Trusting God in Difficult Times
(a trio of devotionals for resources or families)
Why is it so hard to trust God in tough times? Is it because we cannot see him? Is it because we lack the faith to trust him? Is it because we want him to make our troubles instantly disappear without us having to wait? The longer this Covid crisis goes on, the harder you may be finding it to trust God that one day it will end. And that can feel discouraging. But In the following lessons we will discover some Bible characters who had to trust God in some unusually discouraging circumstances and tough times but when they did amazing things happened. Curious? Then join me as we learn about trusting God in tough times.
Story 1: Daniel and the Lions
Story Reading: Daniel 6:1-23
Story Snapshot: Have you ever been treated unkindly by others? Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to do the right thing but everyone else was against you? Well, in today’s story, this is what Daniel experienced. Daniel worked with people who did not like him because they were jealous of Daniel. This was because the king liked Daniel more than them. And so Daniel’s enemies wanted to get Daniel to do something wrong so the king would get mad at Daniel. But do you know what the Bible says? “Daniel’s enemies could not find anything wrong with Daniel because he was trustworthy.” So his enemies decided the only way to get Daniel in trouble was to get the king to invent a new law that would force Daniel to disobey the king and be put to death as punishment. The new law said that people could only pray to the king and not God. But guess what Daniel did? As soon as Daniel heard about the new law he went back to his house and prayed to God - even though he knew he could be eaten by lions!
Story Takeaway: Why did Daniel do this? There are two main reasons actually. First, Daniel knew it was more important to keep praying to God like he had always done even if it meant being put to death. Second, Daniel fully and completely trusted God to keep him safe in the lion’s den because Daniel knew he had not done anything wrong. And because Daniel chose to trust God instead of obeying the king’s law, God sent his angel to protect Daniel in the lion’s den: Daniel 6:23 (ICB) says: “So they lifted Daniel out and did not find any injury on him. This was because Daniel had trusted in his God.” Daniel definitely trusted God in his tough time (lions!) and that should encourage us that we can trust God in our tough times (like COVID) too.
Verse to remember: “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.’” Psalm 91:2 (NIV)
Questions to discuss together:
1) Why was Daniel able to keep on praying to God even though he knew he could die for doing so?
2) Do you think you would you be able to trust God to protect you in a lions’ den like Daniel?
3) When we trust in God according to Psalm 91:2, how does he protect us?
Prayer Guide: Dear God, thank you for the example of Daniel and how he trusted you to protect him in a very tough time. Help us to always trust you in our tough times. Amen.
Story 2: King Hezekiah
Story Reading: 2 Kings 18: 1-7; 13, 17, 28-35; 2 Kings 19: 14-19, 35-36
Story Snapshot: King Hezekiah loved God very much. In fact this story says that Hezekiah loved God so much that there was not another king before him or after him who loved and obeyed God as much as Hezekiah did (18:5-7). Why did Hezekiah love God so much? Well Hezekiah’s father had been a terribly evil king who did not love God but loved only false gods and did terrible things as a result of worshiping these false gods. Hezekiah had seen what his father had done and did not want to be like that. So he decided to love God with all his heart and worship only him - but not many people in his kingdom did. Yet Hezekiah knew it was the right thing to do and so he tore down all the idols and images of the false gods his father had built. And this upset the people. Not only that, Hezekiah’s enemy, the king of Assyria, attacked Hezekiah’s city and told lies to the people about Hezekiah. And so Hezekiah was experiencing a very difficult time in his life.
Story Takeaway: Hezekiah was very discouraged by his tough times (people mad at him for tearing down their false gods; the enemy king who attacked his city and then told lies about Hezekiah). And so like Daniel, Hezekiah did the one thing he knew how to do: he trusted God. 1 Kings 18:5 says that Hezekiah “trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel” (18:5, ICB). And how did Hezekiah trust God? Hezekiah prayed to God to help him: “Then he went up to the Temple of the Lord…and he prayed to the Lord” (19:14-15, ICB). Though Hezekiah was discouraged by his tough times he trusted God to help him through his difficulty. And God did. How? By destroying the enemy army. So in this tough time of the COVID crisis, we can be encouraged by Hezekiah’s story that we can also trust God to help us, knowing that when we pray to God he hears us and will care for us. Isn’t that wonderful?
Verse to Remember: “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him and he helps me.” Psalm 28:7 (NIV)
Questions to discuss together:
1) Why was Hezekiah so discouraged?
