from Prepare Yourself for Worship

Undistracted Love
Romans 15:7 

Father, when we gather before You,
You are not distracted by
our imperfect personalities,
our musical tastes, or
our annoying human flaws.
You love us.
Everything You are yearns for our best,
not for Your own comfort or pleasure.
You welcome us as we are.

Father, I am an imperfect person
gathered in the midst of other imperfect persons.
Give me Your heart for them,
Your patience,
Your selflessness,
Your undistracted love.
May I worship You by
embracing them wholeheartedly
as You have embraced me. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: In Simple Response to You
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Personal Encounters in Genesis

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD
Read Genesis 4:1-15

The book of Genesis begins with Adam and runs through Joseph. In that span of time, consider the various people to whom God revealed Himself in a personal way.

  • Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:27-30; 3:8-19) – Even though they had disobeyed God and rejected His wisdom, He spoke to them person-to-person, revealing not only judgment but eventual salvation.
  • Cain (Genesis 4:2b-15) – Cain was a murderer, yet God conversed with him, listened to him, and acted to meet his concerns.
  • Noah (Genesis 6:7-14) – In a day when the human race had gone entirely wrong, God was pleased with Noah and saved our entire race on account of him and through him.
  • Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; 15:1-9) – Abraham’s story takes up chapters 11-25. What an amazing odyssey of tested faith and gracious blessing!
  • Hagar (Genesis 16:7-13) – Hagar was an Egyptian slave who had run away from problems she had helped cause. Yet the living God came to her personally in her darkest moment.
  • Rebekah (Genesis 25:21-23) – When she became concerned about her unborn twins, God gave her a glimpse of the larger drama in which she was playing a part.
  • Isaac (Genesis 26:1-6) – God assured Isaac that as He had been with his father Abraham, He would be with him as well. God’s promises would prove sure generation after generation.
  • Jacob (Genesis 28:10-22) – Like Hagar above, Jacob was running from family problems he had helped to create. But God met Him personally in a way that would shape his entire life.

These encounters paint a picture of an Almighty God who delights to introduce Himself to all types of people, one-on-one. He reveals His wisdom for their situations, speaking demands and promises, comfort and challenge, providing both details and overall perspective. But the most striking aspect of His revelations is not the information He imparts, but the stunning reality of His presence. We human beings are given the great privilege of interacting with the Creator God person-to-person.

Christ Your Bridegroom

Based on Psalm 45

Believers, you are engaged to Jesus Christ.
He is the most beautiful person of all our race.
His words are always
grace,
kindness, and
truth.
His entire life is permeated with God’s richest blessings.
All that He is and
all that He does
are filled with the
the wisdom,
the love, and
the holy majesty of God
With sovereign power He reigns in
truth and rightness
over all that is.
He protects and defends God’s people against
all who would harm them.
His rule is
complete,
universal, and
forever.

This One is your Bridegroom.
He loves you
deeply and
passionately,
with all His being.
You are stunningly beautiful in His eyes,
pure and
glorious.

What does your future hold?
You are about to experience what it means to be
the beloved bride of
a Great King.
You will be richly adorned in all His magnificence.
A train of attendants will accompany you
into His palace.
Cheering crowds will surround you.
His entire realm will rejoice at your wedding.

Your life will be
brand new.
The love you share with Him will be
fruitful beyond all imagination.
All will give thanks for you.
Even the rich and powerful of the universe
will honor you because
you are wed to the Lord of all.

Beloved bride,
forget your past.
Put it forever behind you, and
focus on your future.
Keep yourself pure for Him alone.
Give all you are completely to Him,
body,
mind, and
spirit.

What an honor,
what a joy,
to be the chosen bride of the King! 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: See Christ, Your Bridegroom
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from Prepare Yourself for Worship

Help Me Remember

Father, as I gather
in Your presence
with Your people,
I may be tempted to become
negative or critical,
impatient or unkind.

Help me remember
Who You are, Father.
You are the compassionate God,
the Lord of all mercies.
You loved me,
sought me, and
forgave me
when I was far away,
ignorant,
completely corrupt, and
totally unworthy.

And Father, help me remember
who I am.
I am nothing without Your mercies every moment.
Nothing, Lord.
I am deeply,
completely,
constantly
dependent on
Your patience and
Your untiring forgiveness.

Help me also remember
who they are.
They are as needy as me,
as dependent on Your mercy as I am,
as helpless without Your tender compassion.
They are the ones for whom
You sacrificed Your precious Son.
They are Your glorious work in progress –
You are so proud of them!
They are Your treasured possession.

Father, today may
my only thought,
my only word
be Your pure love. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: How Precious Are Your People
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About “Fullness of Joy”

I have written elsewhere about my search for joy after our son took his own life (see Unchanging Joy). God had directed me to focus, not on my grief, but on my unchanging joy in Christ – the joy that is always available to me in Him, no matter what the situation. I wrote the hymn Christ My Joy as a way of reconnecting with that joy.

But my hunger for unchanging joy continued. Once again I had come across the folk tune, “Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes” and had felt compelled to use it as a hymn tune. In searching for an idea for a text to go with it, I was brought back to my search for joy.

Writing this hymn text proved to be a very emotional experience for me. I shed more tears in the writing of this hymn than with all my other hymns combined. I struggled.

