The One Percent, Fourteen Percent Christian: Robbery In the House of God

Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament poetic book of the Psalms which is a compilation of prayers, petition and praise contained within psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. More specially, today’s passage is found in chapters one-hundred and twenty-three through one-hundred and thirty-five of this Old Testament book. When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will encounter a portion of the Psalms which is essentially a compilation within the book itself. The Old Testament poetic book of the Psalms is essentially a compilation of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, yet when you come to this particular set of psalms found within this book you will find a very specific set of psalms that were used for a specific purpose. As you read these chapters you will find that each of the psalms here are a song of degrees or a psalm of degrees—psalms which were sung by the people of God as they made their way to the sanctuary of the LORD in the place He had chosen, and in the place where He had placed His name. These psalms were intended to be songs which the psalmists wrote as a means for the people of God to worship while they were on their way to worship. WORSHIP WHILE YOU WORSHIP! WORSHIP WHILE ON YOUR WAY TO WORSHIP! WORSHIP AS YOU’RE GOING UP TO WORSHIP! WORSHIP BEFORE THE OFFERING! WORSHIP AS YOU BRING THE OFFERING! What is truly astonishing and remarkable about the words found in this passage of Scripture is when you think about and consider the fact that worship for the Hebrew man or woman who went up to the sanctuary and house of the LORD did not begin the moment they arrived at the sanctuary of the LORD with their gift and offering in hand. Worship did not begin the minute that Hebrew man or woman entered into the city of Jerusalem after spending a considerable amount of time journeying from their place that they might appear before the living God. Worship did not begin the moment that Hebrew man or woman came unto the Temple of the L ORD and entered into the court of the LORD. We would like to think, and we have been taught to believe that worship began with and worship begins in the sanctuary, and yet the truth of the matter is that worship begins in a much different place than in the sanctuary of the LORD. In all reality, I would dare say that the worship we present to the LORD in the sanctuary is but a manifestation and expression of a form of worship which began much sooner than our entrance into the sanctuary of the LORD. I do not for one moment believe that our worship of the LORD begins the moment we enter into the house of the LORD, and the moment we offer and present our offering before the LORD.

The more I think about and consider the words and language found within these psalms the more I can’t help but come face to face with the fact that worship begins before we ever even place one foot into the sanctuary of the LORD. Worship has never and must never begun within the sanctuary of the LORD with the gift and offering we brought to the LORD to give unto Him. We have been taught and trained to think that the sanctuary and house of the LORD is the only place where true worship before and true worship of the LORD takes place, and yet the truth of the matter is that this simply is not the case. We cannot and must not allow ourselves to be deceived into thinking and believing that worship can only take place in the sanctuary of the LORD and that is is. If you consider the words which are found within the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy—specifically within the sixteenth chapter—you will find the LORD ordaining and appointing three specific feasts which were to be observed by the children of Israel. While there were more than three feasts ordained and appointed unto the children of Israel, and while there were spring and fall feasts ordained unto them, there were three feasts which were especially important for the Jewish people—namely, feasts which were known as the pilgrimage feasts. If you read the sixteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy you will find three specific feasts which were ordained by the LORD which were to be celebrated by the people of God as they made the journey from their place within the borders and coasts of Israel with their gift and offering which would be offered before and unto the LORD. In this chapter we read of the feast of unleavened bread, we read of the feasts of weeks, and we read of the feast of tabernacles. In order to truly understand this reality and concept of worship beginning before we enter into the sanctuary of the LORD in the place which He had chosen, it is absolutely necessary and imperative to turn and direct our attention to this chapter. It is within this chapter we encounter and come face to face with the awesome and incredible reality that the people of God had three specific times within a year when they were to appear before the LORD, and when they were intended to journey from their homes that they might appear before the LORD in the place He would choose, and in the place He would place His name. With this in mind, I now invite you to consider the words which are found within this passage of Scripture beginning to read with and from the opening verse:

“Observe the month of Abib, and keep the Passover unto the LORD thy God: for in the month of Abib the LORD thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night. Thou shalt therefore sacrifice the Passover unto the LORD thy God, of the flock and the herd, in the palace which the LORD shall choose to place his name there. Thou shalt eat no leavened bread with it; seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread there with, even the bread of affliction; for thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt in haste: that thou mayest remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life. And there shall be no leavened bread seen with thee in all thy coast seven days; neither shall any thing of the flesh, which thou sacrificedst the first day at even, remaking until the morning. Thou mayest not sacrifice the Passover within any of thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee: but at the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to place His name in, there thou shalt sacrifice the Passover at even, at the going down of the sun, at the season that thou camest forth out of Egypt. And thou shalt roast and eat it in the place which the LORD thy God shall choose: and thou shalt turn in the morning, and go unto thy tents. Six days thou shalt eat unleavened bread: and on the seventh day shall be a solemn assembly to the LORD thy God: Thou shalt do no work therein. Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the seven weeks from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn. And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks unto the LORD thy God with a tribute of a free will offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give unto the LORD thy God, according as the LORD thy God hath blessed thee: and thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are among you, in the palace which the LORD thy God hath chosen to place His name there. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bond man in Egypt: and thou shalt observe and do these statutes. Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy vine: and thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within thy gates. Seven days shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the LORD thy God in the place which the LORD shall choose: because the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the work of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice. Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty: Every man shall give as He is able, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which He hath given thee” (Deuteronomy 16:1-17).

This reality of the children of Israel appearing before the LORD three times a year at an appointed time set and ordained by the LORD was first mentioned in the Old Testament book of Exodus while Moses was atop Horeb in the wilderness of Sinai. In order for us to truly understand this truly astonishing reality, it is absolutely necessary that we recognize the fact that the LORD was very specific concerning the feasts which were ordained and appointed by Him, and there were three specific feasts which the LORD ordained and appointed which the children of Israel were to journey from their gates, and journey from their homes, and journey from their dwelling within the he coasts and borders of the children of Israel that they might worship before the living and eternal God. If you turn and direct your attention back to the twenty-third chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus you will find a similar narrative as that which is found in the sixteenth chapter of the book of Deuteronomy. If you begin reading with and from the fourteenth verse of this particular passage you will find some of the very same words which were written in the sixteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus found within this passage. Consider if you will the following words found within this chapter concerning these appointed times when the people of God were to appear before the LORD with their gifts and offerings:

“Three times thou shalt keep a feast unto me in the year. Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread: (Thou shalt eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded thee, in the time appointed of the month of Abib; for in it thou camest out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty) And the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labours, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field. Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the LORD God. Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread; neither shall the fat of my sacrifice remain until the morning. The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the LORD thy God” (Exodus 23:14-19).

This reality is further expressed and explained within the thirty-fourth chapter of this Old Testament book of Exodus beginning to read with and from the eighteenth verse. If there is one thing we must recognize concerning this reality of the Hebrew people appearing before the LORD three times a year, it’s that the LORD was very specific concerning these appointed times—not only the appointed times when the feasts themselves were to be celebrated and taking place, but also concerning the appointed times when the people of God were to appear before Him in the place where He would choose, and the place where He would place His holy name. What we must realize and recognize concerning this absolutely awesome and incredible reality is that there were feasts which were ordained and appointed by the living God within and throughout the year, and there were feasts which were to take place in the spring, and other feasts which were to take place in the fall, and yet there were three specific feasts at three appointed times within the year when the people of God would be required to leave their gates, their homes, their inheritance and their possession in order that they might appear before the LORD with their gift and offering. There were three times within the year when the people of God were to appear before the LORD with a gift and offering which they brought of their own free will and of their own volition that they might present it unto the LORD. The words which we find in the thirty-fourth chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus are additional words and language that further highlight and underscore this absolutely remarkable reality of the people of God being commanded and instructed to appear before the LORD at three specific and three appointed times during the year. With this in mind, consider the following words which are found within this particular chapter of the book of Exodus beginning to read with and from the eighteenth verse:

“The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep. Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, as I commanded thee, in the time of the month of Abib: for in the month Abib thou camest out from Egypt. All that openeth the matrix is mine; and every firstling among thy cattle, whether ox or sheep, that is male. But the firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb: and if thou redeem him not, then shalt thou real his neck. All the firstborn of thy sons thou shalt redeem. And none shall appear before me empty. Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest: in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest. And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year’s end. Thrice in the year shall all your men children appear before the LORD God, the God of Israel. For I will cast out the nations before thee, and enlarge thy borders: neither shall any man desire thy land, when thou shalt go up to appear before the LORD thy God thrice in the year. Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven; neither shall the sacrifice of the Passover be left unto the morning. The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk” (Exodus 34:18-26).