2)How did Hezekiah trust God in his time of trouble? In other words, what did he do when he felt troubled? 3) The verse above reminds us that when we trust in God when we feel troubled, he helps us. What is one way that God has helped you when you have felt troubled during the Covid crisis or at other times?
Prayer Guide: Dear God, thanks for the example of Hezekiah in how he trusted you in his time of trouble. Help us to remember how important it is to pray to you when we feel troubled too. Amen.
Story 3: Caleb and Joshua
Story Reading: Numbers 13; Numbers 14:1-10
Story Snapshot: Caleb and Joshua were 2 of 12 spies chosen to go spy out the new land of Canaan that God had promised to give the Israelites. The problem was that the land was full of fierce enemies who did not want Israel to take over their land. So when the spies came back to report on what they had seen in the new land Canaan, ten of them told the people that it would be too difficult to take over the land from the fierce people that lived there. But Caleb and Joshua pleaded with the people to trust God to help them defeat the enemies in Canaan; that with God’s help they would have success. But sadly, the people listened to the bad reports the other ten spies gave rather than the two good reports of Caleb and Joshua. And this made God sad. Why? Because the people chose to believe that God could not help them. The result? The people were told by God that they had to wander in the desert for 40 more years before they could go into the Promised Land of Canaan.
Story Takeaway: Caleb and Joshua definitely experienced a time of trouble. Their trust in God was not shared by the larger group of people. In fact, their action of going against the advice of the other 10 spies and telling the people to trust in God to help them almost cost Caleb and Joshua their lives! The Bible says that the people were so mad at Caleb and Joshua for suggesting that they trust God to help them take over the Promised Land that the people wanted to stone them, just so they would not have to hear what Caleb and Joshua had to say. Now that’s a troubling time! But despite this threat, Caleb and Joshua did not waver in their trust of God and they and their families were the only two groups allowed to go into the Promised Land from that generation of people – a group numbering close to 2 million! This story shows us that in our times of trouble (like being shut in because of COVID), trusting God is the best thing that we can do. Like Caleb and Joshua discovered, God will always take care of us when we trust him – even in the times that give us trouble. Isn’t that a great promise?
Verse to remember: “The Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him.” Psalm 32:10 (NIV)
Questions to discuss together:
1) Do you think Caleb and Joshua were tempted to change their report about trusting God once they saw that the people wanted to kill them? Why or why not?
2) Imagine for a moment that you are Caleb or Joshua. Would you have been tempted to change your report about trusting God if you had seen that the people wanted to kill you for saying that?
3) According to Psalm 32:10, how do we know God will be with us when we trust him in times of trouble or difficulty?
Prayer Guide: Dear God, thank you for this story and the example of how Caleb and Joshua trusted you to care for them in their difficult time. Help us to remember that you will always take care of us in our difficult times too. Amen.
God Is With Us: The Story of Joseph
(a 5 day family devotional set) by Brent Lanigan
As of this writing, it has been 11 weeks since our world went into the daily reality of quarantining and social distancing. Before March 12, very few of us had ever heard of COVID-19 or the terms related to it - such as flattening the curve and personal protective equipment. And now, almost 3 months later, living in a COVID-19 world has become our regular routine.
But getting used to living in a world with rules and protocols related to COVID-19 does not make things easier, does it? Our lives have been drastically interrupted by this virus and it has caused us a lot of heartache, frustration, fear and anxiety.
At times like this it is important to turn to the Bible and draw strength and hope from the stories of biblical characters who went through similar duress in their lives but saw God carry them through it. Specifically, I think of the story of Joseph in Genesis 37, 39-45. Over the next 5 days, we will discover what we can learn about God from Joseph’s life. Are you ready? Let’s begin with day 1:
Day 1: God helps us
Genesis 37:3-4; 12-14; 18-20 (ICB) Joseph was born when his father Israel, also called Jacob, was old. So Israel loved Joseph more than his other sons. He made Joseph a special robe…Joseph’s brothers saw that their father loved Joseph more than he loved them. So they hated their brother and could not speak to him politely. One day Joseph’s brothers went to Shechem to herd their father’s sheep. Jacob said to Joseph, “Go to Shechem. Your brothers are there herding the sheep…Go and see if your brothers and the sheep are all right. Then come back and tell me.” Joseph’s brothers saw him coming from far away. They said to each other, “Here comes that dreamer. Let’s kill him and throw his body into one of the wells. We can tell our father that a wild animal killed him.”
