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    Worship in Heaven I think a question that many of us have is, "what will heaven be like?" Well, look no further! Jesus shared this vision with John, who faithfully wrote it down for us. With a great level of detail, he described what he heard and saw as he was in the spirit. He heard a trumpet-voice tell him to come "up here and observe". He saw Father God on His throne and He was radiant and had the appearance of jasper, carnelian and a rainbow-like emerald. Have you seen these types of stone-crystals before? Google image search doesn't do them justice - the layers, the colors, and the beauty! This will be encircling the one who is on the throne, what a sight it will be!! Then comes additional detail, 24 elders in white robes with golden crowns. From the throne came flashes of lightning and rumblings and peals of thunder. Have you ever been in a storm and felt every strike and reverberation of thunder from deep within? Well, this is probably louder. John continues and sees seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God and then before the throne a sea of glass, like crystal. So with all the sights, the sounds, the colors, the beauty of it, I am sure that it's easy to feel a bit overwhelmed. Next, he sees four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind. One like a lion, one like an ox, one with the face of a man and the fourth like an eagle in flight. Each had six wings, full of eyes around and within and day and night never ceasing to say, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come". Not sure about you, but I would've been overwhelmed at all the eyes and different faces. God created everything with a purpose and theirs is worship! When these words came forth, giving God honor and glory and thanks all the elders fall down before Him and place their crowns at His feet. They say, "Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created." As believers, we will get to experience all of this first hand when we get to heaven. Here we get to practice! Sing to Him, serve Him with all your heart, marvel at His creation and glorify Him! He alone is worthy!
    1. Perfect Unity Philippians 2:1 - "We have experienced a deepening friendship with the Holy Spirit and have experienced His tender affection and comfort." Yes and Amen! This portion of scripture reminds us that the only way to live in unity is to yield to the direction of the Holy Spirit, our helper. In John 15, Jesus tells us that He is like a vine and we are like branches. As He abides in us and we abide in Him, we will bear much fruit. The passion translation says it this way, "we are in life-union with him". So, apart from Him we didn't really know or have true life. We received that upon our conversion and through our daily walk with Him. Now we, as believers, are called to be the body of Christ and we follow His lead. He emptied Himself of all His status and power to become a man and die for our sins. Even still He showed us how to live in perfect unity with the father, being obedient in everything, even to death on a cross. It's the greatest act of love! He has now been exalted to the highest place and at His name, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord bringing glory and honor to our God.
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        Orderly Worship When we think of worship, freedom is usually the primary thought that comes to mind. Order and guidelines are usually not our first thought. As the Apostle Paul reminds us here, everything we do should be done to build up the body of Christ, the church. If we are led by the Holy Spirit and we walk in unity, then offense will have no place in us. Paul reminds us that everything should flow according to the guidance of the Spirit. Tongues, interpretation, prophecy, discernment. All come from the Spirit and it's all for the Glory of God, not ours. As we pray for His power to fall on us as it did for the early church, we must remember to seek the Giver before the gift. We must remember that its to build up the body and to see His will be done on the earth.
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          Miracles from Painful Places In what could have been absolute bottom, Paul and Silas strengthened themselves in the hope of Jesus. Even in the dark, they worshiped the Lord and all heard it. All we know of the next part is that the earthquake broke the foundations causing the prison doors to open and the chains to fall off all the prisoners. The jailor woke up and fully expected all to be lost. Ready to take his life, he heard from the dark - "Don't hurt yourself, we're all here!" It's so beautiful to see the very next moment. The only question that truly mattered, "What must I do to be saved?" It's a simple even today as Paul and Silas answered then, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved—you and all your family." The jailer and all his family were filled with joy in their newfound faith in God. Do you praise or do you grumble in your dark moments? When all hope is lost, our Living Hope reminds us that He is still on the throne and He's bigger than our problem, every time.
          1. True Worship There is so much here in just a few short verses. I love reading this in new translations to see the text come alive in new ways. Initially, I believe the woman sought out convenience. She didn't want to continue to make multiple trips day by day, year over year. She totally missed Jesus' statement about eternal life through the Holy Spirit. It kind of reminds me how we can get so wrapped up in work or tasks that we can miss what God is wanting to show and/or give us. Even when Jesus showed the woman more of who He was, to her He was a prophet and she wanted to quiz Him. How beautiful was His answer, especially here in the TPT - “Believe me, dear woman, the time has come when you won’t worship the Father on a mountain nor in Jerusalem, but in your heart. 22 Your people don’t really know the One they worship. We Jews worship out of our experience, for it’s from the Jews that salvation is made available.23–24 From here on, worshiping the Father will not be a matter of the right place but with the right heart. For God is a Spirit, and he longs to have sincere worshipers who worship and adore him in the realm of the Spirit and in truth.” The "right heart" is so critical. How often we can some of us spend our entire lives "in church" and totally miss Him. Oh Lord, lead us back to the place where we learn and yearn to worship you with our whole heart in the realm of the Spirit and in truth.
            1. He's Alive! I love reading and re-reading this story, I see something new each time. :) Unlike many of the world religions, our God is alive! He hears, He sees, and He's speaking to us and empowering us by the Holy Spirit to go and tell everyone. Have we really reached all? Have we been faithful witnesses? "Going" could look different for each of us according to what God has equipped and called us to. Is it your job, your school, the grocery store? Whatever and whenever it is, do it with all your might and all your heart. We get to share the Good News, it's truly an honor to represent Christ. If you're not a disciple that is being used to "make disciples", I encourage you to pray a bold prayer and ask God to guide you in this and give you the opportunity to do so. It'll change everything!
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                No Other Gods I've often thought about the topic of idols in the bible. When you look at the current age, one might think that this is an archaic thought. It may seem that idols aren't as prevalent in our society as it once was. How far from the truth... On the contrary, I believe idolatry is even more of an issue today than it was back in the bible times. The difference is that we've become blinded to idolatry, not to mention no one is going around selling idols or calling them "idols" for that matter. For some it could be a small device marketed with the intention of keeping you connected with loved ones or information to make your life easier. I am not bashing cell phones or anything else, since each of us could have something that we worship that is not the same but ultimately we're not putting God first. The theme at Hope for 2020 is following Jesus. I find that the longer I walk with Jesus, the more I want to do what He says and minimize all the things distracting me. This way, He is the only one with first place in my life. What's keeping you from following Jesus wholeheartedly today?
                1. Romans‬ ‭6:23‬ ‭KJV‬‬ declares, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The wages of sin is death. The wages of worshipping other gods is death — not just a physical death, but a spiritual withering that leads to both natural and spiritual death.
              2. A Rebellious Heart Just like the people of Judah, it can be easy to fall into a "religious rut". To follow procedure and rules rather than capture the heart of our Lord. Instead of serving from a place of love for Him and His ways we choose to rest on "fire insurance", only doing the bare minimum. This reminds me of the portion of scripture in Mark 7. The people, led by the scribes and Pharisees had begun to focus on rules and tradition so much that they created rules that broke the commandments of God (v9-13). God wants our hearts, He wants a relationship with us. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He gave us the choice to accept His forgiveness. To exchange our hearts of stone for new hearts (Eze 36:26-27). Thank you, Jesus!