Pastor Ron Swanson
Oct. 15, 2018
Through the years, I’ve heard people say, “Why does your God demand to be praised? Either He’s a total egomaniac or an emotional wreck that needs to have His ego propped up.” That’s not the case at all! There are several reasons why God asks us to praise Him, and in every case we’re the ones who benefit.
1. Praise Silences the Devil
Psalm 8:2 – “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing ones you’ve ordained praise, because of your enemies, that You might silence the enemy and the avenger.”
Have you ever wished that you could make the devil shut up? Here’s one way to do it. Praise silences him! (The Hebrew language put it even stronger. It said, “That you might depose the enemy.” “Depose” means “to remove suddenly and forcefully”). Whenever the enemy starts to harass you, lift your hands and begin to praise God! (He won’t stay around to listen to that!) Praise puts a powerful weapon in your mouth! Use it against the devil!
2. Praise Brings God on the Scene
Psalm 22:3 – “But you are holy, You inhabit (settle down on; are enthroned on) the praises of Israel.”
Praise changes the very atmosphere around us. Not only does it move the devil out (as we’ve already seen), it also brings God’s presence in! According to this verse, praise builds a “Throne”, and God comes and settles down on it. That will change the atmosphere!
3. Praise Causes Confusion in the Enemy’s Camp
You might be familiar with the story found in 2 Chron. 20:14-24. As the enemy’s army approached, Judah’s king appointed singers and sent them out ahead of the army of God. (How would you like to be on the worship team that day?) They went before Judah’s fighting forces, singing, “Praise the Lord; His mercy endures forever”. As they praised God, the enemy’s army became confused and started fighting each other! When all was said and done, Judah never did have to fight. Their enemies destroyed themselves.
4. Praise Releases the Captives
Paul and Silas had been thrown in prison for preaching Jesus.But, instead of complaining and feeling sorry for themselves, they sang praises to God (Acts 16:25-26)!I’m sure most of us remember the outcome.God sent an earthquake, and everyone’s chains fell off.Praise brings freedom to the captive!Through the years, I’ve heard people say, “Why does your God demand to be praised? Either He’s a total egomaniac or an emotional wreck that needs to have His ego propped up.” That’s not the case at all! There are several reasons why God asks us to praise Him, and in every case we’re the ones who benefit.
Pastor Ron Swanson
Oct. 22, 2018
We’ve been looking at some of the reasons why God asks us to praise Him. It’s not so He can feel good about Himself. Praise benefits us.
5. Praise Breaks Through Depression
Isa. 61:3 speaks of those who are mourning. (That’s not just referring to people who are grieving a loss. It also speaks of those who are discouraged or depressed.) “… to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness …”
Did you see it? God said we can “put on” the garment of praise, in place of the spirit of heaviness. If we’ll begin to praise God (in the midst of our troubles), God can turn our feelings (and our situation) around. No matter what you’re going through today, there’s always something to praise God for. If nothing else, you can praise Him for saving you! Habakkuk 3:17-18 speaks of this very thing:
“Though the fig trees are all destroyed, and there is neither blossom left nor fruit; though the olive crops all fail, and the fields lie barren; though the flocks die in the fields and the cattle barns are empty … (Wow! And, you thought you were having a bad day! This fellow has lost everything!) … Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” (Even though his losses were great, he still had his relationship with God! That’s one thing that can’t be taken away from you!)
Think about it! His whole life was going wrong, yet he praised God! There are some things in life, you just have to praise your way through. When he chose to praise, in the middle of the hardest time of his life, God strengthened and delivered him.
6. Praise Opens the Door to God’s Blessing
Psalm 37:5-6 – “Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee. Then shall the earth yield her increase; and then God, even our own God, shall bless us.” (There’s something about praise that attracts the blessing of God.)
7. There’s Healing in Praise
One of the Greek words that’s translated “praise” is “therapeuo”. It’s where we get the English word “therapy”, and it means, “to worship, to adore, to heal of disease, to restore to health”. There’s a therapeutic effect in praise. Why not praise Him today?
Pastor Ron Swanson
Oct. 29, 2018
People have different preferences when it comes to congregational worship. Some value ritual and tradition, while others value quiet and reverence. Still others are passionate and demonstrative in their worship. But, what does God value?
When Jesus met the woman at the well, He laid out principles for worship that transcend style and preference. His instructions focused on the heart and can be incorporated into any style of worship.
John 4:23 – “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.”
In this verse, Jesus spoke of “true” worshippers. What’s a true worshipper? This might sound simplistic at first, but a true worshipper is a person who’s “truly worshipping”. They’re not just going through the motions or adhering to the preferences of their denomination. Whatever style they happen to employ, they’re connecting with God at a heart level. “Worship” is truly happening.
What does “true worship” look like? If we look at verse 24 in the Message Bible, six keys emerge.
John 4:23 – “It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is a Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.” (MSG)
1. A True Worshipper is Authentic
“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God.” Worship isn’t just something we do on Sundays. TRUE worship is the outflow of a life that honors God. Our hearts connect with Him and respond to His love every day of the week. When we meet on Sundays, it’s a continuation of what we’ve been doing all week long.
2. A True Worshipper Isn’t “Going Through the Motions”
“Your worship must engage your spirit.” Having your spirit engaged means you’re worshipping inwardly. You’re not just “going through the motions” outwardly.
In one place, Jesus spoke of people who honored Him with their lips, while their hearts were far from Him (Mt. 15:8). Their lips may have been singing, but in their hearts, they were a million miles away. True worshippers are present in the moment. They’re focused on the Lord, with their hearts engaged (Eph. 5:18, Col. 3:16).