Three passages, in three different places, and yet they all echoed and spoke of the same thing—namely, that there were three specific and three appointed feasts which the children of Israel were to appear before the LORD, and were to bring their gift and their offering before the LORD. Three specific times we find and read the LORD speaking unto and instructing the children of Israel that they were to appear before the LORD with their gift and offering, and none of them were to appear before Him empty-handed. Within the Old Testament book of Exodus, however, we notice something different from those words which are found within the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy. While both Old Testament books speak of the feast of unleavened bread, the feast of weeks, and the feast of tabernacles, it is the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy that adds something to this instruction given unto the children of Israel. It is within the sixteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus where you will find the LORD not only speaking of these three feasts, and these three specific times within the year the people of God were to appear before Him, but the LORD would also add the additional language of how they were to appear before Him in the place which He would choose, and in the place where He would place His name. The instruction to appear before the LORD three times a year, and the instruction to worship the LORD collectively and corporately at the appointed times of the feast of unleavened bread, at the feast of weeks, and at the feast of tabernacles was not something new which Moses would reveal when he spoke unto the children of Israel in the plains of Moab. In fact, what we must recognize and understand is that the words which we find in the Old Testament book of Exodus were the words which the LORD would speak directly unto Moses the servant of the LORD while he was atop Horeb in the wilderness of Sinai. The words which are written and recorded in the twenty-third and thirty-fourth chapters of the Old Testament book of Exodus were essentially the first commandment, and the second commandment which was given unto the children of Israel. What we find in the twenty-third chapter of the book of Exodus was the first time this commandment and instruction would be given, while the words which we find in the thirty-fourth chapter would be a reiteration and retelling of this reality since the tablets of stone which Moses brought down from the mountain were smashed to pieces against the ground at the sin of the golden calf. The words which are found within the thirty-fourth chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus are but a retelling and reminding of the children of Israel of the words which the LORD had already and previously spoken.

When and as you come to the sixteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus you will find an entirely new generation of the children of Israel being found standing before Moses as that first generation of their fathers had perished in the midst of the wilderness because of their rebellion against the LORD. The words found in the sixteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy were words which their fathers had already heard, however, they were words spoken unto a people that were preparing to enter into the land of Canaan—the land which the LORD their God had promised on oath and sworn unto their fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. What we read and what we find in the sixteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy are a retelling and repeating of words which were and which had been spoken unto their fathers, and yet there was something drastically and markedly different from the words which they were hearing from the lips and mouth of Moses. When Moses spoke unto this second generation of sons and daughters he didn’t merely speak unto the people of God concerning the feast of unleavened bread, the feast of weeks, and the feast of tabernacles, nor merely speak unto them concerning the command and instruction to appear before the LORD three times within the year. What you find within this passage of Scripture is a people who were preparing to enter into the land that was sworn on oath to their fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and a people who would be instructed and commanded to walk in the same Law, the same commands, the same instruction their fathers were given. The underlying and fundamental difference between the words we find in the sixteenth chapter of the book of Deuteronomy, however, is that within these words we find the LORD speaking unto them concerning the place which He would choose, and the place He would place His name. It was more than simply a repeating of the instruction He had given unto their fathers, for here we find Moses speaking unto the people of God in this generation—both of the appointed times they were to appear before the LORD, as well as the appointed place they were to appear before the LORD.

