Part 1

Experiencing Hardship - Try True Worship (Header 1)

Experiencing Hardship - Try True Worship It’s repeated in the Psalms, over and over. It’s quoted in the New Testament writings, from time-to-time. Give Thanks 2 It’s been sung in Christian songs for centuries, and it appears on greeting cards through out the year: “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.”

In spite of all that goes on in this world — all the constant changes and unexpected situations that life brings — we can be confident that God’s love for us is not only eternal, but never changing. Still, there is more to this truth that just what we read or sing. So, let’s take some time together to consider and ponder just what it is that this famous verse is trying to teach us. Read with me these words from Psalm 118:

“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever. Let Israel say: ‘His love endures forever.’ Let the house of Aaron say: ‘His love endures forever.’ Let those who fear the LORD say: ‘His love endures forever.’ In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and He answered by setting me free. The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? The LORD is with me; He is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes. All the nations surrounded me, but in the name of the LORD I cut them off. They surrounded me on every side, but in the name of the LORD I cut them off. They swarmed around me like bees, but they died out as quickly as burning thorns; in the name of the LORD I cut them off. I was pushed back and about to fall, but the LORD helped me. The LORD is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: ‘The LORD’s right hand has done mighty things! The LORD’s right hand is lifted high; the LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!’ I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done. The LORD has chastened me severely, but He has not given me over to death. Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter. I will give You thanks, for You answered me; You have become my salvation. The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you. The LORD is God, and He has made His light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give You thanks; You are my God, and I will exalt You. Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.”

Such profound words and so full of power, they are! And though no one really knows who the human instrument was that God used to pen these words (some suspect King David because of the references to being surrounded by enemies and being disciplined by God, and also because of the prophetic verse concerning Christ which calls Him “the stone the builders rejected”), we do know that the Holy Spirit inspired them to teach us concerning a very real truth — worshiping God gives us access to His majesty and might. Did you get that?

When we worship Almighty God — no matter what changes are taking place; no matter what unexpected situations are transpiring — we can become channels of His majestic splendor and His awesome power. If you missed it, then follow back along with me as we look more closely at this psalm.

Scroll 1 Verses one through four are very plainly words of thanksgiving, “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever. Let Israel say: ‘His love endures forever.’ Let the house of Aaron say: ‘His love endures forever.’ Let those who fear the LORD say: ‘His love endures forever.’” They praise and worship God for His never ending, never changing love for His people, and they also encourage others to join in and “give thanks.” These are quite plainly the writer’s words of worship to God. But look with me at what the writer says in verse five:

“In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and He answered by setting me free.”

Our author has gone from thanking God to a couple of seemingly off topic subjects — anguish and freedom. We don’t know the issues that the writer is speaking of, but we do know that God brought freedom to this man; freedom from anguish. How? Through true worship. When we focus on God’s eternal and unchanging characteristics — in this case His eternal love for us — then we can access those divine traits in our own lives. When this is accomplished, not only do we achieve true worship but we unleash the power of God in and through our lives.

In our next post we will look at Joshua’s encounter with God, in which he learned first hand that worship unleashes the power of God. We will also proceed in our in-depth look at this special Psalm, and continue to reveal proof that encountering hardship with an attitude of worship will allow us to become conduits of God’s power to a lost and dying world.

Experiencing Hardship? Try True Worship! by J.Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at jasonmin.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.jsnmin.org/.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.

Part 2

A Special Commentary on True Faith

A Special Commentary on True Faith

Heaven Is For Real In Part One of this special post on true faith we talked of the Thomas Nelson publication, Heaven Is For Real (Book) and the recent movie by Sony/TriStar Pictures of the same name, Heaven Is For Real. The message being presented by both the book and the film is one that states that to have faith one must “see, and believe, like a child.” To which I argued that a real childlike faith comes from believing without seeing. As we continue this look at true faith, recall with me the story of the Apostle Thomas.

Shortly after the resurrected Lord Jesus had begun to appear before the other ten apostles, the Apostle Thomas had stated that unless he could see with his own eyes the resurrected Christ standing before him, and unless he could touch with his own hands the scars on Jesus’ body, that he would not believe what the other ten were telling him concerning God’s Son. The Apostle Thomas refused to have faith without hard evidence, so Christ gave it to him. Let’s read, together, the words from the beloved Apostle John as he retells the story of the Apostle Thomas’ doubt:

“Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe it.’ A week later His disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then He said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Stop doubting and believe.’ Thomas said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” (John 20:24-29)

God’s blessing will not fill us by basing our faith on evidence, but by simply believing. Our hope comes to us through God’s promises. Those promises are fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and it doesn’t just concern forgiveness of sins or eternal life. It concerns all areas of our faith — all acts of worship.

Missionaries who have surrendered to God’s calling to take His Gospel message to all parts of the earth — these men, women, and family units are placing their physical health and wellbeing on the line for the sake of fulfilling God’s plan for them. Yes, they are ignoring the physical dangers of this world for the sake of Christ’s call to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20a) No, they are not listening to the “seeing is believing” Christians who would tell them to consider the safety of their own lives first, or to consider the safety of their family’s lives. No, they are simply answering a call to be faithful in what God is telling them to do, and to trust that God has their best interest in mind.

A Study of Abundant Faith and Deadly Fiction

A Study of Abundant Faith and Deadly Fiction

And God’s best interest for humanity is not based on “creature comforts,” nor is God concerned with physical abundance in the areas of physical wealth, pleasure, and power. God’s good news is not a “Prosperity Gospel,” nor is it a “Poverty Gospel” — No! God’s Gospel message is one of provision. Meeting our physical and spiritual needs on a daily basis. This creates a relationship between Creator God and created humanity.

You see, God is more concerned with the eternal plan that He has for each of us. An eternal plan to see us prosper spiritually and not be harmed. Eternal plans that will give mankind hope and a real, eternal future. (Jeremiah 29:11) Our fallen and imperfect bodies are meant for death. To try to save them while denying the opportunity to fulfill God’s plan is ridiculous. Yes, we have a responsibility to remain as healthy and well as we can be, but only to serve God’s purpose. We — our entire being (body, mind, and soul) — belong to God, and what He has planed for us must come first. Remember these words of Christ:

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One Who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. ‘Whoever acknowledges Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before My Father in heaven. But whoever disowns Me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.’” (Matthew 10:28-33)

Some of you are aware that I am fighting a high staged colon cancer, and that I have opted to do so through diet, natural supplements, and naturopathic treatments. I have chosen to do so, not because of personal preference, or fear of conventional treatments (a.k.a.: chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery), but because God has led me down this path and I want to be faithful to act upon His calling. I have done so to the sounds of criticism and fear, which come from many people; some of whom are family members and others I count as friends.

