Learning to Enjoy Worship (Psalm 122:1)

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I wish every believer enjoyed worship service as much as the devout saints who spoke the words recorded in Psalm 122. As these Israelites returned to their homes after celebrating the feast of tabernacles in Jerusalem, they would recall the joy of being in the house of the Lord. Sad to say, later in Israel’s history the situation changed greatly. Malachi declared that in his day some were so bored with their religious observances that they said, “Behold, what a weariness (Malachi 1:13).

If that’s how we feel about a service of worship, we may be inclined to blame a minister, the choir, or the song leader, when in reality the problem lies with us. Perhaps we’ve never learned how to worship. A person who knows nothing about music may go to hear a great symphony orchestra and wish he were listening to a ballgame, while his musically trained companion sits enthralled. If we are attending a church where the Word is preached and Christ is exalted but we are getting little out of the services, something is wrong with our spiritual appetite.

We can correct this problem by setting aside a quiet time every day for Scripture reading and prayer, asking the Lord to open our eyes so that we may behold wondrous things out of His law (Psalm 119:18). Then when we go to church, we should participate thoughtfully in the singing, pray with those who lead publicly, and listen attentively to the preaching. Before long we will echo the words in today’s text because we will anticipate the joy of worship. – Herbert Vander Lugt

The quiet hush of reverent hearts
Prepares us for God’s Word;
It brings a stillness to our lives
In which His voice is heard. – D. J. De Haan

If you want to be spiritually fed, go to church with a hunger for the Word.
– July 22, 1984, Our Daily Bread

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Success (Daniel 6:28)

 

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Success comes in various forms. Some view it as the accumulation of great wealth gained through suffering and sacrifice. But for the believer, success comes only through doing God’s will.

A young man named John W. Yates was so poor that he had to put cardboard in his shoes to cover the holes. Yet when he opened a bank account at the age of fifteen, he deposited his meager earnings under the name of “John W. Yates and Company,” acknowledging God as his partner and manager. He carried that practice into his business. In time, he became a multimillionaire.

Another young man, Oswald Chambers of Scotland, showed so much artistic promise that he was invited to study under Europe’s greatest masters at age eighteen. But he declined the offer and enrolled in a little-known Bible school, where he eventually became a teacher. Later, he went to Egypt and ministered to the spiritual needs of British soldiers. Chambers died there when he was only in his forties, but he left to the world a rich legacy of devotional literature. Both men made doing God’s will their prime objective; both achieved success.

Daniel began his career as a young captive in Babylon. Repeatedly he put his life on the line to remain faithful to the Lord. He refused to compromise, and God elevated him to a position of prominence. When we take that kind of attitude and accept whatever God has for us, we can be sure of success, no matter what form it takes. – Herbert Vander Lugt

Outside God’s will is no true success; in God’s will, no failure.
– August 9, Vol. 1, Our Daily Bread

Broken Statues (Daniel 7:26)

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In Moscow stands the New Tretyakov Gallery, a museum that displays art and artifacts from the days of the former Soviet Union. Scattered along the banks of the Moscow river near the museum are statues of once-powerful leaders that have been smashed and disfigured. Images of Stalin and Lenin have their nose knocked off and their head separated from their bodies.

These gloomy scenes bring to mind the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2. He saw a statue with a glorious head of gold, a chest and arms of silver, a torso of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of iron and clay (vv. 31-33). It portrayed the succession of four great ruling nations of the world. From history we know they were Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Then a stone “cut out of the mountain without hands” (v. 45) rolled down and smashed the statue to smithereens. This pictured God’s judgment of those four kingdoms and His supremacy over all the earth.

One day God will judge the nations of the world, and their monuments will lie in ruins. No matter how powerful the nation, all will crumble beneath the outpouring of God’s holy wrath. We can be confident that Jesus Christ, the King of kings, will rule the world in righteousness, justice, and peace. What a glorious prospect! – David C. Egner

Now evil prospers, falsehood reigns,
And darkness dims the light;
But soon the day will come when Christ
Returns to set things right. – Sper

Nations rise and fall, but Christ’s kingdom stands forever.
– August 3, Vol. 10, Our Daily Bread

Available to All (Mark 10:45)

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In today’s celebrity-obsessed culture, it isn’t surprising that entrepreneurs are marketing “celebrities as products … allowing them to sell their personal time and attention.” Vauhini Vara’s article in the New Yorker noted that for $15,000, you can have a personal meeting with singer Shakira, while $12,000 will give you and eleven guests lunch with celebrity chef Michael Chiarello at his estate.

Many people treated Jesus like a celebrity as they followed Him from place to place, listened to His teaching, observed His miracles, and sought healing from His touch. Yet Jesus was never self-important or aloof, but available to all. When His followers James and John were privately jockeying for position in His coming kingdom, Jesus reminded all His disciples, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all(Mark 10:43-44).