THE APPOINTED TIME! THE APPOINTED PLACE! As we think about and consider the narrative of the feasts of Israel we must recognize and understand that there was not only an appointed time of the feasts, but once the children of israel entered into the land which was sworn on oath unto their fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, there was an appointed place they were to appear before the LORD. It wasn’t merely about an appointed time during the year, but it was also about an appointed place—a place which the LORD would Himself choose. This must be recognized and understood, for the place which the people of Israel would worship before the LORD would not be chosen by themselves, but would be chosen by the LORD Himself, as He would go before them and hand-pick and hand-select that place. When speaking unto this generation of sons and daughters we find and discover Moses speaking unto the children of Israel in the plains of Moab as they were on the brink and cusp of the inheritance which the LORD had promised unto them. There in the plains of Moab Moses spoke unto the children of Israel concerning their appearing before the LORD three times within a year, and yet there was something different about this instruction, for Moses would speak unto them about the appointed place which the LORD Himself would choose for them. It would be true the people of Israel would enter into the land of Canaan. And it would be true the children of Israel would worship the LORD therein just as they worshipped the LORD in the wilderness, however, upon entering into the land of Canaan they would find and discover that there would be an appointed place which the LORD Himself would choose from among all the cities and all the towns within the land that He might place His name. It would be in this place the LORD would specifically require His people to appear before Him three times a year with their gifts and their offerings that they might worship Him. The instruction which is found in the sixteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy is truly something worth considering, for within the words contained therein we find Moses speaking unto the children of Israel—both of the appointed times during the year, as well as the appointed place in the midst of the land. APPOINTED FEASTS AT APPOINTED TIMES AT THE APPOINTED PLACE! It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this reality, for to do so we encounter and come face to face with the fact that there would be an appointed place which would be hand selected and specifically chosen by the LORD to place His holy name—a place where all His people would come and gather together as they worshipped the LORD together.

As I sit here this morning I can’t help but think about the tremendous reality of the LORD ordaining and appointing—both the feasts which the children of Israel were to worship Him, as well as an appointed place they were to come and appear before the LORD. What’s more, is that three times within the year the children of Israel were to appear before the LORD, and each of these three times they were to have a gift and offering in hand, and they could not appear before the LORD empty-handed. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this truly astonishing reality, for it shines a great deal of light on the psalms we find within this particular section of Scripture. The psalms which we find in chapter one-hundred and twenty through one-hundred and thirty-five are a specific set of psalms that would be sung by the people of God as they made their way to the sanctuary of the LORD to present their gift and their offering before Him. The psalms which we find within this particular section of Scripture would be psalms and songs which they would sing as they ascended the mountain of the LORD to worship before the LORD, and as they ascended the steps to enter into the court of the LORD. Oh, I can’t help but wonder within my heart whether or not there were certain among the children of Israel who would begin singing these psalms and songs even before they arrived at the appointed place which we know to be the city of Jerusalem. I can’t help but wonder if there were certain among the children of Israel who would begin singing these psalms and begin singing these songs within their homes, and perhaps even within their hearts as they prepared their hearts to worship the LORD at the appointed time, and at the appointed place. THE APPOINTED TIME OF WORSHIP, THE APPOINTED TIME OF PREPARATION. Oh I can’t help but encounter the absolutely tremendous reality that when we think about these specific times within the year when the people of God were to appear before the LORD, there was not only an appointed time of celebration and worship before the LORD, but there was also an appointed time of preparation before the LORD. The children of Israel would celebrate these feasts at the appointed time ordained by the LORD, however, we must also recognize and understand that the people would prepare themselves to celebrate these feasts, they would prepare their gifts and their offerings before the LORd, and they would prepare themselves to come and appear before the LORD in that place which He would choose, and that place which He would place His name. The children of Israel would undoubtedly spend time preparing themselves to worship before the LORD with their gifts and their offerings, as they would prepare to make the journey to the appointed place which the LORD would choose to place His holy name—that place where His holy sanctuary and Tabernacle would be present among His people, and among men within and upon the earth.

WORSHIP BEGINS IN THE HEART! WORSHIP BEGINS IN THE HOME! WORSHIP BEFORE THE JOURNEY! WORSHIP ALONG THE JOURNEY! WORSHIP AT THE DESTINATION! WORSHIP AS A JOURNEY! WORSHIP AS A DESTINATION! The more I think about this reality of the journey the children of Israel would take to the place which the LORD had chosen, the more I can’t help but encounter and come face to face with the fact that worship was more than simply a destination and arriving point for them. If you take the time to think about this particular truth you will find that worship wasn’t merely about arriving at a specific place—even though that place was chosen by the LORD, and even though that place was where the LORD chose to place His name. In all reality, we must recognize and understand that worship was just as much about the journey as it is about the destination and arriving point. What’s more, is that you must come to terms with the fact that worship did not begin once the man or woman arrived at the sanctuary of the LORD in the midst of the city of Jerusalem, but rather worship began within their heart the moment they made the decision to journey unto the sanctuary of the LORD to worship before Him. We might very well say that worship began with the heart, as well as the home, for not only would that man or woman need to make the decision whether or not they would make the journey unto the place which the LORD had chosen, but they also needed to go out to their flock or herd and take the firstborn and best of their flock and herd to present unto the LORD. For that man or woman among the Hebrew people worship wasn’t merely an act of presenting their gift and their offering to the priest who would offer it before and unto the LORD upon His holy altar. Worship began within the heart of the man or woman of the people of Israel as they decided to take of that which the LORD had given them and re-present it to Him as a gift and offering. Would it shock and surprise you to think about the fact that worship is in all reality a rep-presenting before and unto the LORD that which already belongs to Him? We tend to think that worship something which is brand new and which the LORD has never received or seen before. The truth of the matter, however, is that worship is a re-presenting before and unto the LORD that which He has indeed given us, but that which already belonged to Him. Worship in its truest and simplest form is our taking what the LORD has presented and given unto us and offering it back before and unto Him. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this truly astonishing reality, for to do so would be to miss out on the very essence and heart of worship.