I understand that much of this comes from their love and concern for me, and their love and concern for my wife and children. But what is so frustrating to me, is that the majority of these who are judging and being critical of my choice to follow God’s course claim to be believers in Christ. Some even serve in a church as a full-time minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A career choice that is based on the entire premiss of following the calling that God has placed upon them. Yet, as I have stepped out in faith to serve God through this trial and test, I have been met with opposition and, at times, halfhearted support. Is not God the author of all of life? Is not God capable to see His purpose fulfilled in each of us? Are we not to step out in our faith and act upon it? Conventional medicine may play its part at some point, but only if God gives me, my wife, and kids clear direction.

Bible 13 James, the half-brother of Jesus Christ had this to say, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:14-17) How can we claim faith in Christ and not answer God’s call to fulfill His plan? No matter the situation; in all areas of our lives. How can we claim the hope of Christ if we constantly fear the things of this world? How can we expect to see Jesus welcome us into eternity if we do not allow eternity to exist in our own lives today — now — while we can still testify to others of Christ’s Gospel message?

The “evidence of things not seen” is not in a story such as Colton Burpo’s, and it’s not in acquiring physical wealth, pleasure, or power and claiming God’s blessings as a result. No! Such evidence of our faith is in our deeds — our obedience and our sacrifices. We must live a life that reflects Christ. We must live a life that acts on its faith, and its hope (2 Corinthians 13:5). We must be Christlike in all areas of our existence — the physical, the mental, and the spiritual. This is the life of a true worshiper of God.

If you claim to be a Christian — a Christ follower — and you cannot claim such faith as I have just described, then consider that you are possibly not a true believer. If you work in a church, serve in a church, or attend a church weekly and yet doubt any part of the holy Scripture’s teachings — needing evidence and proof before you can fully say you believe — then stop calling yourself a pastor, worship leader, teacher, or follower of Christ. Resign yourself to become a student of the Holy Bible — the very Word of God — until such a time as your “faith” can became real to you through your actions, and not through sight. A true worshiper of God is called to “deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me [Jesus Christ]. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it.” (Matthew 16:24b-25) The cross is an instrument of pain, torture, and death. It’s not a symbol of blessing, comfort, or peace even though it is because Christ willingly endured the pain, torture, and death of the cross that we can have the assurance of God’s blessing, comfort, and peace (John 10:18).

Taking up the cross of Christ means we must expect to endure pain in this life; to be tortured from time-to-time in some way or fashion (1 Peter 4:12-14). And we must embrace the truth that death — physical death, anyway — awaits us all, but not before God says so. It is God Who has numbered our days (Job 14:5; Psalm 139:16). God will keep us here until He has made us as Christlike as He possibly can (Psalm 138:8; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13), then the hope of our faith will become reality for all of eternity.

Santa Claus 1 In closing recall with me theses words from the publisher of the book Heaven Is for Real. Thomas Nelson claims that this book will “forever change the way you think of eternity, offering the chance to see, and believe, like a child.” What child has ever seen Santa Claus deliver his/her toys at Christmas and believed? What child has ever seen the Easter Bunny, the Tooth-fairy, or any other fictional character and then believed. Children trust what their parents tell them — blindly believing that what is being said is the truth. Colton Burpo didn’t believe because he saw heaven. Colton believed because his father, the Rev. Todd Burpo, taught him concerning our hope of heaven in Christ. Colton only saw what he already believed to be true. What he saw simply further confirmed his faith.

Todd Burpo, however (and his congregation), were the ones who began to truly believe in the hope of Christ because a child saw, and continued to believe. Children don’t have to see to believe. This is what Jesus was trying to teach in Mark, chapter ten. It’s the point that the Apostle Thomas — and so many others since — missed, altogether. Read with me these verses, written by John Mark:

“People were bringing little children to Jesus to have Him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, He was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone [any adult] who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And He took the children in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them.” (Mark 10:13-16)

Do you really want to forever change the way you think of eternity? Then stop living your life from an earthly stand point and start believing and living like a child (2 Corinthians 4:18; 1 Peter 1:3-16). Begin worshiping God in your deeds and not just in your words (Colossians 3:17). If you choose to do so, you will experience the freedom and the joy that comes from “blind faith” — a true childlike faith in Jesus Christ. After all, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29b)

Heaven Is For Real by J.Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at jasonmin.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.jsnmin.org/.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

Heaven Is For Real” © 2010 by Todd Burpo & Lynn Vincent

All rights reserved. The brief information quoted from this book’s press release appears curtesy of Thomas Nelson, Inc. and Christianbook.Com.

Published in Nashville, Tennessee, by Thomas Nelson. Thomas Nelson is a registered trademark of Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Thomas Nelson, Inc., titles may be purchased in bulk for educational, business, fund-raising, or sales promotional use. For information, please e-mail SpecialMarkets@ThomasNelson.com.

Movie trailer made available by Jason Ministries, and Sony/TriStar Pictures; Copyright © 2014

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.

Part 1

Heaven Is For Real (Header)

Heaven Is For Real “Is there life after death? Just ask 4-year-old Colton, who emerged from life-threatening surgery with astounding details about heaven! Colton’s account includes floating away, Heaven Is For Real (Book) looking down on his dad praying in the hospital, seeing God’s throne, and meeting relatives — including his sister who died in a miscarriage (and whom his parents had never mentioned). Riveting!”

This is the product description for the Thomas Nelson publication that became a New York Times #1 best seller. Since its release in 2010, Heaven Is For Real has captivated the hearts and minds of literally thousands of people. And now, there’s the 2014 release of the movie by Sony/TriStar Pictures.

According to the publisher, the book tells the true life story of when Colton Burpo survived an emergency appendectomy. Apparently his appendix had ruptured in his body and was poisoning his system. Colton’s family was overjoyed at his miraculous survival, but they weren’t expecting the story that would emerge in the months to come. For Colton’s story — as beautiful as it was extraordinary — would detail his trip to heaven and back.

You see, the soon to be four year old Colton, began telling his parents that he left his body during surgery — and gave proof by describing exactly what his parents were doing in another part of the hospital during his operation. He also talked of visiting heaven and relayed stories told to him by people he met there whom he had never met in life. Colton shared events that even happened before he was born. He continued to astound his parents with descriptions and obscure details about heaven that appeared to match the Holy Bible exactly, though he couldn’t even read yet.