Story Snippet: Joseph’s dad Jacob was not aware a) of how angry his other sons were at Joseph and b) how hurt they were because Jacob had made Joseph his favorite son. As Jacob did not grasp how his actions had affected his other sons, he was oblivious to the hurt he had caused them and so could not understand how deeply they hated Joseph. And because the brothers’ deep hatred of Joseph went unchecked - that is, they did not want to ask God for help in dealing with their painful emotions - their hatred made them want to do a terrible thing to Joseph: kill him.
Lesson for Us: Perhaps right now you are feeling angry, upset or frustrated. Maybe you are angry at God because you think he should have done something to prevent COVID-19 from happening. Maybe you are upset because you miss being at church or at Circle of Friends or at day program. Maybe you are frustrated at having to stay home all the time. If we are not careful, the negative emotions that we feel can make us stay angry at God and keep us from loving him like we should. And if we are not loving God like we should, then we will not want to pray to him and ask for help to take away our anger and frustration. We will just continue to feel unhappy and miserable - just like what happened with Joseph’s brothers. And that is not a very fun way to live at all. So whenever you feel angry, frustrated or unhappy, remember to ask God to help you change your negative emotions into positive ones and he will!
Verse to Remember: Praise the Lord, day by day. God our Savior helps us. Ps. 68:19 (ICB)
Questions to Discuss: 1) Why did Joseph’s brothers want to kill him?
2) Instead of being angry and feeling hatred toward Joseph, what should the brothers have done?
3) If you are feeling angry and frustrated because of COVID-19, what should you do?
4) How do we ask God for help?
Prayer: Dear God, help me keep from getting angry and frustrated about COVID-19. Help me to remember that I can talk to you about how I feel and that you will help me because you understand how I feel. Help me to remember how much you love me. Amen.
Day 2: God cares about us
Genesis 37:23-28 (ICB) So when Joseph came to his brothers, they pulled off his robe…Then they threw him into a well. It was empty. There was no water in it. While Joseph was in the well, the brothers sat down to eat. When they looked up, they saw a group of Ishmaelites. They were traveling from Gilead to Egypt…Then Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and hide his death? Let’s sell him to these Ishmaelites. Then we will not be guilty of killing our own brother. After all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” And the other brothers agreed. So when the Midianite traders came by, the brothers took Joseph out of the well. They sold him to the Ishmaelites for eight ounces of silver. And the Ishmaelites took him to Egypt.
Story Snippet: Sadly, Joseph’s brothers decided not to kill him only so they would not feel guilty about it. Unfortunately, they still hated him very much and desperately wanted to get rid of him in some way. So they decided to sell him as a slave. As for Joseph, the Bible does not say how he felt but he must have been utterly shocked. How could his own brothers be doing this to him? How could they hate him so much that they wanted to sell him as a slave? No doubt Joseph felt many emotions as his brothers turned against him: confused – “why did my brothers throw me into a pit?” shocked – “my brothers are selling me as a slave?” concern – “what have I done wrong?” Perhaps in that moment, Joseph began questioning whether God even cared about him anymore. After all, if God really cared about him, why was he being sold as a slave?
Lesson for Us: Pretend you are Joseph for a moment. How would you be feeling: confused? wondering what you did wrong? wondering if God still cared about you? Sometimes when bad things happen, like COVID-19, it’s hard to remember that God still cares about us. But it’s true. He never stops loving us - ever. How do we know that? Because God's Word, the Bible, tells us so. There are many stories in the Bible that show how God cared for his people. And there are many verses that remind us of this too. And so we can be assured that God loves us very much!
Verse to Remember: Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.
1 Peter 5:7 (NLT)
Questions to Discuss: 1) What emotions do you think Joseph felt when his brothers threw him into the empty well and then sold him as a slave?
2) If you were in Joseph’s place, what emotions would you have felt?
3) When bad things happen to you do you think God still cares about you? If so, how do you know?
Prayer: God, thank you for still caring about Joseph even when he was sold as a slave by his brothers. Help me to remember that you continually care about me too, even when bad things happen to me. Help me to remember that you always love and care about me. Amen.
