We are seriously into the Lenten Season and I pray that you are being touched by Jesus and His sacrifice for you in a new and profound way. Here is a favorite psalm to encourage you, point you to Him and lead you to worship God from your heart.
Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.2 I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”
5 Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. 6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. 7 I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. 8 I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, 10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. 11 You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Blessings today as you Worship our God and Savior.
Isaiah begins in the first chapter listing Judah’s sins against God. What were they doing that was so offensive to Holy God? Here are a few specifics the Lord gives to Isaiah:
Listen, O heavens! Pay attention, earth! This is what the Lord says: “The children I raised and cared for have rebelled against me. REBELLION against God who has lovingly cared for them.
4 Oh, what a sinful nation they are— loaded down with a burden of guilt. They are evil people, corrupt children who have rejected the Lord. They have despised the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. They have regarded God with contempt, scorn and turned away from Him.
12 When you come to worship me, who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony? 13 Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me! As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath and your special days for fasting— they are all sinful and false. Their worship was filled with ceremony but not sincerity. I want no more of your pious meetings. Their offerings and special celebrations were meaningless.
In what ways do your sins mirror those of the people of Judah? Are you rebelling against God and denying your faith? Are you treating God with contempt or scorning His ways? Are you just going about the motions of worship? Are you seeking to bargain with God and offer meaningless actions to Him? Let your heart be clean before Him and confess your sins. He desires to create a clean heart within you.
Isaiah adds that if it was not for the mercy of God there would have been devastation like Sodom and Gomorrah. God tires of their sinfulness and admonishes them to ‘straighten up and fly right’ so to speak in verses 16-17.
16 Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. 17 Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows
These straight forward verses lay out how God desires that we are to relate to Him and act towards others. Just like Isaiah in Chapter 6 had to be clean and have his sins forgiven to come before Holy God, so it is with us. To be in a relationship with God, to do God’s work and show His love to others we need to be clean! The only way to do that is through Jesus. Just as Jesus cleansed the leper in Matthew 8:3 “Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.” Jesus’ touch will clean your willing heart and erase your sins. Christ is the Holy one, the Only one, who can Save us. Seek his touch and repent of your sins. Remember this from Lamentations 3:22 and be encouraged. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Each day is a new day with the Lord. He will forgive you and help you start anew with Him. Enjoy this wonderful song by Michael W Smith about the heart of worship. May you worship be sincere and uplift you into the very presence of God.
Many Christians celebrate ‘Epiphany’ on January 6. It is a celebration of the arrival of the 3 Kings, the Magi, the Wise Men in the Christmas Story. This is a celebration of Christ’s birth, his childhood experiences and marks the end of the Christmas season for many by removing their Christmas decorations. Here is the scripture of this event from Matthew.
Matthew 2:9-12 “After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.”
The Wise Men heard directions from local king Herod, saw the star begin to move again and followed it. It was important that Mary and Joseph were still in Bethlehem so that prophecy would be confirmed that Jesus was indeed born there. However, they could have been anywhere and the star would have led them to Jesus. When they saw this ‘king’ they sought, their first reaction was one of worship and praise. They must have realized that Jesus was god incarnate. There must have been something about him that showed his Sonship even then as a babe. They knew that this was the child they had been seeking. Their gifts were lavish and worthy of a king. Gold was fitting a king, frankincense was used in worship and myrrh in burial. These costly gifts were undoubtedly used by God to save His Son in the days ahead. God intervened in the Wise Men’s journey as He warned them not to return to Herod. God knew the evil intent in Herod’s heart and mind and thwarted him so that he would not find out where Jesus was. God providentially brought the Magi at just the right time to just the right place for His Son and his earthly family.
What are you looking for this New Year? Are you seeking to find God more fully? We are promised in Matthew 6:33 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” That is a promise every seeker can claim with assurance. Open His Word, join a Bible Study, fellowship with other believers and God will show Himself to you just as He promises.
What would be your reaction to Jesus? If you were with the Magi, would your be overwhelmed with a desire to worship and praise Him? Would you know Jesus? In John 10 Jesus assures us that we would know Him. John 10:14 ““I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheepknowme.” John 10:27 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” No matter where we are we will know Jesus as He lives within us and His Spirit testifies with our spirt. Romans 8:16 “The Spirit himself testifieswith our spirit that we are God’s children.’ Being a believer in Jesus, we can be assured and claim these promise. No worries- He knows us and we know Him!
