from Prepare Yourself for Worship

Today Is a Rehearsal

Father, today
as we gather,
as we worship,
as we feast at Your table,
we are preparing for another day.

Today only a few of us will come together.
Soon we will gather as
“a great multitude which no one could count,
from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues.” (Revelation 7:9, NASB*)

Today we gather in a small, local building.
Soon we will gather
“before the throne and before the Lamb.”
Even a vast, magnificent temple would be useless there, for
“the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” (Revelation 21:22, NASB)

Today we few lift our
humble songs and
stumbling words of praise.
Soon heaven and earth and all creation will
reverberate with worship that
transcends all words, and
we will add our hearts and voices to theirs.

Today our sacred meal appears
small and
symbolic.
Soon we will feast
our body, soul, mind, and spirit,
forever,
together,
each of us and
all of us.
We will drink deeply of the wine of life.
We will feast on the True Manna from heaven,
on our Creator’s complete provision for our entire being.
We will feast on
all Christ is and
all He has done for us.
We will celebrate
our eternal, perfect union
with You, Father,
in Christ, Your Holy Son.

Father, as we gather now
in our little time and place,
feed our hearts and
nourish our souls
with an undying hunger for that day. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Come, Our Lord!
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The Old Testament Law

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD
Read Leviticus 19:1-4, 9-18; Matthew 7:24-27

The Old Testament law, contained in portions of the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, has a bad reputation among many modern Christians. To them, it seems strange and completely outdated.

Read it, and yes, some of the specific regulations will seem odd. They were written for a different time, place, and situation. But the more I study the law, the more amazed I am at its beauty and depth. It legislates compassion on the needy, even at the expense of private rights of ownership. It works to shape a people of justice, righteousness, and generosity, a people who consider all fellow citizens to be their brothers and sisters, a people who, above everything else, love God with all their heart, soul, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5).

This is the law God promised to write on the hearts of His people (Jeremiah 31:33). This is the law Jesus came, not to destroy, but to fulfill (Matthew 5:17). This is the law whose essence is loving God and loving others (Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8).

Whether the law was ever followed perfectly is not the point. It envisions a community of believers that will one day culminate in the Kingdom of God. For myself, I’m coming to think of the law, less as a set of specific rules tailored to a specific people in a specific cultural situation, and more as one step in God forming for Himself a holy people who are truly His own – a people of justice, mercy, faith, and love. The essence of the law is living at peace with God and thus at peace with each other.

The law also teaches another invaluable truth: God’s wisdom does us no good until we obey it. God’s wisdom demands trust. It demands response. It demands action. It demands change.

Remember Jesus’ parable about the wise man and the foolish man (Matthew 7:24-27). Both men had heard God’s wisdom. Both men knew His wisdom. The entire difference between a wise life and a foolish life, between blessing and destruction, was simple obedience. God’s wisdom cannot bless us until we obey it. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Is There Any Word from the Lord?
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God in Christ in Us

Father, I see Your holy beauty in Jesus Christ.
Though He is fully human,
He is fully,
perfectly,
gloriously You.

Father, You have given us His Spirit,
so display Him through us,
His Church.
When the world sees us, may they glimpse
His holy heart and
His holy life.
May they sense both
His divinity and
His beautiful humanity.
May they feel
His compassion,
His gentle patience, and
His generous heart.
May they taste
His joy,
His deep peace, and
His flaming passion for You.

Through us,
may they come to know Christ;
and through Christ,
may they come to know You.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: God in Christ in Us
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from Prepare Yourself for Worship

Longing for God

Father, as I live here in Your presence,
every connection with You,
every word from You,
every sense of You
feeds a deep longing to be fully one with You.

Every time Your Spirit touches
my heart or
mind,
I am overwhelmed with Your reality.
I yearn to know You
without the dimness,
without the distance,
without the distraction.
I yearn to know You
for all You are,
without interruption,
forever.

I know that day will come, Father, and
when it does,
let that deep, unbroken knowing
call from me
all the worship,
all the praise,
all the living, loving response
that is possible from
a small, unworthy creature like myself.

O Living God, I long
to see You,
to know You,
to praise You. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: O Living God
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Run with Endurance

Acts 20:24; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 2:3-6; 4:7-8

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. (Hebrews 12:1, NASB)

Picture a stadium. We living believers are the athletes, in the midst of a long and grueling race. At times we glance up and all around us. Who fills the stands in this immense stadium? It is the witness of all the heroes of the faith listed in Hebrews 11…plus so many more.

Are all those believers who have left this world actually watching us now? We don’t know. Their witness is what’s in view in Hebrews 12. Their example encourages us and urges us on. If they could speak to us right now, what would they say? Or to phrase it another way, what is their example shouting to us?

“God is always, always, ALWAYS faithful!”
“Just keep trusting Him!”
“The hardship lasts only a short time. It will soon be over. Hold steady!”
“Your obedience and faithfulness will bear fruit far beyond what you can imagine!”
“Rejoice!”
“Don’t let anything hinder you!”

That last statement is what the scripture emphasizes here: let nothing hinder you…absolutely nothing! This is a long and demanding race. Top marathon runners ruthlessly shed anything that will weigh them down. They get rid of everything that will hold them back in any way. Their clothing, their own body weight, their diet, their daily habits—every aspect of their lives is examined in detail. Anything that’s a hindrance, even to the slightest degree, must go.

Consider this: even the marathon is short in comparison to life. The struggles of life are so much greater, and its stakes are infinitely higher. Our rewards are deeper, richer, and forever. If a marathon runner must exercise such self-discipline and ruthlessly shed all hindrances, how much more should we who are racing for our eternal destiny?