Day 3: God comforts us
Genesis 37:31-35 (ICB) The brothers killed a goat and dipped Joseph’s…robe in its blood. Then they brought the robe to their father. They said, “We found this robe. Look it over carefully. See if it is your son’s robe.” Jacob looked it over and said, “It is my son’s robe! Some savage animal has eaten him. My son Joseph has been torn to pieces!” Then Jacob tore his clothes and put on rough cloth to show that he was sad. He continued to be sad about his son for a long time. All of Jacob’s sons and daughters tried to comfort him. But he could not be comforted. Jacob said, “I will be sad about my son until the day I die.” So Jacob cried for his son Joseph.
Story Snippet: It was bad enough that Jacob’s sons sold their brother as a slave. But then they returned home and lied to their father by indicating that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. When Jacob saw Joseph’s torn and bloody robe, he assumed that Joseph was dead and he began to weep in deep sadness. Cruelly, Jacob’s sons did not tell Jacob the truth: that Joseph was alive. Instead, they allowed their father to believe Joseph was dead, even after they saw him weeping in extreme sadness. Then when they tried to comfort Jacob, their attempt to do so did not work. Why? Because their attempt to comfort him was done not out of love for their father. You see, they were willing to let their father believe their lie that Joseph had died rather than compassionately tell their father the truth: that Joseph was sold as a slave alive. And so the brothers lacked true comfort and compassion for their father’s sadness.
Lesson for Us: Today’s story shows that Jacob’s family lacked what only God can give. Only God can provide true comfort and compassion when we are feeling sad or upset. Why? Because God made each of us and so knows exactly how we feel when we are sad or upset. God also understands what it is like to be deeply sad. He was deeply sad when his son Jesus died on the cross and so he knows how to give us perfect comfort when others can’t! Though Jacob’s family let him down, God will never let us down. Even during the COVID crisis! God knows how upset or sad we feel and he wants to keep us comforted during this time. So remember that God will never let us down. How can we be sure? The Bible tells us!
Verse to Remember: We give thanks to…God. He is our Father Who shows us loving-kindness
and our God Who gives us comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3 (NLT)
Questions to Discuss: 1) Why was Jacob so very sad?
2) Why were Joseph’s sons unable to comfort him?
3) Do you think God understands exactly how you feel when you are very sad or upset?
4) Why can God comfort us better than people can?
Prayer: Thank you God for understanding how we feel when we are deeply sad. And thank you for giving us perfect comfort when others can’t. Amen.
Day 4: God is with us
Genesis 39:1-4, 6-7, 12, 17, 20-23 (ICB) Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. An Egyptian named Potiphar was an officer to the king of Egypt…He bought Joseph from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. The Lord was with Joseph…He lived in the house of his master, Potiphar the Egyptian. Potiphar saw that the Lord was with Joseph. So Potiphar was very happy with Joseph…He put Joseph in charge of the house. Joseph was trusted with everything Potiphar owned. Now Joseph was well built and handsome. After some time the wife of Joseph’s master began to desire Joseph. But Joseph left his coat in her hand and ran out of the house. She kept his coat until her husband came home. She said, “This Hebrew slave you brought here came in to shame me! So Potiphar arrested Joseph and put him into prison. But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him kindness. The Lord caused the prison warden to like Joseph. The prison warden chose Joseph to take care of all the prisoners. He was responsible for whatever was done in the prison…This was because the Lord was with Joseph. The Lord made Joseph successful in everything he did.
Story Snippet: This part of Joseph’s story is both good and bad. First, Joseph arrived in Egypt as a slave and was sold to Potiphar: that was bad. But then Potiphar made Joseph head servant and he had freedom: good! Then Potiphar got mad at Joseph and put Joseph in prison: bad. But then Joseph was put in charge of the other prisoners even though he was still a prisoner: good! In addition, the story keeps repeating something very important: that God was with Joseph in every single situation: when he was a slave, when he was a servant of Potiphar, and when he was a prisoner in jail; both in the good times and the bad times. Because that is what God does.
Lesson for Us: Did you know that God does the same thing for us? He is with us right now, every moment, even while COVID-19 keeps raging on. God knows what’s happening in our world but he hasn’t forgotten about us. Even though we cannot see him, he is watching over us and wants us to know he is with us. He was with Joseph in his troubled times and he is with us in these troubled times. Because that is what God does: he never leaves us alone.
Verse to Remember: Be strong and brave. Don’t be frightened…God will go with you.
Deuteronomy 31:6a (ICB)
Questions to Discuss: 1) Read the Bible passage again. How many times does it say God was with Joseph?