Throughout my grief, I had never wanted to lash out at God with bitter questions. But in writing this hymn, I sensed Him compelling me to ask the questions found in the first half of v.2:

How can Your path of tender care be
So rough and dark and steep?
How can Your loving wisdom lead us
To groan and grieve and weep?

I needed to verbalize the questions in order to get at the truth. God’s answers are found in the last half of verses 2 and 3.

Sometimes God won’t answer the questions on our hearts until we ask them. So ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you. But as you ask, continue to trust His wisdom and love. Otherwise your heart may be focused in the wrong direction, and you won’t hear the answers when they come.

Often when we ask the “Why?” questions, God will not explain Himself. But He will assure us of His presence. That’s the way it was with me. When I asked the “Why?” questions through this hymn, He gave me a new sense of Christ walking this road with me. And He has. He truly has walked every step with me. My grief has brought a deeper sharing with the suffering Christ.

He has showed me that I should seek, not joy, but Him. He Himself is the fullness of joy.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Fullness of Joy
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Focus on God

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God. 

You turn men back to dust…
You sweep men away in the sleep of death;
they are like the new grass of the morning—
though in the morning it springs up new,
by evening it is dry and withered. 

The length of our days is seventy years—
or eighty, if we have the strength;
yet their span is but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away. 

Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
(Psalm 90:1-3, 5-6, 10, 12, NIV)

Do you want to spend your life wisely? Do you want to stay humble and not become the victim of foolish pride? Do you want to remember your true glory as a God-made individual? In short, do you want to maintain a true perspective in the constant push and pull and deception of daily life?

Keep your eyes on God. Practice simple prayer throughout the day. Turn to Him and trust Him in every need. Thank Him immediately for every blessing and every little joy. Nurture your relationship with Him.

For with You is the fountain of life.
When we see You,
we see everything else more clearly.
(Psalm 36:9, paraphrase)

Our past, our present, our future are all in Him. The only way to keep life in focus is to keep God in focus.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Always in You
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from Prepare Yourself for Worship

Wholehearted Support
1 Chronicles 29:1-9

King David had deeply desired to build a temple for You, Father,
but You told him he was not Your person for the job.
His son, Solomon, would build the temple.

David didn’t sulk.
He didn’t complain.
He did everything he could to help Solomon prepare for this enormous task.
He supported Solomon wholeheartedly with all his
creative energy,
his resources,
his contacts,
his influence, and
his enthusiasm.
He poured himself as completely into his support position
as he would have into the leadership position.

Father, as we gather to worship, help me to
enthusiastically,
wholeheartedly
support those You have chosen for leadership.
Help me to get behind them with all the
help,
prayer, and
joyful involvement
that I owe You,
my Creator,
my Redeemer, and
my Lord. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: We Will Be Your People
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Examine My Motives

Father, examine me.
When I share Your Word with people,
what are my motives?
When I speak in Your name,
what hopes truly drive me?

Am I hoping to feed my hungry ego?
Further my career?
Fatten my pocketbook?

Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God. (2 Corinthians 2:17, NIV)

Am I hoping to gain from them, or
will I eagerly spend and be spent for them?

I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well. (2 Corinthians 12:15a, NASB)

Even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice. (Philippians 2:17, NASB)

Am I a smart business person seeking their money, or
am I a shepherd laying down my life for the sheep?

Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God bur our lives as well. (1 Thessalonians 2:8, NIV)

In my heart, are they a “market,” sources of profit, or
are they souls for whom Christ died?

I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. (2 Timothy 2:10, NASB) 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: One in Purpose, One in Passion
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Unearned Love

Father, I cannot earn Your love for me.
I am unworthy.
I don’t deserve Your
deep, tender affection for me.

You love me,
not because I am lovely,
but because You are loving.
You are not repulsed by
my ignorance,
my immaturity, or
my imperfections.
You are my Father, and
I am only a child.
I have not earned Your love.
You love me
because of who You made me to be,
because of who You long for me to be,
because of who I am to You.

But Lord, because You love me,
I want to be lovely
as You are lovely.
Because You love me,
I want to be more like You.
Because You are so near to me,
I want to be pure and pleasing to You.

O Father, may Your love draw me
closer and closer to You!

Listen and sing:
Hymn: So Unworthy
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from Prepare Yourself for Worship

You Are My Defining Reality

Father, when Your people were traveling through the wilderness,
out of bondage and toward the promised land,
they were engulfed in need of every kind.
The basic necessities of life were a constant concern.

But with all those needs pressing,
You devoted the entire tribe of Levi – the Levites –
to Your service alone.
Their duties were varied:
They cared for the tabernacle and its furnishings.
They assisted the priests, taught Your law, and acted as local judges.

In setting them apart to Yourself, You made it clear that
You cared deeply about the worship life of Your people.
Their living relationship with You –
their Creator,
their Source, and
their Savior –
was the key to their existence.
Trusting You and
worshiping You for all You are
was the key to that relationship.

Father, my relationship with You is
the breath of my existence as well.
You are my Creator.
You are my Source.
You are the defining reality of my life.
You are my entire reason for being.

Father, as I gather with Your people,
help me give You all the attention,
all the trust,
all the worship that You deserve.
You are my God.
Help me to wholeheartedly worship You as my God today.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Great Lord of All Reality
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