Soon after Jesus said this, He stopped a procession of people following Him to ask a blind beggar, “What do you want me to do for you?(v. 51). “Rabbi, I want to see,” the man replied. He received his sight immediately and followed Jesus (v. 52).

Our Lord “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (v. 45). May we, like Him, be compassionate and available to others today. – David C. McCasland

Lord Jesus, we honor You as the Son of God and Lord of glory who died for all. Help us to demonstrate Your love to others today.

Follow Jesus’s example: Reach out to others in need.
– August 8, Vol. 25

God’s Delays (Habakkuk 2:1)

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Waiting is hard for me. I want answers now. Postponements perplex me; deferrals daunt me. I’m baffled by God’s delays, wondering why and when. “How long, O Lord?

The prophet Habakkuk wanted answers as well, but God chose to take His time. “I will stand my watch … to see what [God] will say to me,” Habakkuk wrote (2:1). “The vision is yet for an appointed time,” God replied. “Wait for it; because it will surely come(v. 3).

Faith never gives up. It knows that despite appearances, all is well. It can wait without signs or significant indications that God is at work, because it is sure of Him. “Each delay is perfectly fine, for we are within the safe hands of God,” said Madame Guyon (1648-1717).

We too must learn to view each delay as if it were “perfectly fine.” Postponements are reasons to pray rather than grow anxious, impatient, and annoyed. They’re opportunities for God to build those imperishable but hard-to-acquire qualities of humility, patience, serenity, and strength. God never says, “Wait awhile,” unless He is planning to do something in our situation – or in us. He waits to be gracious.

So take heart! If God’s answer tarries, “Wait for it; because it will surely come.” – David Roper

Soon shall the morning gild
The dark horizon rim,
Thy heart’s desire shall be fulfilled –
“Wait patiently for Him.” – Havergal

God stretches our patience to enlarge our soul.
– July 29, Vol. 14, Our Daily Bread

Mindless Prayer (Joshua 1:5)

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Sometimes I am ashamed of my prayers. Too often I hear myself using familiar phrases that are more like mindless filler than thoughtful intimate interaction. One phrase that annoys me, and that I think might offend God, is “Lord, be with me.” In Scripture, God has already promised not to leave me.

God made this promise to Joshua just before he led the Israelites into the Promised Land (Joshua 1:5). The author of Hebrews later claimed it for all believers: “I will never leave you nor forsake you (13:5). In both cases, the context indicates that God’s presence has to do with giving us the power to carry out His will, not our own will, which is generally what I have in mind in my prayers.

Perhaps a better prayer would be something like this: “Lord, thank You for Your indwelling Spirit who is willing and able to direct me in the ways You want me to go. May I not take You where You don’t want to go. May I not enlist Yu to do my will, but humbly submit doing Yours.

When we are doing God’s will, He will be with us even without our asking. If we’re not doing His will, we need to ask for His forgiveness, change our course, and follow Him. – Julie Ackerman Link

God Himself is with thee –
Thy Savior, Keeper, Friend;
And He will not forsake thee,
Nor leave thee to life’s end. – J. D. Smith

May our prayers not be mindless but instead mindful of God’s will.
– August 3, Vol. 19, Our Daily Bread

Beautiful People (1 Samuel 16:7)

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Nowhere in Scripture we are told to value people on the basis of how they look. True, the Bible does recognize physical beauty where it exists. A handsome person like Saul or David must have had a lot going for him socially. But God has made it very clear that we can’t measure person’s worth by whether he is good looking, has beautiful hair and a trim body, or dresses in the finest clothes.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a chip on my shoulder. I’m not campaigning for greasy hair, flabby frames, or drab dress. Nor am I saying that beauty is a vice. But I’m concerned about my own superficial values. It’s not flattering to realize how prone I am to judge a person by the bone structure in his face or by the clothe he wears. Yet, it’s so easy to show partiality to someone who looks sharp and wears the latest fashions. Rather than making it my goal to see as God sees, I tend to respond to the physical, skin-level qualities of a person.

Our Lord declares that man’s real worth lies far beneath the surface. A brother doesn’t have to be physically attractive to acknowledge God in his ways, or to be unselfish, merciful, and compassionate. It doesn’t take a model’s face to develop self-control, patience, wisdom, and courage. Yet these are qualities of truly beautiful people. – Mart De Haan II

Beautiful lives are those that bear
For other lives their load of care;
Beautiful souls are those who show
The love of Christ where’er they go. – Anon

Righteousness in your heart produces beauty in your character.
– August 1, 1987, our Daily Bread