What gifts would you bring that would be fitting for our king? Romans 5:17 speaks of the gift given to us through Christ, “For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” Do you seek to bring your faith as a gift to God? It is His gift to us by His grace and is worthy to be brought back to Him and presented with all thankfulness.
Do you want to be in the right place at the right time like the Magi? If so, begin anew in 2023 to seek Jesus, listen for His voice and make worship a matter of priority. You will be blessed with increased faith and a peace that comes only from knowing Him.
While you are pondering and praying over what your word will be from God’s Word for this year, let us continue the Christmas Story. Matthew 2:1-8 recounts the story of the Wise Men who came in search of Jesus.
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
Herod was an evil king who was appointed ‘king of the Jews’ by Rome. He was remembered for his cruelty, greed for power and his great building projects. He was a Jew but as we can see by the text, he did not know scriptures well. He greeted these foreign Wise Men and found the answer for them as to where the child might be. However, in requesting them to return and tell him where the child was so he could go and worship him, we know this to be a power motivated request so he could eliminate his competition. Herod wanted no one to be more powerful, have his title or live to tell about it.
Since the Wise Men would have seen the Star of Bethlehem in the sky when Jesus was born and it would have taken months for them to travel to Jerusalem, most scholars put their arrival about 1-2 years after Jesus’ birth. Mary and Joseph had decided to stay in Bethlehem after the census. We do not know if it was required that they stay or that they were reluctant to travel again with a young child. The providential hand of God was at work in their staying as they were right where they needed to be when the Magi appeared. It was a fulfillment of scripture and confirmed for history that Jesus was indeed born in Bethlehem. The gifts provided by the Wise Men allowed Mary, Joseph and Jesus to escape the evil king Herod’s grasp, as we will see.
What can we learn about the Wise Men and God from this portion of the story? The Wise Men were seekers from the east. They had to have been men of means as they had the funds to undertake this lengthy journey in search of the child. They wanted to find this child of God to worship him. That speaks to me of their profound curiosity and conviction that the child they sought was ‘special’ and to be used of God. They must have had faith in Almighty God and have known His power in their lives. God is an integral part of this story as He caused the Wise Men to see the star in their studies. He put curiosity into their minds to discover who the child was and a desire to go and worship Him. The Wise Men acted upon their curiosity and traveled months to find Jesus. God allowed them to come before Herod and protected them from harm. God’s guiding hand can be seen in the coming and going of the traveling Wise Men.
Where is God leading you? Are you interested in pursuing things of God? Are you willing to ‘put things on the line’ to pursue what God has presented to you? What motivates you to go in search of Jesus? Each of us are seekers like the Wise Men. We need to be sure we are going to the right place for our directions and listen to God daily as we seek to live in this world filled with Herods who would seek to destroy us and our faith. Be sure to check God’s manual for living, the Word of God, the Bible for the best directions for living and then pray and listen to God. Just as He guided the Wise Men, He will provide and guide you as you focus upon Him.
All 4 of the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and work record his entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday before their Jewish Passover. Matthew, Mark and Luke tell the story of how Jesus obtained the donkey upon which He entered as it was prophesied that Messiah, king, would come riding a donkey. Zechariah 9:9 was written hundreds of years before the event “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! Your king comes to you gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the fold of a donkey.” John was the only writer to mention the palm branches that were waved by the crowds as Jesus humbly rode into the city. “So the took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”John 12:13 The waving of the palm branches signifies a celebration of victory, and was a reminder of Jesus’ royalty. The only other place that palm branches are waved is in Revelation 7where John records the following scene in heaven. 9″ After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
As you worship Jesus today, cry out in praise to Him for who He is- our mighty King and Savior. He is and always will be the victor now and forever! Raise your palm fronds high in praise to your savior and proclaim Him the one who came to save you and me. He was indeed the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world!
Today is the lighting of the third candle in the Advent wreath. It is called the Shepherd’s candle and represents joy. During the lighting the story of the angels appearing to the shepherds announcing the birth of the Christ child and where He could be found is told. Joy is contagious and once the arrival of the Messiah was proclaimed the shepherds wanted to find the child and worship Him. May you feel that same joy today and may it draw you closer to the Savior.