2) Was God with Joseph in all 3 situations (slave, servant, prisoner)?
3) Do you think God is always with you in both good and bad times? How do you know?
Prayer: Thank you God for being with Joseph each moment of his life, both the good times and bad. And thank you that you will always be with me too, both my bad times and happy times. Amen.
Day 5: God never forgets us
Genesis 41: 1, 8-12, 14 (ICB) Two years later the king had a dream. The next morning the king was troubled about these dreams. So he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. The king told them his dreams. But no one could explain their meaning to him. Then the chief officer who served wine to the king said to him, “I remember something I promised to do. But I had forgotten about it. There was a time when you were angry with me and the baker. You put us in prison in the house of the captain of the guard. In prison we each had a dream on the same night. Each dream had a different meaning. A young Hebrew man was in the prison with us. He was a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he explained their meanings to us.” So the king called for Joseph. The guards quickly brought him out of the prison. He shaved, put on clean clothes and went before the king.
Story Snippet: Though God was with Joseph in prison, Joseph was not set free right away. He was in jail for quite a long time. Yet the awesome part of this story is that Joseph did not stay in prison for the rest of his life. God had a plan to release Joseph from jail by using Joseph’s gift to interpret dreams. A former prisoner that Joseph had cared for while both were in jail now worked for the king. And this ex-prisoner told Pharaoh about Joseph and how he could interpret the dream that Pharaoh had had the night before. When Pharaoh heard this, he instantly released Joseph from prison! Was that God’s plan for Joseph? You bet it was!
Lesson for Us: Joseph had been in jail at least 2 years. No matter how hard it was for Joseph to be in jail, he had to keep trusting that God had not forgotten about him and that God still loved him very much. Sometimes, things do not always go the way we want. Like right now, during the COVID crisis. We cannot go to church or Circle of Friends or day program. We can’t go swimming or even to the library. But that does not mean that God does not love us. It does not even mean that God has forgotten us. Sometimes, God just wants us to trust him more, to remind us that he has not forgotten us, even in the times when life seems bad or blah. It is so assuring to know that God our Father never forgets about us, even when things seem bad, frustrating or confusing in life!
Verse to Remember: God will not leave you or forget you. Deuteronomy 31:6b (ICB)
Questions to Discuss: 1) Do you think Joseph still felt loved by God even when he was in jail?
2) Do you think that Joseph ever felt like God had forgotten about him in jail?
3) Do you find it hard to trust God in bad, frustrating or confusing times?
4) What does God want you to remember about him during bad, frustrating or confusing times?
Prayer: Dear God, help me to remember that you never ever forget about me. Help me to understand how much you love me, even when things do not happen the way I want them to. Help me to trust you in those times when things don’t happen the way I want them to. Amen.
Sometimes, it feels as if the word worship has become too common in our Christian lexicon. It gets used to describe our praise singing (e.g. “we are now going to worship”); our tithing (e.g. “let’s give as an act of worship”); and a style of music (e.g. “My favorite music is worship music”). But what really is worship as seen in Scripture? Thankfully, the Bible paints a very clear picture. Join me now as we discover the essence of biblical worship over these five days of devotionals:
The Biblical Picture of Worship
Day 1: What is worship and why should we worship?
Psalm 29: 1-2 - Praise the Lord’s glory and power. Praise the Lord for the glory of his name. Worship the Lord because he is holy.
Fascinating Fact: An article on the Smithsonian website Folkways, talks about throat-singing, a guttural style of singing or chanting. The article says that throat-singing is "one of the world's oldest forms of music. For those who think the human voice can produce only one note at a time, the resonant harmonies of throat-singing are surprising. In throat-singing, a singer can produce two or more notes simultaneously through specialized vocalization technique taking advantage of the throat's resonance characteristics. By precise movements of the lips, tongue, jaw, velum, and larynx, throat-singers produce unique harmonies using only their bodies. Throat-singing is most identified with parts of Central Asia." Probably a good thing it's not a worship style practiced in our churches!
Scripture Study: As we launch our discovery of the biblical picture of worship, the initial question we need to ask ourselves is this: what is biblical worship defined as? In Ps 29:1, the psalmist gives clarity to both these questions. David, the masterfully gifted worship song composer, sets the definition of worship in its simplest frame: it is to praise God's "glory and power.” It is giving God praise "for the glory of his name." Knowing the what of biblical worship thus leads seamlessly into David's foundational reason for why believers should worship God: "worship the Lord because he is holy." To worship God because he is holy is to humbly praise and thank God for his perfection, his sinlessness; for that is what holiness is: to be perfectly without sin.