With persuasive simplicity and the purity of a child, Colton talked of meeting long-departed family members. He describes Jesus Christ, the angels, how “really, really big” God is, and how much God loves humanity. Colton’s story is retold, in the book, by his father (Rev. Todd Burpo) but the wording is uniquely simple to match those of a very young child. Heaven Is for Real, both the book and the movie, offers a glimpse of the world that awaits believers. A world where Colton says, “Nobody is old and nobody wears glasses.”

Whether you read the book or see the film, Heaven Is for Real is said to forever change the way you think of eternity, as the story offers humanity the chance to see, and believe, like a child. I’ve not yet read the book, but I have seen the movie, and I was moved in an entirely different way.

Maybe it’s because I’m already a believer that I was not astounded by Colton’s details of heaven. As the publisher of the book indicated, nothing was disclosed (at least in the film) that could not be supported in Scripture. I realize that there are many theologians, both prominent and otherwise, who have debated the truthfulness of this father’s retelling of his son’s experience. Again, I have not yet read the book so I will not enter into that debate. No; what astounded me most about this story was that it consisted of so many “believers” (pastors and lay-persons, alike) who had to “see,” and “hear” Colton’s evidence for heaven to know that it is real.

Worship 36 What is the point of having faith in Jesus Christ — of calling ourselves Christian (someone who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ) — if we are not going to believe the very words of Christ regarding heaven or any other topic? Note these Scriptures, which are the very words of God’s begotten Son:

– Matthew 7:13-14 — “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

– John 14:2-3 — “In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.”

The Apostle Paul wrote these words to the Colossian church: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, Who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4)

And don’t forget the words of the beloved Apostle John: “Then one of the elders asked me, ‘These in white robes — who are they, and where did they come from?’ I answered, ‘Sir, you know.’ And he said, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’” (Revelation 7:13-17)

John the beloved, also known as “The Revelator,” went on to pen these words about heaven: “No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants will serve Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. The angel said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show His servants the things that must soon take place.’ [Jesus then said] ‘Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.’” (Revelation 22:3-7)

clouds 6 If our hope is in Jesus Christ, then what is the result of our hope? Why must Jesus even be our hope? God’s begotten Son must be our hope, because humanity is depraved and lost in self worship. This self-worshiping nature has doomed us to an eternal separation from our holy Creator. People are too selfish to even begin to know how to purify themselves and over come their evil essence, known as sin. It required the perfection of a true worshiper to over come the imperfections of humanity’s self-worshiping nature. That pure and perfect worshiper of God is His very own begotten Son, Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Jesus had to willingly lower Himself to the essence of a self-worshiping human, while all the while not participating in self worship. Christ had to live as one of us, and experience all of our hurts, temptations, and pains, and remain a true worshiper of God to become a pure and perfect blood sacrifice capable of cleaning up all of humanity’s sins. Jesus did this, and the result was our restoration to God the Father, by faith in Christ (Romans 3:21-28; Philippians 2:5-11).

But it didn’t stop there, Jesus also conquered death by rising from the grave. So not only can mankind be forgiven every selfish wrong, but humanity can embrace the hope of eternal life with God in heaven. Again, as Jesus said, “If it were not so, I would have told you.” (John 14:2b) Anyone claiming to be a Christian, especially those in the pulpits and serving as lay-persons, should be full aware of the reality of heaven, and even hell for that matter. Again let’s read the words of the Apostle Paul, this time to the Corinthian church:

“Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the Gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this Gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them — yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that He raised Christ from the dead. But He did not raise Him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the first-fruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him. Then the end will come, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For He ‘has put everything under his feet.’” (1 Corinthians 15:1-27)

Did you get that? If we truly believe that Christ is our hope beyond the grave, but do not truly believe in heaven, then we are to be pitied more so than any other religious group. Why? Because, if heaven isn’t real, then neither is Christ’s resurrection. And if the resurrection of the dead isn’t real, then we are still condemned as self-worshipers. Humanity is still lost and depraved.

Empty Tomb 1 Oh, but Christ did physically live! Jesus did physically die, and return from the grave! All praise be to our benevolent Creator, that our faith in Christ does give us hope! For our loving and merciful God made Jesus Christ to be our way to forgiveness and our way to eternal life. As Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

Don’t get caught up in the need for evidence, when it comes to our faith. The evidence that does exist — the evidence that does substantiate our Christian claims regarding Christ, or heaven, or anything else disclosed in the holy Scriptures — should not be the cause of our faith, but simply an edification of our belief. The “punctuation” at the end of our “sentence,” and not the “subject” of the “sentence,” itself. As the author of the book of Hebrews stated, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) Faith is believing without seeing, and not believing because you have seen.

In part two of this special commentary on true faith, we will conclude with an understanding of what real faith should look like in the everyday life of a person claiming to be a Christian — one who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ, God’s begotten Son.

Heaven Is For Real by J.Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at jasonmin.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://jasonmin.wordpress.com/.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

Heaven Is For Real” © 2010 by Todd Burpo & Lynn Vincent

All rights reserved. The brief information quoted from this book’s press release appears curtesy of Thomas Nelson, Inc. and Christianbook.Com.

Published in Nashville, Tennessee, by Thomas Nelson. Thomas Nelson is a registered trademark of Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Thomas Nelson, Inc., titles may be purchased in bulk for educational, business, fund-raising, or sales promotional use. For information, please e-mail SpecialMarkets@ThomasNelson.com.

Movie trailer made available by Jason Ministries, and Sony/TriStar Pictures; Copyright © 2014

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.

Conclusion

Living Your True Purpose (Header)

Experiencing the Life of a True Worshiper

Experiencing the Life of a True Worshiper

I Worship You, by CCM group MercyMe, is from the 2002 debut album entitled Almost There. Though this song was never released as a single, World 1 it helped to establish the style and character of music that has kept MercyMe at the top of the CCM charts for more than twelve years. In fact, Almost There is considered the number four best selling album from its decade (2000-2009).

I Worship You, is all about experiencing the life of a true worshiper on a daily basis. It’s about what it can feel like to worship God in all circumstances and life events. It is a song of genuine, godly worship, which is exactly what we have been discussing in this series.

As we close out this simple study on experiencing the life of a true worshiper, we will quickly recap what we have learned so that you can easily recall our various topics of interest. Hopefully this recap will also inspire you to revisit some of these articles and move you to grow in your relationship with God on a daily basis.

