Family Devotion: Turkey Busters 5

TB5This is Part Five of a seven-part series. Here is Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four if you need to catch up.

Verse: Come, let us bow down and worship him. Let us fall on our knees in front of the Lord our Maker. – Psalm 95:6 (NIrV)

Big Idea:  Choose to worship instead of worry.

Have you ever faced a big problem? What did you do about it? Did you worry? Did you whine? Did you try to solve it on your own? Sometimes we get so caught up in our problems it keeps us from loving God and others because all we can think about is ourselves.  

When we just focus on ourselves, it makes our problems seem worse.  

There was a king in the Bible named Jehoshaphat who once faced a big problem too. A huge army was on its way to attack his country. In fact, three different armies had teamed up against him. He and his people were totally outnumbered, and the king was scared.  

So what did he do? Did he panic? Did he worry? Did he sit around and feel sorry for himself?  No way. He gathered all of his people and went to God for help.The Bible says that moms, dads and kids were all there seeking God together. But before Jehoshaphat asked God for anything, he praised God, reminding everyone of God’s power and the good things God had done for them.  

Jehoshaphat chose worship over worry.  

Continue reading

Many Happy Returns

Now that Christmas has come and gone, it’s time to grab those gift receipts and go get what you really want.  Has the magic worn off of that Chia Pet reindeer your mom thought you’d love?  Can’t find room for your new solar-powered Thighmaster?  Having a hard time getting comfortable in that Justin Bieber Snuggy?

No problem.  Just swap them out for something better.  Anything better!

Of course, if you don’t have a receipt, you’ll end up getting the lowest sale price that kicked in around five o’clock on Christmas Eve.  That’s when they mark all of this junk down to about 97% off.   If that’s your deal, you’ll be lucky to walk out of Wal-Mart with a stick of gum.  Suddenly the Chia reindeer isn’t looking so bad.

That’s the tricky thing about returns and exchanges, making sure you actually walk away with something better than what you’re returning.  Of course, with some of those bizarre gifts, it doesn’t take much to trade up.

When it comes to spiritual stuff, however, it’s far too easy to trade down.

The Bible says that we all have a tendency to make dumb exchanges when it comes to the gifts God gives us.   We’re designed to enjoy God as the center and source of our lives.  That friendship with our Creator has a unique ability to satisfy our souls and give our lives meaning and purpose.  And yet, even those of us who have walked with God for awhile often settle for cheap substitutes.

The Bible puts it like this, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator-who is forever praised.”  The great theologian Homer Simpson says it this way, “Doh!”  Both express the sentiment of getting ripped off, of making a poor decision or things just not working out the way you hoped they would.

Instead of enjoying the gift of God’s approval, I do all kinds of crazy things to make people like me.  Instead of enjoying the gift of God’s rest, I fill my schedule with endless activity.  Instead of enjoying the gift of serving others, I spend most of my time orchestrating my own comfort and pleasure.

When I trade worshiping the King of All Things Awesome for obsessing over my own petty agenda, I cheat myself out of the greatest gift of life, experiencing the presence and goodness of God.

Worship is focusing our time, energy and attention on whatever we consider most important in our lives.  When that something is anything other than God, we totally and thoroughly rip ourselves off.  My self obsession is chintzier than a Chia pet, tackier than a Thighmaster and sillier than a Snuggy.  But this is what I settle for far too often.

Doh, indeed.

Like I said earlier, now that Christmas has come and gone, it’s time to go get what we really want, the only gift that will satisfy our souls.  When the magic wears off our cheap substitutes, it’s time to trade up and enjoy all that a friendship with God has to offer.



Whack-a-Mole Worship

No one in my church knows when to stand up during worship.  Despite the fact that our worship leaders are some of the best I’ve ever seen, they love to leave us hanging.  I think it’s because they want to give the most spiritual people in the crowd a chance to shine.  

Here’s how it works. The worship team plays through the first verse.  The music builds.  The chorus gets closer, closer, closer . . . wait for it.  Then, bam!  People start popping up out of their seats like worshipping whack-a-moles.  No one invites them to stand.  No one gives them permission.  The Holy Spirit just sucks them out of their chairs like those tubes in the drive-thru at the bank.

At this point the whole church knows beyond the shadow of a doubt who loves Jesus more than they fear public embarrassment.  These people remind me of John Cusack holding up his boom box outside of Ione Skye’s window in Say Anything to prove his love.

Here’s what I’ve noticed, though.  When a handful of these early risers hop up, the rest of us just ignore them.  We’re not going anywhere.  Nope.  No charismatic John Cusacks without the trench coat can make us budge an inch.

But then a few defectors trickle across the line.  Inspired by the early risers’ boldness, more whack-a-mole wannabees spring from their seats.  Then it gets really weird.

When the whack-a-moles reach about 16% of the total number of church attendance, they hit a critical mass that somehow forces the other 84% of us to our feet.  We can’t help it. It’s like a star going supernova.  The gravitational pull is as simply irresistible as a Robert Palmer song.

A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling courageous and thought I’d get ahead of the curve by jumping up right after the first wave.  This time I would be the one who spurred the church to get off of it’s tail and worship like it was 1999.   Unfortunately I misjudged the crowd.  I didn’t get in after the first wave.  I was the first wave – me and a couple of middle-aged women in a room of 3,000 people. 

That’s okay, I thought.  I’m cutting edge. The tricklers will hop up any minute now.  Any minute.

Another minute into the song, no tricklers.  No second wave.  No critical mass.  Just me standing there feeling as tall as the Washington monument on display for all the world to see.  Even my wife wouldn’t throw me a bone and get up to stand by her man.

Ironically, right after the song, which I promise you went a good twelve minutes, the worship leader invited everyone else to stand – all 2,997 of them.

Okay, so maybe when a person stands up in worship isn’t a good measure of their spirituality and maybe, standing or sitting, I shouldn’t care about how I look to others in church.  And it probably wasn’t appropriate that I really wanted Jesus to return during that twelve minute song and bring some end times smack-down on those other 2,997 people who left me hanging that day.  Fortunately for me, God’s all about grace, and that’s really why I worship in the first place.

I’m not the first person to struggle here.  Back in Jesus’ day, the religious leaders were obsessed with looking spiritual.  Jesus said they cared more about what other people thought than about what God thought.  In church or out of church that kind of thinking leads to disaster every time.  

The great thing is that we already know what God thinks.  He loves us and has been standing up for us long before we ever thought about standing up for Him.  Our response to that, whether we’re in a church building or just going through the paces of our everyday lives, is what the Bible calls worship.  It’s loving God back by living a life of gratitude for all that He’s done.  So whether we stand up, sit down or stand on our heads, worship always comes down to what’s going on in our hearts.