Can you imagine trying to praise God if he was not perfect? It would be pretty difficult wouldn’t it? There would be no motivation on our part to give God praise if he was not perfect or sinless. We would have no valid reason to worship God because he would be just like us: sinfully imperfect! But because God is perfect and therefore holy, he deserves our full worship. In short, our hearts should join with the psalmist who proclaims, “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD” (Psalm 150:6).
Questions to Discuss Together:
1) Imagine what it would feel like to try and praise God if he was not perfectly sinless, perfectly holy. Would you have any motivation to do so?
2) In verses 1-2 David says that we should worship God by praising his glory and power. What are other specific things that we can praise God for?
3) Describe your favorite way of worshiping God (e.g. singing, playing instruments, dancing)
Prayer Guide: We praise you God for being perfect and without sin. And we thank you God for being holy. We praise you God for who you are and humbly worship you with our praise. Amen.
The Biblical Picture of Worship
Day 2: How do we meaningfully worship God?
Psalm 100: 1-2, 4-5 - Shout for joy to the Lord all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. We are his people. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Fascinating Fact: In his book The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey recounts a story about a "Messiah sighting" in the Jewish section of Brooklyn New York in 1993. For some reason, many Hasidic Jews living there thought that the Messiah was dwelling among them in the person of a 91 yr old mute rabbi named Menachem Schneerson. As the men crowded into the synagogue, they began shouting over and over, "Long live our master, our teacher, and our King, Messiah, forever and forever!" All the little rabbi could do was smile and wave and then he disappeared behind a curtain and everyone went home. It is a story both funny and sad in its example of misguided worship!
Scripture Study: On Day 1 we unpacked what biblical worship is in its simplest form and the reason for why we should worship God: because he is holy and deserves our praise for his perfection. Today's study naturally follows out of that and asks: how then can we meaningfully worship God? Psalm 100 gives a great framework for this question. In it, the psalmist sets a pretty clear directive for how to make our worship of God meaningful: we must worship God "with gladness." What does it mean to worship God with gladness? It means to engage in worship of God with hearts shaped by joy (joyful songs and shouts), with praise (enter his...courts with praise), and with thanksgiving (enter his gates with thanksgiving). Why? Because of God's goodness, love and faithfulness to us (for the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues). So then, the approach to meaningfully worship God is built on having a heart of worshipful gladness shaped by joy, praise and thanksgiving for all God has done for us. To do less is to shortchange God of the worship that he deserves.
Questions to Discuss Together:
1) After reflecting on the verses above, what does it mean for you to worship God with gladness?
2) In other words, what makes your worship of God meaningful? Is it shaped by other characteristics than joy, praise and thanksgiving?
3) Why is it vital for believers to worship God with gladness?
Prayer Guide: Thank you God for your goodness, love and faithfulness to us. We praise you with glad hearts because of who you are and for what you have done for us in caring for us as your special children. Amen.
The Biblical Picture of Worship
Day 3: What value should worshiping God have in our lives?
Exodus 32:1-2, 7-8, 35 - The people saw that a long time had passed. And Moses had not come down from the mountain. So they gathered around Aaron. They said to him, “Moses led us out of Egypt. But we don’t know what has happened to him. So make us gods who will lead us.” Aaron said to the people, “Take off your gold earrings...bring them to me.” So all the people took their gold earrings and brought them to Aaron. Aaron took the gold from the people. Then he melted it and made a statue of a calf. Then the people said, “Israel! These are your gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down from this mountain...the people you brought out of the land of Egypt have done a terrible sin. They have quickly turned away from the things I commanded them to do. They have made for themselves a calf of melted gold. They have worshiped that calf.” So the Lord caused terrible things to happen to the people.
Fascinating Fact: According to the Guinness Book of Records, the largest gold ring in the world weighs 181.2 lbs and was created by Mokingran Jewelry Group Co., Ltd in China on 18 May 2016. The ring is 24-karat gold and has a diameter of 31.2 inches. By comparison, the largest manufactured pure gold bar in the world weighs 551 lb 2 oz and was made on 11 June 2005 at the Naoshima Smelter & Refinery, Kagawa Prefecture, Japan. It's probably a good thing the Israelites did not have these at their disposal!