Articles One and Two dealt primarily with our first acts of worship — salvation and water baptism. Before we can begin a day-to-day relationship with God, we must first have placed our faith in His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9-10), and have been obedient to His command to be baptized (John 3:5).

Articles Three and Four explored the call of all worshipers of God to fulfill the “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:18-20). To go through out the world testifying of Christ’s Gospel message and baptizing those who would believe, and to do so by CO-laboring with other believers, in spite of their denominational background (1 Corinthians 3:1-11). You see the true Church, the “Body of Christ,” is not filled with members from any one Christian denomination. No! The Church is made up of true worshipers from all Christian denominations, and we must work together for the good of the kingdom of God.

Articles Five and Six were all about serving mankind, as Christ instructed us to, and suffering as Christ suffered. Though Christ came primarily to seek and to save mankind from their sinful nature (Luke 19:10), He also came as a servant of humanity. He wanted to be an example to us, revealing how we can bring His hope to the hopeless and extend His help to the helpless (Mark 10:45). Ultimately, our serving others and our suffering as Christ suffered will make us more like Him.

Articles Seven and Eight revealed to us the importance of spending time in God’s Word and in prayer. God’s Word was given in written form to teach us, guide us, and grow us to be more like Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 3:16-17). This can only be done by our spending time reading it, studying it, and applying what we’ve have learned. And we must also pray, as God’s power flows from Himself into our lives through prayer (James 4:10). Prayer is as essential to our daily relationship with God, as is the reading of God’s Word.

Articles Nine and Ten dealt with living an abundant life in Christ and with gathering to worship God in a corporate environment. God’s purpose for humanity was to allow us to experience a life full of His Spirit, but we rejected His purpose. To get that life back, we must dedicate ourselves to living our lives for the sake of Christ — daily — in all that we do (Romans 12:11). True believers are also tasked with helping each other grow into true worshipers of God (Hebrews 10:24-25). Christians cannot accomplish this duty if they remain separated from one another. This work can only be completed if we are faithful to gather before God on a weekly basis.

Articles Eleven and Twelve disclose to us the importance of giving, especially the giving of God’s love. You see, part of our call from God, to serve each other and to suffer as His Son suffered, is so that we can learn the art of giving. Christ served mankind to give away His love, and Christ suffered for the same reason (Matthew 20:25-28). Love — God’s love — is the reason we are instructed to give, and one of the greatest ways that we can model this godly giving of love is through our romantic relationships. God designed the marriage relationship to be a physical picture of His love for the redeemed (Ephesians 5:22-32).

Articles Thirteen and Fourteen taught concerning how we should care for our physical and spiritual bodies, as well as about celebrating God in our music. Since Christians are considered by God to be members of Christ’s body, we must maintain our health and wellness in order to have the strength and energy to fulfill our calling — to fulfill our duty. It is imperative that Christians — true worshipers of God — maintain both their physical and spiritual health and wellness (Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 3 John 1:2). This in turn will allow us the strength to testify of God’s grace and loving kindness towards us through our singing. Though singing is not worship, as a whole, it is an important vessel for expressing our devotion to God (Psalm 95:1; Colossians 3:16).

“Confession” and “Forgiveness” were the topics of Articles Fifteen and Sixteen. We learned that confession was more than an admission of wrong doing, but that it was also a statement of one’s beliefs — a testimonial. Through this act of worship we can confess Christ as our Lord, and testify to others of His Gospel message (Matthew 10:32-33; Romans 10:9). Confession also leads us to receiving forgiveness. Forgiveness grants us access to freedom. Freedom from bitterness and hate; freedom to live and to love. Forgiveness is divine, and it is strong enough to cover over all wrongdoings. All we need do is accept it (1 John 1:9), and then give it to others (Mark 11:25).

Articles Seventeen and Eighteen covered the subjects of rejoicing and having a right attitude. A true worshiper of God rejoices over what God is doing, not only in their own life, but in the lives of other believers (Deuteronomy 12:7). Rejoicing rightly prevents us from getting prideful and allows us to celebrate achievements and yet remain humble. A right attitude also influences our ability to rejoice correctly and remain humble. An attitude that is focused on God and His characteristics will remain healthy and positive (Philippians 2:5-8), while an attitude that focuses on self will cause heartache and undo pain.

There you have it, all eighteen topics neatly outlined for further review and study. I hope that if you haven’t followed along faithfully that you will consider going back through and studying further these essential acts of worship. If you have been with us throughout the series, then I pray that you would take the time to review these subjects and apply them to your daily relationship with God.

William Barclay, a Scottish author, minister, professor of theology, radio and television presenter, is credited with having said this about speaking the truth. He said, “Telling the truth demands a deliberate effort.” In like manner, so does living the truth. We must take the time and make the effort to live the life we were purposed to live. God deliberately made us for His pleasure, and we rejected His love. Now we, who have placed our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, must make a deliberate effort to embrace God’s truth, speak of God’s truth, and live God’s truth. If we do; if we endure to remain faithful to God’s plan for our lives, then we will see God’s purpose grow in us and shine forth from us.

I’ll leave you with one last quote from William Barclay: “Endurance is not just the ability to bare a hard thing, but to turn it into glory.” Endure the life of a true worshiper. Bare the sufferings of life, as Christ did, and watch God turn you into a beacon that shines His glory throughout the world.

Living Your True Purpose by J. Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at jasonmin.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.jsnmin.org.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

I Worship You lyrics and music written by Regie Glenn Hamm and Peter Kipley. Copyright © 2002 Word Entertainment and Curb Records.

Video made available by Jason Ministries, Word Entertainment, and Curb Records; Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved.

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.

Article 17

Living Your True Purpose (Header)

Living Your True Purpose (Article 17)A Witch’s Invitation, by CCM artist and actor Carman, was originally released on his 1990 album entitled Revival In The Land. Joy 2 This “story song,” was one of many — in a long line of hits — that helped make Carman stand out as an exceptional artist within contemporary Christian music.

A Witch’s Invitation, is all about a warlock (male witch) who invites a Christian over to his house for the chance to brag and gloat about his demonic powers. The Christian hesitantly accepts, due to being a bit intimidated, but in the end is able to reveal where real power comes from. God is the source of true power (1 Chronicles 29:11; Psalm 28:7; Colossians 1:16), and that power can only be accessed through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

The Christian, in this story, uses a key word in his summary of God’s power. The word is “rejoice.” He says, “When you [warlock] tossed that book in my lap, you gloated with a sinister victory. You rejoiced when you saw your name in black and white. Now I rejoice, but not that your counsel of demons are subject to Jesus, but that my name is written in the Lamb’s [Christ’s] Book of Life!” What a contrast between how the warlock “rejoiced,” and how the Christian did the same.