WORSHIP: THE RE-PRESENTATION OF GIFT AND OFFERING! TITHE: THE RE-PRESENTATION OF THAT WHICH THE LORD HAS GIVEN UNTO US! This reality and concept of worship is just as true of the to tithe as it is of worship itself, for the tithe which we bring before and unto the LORD is actually a re-presenting of that which already belonged to the LORD, and that which He graciously and mercifully gave unto us. The tithe and offering we bring unto the LORD is actually quite wonderful when you think about the fact that it is an opportunity to present once more unto and before the LORD that which He had given us. The LORD gave us one hundred percent of blessings, one-hundred percent of increase, one-hundred percent of harvest, one-hundred percent of growth, and yet the only thing He asks for is ten percent of what He has given us. Oh please don’t miss and lose sight of this, for the LORD gave us one-hundred percent of His blessing and His provision, and yet He only asks for ten percent of what He has graciously and mercifully given unto us. What’s more, is that this ten percent which the LORD has asked for is not even something He needs, but rather an act of worship before and unto Him. Permit me to ask you quite plainly whether or not there is a delight and joy within your heart to present and bring your tithe and offering unto the LORD within His holy house. Is presenting and re-presenting your tithe and offering to the LORD a true delight, pleasure and joy within your heart and soul, or is it something that is more of an obligation and responsibility? Does your heart get excited when you think about giving unto the LORD, or do you secretly and inwardly cringe when you think about it? Remember the words which are found within Scripture concerning the LORD loving a “cheerful” giver—one who actually delights and takes great pleasure in presenting their offering before and unto the LORD. Are you a cheerful giver when you come unto the LORD with your tithe and with your offering? Are you a cheerful giver when you come and appear before the LORD to re-present to Him that which already belongs to Him, and that which He graciously gave and provided unto you? Does your heart leap within you at the thought of coming and appearing before the LORD to worship Him in His holy hill, and to worship before Him with your gifts and your offerings? Do you get excited when you think about coming before the LORD to worship Him with but a fraction and portion of what He has graciously and mercifully bestowed upon you? This is precisely what I feel is so significant about these “psalms of degrees,” and these “songs of degrees,” for these psalms and these songs were meant to be sung as the people of God made their way unto the sanctuary of the LORD to present their offerings before the LORD.

I am convinced that more often than not we enter into the house of the LORD with a great need to be excited and pumped up if you will in the presence of the LORD. More often than not we enter into the house of the LORD with a great need to be stirred up and with a great need to be worked up and moved by the songs which are sung, the music which is played, and the atmosphere that is present within the house. What if I told you that all of this was nothing more than smoke and mirrors, and that if you needed to be worked up and stimulated before your heart can worship the LORD you are sorely and severely missing the point? What if I told you that you can worship the LORD before you even leave your house? What if I told you that you could worship the LORD before you even got into you car? What if I told you that you could worship the LORD before you even pulled into the parking lot of the house of the LORD, or before you even entered into the sanctuary of the LORD? We have been taught and trained to believe that we need the instruments, we need the songs, we need the atmosphere, and we need the environment before we can worship the LORD, and yet the truth of the matter is that this simply is not the case. We have been taught and trained to believe a lie in thinking that we need to wait unto we enter into the house of the LORD before we can begin worshipping the LORD. The psalms and songs of degrees which are found within and towards the end of the book of Psalms demonstrate and bring us face to face with the reality that worship can begin within our homes, and undoubtedly begins within our hearts and within our souls. The psalms and songs we find within these chapters are such that were to be sang by the people of God as they made their way to the house of the LORD with their gift(s) and offering(s) in tow. Oh please lay hold of and catch this within your hearts and spirits, for there was indeed a physical and tangible expression of their worship before and unto the LORD, and yet there was something else they brought before and unto the LORD—something that would not be offered upon the altar, nor would be offered before the LORD in the midst of fire. There was something else the people of God would bring before and unto Him, as they would offer the expression of their heart and the expression of their soul before the LORD in worship and adoration.