I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. (1 Corinthians 9:23-25, NASB)

Honestly examine your life for anything that hinders your race. What about that small sin? What about that small distraction that eats into your time, energy, or devotion? Ask a marathon runner if there are any small irritants or small encumbrances. By the end of a long run, they all loom large. Shed them now! God will be glad to help you.

Then you will be prepared to run with endurance the race that is set before you.

Father, help me lay aside everything that is
weighing me down and
holding me back.
Everything, Lord.
Every habit,
every false and fuzzy way of thinking,
every misplaced priority,
every laziness.
Fix my eyes on Jesus—
His life,
His holiness,
His complete devotion to You. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: We Fix Our Eyes on Jesus Christ
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The Joy of Your Presence

Inspired by Psalm 84

O Father, how I love being in Your presence!
When I realize that I am with You,
all I am sings for joy,
body,
mind, and
spirit.

You are infinitely above me
in excellence,
in power, and
in holiness.
Yet when I am with You, I sense that
this is where I belong.
I know a freedom,
a rightness,
a rest in You.

This life is not easy, Father.
The needs never end.
There is weariness,
darkness, and
deep sorrow.
But when I realize that all of life is a journey to You,
everything changes!
Weariness turns to praise.
Darkness shines with Your unfailing goodness.
Sorrow is matched with an inexpressible joy.
Your presence lights my pathway every day.
But what is more,
You Yourself are the heaven toward which I travel.

O Father, absorb my
every thought and
every desire.
You are my joy,
now and forever!

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Psalm 84
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from Prepare Yourself for Worship

Prepare for All Saints Day

Father, thank You for uniting us with Jesus, Your holy Son.
In Him, we are one with You
through the Spirit we share.
And as we are all one with Jesus,
we are one with each other as well.
We are one in Him with all God’s children of every
language,
culture, and
personality, of
every time and place.
By being one with Him in the Spirit,
we all become one in Him with each other.
Our oneness
with You and
with every other believer
is in Jesus Christ.

All this is Your doing, loving Father, and
we praise You!
We are in the early stages of this wonderful unity, and
we are just beginning to understand what it will mean.
We are warmed as Jesus speaks of us so glowingly as
His friends,
His family,
His body, and
His bride.
It seems that no one image can fully express His desire
for all of us to be together in Him
in the fullest possible sense.

Father of all,
help us to grow in this marvelous and mysterious unity.
We know it is Your loving desire for
each of us and
all of us,
so it is our desire as well.
More and more one in Christ,
and in Him,
more and more one with each other –
that is our prayer, Father.
One with You. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Christ and His Bride
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All Saints Day

Each year the Christian calendar takes us on a journey with Christ. We anticipate His coming during Advent and celebrate His arrival at Christmas. During Epiphany we receive Him as the Light of the World that has entered our darkness. Through Lent we walk with Him on His road to the cross. We witness His triumphal entry, His crucifixion, and His glorious resurrection during Holy Week and Easter.  We stand with His disciples as they watch Him return to His Father on Ascension Day. We are among them as the Holy Spirit gives birth to the Church on Pentecost.

Then during Ordinary Time, this Spirit patiently forms us into the people of God. Near the end of that time, only weeks before we crown Jesus as King of all Kings, we are given a glorious overview of what it means to be His Church, His Body, His Bride. This is the purpose of All Saints Day. “Saints” literally means “the holy ones”. On All Saints Day we consider what it means to be “the holy ones,” members of the Church Universal spanning all ages, nations, and human divisions.

On All Saints Day we read Isaiah’s description of the great banquet where all God’s people will feast together and death is destroyed forever (25:6-9). We share Daniel’s vision of the coming and goings of the various earthly kingdoms, culminating in God’s saints possessing His eternal Kingdom (Daniel 7:1-18). We are given a foretaste of our destiny as we welcome the King of Glory into His holy temple (Psalm 24) and as we watch Jesus raise Lazarus (John 11).

We sit on the mountainside and listen to Jesus describe what it means to live in the Father’s presence, now and for all eternity (the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:1-12). And with John we watch as Christ’s pure and lovely Bride descends for unending union with her Husband (John 21:1-6).

All Saints Day is a chance to revel in our oneness with Christ and all His holy people. In this dark and difficult world, it is a reminder of who we are even now and who we are surely becoming in Him. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Revelation 21
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Cross Every Barrier

Transcendent God,
unseen God,
high and holy God,
You have broken down every barrier between
You and
us.
You have come to us and
made Yourself
fully,
humbly,
humanly one with us.

As You are now one with us,
we are one with You.
We share Your life.
We share Your love.
Within our hearts is the love that
breaks down every barrier and
crosses every boundary.
No human being is off-limits to Your great compassion.
No one is too unlovely.
No one is too sinful.
No one is too needy.

Father, live that love through us.
You have broken down every barrier.
May we let none of those old barriers stand in our way –
not race or religion,
not language or geography,
not culture or education,
not sexual orientation or social status,
not comfort, self-centeredness, or fear.
You are the Father of us all, and
Your almighty love respects no boundaries.
Make us bold in You,
loving in You,
joyful in You,
ever sacrificing ourselves freely, completely to You.

O great Father of all,
lead us everywhere Your love longs to go.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Beyond All Barriers
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from Prepare Yourself for Worship

We Come and Go as Your People

Father, we come because You call us.
You call us together
as Your children,
as Your people.
You gather us to Yourself.

When our brief gathering is ended,
we go because You send us.
You send us
as Your children,
as Your people.
You send us out into our individual
homes,
neighborhoods,
communities,
schools,
work places,
social groups, and
circles of friends.
You scatter Your people into every corner where
people are,
people whom You long to know You.

Father, as we come and
as we go,
help us come and go
in Your name,
in Your love, and
in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Come, Children, Come
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