Rejoicing is an essential part of our worship, and I picked this song just to reveal the stark variance between how a pagan finds delight and how a true believer is enraptured. The ungodly are prone to bragging and gloating over themselves; over their own selfish achievements. Whereas a true worshiper of God finds his/her ability to rejoice based on what The Almighty has done in and through their lives, for the benefit of others. Self has no place in that moment where true rejoicing transpires.

In our study on worship, known as The Joshua Project, we revealed that this order of worship, known as “rejoicing,” exists to allow us the opportunity to both give and receive God’s attribute of perfect joy. We see this revealed in Deuteronomy chapter twelve:

“In the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.” (Deuteronomy 12:7)

You see, it’s not about what we can do. It’s not about what we have accomplished, but it’s all about what we can do and can accomplish in the presence of God. And even then, we are made able because of God’s blessings. The psalmist had this to say about rejoicing:

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

It’s because of God’s blessings, God’s graciousness, that we can and should be humble before Him and grateful to Him. It’s in God’s presence that we receive true joy, and as The Joshua Project has revealed before, giving is what ushers us into God’s presence. No matter what we set our minds to do, if we give of ourselves joyfully, if we give thanks to God in all our circumstances, then we can rejoice knowing we are doing God’s will (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). After all, He made all things with this purpose in mind.

Quickly recall with me another lesson learned from The Joshua Project, concerning joy. True joy is ours if we follow this basic acrostic, J.O.Y.:

– J — Jesus — making Him first in our lives.

– O — Others — placing others before ourselves.

– Y — You — allowing selfish wants and desires to fall behind those of Christ’s and others.

I keep coming back to this acrostic, because it is such a crucial part of being a true worshiper, and since it is the path to real joy then true rejoicing can only come-to-pass in our lives as we act in a similar manner. First, we must find delight in the acts of God. Acts that may come through us, or through others, as we approach Him and exist in His presence. Second, we must be glad when God’s blessings appear in the lives of others, whether we think them deserving or not, and we should always encourage people to rejoice in the same. Stop allowing jealousy and a judgmental attitude to take control of your life’s circumstances. Allow God’s love to extend through you, and from you, so that the truth of Christ can rule your body, mind, and soul, and lead others to do the same.

Finally, rejoice in what God is doing in your life. Acknowledge this truth and reveal to others that it’s not you — that it’s not your abilities — but God’s good and perfect purpose, will, and plan coming to fruition in your life. I’ll leave you with this psalm, to ponder and rejoice in:

“You [God] are good and do good; Teach me Your statutes.” (Psalm 119:68)

Living Your True Purpose by J. Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at jasonmin.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.jsnmin.org.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

A Witch’s Invitation lyrics and music written by Carman, and Keith Thomas. Copyright © 1990 Benson Records.

Video made available by Jason Ministries, Spring Arbor Distribution, and The Benson Company, Inc; Copyright © 1991 All Rights Reserved.

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.

Article 16

Living Your True Purpose (Header)

Living Your True Purpose (Article 16)Forgiveness, by CCM artist Matthew West, is from the 2012 album entitled Into The Light. Christ 9 The song was written by Mr. West after he heard an incredible story about a woman who lost one of her four children, a twin daughter, to a drunk driving accident.

As the attached video explains, the man who had caused the crash, that had killed both this young girl and her friend, was sentenced to twenty-two years in prison. But according to Renae, the mother of the deceased child, it was she that felt like a prisoner.

You see, bitterness and hatred had been building up inside of her soul, and she felt miserable and entrapped. It wasn’t until she felt compelled to reach out to this young man — while he was still in prison — and tell him she had forgiven him, that she began to feel released from her anger and her hate. In fact, she actually worked to see this young man’s sentence reduced to eleven years, and she has accepted this young man into her family, as one of her own.

George MacDonald, a nineteenth century Scottish author, poet, and minister, was quoted as having said this about forgiving:

“Forgiveness is the giving, and so the receiving, of life.”

Mr. West indicates that writing this song was very hard, because forgiving someone who has wronged you is extremely difficult. So the chorus became a prayer to God, saying, “Show me how . . .” Humanity must be shown how to forgive, we cannot do so on our own because it goes against our sinful nature. It’s God who knows how to truly forgive.

Recall with me Alexander Pope’s infamous quote from his poem entitled An Essay on Criticism. The quote reads as follows, “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” Mankind’s bent is towards wrongdoing (Psalm 51:5; Matthew 15:19; Romans 3:23), but God’s bent is towards faithfulness, gentleness, goodness, joy, kindness, love, patience, peace, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). All of these spiritual fruits, as they are referred to by the Apostle Paul, culminate into another divine fruit known as forgiveness. Look quickly with me at some biblical examples:

Genesis 3 — Adam and Eve choose to believe the lies of Satan, disguised as a serpent, instead of the truths of their Creator. God knows that humanity has chosen sin over righteousness, and seeks out the man and the woman. Adam and Eve are found by God to be hiding and scared. They are no longer clothed in His glory, but are naked and covered in leaves and vines. God gives them both a verbal scolding. Exclaiming to them the consequences of bringing wrongdoing into the world, but then shows compassion and forgiveness by killing an animal, skinning that animal, and preparing proper clothing to cover the man and woman’s nakedness. In doing this, God established the first example that rings true throughout the Bible, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22), and without forgiveness there is no life (Romans 6:23).

Genesis 6-8 — The world had become over run by evil. God was sorry that He had ever created humanity, and was poised to destroy all that He had made; ready to demolish all that He had once looked upon as “good.” (Genesis 1:10b) But one man, named Noah, found favor in God’s sight. God chose to spare Noah, and his family, and in doing so also chose to spare a portion of His lower creations; those considered a part of the animal kingdom. So an ark was built to house Noah, his family, and all the creatures God selected. The rains came, and the flood waters rose, and humanity’s sins were judged. Yet, God’s tender mercies were placed upon Noah, and all that were housed in the ark. When the waters recessed, and the ark was again set upon dry ground, Noah built an alter and sacrificed animal flesh to honor God’s loving kindness and forgiveness. Again, without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness, and without forgiveness there is no life.