Scripture Study: Today's devotional asks the question: what value should worshiping God have in our lives? For the answer, we turn to the story of the golden calf in Exodus 32. This story is a sobering reminder of what happens when the worship of God is not valued within our spiritual lives. Not long before, God had given his people the 10 Commandments as instructions for how to worship and obey him. And now, in Exodus 32, the people spectacularly violate the 2nd commandment: “You must not make any idols or worship them.” How could the people disobey this command so quickly? Sadly, they did not value worshiping God. And the more Israel devalued the worship of God, the more they valued the worship of other things. And once they did that, it was easy to replace God with an idol. In the end, their idol worship brought pain and hardship upon them because of their disregard for valuing the worship of God.
The worship of God in our lives should be valued as primary. It should be an act of devotion that ranks above anything else we do as followers of God. When we devalue the worship of God, it means we place value on worshiping other things or pursuits: leisure, money, relationships, possessions. Now having these things in our lives are not wrong in and of themselves; but when we value them more than we value God, they become idols of flawed worship. And when God sees our flawed worship take priority over expressing our praise and love to him, that’s what hurts his heart. When our flawed worship causes our spiritual growth and love for God to become stagnant, we cannot enjoy true relationship with him.
Questions to Discuss Together:
1) Do an inventory of your priorities in life. Where does the worship of God rank within those priorities?
2) In other words, how important do you think worshiping God is?
3) If you feel your worship of God is flawed or de-valued, what practical steps can you take to change that?
Prayer Guide: Dear God, thanks for giving us instructions on how to love, obey and worship you. Help us to always desire loving and worshiping you more than anything else in our lives. Amen.
The Biblical Picture of Worship
Day 4: What should be our mindset when we worship God?
Daniel 3: 1-9, 12-14, 16-20, 24-26, 28 - King Nebuchadnezzar had a gold statue made. The statue was 90 feet high and 9 feet wide. Then the king called the important leaders...in his kingdom. He wanted these men to come to the special service for the statue he had set up. So they all came for the special service. And they stood in front of the statue. Then the man who made announcements for the king spoke in a loud voice. He said "Everyone must bow down and worship this gold statue. Anyone who doesn’t will be quickly thrown into a blazing furnace.” So they bowed down and worshiped the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then some Babylonians came up to the king. They said, “Our king...Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego...do not worship the gold statue you have set up." Nebuchadnezzer became very angry...and said, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, is it true that you did not worship the gold statue I have set up?” They said, "Nebuchadnezzar... you can throw us into the blazing furnace...But even if God does not save us...we will not worship the gold statue." Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Then he commanded...soldiers to throw them into the blazing furnace. Then King Nebuchadnezzar was very surprised. The king said "Look, I see four men. They are not tied up and they are not burned." Then Nebuchadnezzar went to the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, come out! Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. These three men trusted their God. They refused to obey my command. And they were willing to die rather than...worship any god other than their own.”
Fascinating Fact: The Leshan Giant Buddha is the biggest and tallest Buddha statue in the world. Carved in the Lingyun Mountain in China, the statue stands 233 feet tall. Leshan Giant Buddha's hair is composed of 1,021 spiraled curls embedded in his head that measures 48 ft in height and 33 ft in width. His ears, capable of holding two people inside, are 23 ft long. He has 18 ft long eyebrows, 27 ft long fingers, 79 ft wide shoulders, and an 18 ft long nose. His mouth and each of his eyes have a width of 11 ft. His instep is around 28 ft in width and can hold about a hundred people and his smallest toenail can fit one seated person. By contrast, Nebuchadnezzar' statue was "only" 90 to tall and 9 ft wide but it had one thing the Buddha doesn't: it was made of gold!
Scripture Study: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego knew that they could be thrown into a fiery furnace to die because they refused to compromise their worship of God. As such, this story is the polar opposite of the story in Exodus 32. While the Israelites valued the worship of other things over God, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had made a heart commitment - built on uncompromised devotion of their love for God - to worship him above anything else. And this uncompromised devotion was so authentically displayed that the king himself said these words: "These three men trusted their God. They refused to obey my command. And they were willing to die rather than worship any god other than their own" (v. 28).
