John 4:21-24 (NLT) Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
My people are bread fanatics. If it is made of dough or contains any form of flour and yeast, it is the preferred manna of our home. The local grocery store carries Krispy Kreme donuts as there is not one locally – it is the best one can do to fulfill the craving for this glazed piece of heaven. However, there is no “hot” sign to signify that a warm, soft, squishy, sugar-covered concoction is ready for human consumption so one must improvise. If you reheat the donut for about 10-15 seconds in the microwave, it regains its former splendor. However, this is short lived. It must be immediately eaten or as it cools it becomes harder and less appetizing than before. No one wants stale bread so they reheat it over and over until there is no life left in it.
Stale bread. There are days that my worship seems to have arrived at the same state as day old bread. It is not as fresh as it once was. Not as sincere as before, when heaven comes down and touches my soul. Life is hard. Just like the forgotten box of donuts in the pantry or bread tucked away, it is not that it is unwanted just hidden behind other things that catch our attention or consume our time. The Lord opens the windows of Heaven over the lives of His People but there are times of wandering and settling for less than God’s Best because maybe the process is a bit inconvenient or change too uncomfortable. The Father is looking for those who will worship him in Spirit and in Truth. Can we be honest? Faith is not a fake it until you make it routine. You cannot overcome fear and achieve faith pretending that everything is great and things are going just swell. God sees much deeper than that. His Mighty Hand is reaching for the crumbs and scraps that one merely survives on to replace it with a feast at His Table to thrive on.
Matthew 15:21-28 (NLT) Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.” But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.” But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!” Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.” “Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed.
I am a Gentile. I am not of Jewish decent. The mindset of religion was demolished by the arrival, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But in many ways, Christianity has returned to its rebellious roots. Not intentionally, of course, but seeking after a God who cannot be seen and Spirit that is invisible – leads one to make certain assumptions, I guess. Jesus knew the heart of this woman who sought after Him that day. He fully intended to heal her daughter and deliver her from the demon that raged within her. But in the last few moments of her desperation, the Lord tried to change the hearts and minds of His Disciples. They believed He was the Messiah. They were ignorant in His Method, though. Jesus came to save everyone – not just God’s Chosen People but all those who He created. Ethnicity is the flavor of creation when God designed a series of individuals with differing characteristics and qualities painting a Kingdom with color and individuality perfect in His Eyes. We see limits and boundaries of differences that divide us when all along His Love was for all of us.
Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.” But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!” Is it hard for you to accept God’s Conditional and Perfect Love sometimes? I think it is a challenge for us all yet few are willing to admit it. God’s Grace is sufficient for me. His Power is manifested in my weakness (or humility, if you will indulge me). This woman believed that Jesus Christ could heal her daughter and do exactly what He said. I wonder if she knew the centurion known for the same. It didn’t matter what anyone thought or how many disappointments she endured. When she came to Jesus, she believed. She would not be dissuaded. Her life, her child were her world. Jesus was the Healer. She would get what she came for that day. Even in the midst of rejection of religion, she knelt before the Lord and worshipped Him all the same. Still in the same condition, pushed away by people, she knew in her heart something that her attitude and actions relayed.
Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.” “Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” Are you willing to worship anyway? Are you intent on changing your pattern of worship to gain access to the Savior, Healer, Provider, Perfecter, Waymaker, Lifechanger – His Name is Jesus Christ. How far are you willing to go to gain access to His Throne? Well, she was willing to bow as low as possible, forsake all pride and simply gather the scraps beneath His Table if that is all she could get? What about you? Are you willing to fall to your knees? Get on your face before the Lord? Stay there until He comes? It is time to change my pattern of worship. Will you?
Hebrews 8:1-6 (NLT) Here is the main point: We have a High Priest who sat down in the place of honor beside the throne of the majestic God in heaven. There he ministers in the heavenly Tabernacle, the true place of worship that was built by the Lord and not by human hands. And since every high priest is required to offer gifts and sacrifices, our High Priest must make an offering, too. If he were here on earth, he would not even be a priest, since there already are priests who offer the gifts required by the law. They serve in a system of worship that is only a copy, a shadow of the real one in heaven. For when Moses was getting ready to build the Tabernacle, God gave him this warning: “Be sure that you make everything according to the pattern I have shown you here on the mountain.” But now Jesus, our High Priest, has been given a ministry that is far superior to the old priesthood, for he is the one who mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises.