Genesis 22 — God has chosen a specific man to make a covenant with. This covenant would be the foundation by which God would reestablish His lost relationship with mankind. The man’s name was Abraham, and the principle of the covenant would be established through the testing of Abraham’s faithfulness. You see, God had promised to make Abraham the beginning of a “great nation” (Genesis 12:2-3), but Abraham’s wife was barren and could not have children. Nevertheless, God continued to stand by His promise and grow Abraham in his faith. It wasn’t until Abraham was about one-hundred years old, and that Sarah was about ninety years old, that God fulfilled the promise of a child. But a short twenty years later, God asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, back to Him. Abraham, now nearing the end of his days, doesn’t question God. He gathers up what is needed for the sacrifice, including his one and only son, and heads out to the holy mountain of God. Isaac, old enough now to know what is expected at a sacrifice, begins to question his father about what they are going to sacrifice. After all, he sees no animal. Abraham stays focused and simply responds with, “God, Himself, will provide.” (Genesis 22:8) Abraham arrives, prepares the alter, binds up his son, and places Isaac on the alter. As Abraham raises his knife to return Isaac to God, he is stopped. God praises Abraham for his faithfulness, and provides a ram for them to complete their act of worship. Once more, God intercedes for humanity, and provides a sacrifice that would represent an even greater oblation. For by this special offering, yet to come, all of humanity would be forgiven, and allowed to experience abundant life.

You see, often this theme appears throughout the Old Testament, until it is ultimately played out in the New Testament through the sacrifice that God, Himself, makes. The supreme sacrifice, hinted at in Genesis chapter twenty-two, that would cover all sins that mankind had committed throughout history, during the period it took place, and since. That offering, of course, was God’s only begotten son — Jesus Christ. God’s son willingly became sin, though He had never sinned, so that through His death humanity could be forgiven (Isaiah 53:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Forgiveness truly is divine, and it is strong enough to cover over all our wrongdoings. All we need do is accept it (1 John 1:9), and then give it to others (Mark 11:25).

So, as we close out this article on forgiveness, ask yourself these questions that Matthew West posed in his video clip:

Is there someone I need to forgive?

Is there someone I need to ask for forgiveness from?

Can I forgive myself for what I have done?

Have I really embraced God’s forgiveness?

God has proven that He is ready, willing, and able to forgive us. All we must do is accept God’s forgiveness, and forgive others, then be ready to embrace life — abundant life!

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:8-11)

Living Your True Purpose by J. Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at jasonmin.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.jsnmin.org.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

Forgiveness lyrics and music written by Matthew West. Copyright © 2012 Sparrow Records.

Video made available by Jason Ministries and Sparrow Records; Copyright © 2013 All Rights Reserved.

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.

Article 15

Living Your True Purpose (Header)

Living Your True Purpose (Article 15)All in Favor, by CCM and Gospel artist Larnelle Harris, was originally released on the 1987 album entitled The Father Hath Provided. Confession 2 This wonderfully exciting Gospel song, published by Benson Records, is all about encouraging Christians to testify. To bare witness concerning their love and devotion towards Jesus Christ, to other people.

Giving our testimony to others, as we have said before, is an important part of our worship. But, did you realize that your testimony is a part of a larger act of worship known as confession?

Now the word “confession” automatically conjures up images of a Catholic confessional, for many people. But before we allow our minds to remain on that depiction, let’s look closer at the meaning of the word.

There are two main definitions for the word (noun) “confession.” First, it is a formal statement admitting that one is guilty of wrongdoing: he/she confessed to the priest his/her sinful ways, or he/she signed a confession to the crime. Second, it can be a statement setting out essential religious or philosophical principles:

the religious body, or church, sharing their doctrine, or confession of faith.

a statement of one’s creed: his/her words were a part of his/her political ideology.

So, let’s come to terms with the two meanings behind this very important word.

Confession is one of many acts of worship that we are commanded to participate in. Why, our very first act of worship — embracing the Gospel message of Jesus Christ — can’t take place unless we first confess our sins (1 John 1:9), and then second confess with our mouths that, “Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:9). Both aspects of the word “confession” are present within this redemptive act of worship, known as salvation.

Confession is also important because it points us to acknowledging God’s pure, sovereign, and holy nature; just as it also allows us to acknowledge our fallen state. We read in Habakkuk chapter one, verse thirteen, “Your [God’s] eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong.” This indicates both God’s perfect goodness (purity) and our imperfect wickedness (evil). We can never confess, or testify, to the goodness of our Creator until we come to terms with why we need His forgiveness — His salvation.

As we understand the importance of confession in our lives, we will come to realize increasingly the true purity, and holiness, that our sovereign God possesses. It will bring to light why sin separated us from our sovereign Creator, in the first place. Look with me at what the prophet Jeremiah wrote, in Jeremiah chapter thirty-two, concerning God’s sovereignty:

“Ah, Sovereign Lord, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for You. You show love to thousands but bring the punishment for the father’s sins into the laps of their children after them. O great and powerful God, whose name is the Lord Almighty, great are Your purposes and mighty are Your deeds. Your eyes are open to all the ways of men; You reward everyone according to his conduct and as his deeds deserve.” (Jeremiah 32:17-19)

Sovereignty gives God the authority to love whom He chooses, to punish whom He chooses, and it maintains God’s purpose and deeds; we don’t and can’t do these things because we are sinful (missing the mark). We either accept God’s sovereignty in our lives, through the worshipful act of confession, or we reject it and remove ourselves from God eternally. God’s calling to make humanity one with Himself, again, and to see mankind become more like His only begotten son, Jesus Christ, is truly an act of sovereign grace. But this undeserved, divine grace can only be accessed by humanity, if we worship God through the two part act of confession — admitting our guilt and testifying of Christ’s Gospel message to others.

The Apostle Peter reminded us in 1 Peter chapter one, “Just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:15-16) If you have chosen to be one with God, and therefore have begun the journey to become more like Jesus Christ, then you must have began living the holy (set apart) life that God intended for you through this worshipful act of confession. Now you must daily engage in this act of worship, by confessing (testifying) to God’s Gospel message in your life. So, since God made the motion, allow me to “second” it. And as we daily carry out God the Father’s purpose, I will ask you once more, “Do you really love Jesus?” I can see those hands; now — all in favor say, “Aye!”

Living Your True Purpose by J. Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at jasonmin.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.jsnmin.org.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

All in Favor lyrics and music written by Babbie Mason. Original version Copyright © 1987 Benson Records; Live in Brooklyn version Copyright © 2010 Mansion Entertainment.