Pastor Ron Swanson
Nov. 5, 2018
We’ve been looking, for the past several weeks, at worship. When Jesus met the woman at the well, He laid out some principles for worship that transcend style and preference. His instructions focus on the heart and can be incorporated into any style of worship. So far, we found out that a “true worshipper” is authentic and engaged.
3. True Worshippers are Being Themselves
“That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before Him in their worship.” That implies that worship is going to look different for different people. Some people are passionate and demonstrative, while others are naturally quiet. The important thing is that we’re being ourselves. Simply and honestly. The Lord wants to meet with “you” in worship.
4. Worship Involves the Entire Being
“Those who worship Him must do it out of their very being.” That means every part of you is involved. Jesus commanded us to love the Lord with all our “heart, soul, mind and strength” (Mark 12:30). As we’re worshipping, then, it would make sense that all those parts would be involved.
Our “heart” refers to our spirit. (We’ve already seen that we’re to engage our spirit in worship.) Our “soul” is made up of our mind, our emotions and our will. (In worship, our thoughts are focused on Him. From time to time, our emotions are touched by His presence. And, we exercise our will to shut everything else out.) Finally, “strength” refers to our bodies being involved in worship. Whether we’re standing, kneeling or sitting; shouting, clapping or dancing), every part of us is involved in our worship.
5. True Worship is an Expression of Love
“Those who worship him must do it out of their very being … in adoration.” Did you catch it? Worship is adoring the Lord! That’s what worship is! If adoration isn’t happening, then worship isn’t happening.
6. In Spirit and in Truth
Finally, if we look at this verse in the King James Version, we’re told that worship is to be carried out “in spirit and in truth”. I like to say it this way: “empowered by the Spirit, and in line with the Word” (John 17:17).
Those six keys transcend musical style and preference and take worship into a “heart connection with God” that we should all be striving for.
Pastor Ron Swanson
Nov. 12, 2018
In Luke 10, we’re introduced to Mary and Martha, the two sisters of Lazarus. Whenever we see them in Scripture, we find each of them in a “default position”. Martha’s default position was serving. Mary’s default position was at Jesus’ feet.
Luke 10:38-42 – Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha invited him into her house. And she had a sister named Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was busy and distracted with all her serving responsibilities …
It’s wonderful to serve the Lord! Every Christian should be about the Father’s business. Yet, I wonder if Martha’s actions don’t describe the spiritual experience of a great many of us. Working for the Lord, but not spending time with the Lord.
As the story opens, Luke tells us that Martha was “busy”. That’s an understatement! Naturally, Jesus would have brought His twelve disciples with Him. (That’s thirteen guests, minimum.) But, some commentators believe that Jesus may have been travelling with the 70 at this point. If He was, increase that number to 83. Martha was busy, to say the least.
While Martha was busy fixing lunch, her sister sat at Jesus’ feet. As she was preparing lunch, I imagine Martha probably threw a few frustrated glances toward Mary from time to time. Finally, she’d had enough! She burst in on Jesus as He was teaching and said, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me!’”
In her frustration, Martha’s made two accusations here: “Mary is lazy! And Jesus, You don’t care!” (I’m sure she fully expected the Lord to take her side, and command Mary to help. But, He didn’t.)
“The Lord replied, ‘Martha, Martha. You are worried and distracted by so many things. But one thing is needful (absolutely necessary), and Mary has made the right choice.”
What had Mary chosen? Where was she? In her default position, at the feet of Jesus, listening to the Word.
In the Greek, there’s a play on words here. Martha had been running around trying to prepare food for Jesus’ entourage, and Jesus said, “Mary has chosen the best dish”. Whatever dishes Martha may have been preparing for her guests, they couldn’t compare with Jesus’ presence and His Word!
Pastor Ron Swanson
Nov. 19, 2018
Jesus actually visits Mary and Martha’s house three times in Scripture. The passage in Luke 10 was the first. The second is found in John 11, when Lazarus died. (And Mary is, once again, at the feet of Jesus – John 11:29). His third and final visit is recorded in John 12.
John 12:1-3,9 – Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Mary took a very expensive bottle of perfume and poured it on Jesus' feet. She wiped them with her hair, and the sweet smell of the perfume filled the house … Word got out among the Jews that he was back in town. The people came to take a look, not only at Jesus but also at Lazarus, who had been raised from the dead.”
In this passage, we see four responses to the presence of Jesus. Martha, as usual, served. (Some Christians come to church to serve the Lord. That’s commendable, but our relationship with Jesus can’t stop with serving.)
Lazarus “sat at the table with Him”. (Some people come to church for the fellowship. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that. But, our church experience needs to go further.)
The Jews “came to see”. These were the seekers. (They wanted to know if what they’d heard about Jesus was true.)
Finally, Mary is found, once again, at Jesus’ feet. This time she’s pouring out a jar of expensive perfume. I see three significant things here:
1. Worship’s Focus
There was a lot going on. Martha was running around serving. Lazarus was probably sharing his experience. The Jews were crowding around to see the miracle. But, Mary ignored them all. To her, no one else was in the room. Jesus is the focus of true worship.
2. Worship’s Extravagance
Worship always involves giving. First, there’s the giving of yourself! Then, in Mary’s case, she gave a bottle of perfume worth ten months salary. Judas said, “What a waste!” But, Mary thought Jesus was worth it!
3. Worship’s Humility
Finally, we see a humility in Mary. Not only is she at Jesus’ feet, she’s wiping His feet with her hair. Her pride didn’t matter. Only her love for the Lord mattered. That’s true worship.