Human nature maintains the idea of corporate worship. Strength in numbers, if you will. But I believe that before our churches are empowered, each person must come back to the heart of worship first. Faith is my personal investment. It is the seed growing, developing and maturing in me that yields a harvest of good fruit. I cannot give what I have not received. The fruit in my life is born of His Spirit. The seed is defined as God’s Word. The process of sowing and reaping is firmly established. I must dedicate my life to living according to His Spirit and His Truth to prosper beyond survival to learn to thrive in life. Jesus Christ is our High Priest. He ripped the veil from top to bottom, but do we try to sew it back up? Limiting the Presence and Glory of God by holding back bits and pieces of our life due to a lack of faith or disbelief?
Luke 8:44-48 (NLT) Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.” But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” When the woman realized that she could not stay hidden, she began to tremble and fell to her knees in front of him. The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed. “Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”
Matthew 8:5-11 (NLT) When Jesus returned to Capernaum, a Roman officer came and pleaded with him, “Lord, my young servant lies in bed, paralyzed and in terrible pain.” Jesus said, “I will come and heal him.” But the officer said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to those who were following him, he said, “I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel! And I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world—from east and west—and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Two of my favorite stories of great faith are the woman who had “issues” and the Centurion who believed Jesus simply at His Word. What great examples of worshipping the Lord in Spirit and in Truth. I believe that when the woman pressed through the crowd, obviously on her hands and knees because she touched the hem of His Robe, that Jesus knew not only “who” touched Him but that she was coming. He wanted the others to see her as an example of true worship. They left their lives, families and jobs to follow the Messiah as King of Kings, but were they will to make Him Lord of Lords?
The centurion took Jesus Christ at His Word. He recognized the authority and power that was in Jesus Christ and even though he was not a member of the local synagogue or Jewish by birth, he believed with his whole heart and his mind, as well. It made sense that only the Son of God could do these amazing things that defied natural and human logic. He was confident in God’s Word. So where am I in all of these amazing people? I am a Gentile. I am not worthy of the Grace that I have received and cannot ever earn the forever that I am promised. All I can do is offer my heart and mind as a living sacrifice to be overtaken completely by His Spirit and His Truth.
John 6:26-29 (NLT) Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.” They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?” Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”
John 6:34-40 (NLT) “Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.” Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me. However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will. And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.”
Signs and wonders will come when the Glory of God surrounds us. It is not something conjured up but grown by faith inside of each one of us. Perfecting the process called church and revising our doctrine is not the pattern of worship referred to that will bring us into alignment with God. It is seeking the Bread of Life as a constant sustenance of our everyday life. Fortifying our heart and mind in the Spirit and Truth that grow faith more and more each day. We must trust the Lord in all things even at only His Word to build the confident trust that allows us to live peacefully in all conditions and circumstances. It is the very thing that draws us closer in heartache and brokenness rather than allowing anger and bitterness to leak out. The only way to see the Glory of God manifested in our life is to personally participate each day in gathering fresh bread rather than reheating stale donuts. You can have it hot. You can have it fast. It will not sustain you. Religion and service cannot replace a real relationship with Jesus Christ or becoming a living sacrifice. He offers you a place at His Table. Will you remain eating scraps off the floor? Old worship. Old ways. Religious tradition. Has it changed your life? Has it renewed your soul? Has it healed your body? Has it provided more than enough? Has it strengthened you in weakness? Nope. We must change our pattern of worship in the New Year or risk starving our faith even more.
But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me. Our life is built on expectation. When Jesus came to the earth, He was not what they expected. His Followers constantly sought after signs and wonders. It was difficult for Jesus to get His Word or His Seed into their hard hearts. Who doesn’t come to the Lord seeking a better life? A little relief? Some provision for our lack? What if we came to Jesus, our Savior and Lord, seeking only to worship Him? What might happen if we did that? The Bible tells us that He will give us a new heart and new mind. His Spirit and His Word will change us from the inside out. Like fresh bread, there is kneading, pressing and molding to combine all the ingredients and form a loaf. The bread is left to wait while the yeast or potential rises up within. It is put in the oven to bake in extreme heat until it comes out in the form of fresh bread. Jesus wants to do the same thing in our life. If I embrace the pressure to change and endure the process of promotion, my life will prosper. Lord, change my pattern of worship. Help me to let go of every bit of staleness and stagnancy in my life to produce the prosperity of soul that you have ordained for my life.
John 6:47-50 (NLT) “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life. Yes, I am the bread of life! Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die.