Video made available by Jason Ministries, and Spring House Music Group. Manufactured by EMI Christian Music Group, a division of Capitol Records; Copyright © 1994, 2012 All Rights Reserved.

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.

Article 14

Living Your True Purpose (Header)

Living Your True Purpose (Article 14)Psalm 40, by CCM artists Newsong, was one of fifteen songs recorded for their live worship album entitled Rescue. This particular track was released as a single, in 2005, Music Notes 1 and is basically a paraphrase of Psalm 40:1-3, which reads:

“I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.”

Singing to God our testimonies of faith, our praises of gratitude, and our expressions of love have long since been apart of our individual and corporate worship. But what so many Christians fail to realize is that enjoying and singing worship music is not, in and of its self, worship.

What worship is, is a humbling of ourselves before God. From within that posture of humility, we can do many things before God. We can shout praises to Him, and be thankful that God is so merciful. We can raise our hands, like a child longing to be embraced by their father, and experience God’s holiness and love. We can testify to God’s grace and loving kindness towards humanity, to one another, and we can also express these sentiments and testimonials through our singing.

You see the singing of contemporary Christian songs, hymns, or even praise and worship music is not worship, but it certainly is one of many acts of worship. Worship is more than singing, because it can be defined as both a noun and a verb. Singing is only a verb. Worship is the blending of who we are, in Christ, with our actions of devotion to Christ. The way we blend the noun and the verb is best laid out in this formula that I introduced from within another study on worship entitled The Joshua Project.

In this formula we see that it requires the attributes of God, and our acknowledgment and application of those attributes, to produce the actions that equal worship.

(attributes of God + acknowledgment and application of God’s attributes in us = worship)

God is faithful (Deuteronomy 7:9; Psalm 33:4; 2 Thessalonians 3:3); so as we come to know God’s faithfulness, and acknowledge the ways in which He has been faithful to us, we can in turn be more faithful to Him and see our faith grow. This faithfulness becomes a part of our lives and is seen by God as worship.

Our hope for salvation lies within God’s Son, Jesus Christ (Psalm 18:2; John 14:6; Acts 4:8-12). As we embrace salvation, through Christ, and acknowledge that our hope lies only from within Jesus’ sacrifice, then we can become transformed into true believers and grow closer to God. This acceptance of salvation becomes a part of our lives and is seen by God as worship.

God is love (Galatians 5:22-23; 1 John 4:8, 16); so as we learn more of God’s loving kindness, and acknowledge the ways in which He has shown us His love, we can then be more loving towards Him and see His love for humanity grow in us. True love, then, becomes a part of our lives and is seen by God as worship.

Darlene Zschech, a noted Australian worship leader and singer-songwriter (formerly of Hillsong), once said this about worship: “Worship is an act of obedience of the heart. It is a response that requires the very core of who you are, to love the Lord for who He is, not just for what He does.”

Well stated, Darlene. “An act of obedience of the heart,” is key to applying the above formula for experiencing true worship in our lives. We cannot acknowledge God’s attributes without an obedient heart [spirit]. The physical obedience, our “works” if you will, will be a result of our spiritual obedience, but we cannot and will not become true worshipers of our Creator through our physical works. It will always require an obedient heart at our core. Look with me at Ephesians 2:8-10:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Now, this passage of Scripture is speaking specifically about our salvation in Christ, our first act of worship, but what is essential here is the principle behind these verses. Just as we can do nothing to be saved outside of being spiritually obedient to God’s call of salvation on our hearts, so can we do nothing towards becoming true worshipers of God outside of being spiritually obedient to acknowledge God’s attributes at the core of our worship.

So in closing, let’s eagerly and gladly sing a “new song” to God. Let’s sing of His faithfulness, grace, and love, but let us understand that this is an act of worship — it’s not worship, as a whole. Real worship is when we see the attributes of God, and acknowledge and apply those attributes through an obedient heart, which in turn produce the actions that equal worship.

(attributes of God + acknowledgment and application of God’s attributes in us = worship)

Living Your True Purpose by J. Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at jasonmin.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.jsnmin.org.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

Psalm 40 lyrics and music written by (unknown). Copyright © 2005 Integrity Music, and Epic Records, a division of Sony Music. All Rights Reserved.

Video made available by Jason Ministries and Integrity Music, and Epic Records, a division of Sony Music; Copyright © 2005 All Rights Reserved.

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.

Article 12

Living Your True Purpose (Header)

Living Your True Purpose (Article 12)Love Song for Number Two, by CCM artists Mickey and Becki Moore, was independently released on their own Maiden Music label, back in 1981. Wedding Couple 3 This song quickly rose to the number one position on many CCM radio playlists, and ultimately topped off at the number two position on the national charts.

No independent artists had ever achieved such airplay without the backing of a major label. And to this date, Love Song For Number Two is still Mickey and Becki’s most requested song, and is often played or sung at wedding ceremonies.

So why the huge success? There are always many factors that contribute to a song’s rise up the charts, but I believe what may have played a large part in this song’s “chart topping” status is the message of the lyrics. That message is simply this — people long for real love.

Love, especially to those of us who have grown up in a “western” social environment, has been so unrealistically romanticized in books, dramatic theatre, movies, and music that many who once claimed to have found it now find themselves feeling alone, betrayed, and all together lost. An unrealistic, and romanticized, idea of love will do this to you.

Even many who claim to be Christians find themselves in this predicament, romantically speaking. Christians, who have the source of true love living within their souls, end up feeling alone, broken, and shattered. Love Song for Number Two, correctly explains just how real love — God’s love — can become a reality for each of our romantic relationships, by properly disclosing how to prioritize our “love lives.” There are three points we can get from this song, which will allow us to do so.

First things first, a right relationship with our Creator must take precedent over our desired romance (Matthew 6:33). In fact, all other relationships must be made secondary to the one that God desires for all of us to have with Himself. It doesn’t matter if the association you long to see improved is with family, friends, or is romantic in nature, no human partnership will flourish if loving and pleasing God is not the main focus of that connection.

Second, the person you are longing to love must know these two things: 1) God has priority in your life and in your potential relationship, and 2) without question, they are appreciated, cared for, and loved more than any other person in your life.