This next week we will be diving deep into Zechariah’s Song of praise after being muted for 9+ months, the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem and the angel proclamation to the shepherds. Here are some words of JOY for today as we worship.
Psalm 5:11 “But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.”
Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Luke 2:10 “And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
Romans 10:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
May we be filled with the joy of the Lord today as we continue to anticipate the coming of the Christ child who brought freedom from bondage to sin through His life, death and resurrection.
This second week of Lent has given us important action verbs of faith from Ephesians-brought near, united as one Spirit and family, founded in Christ, privileged in faith and having access to Almighty God. What a week filled with truths in the midst of panic, fear and doubt due to the Corona-19 virus. New words have occurred- social distancing and self-quarantining that seek to limit and restrain us. The truths from Ephesians are free, open and available even in a crisis. They will transform our lives, assure us in faith and move us forward together in Christ. Let the truths from Ephesians 2 and 3seep into your soul and let the Holy Spirit use them to transform your faith. Let them replace any fears you are feeling.
we are brought near to God through the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:13
we are one in Spirit. Ephesians 2: 14,18
we are united in Christ as He is our foundation and chief cornerstone. Ephesians 2:19-23
we are part of God’s family plan that is filled with His blessings in Christ. Ephesians 3:6
we are privileged to show God’s love and the good news of Jesus to the world. Ephesians 3:7-11
we have access to the Father in prayer. Ephesians 3:12
Blessings as you worship today- in most places virtually, as we practice social distancing due to the Corona-19 Virus. Our church service will be live streamed on YouTube today-you can tune in at 10:30 am PST to hear our worship band and Pastor Aaron Gonzenbach preach from the Word. You simply type: wearecrossroads into Youtube and it should take you there.
Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem the week before Passover and His death on the cross is a wild an joyous event. I have walked the Palm Sunday Road and it is a very steep hill leading down from the Mt. of Olives that leads to the eastern gate. As I walked that road, I could see this scene in my mind that is included in all four gospels.
Matthew 21:1-11 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples,2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me.3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.”4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
5 “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them.7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them.8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?”11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
Blessings today as we usher in the final week of Jesus’ life on earth with Palms, Shouts of Hosanna and Praises to Messiah, the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world.
Suggestion: As you praise God today in worship, choose an attribute of God that you are most thankful for and let God know what it means to you. Consider- Savior, His Grace and Mercy, Sovereignty, Faithfulness, His Hope, His Assurance of Salvation in Jesus, His granting Freedom from Sin or His Provision for you. Praise His Holy Name!
Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I have the aroma of Christ about me. Paul wanted the Ephesians, and us too, to think about the effect we have on others when we are around them. You can tell if someone bathes regularly, uses special soap or shampoo or is wearing a fragrance, but you can also smell one who does not bathe regularly, who ate garlic or onions recently or who is wearing an offensive fragrance. Paul says we have the ‘smell’ of Christ. “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.” 2 Corinthians 2:14-16a This is a sobering thought that to other believers or those who are open to Christ we the aroma of Christ. This aroma is pleasing to God and reminds them of life and brings knowledge of Christ to them. However, to the unbeliever the aroma of Christ and His presence in our life through His indwelling Holy Spirit smells of death, condemnation and judgement.
Today as we consider our presence in the lives of others, let us ask ourselves, Do I have the aroma of Christ about me? Can others smell His presence in my life? How strong or weak is my fragrance? If you think you are only fragrant enough for God to smell you, spend some time in His Word or in prayer or with other Christians or in worship or listening to Christian music. All of those will strengthen your fragrance towards God and others.
Suggestion: spend some time today in a fragrance a building activity- in the Word, prayer, worship, fellowship or listening to Christian music. Remember your presence speaks to others.
Psalm 121 is known as a song of ascent. These were psalms thought to have been used in annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem. The city is on hills in Judea and the trip towards Jerusalem is always referred to as going ‘up to Jerusalem’. Journey with me this morning using Psalm 121 and get a new, higher view of God, as we continue our Lenten pilgrimage to the cross.
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? 2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. 4 Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. 6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 8 The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.
Have a blessed Sunday as you worship our Lord.
Suggestion: Read this psalm again sometime today and pause after verse 2 and thank God for His help in a situation you faced this last week. After verse 5 as you thank God for your protection this last week from any disasters that might have befallen you. After verse 8 for the future care and hope He provides now and for eternity.