into and participate in the grace of Christ. We worship. By giving in concert with our brothers and sisters in Christ’s body, we jointly worship him, moved by each others’ example and mutual participation. In the building of the tabernacle, building of the temple, and repair of the temple, it was the corporate involvement of the community of saints in which the spirit of God moved so dramatically to produce extravagant giving. The same was true with the New Testament saints of Jerusalem in the early chapters of Acts and those in Macedonia spoken of in 2 Corinthians 8. (Randy Alcorn)

How do you worship? The heart of a biblical worshiper believes:

  • I am accepted by God only through Christ. He is the sacrificial Lamb that takes away the sin of the world.
  • I am surrendered to Him, repentant of my sins and obedient in my will to follow His leadership.
  • Because I am accepted in Christ, I give in gratitude and faithfulness, that His will would be done.
  • Because I am accepted in Christ, I seek to be right with my fellow believer and my unbelieving neighbor and live a righteous life - not in my strength but in God’s.

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