Then third, you have to realize that your desires, needs, and wants must not come before the desires, needs, and wants of almighty God, and the person you are seeking the romantic relationship with. In fact, as we have discussed this idea before regarding how to become a true worshiper, we’ve shown that it requires experiencing real joy in our lives. Joy that can only be found in our serving God first, others second, and ourselves last. The acrostic, J-O-Y, makes it easier to remember:

J — Jesus (God)

O — Others

Y — You

Apply this to all of your relationships, and you will see deeper more meaningful connections than you could have ever thought imaginable. This is what Christ, Himself, modeled. Read with me this passage of Scripture from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi:

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:1-11)

Christ, Who is God, lowered Himself by becoming human. He served sinful humanity, and He did this because He longed for a loving relationship with us. Jesus sacrificed His desires, needs, and wants for our sake, and became a model of humility for us to imitate. Do you long for deep, satisfying relationships; true intimacy and real love? Then imitate true humility; mimic real love (Ephesians 5:1; Galatians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:21). Pattern your relationships with others after Christ’s relationship with humanity, then experience God’s love — true love.

Living Your True Purpose by J. Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at jasonmin.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.jsnmin.org.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

Love Song for Number Two lyrics and music written by Becki Moore. Copyright © 1981 Maiden Music.

Video made available by Jason Ministries and Maiden Music; Copyright © 2013 All Rights Reserved.

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.

Article 11

Living Your True Purpose (Header)

Living Your True Purpose (Article 11)Give It Away, by CCM artist Michael W. Smith was released on his Change Your World project in 1992. Giving 2 Smitty’s song is an incredible testimony of God’s call to humanity to love one another, as Christ loves us. Love simply isn’t love until we give it away.

An additional CCM artist, David Meece, recorded another song about giving some twelve years earlier, entitled We Are The Reason. It was released in 1980, on his project entitled: Are You Ready?

In the first verse of We Are The Reason, the listener is drawn back to his/her childhood and the anxiously awaited gifts all children hoped they would be receiving on Christmas morning. Then just before the chorus, the listeners are reminded of God’s gift to humanity — the Christ Child.

As the lyrics to the chorus are heard, David explains so beautifully just what God’s gift really was, and why it was given. Disclosing to his listeners that God’s gift, the Christ Child, was given to make right our wrongs and to show us our purpose for living.

In verse two, we are reminded that as we grew up we began to learn that gift giving was more than just commercialism at Christmastime. That real gift giving requires something sacrificial; something much more costly than money. Then again, just prior to the chorus, David unwraps God’s gift to humanity. The holy present hidden within the Christ Child — God’s grace.

As the hope of Christ swells from the music and lyrics of the chorus into the majesty of God’s truth, revealed in the bridge, we hear the song exclaim:

“I finally found the reason for living. It’s in giving every part of my heart to Him. In all that I do, every word that I say, I’ll be giving my all just for Him — for Him!”

We — all of mankind — are the reason that Christ gave of Himself. Humanity’s sin is the reason that Jesus came to suffer and die (2 Corinthians 5:21; Galations 1:3b-4, 3:13). For an unholy world that was condemned to death, because of sin, God gave all that He could — His perfect and blameless, unbegotten Son — to show us our purpose for living and to reveal to us just how much our Creator loves us (John 3:16-17; Romans 5:6-10).

I know we have already discussed Christ’s sacrifice, in this series, and what that means to us. We have even discussed our expected sacrifices, in order for us to serve Christ and each other as we should. But what we haven’t really stressed is the giving portion of Christ’s sacrifice; the giving part of our service to Jesus. The giving of ourselves, wholly to God, as we embrace the gift of salvation and begin to live as servants of Jesus Christ; as we grow and become true worshipers of God (Matthew 20:25-28).

Giving is more than tithing to your local church, which you are called by God to do (Deuteronomy 14:22; Leviticus 27:30; Proverbs 3:9). Giving is more than donating money to a good cause, which we are also called by God to do (Exodus 25:2; Proverbs 28:27; Acts 4:34-35; Galatians 6:9). Giving is more than feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick, providing for the poor, befriending the lonely, or showing kindness to the unloved. Giving is pouring out your own life into another (Isaiah 58:10). Giving is allowing yourself to be vulnerable to someone who may or may not take advantage of your humble state.

Giving should open us up to potential pain, and suffering. Why? Because it’s only in this state of weakness that we can relate to Christ’s sacrificial giving, and shine His light of grace and love to the rest of mankind (Matthew 5:14-16; 1 John 1:7). Recall with me the words of Christ at the last supper:

“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to His disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is My body.’ Then He took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’” (Matthew 26:26-28)

In the last supper of Christ, we have the perfect picture of what God’s gift entails. The bread, which represents the physical body of Jesus, is passed from Christ to His followers. Each one tearing away at Christ’s physical proxy and consuming it. It was the same for the cup of wine that Jesus shared. Each disciple took the cup from Christ and drank the liquid that represented His sacrificial blood. God gave humanity His most prized possession — His only begotten Son, Jesus — and it cost Christ His very life (Hebrews 9:12; 1Peter 3:18).

Today, we still tear away at God’s holy gift. Whenever we observe the Lord’s supper, and break the bread, we tear into the flesh of Christ and reveal the gift of God’s grace that was hidden inside. The present of salvation, which can only be received by those who consume the perfect blood of Christ (John 6:50-59; 1 Peter 2:24). But be aware, this holy gift can’t be rejected without cost, and it certainly can’t ever be exchanged (John 14:6, 17:3). For it’s only by accepting the present of God’s grace — the consuming of Christ’s blood — that humanity can be cleansed from all evil and saved from eternal death (Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:13-14; 1 Peter 1:18-19).

So each time you are given an opportunity to give, consider what it cost God to give His gift of grace to you. And each time you receive a gift, and tear it open, remember Who was torn open when all of humanity opened God’s present on the cross. Then as you choose to embrace your gift, or not, consider whether you have truly accepted the present of God’s grace. I pray that you have, and I pray that you will always give as Christ gave. For Jesus gave not only until it hurt, but He gave all of Himself unto death (Philippians 2:1-11). After all, a gift — even the gift of eternal life — isn’t a gift until it’s given away.

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Living Your True Purpose by J. Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at jasonmin.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.jsnmin.org.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

Give It Away lyrics and music written by Wayne Kirkpatrick, Amy Grant Gill, and Michael W. Smith. Copyright © 1992 Reunion Records, a division of Provident Label Group.

Video made available by Jason Ministries and Reunion Records, a division of Provident Label Group; Copyright © 1993 All Rights Reserved.

We Are The Reason lyrics and music written by Tamara Savage, Warryn Campbell, Trecina Atkins-Campbell, Erica Monique Atkins-Campbell, and John T. Smith. Copyright © 1980 Myrrh Records, a division of Word Entertainment.

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.