Today's devotional focuses on how what our mindset should be when we worship God. When we engage in worshiping God, we cannot treat our relationship with God lightly. If we truly say we are his followers then that devotion to him must be authentically displayed in offering God uncompromised worship. Maybe we will never be commanded to worship a 90 foot statue but we will always have the enticements of our culture nipping at our hearts demanding we give those enticements our worship and uncompromised devotion. But like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, we must quietly stand firm and determine in our hearts to never offer God less than our full, uncompromised devotion in worshiping him. Anything less is just going through the spiritual motions of our faith.
Questions to Discuss Together:
1) Tale a moment to reflect on how you feel when you participate in the worship times at your church. Do you just go through the motions?
2) How do you think God would view your worship of him? Does it give you pause or are you quietly assured that he would be happy with your attitude and approach in worshiping him?
3) If you feel your worship attitude needs improving, what is one thing you could do to fix it?
Prayer Guide: Father, thank you for the privilege of worship you. And thank you that we have the freedom to do so unendingly. Help us to never take our worship of you for granted we pray. Amen.
The Biblical Picture of Worship
Day 5: How does worshiping God change us?
2 Sam. 6:10-12, 14-16, 20-21 - David would not move the Ark of the Covenant to the Temple in Jerusalem. Instead he took it to the house of a man named Obed-Edom. And the Lord blessed Obed-Edom and his family. The people told David, “The Lord has blessed the family of Obed-Edom. This is because the Ark of the Covenant of God is there.” So David went and brought the Ark up from Obed-Edom’s house to Jerusalem with joy. Then David danced with all his might before the Lord. David and all the Israelites shouted with joy. They blew the trumpets as they brought the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord to the city. (David's wife) Michal was looking out the window. When she saw David jumping and dancing before the Lord, she hated him. She said , “The king of Israel did not honor himself today! You took off your clothes in front of the servant girls of your officers. You were like a foolish man who takes off his clothes without shame." Then David said to Michal, “I did it before the Lord. So I will celebrate in front of the Lord."
Fascinating Fact: According to the Guiness Book of Records, the longest dance marathon by an individual is 126 hours, and was achieved by Bandana Nepal (Nepal) in Kathmandu, Nepal, from 23 to 28 November 2018. Bandana took on this challenge largely to promote Nepalese music and culture, but it was also a personal challenge as she has been dancing since early childhood. By contrast, the longest dance marathon by a group was "only" 24 hrs, 1 minute set in 2011. Much more fun to dance in a group, don't you think?
Scripture Study: Today we ask the question: how does worshiping God change us? The answer can be found in the life of David, both in the worship psalms he wrote (e.g. see day 1, Ps. 29) and in his role as king. When David was newly installed as king of Israel, one of his first priorities was to repatriate the Ark of the Covenant from someone's home to the Temple in Jerusalem where it rightly belonged. But David did not want to do this quietly. He decided to design a praise party around bringing back this symbol of God's presence among God's people.
The Bible says that David danced before the Lord "with all his might" as the Ark was brought into Jerusalem. Can you imagine Queen Elizabeth dancing with all her might in public? That would be a pretty ridiculous spectacle. Why? Because queens and kings are supposed to look and act dignified. But even though David was a new king, he was not caught up with "presenting" well; instead he wanted to show how much he loved God by expressing his worship through dancing. His worship dance was so heartfelt and joyous that his wife thought that it looked too improper for a king to be doing in public. But David did not care. His response? "I will celebrate in front of the Lord" (v. 21). And so David went from being a dignified king one moment to dancing like any old commoner the next, caught up as he was in his joy of worshiping God.
It is evident that David was continually transformed by his steadfast worship of God. You see, David valued worshiping God more than worrying about what people thought about how he worshiped God. And it was because of that attitude that David's worship transformed him. Not only as a writer of worship psalms but also as the king of Israel. In the same way, if our worship of God is consistently done out of a heart of authenticity and joy like David, we too will be transformed by it; both inside and outwardly, whether that's raising your hands or perhaps even dancing! All God desires is that we offer him our whole heart in worship and not be self-conscious in how we worship - whether we are isolated at home away from church or among fellow believers. Just so long as it is expressed with an attitude that does not draw attention to ourselves but to God like David did when he said "I did it before the Lord."
Questions to Discuss Together:
1) Have you ever been tempted to "present well" when worshiping in church?
2) Have you ever been tempted to worship in such a way that draws attention to yourself rather than God?
3) Do you think there are more "proper" forms of worship expression than others?
Prayer Guide: Thank you God for the many different ways that you have given us to praise you. Help us never to lose the joy of praising you for who you are. Amen.