As I continue to meditate upon this reality I can’t help but feel the strong need to ask you who are reading these words whether or not your heart worships before the LORD long before you ever step foot into the sanctuary. Does your heart worship and exult before the LORD while you are still within your house and your home? Does your heart worship and exult the LORD when you awake from your slumber the night before and begin tackling and taking on the day? When you feet touch the floor in the morning, and as you begin moving about and through the day, does your heart leap within you like the baby within Elizabeth’s womb leapt when he heard the voice of the mother of his Lord? When Mary made the journey to Elizabeth having received word from the angel Gabriel that she would conceive a child by the Holy Ghost, she entered into the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth. Upon entering into their house, and upon the voice of Mary the mother of Jesus being heard, the baby within the womb of Elizabeth leapt inside of her. Oh, I can’t help but wonder what that experience must have been like for Elizabeth as she felt the baby within her leap upon hearing the voice of the mother of his Lord. We know that the child within the womb of Elizabeth would be the Messianic forerunner, and would go before the face of the Lord making ready and preparing a people for the kingdom of heaven to come among men. Oh how truly beautiful it is to think about and consider the fact that just as the baby within the womb of Elizabeth leapt for joy within her womb upon hearing the voice of Mary the mother of his Lord, so also our hearts and our souls should leap within us as we allow ourselves to be caught up in worship before and unto the LORD. When was the last time your heart leapt within you at the thought of worshipping the LORD your God? When was the last time your soul leapt within you at the thought of worshipping the LORD in His holy sanctuary? When was the last time your were truly joyful and excited at the thought of worshipping the LORD with your gift and offering? When was the last time you were sitting in your home and your heart was so moved and so stirred within you that you couldn’t help but worship before the LORD? When was the last time you were so overwhelmed with joy and delight in the presence of the LORD that your heart was simply bursting with joy and excitement to worship before Him? When was the last time you couldn’t wait to enter into the sanctuary to worship the LORD and you had to start worshipping the LORD within your own home?

I feel the great need to declare unto you that it is possible to become so overwhelmed within and by the presence of the LORD that you cannot wait to enter into the sanctuary of the LORD to worship Him. As a direct result of this excitement and joy within your heart and soul you feel absolutely compelled to worship the LORD within your own home as you exalt before the LORD and offer Him the fruit of your lips. It is true that the sanctuary and house of the LORD is a place where we gather together with others to worship the LORD, and it is a place where we bring our gifts and offerings before Him, and yet the truth of the matter is that we don’t need the sanctuary to begin worshipping the LORD. We don’t need the sanctuary to begin pouring out our heart before the LORD. It is possible to open up our hearts before the LORD within our homes as we lay in bed, as we sit on our couch, as we sit in our favorite chair, as we sit at the kitchen or dining room table, as we get ready for the day, as we get ready to travel to the house of the LORD, and even as we go about our daily and day to day responsibilities. The late Brother Lawrence wrote a book entitled “Practicing the Presence of God,” and the entire premise of the book was interacting with the Lord our God within and throughout our day, and not having to wait until Sunday morning in the sanctuary and house of the LORD, or perhaps even during a midweek prayer set/meeting, or even during a midweek service. I fear that there are many people whose only experience with worship before the LORD is on Sunday morning when they journey to the house of the LORD, spend a couple hours with fellow believers and saints alike, sing a few songs, give their tithe, listen to a sermon or message, and maybe respond to the altar call. There are a number of men and women who have been conditioned to only worship the LORD in the sanctuary, and even that only once a week, and their experience with and before the living God is limited to once a week. Stop for a moment and think about the fact that there are three-hundred and sixty-five days a year, and yet there are some men and women who only give fifty-two days within the year to the LORD. If you think about this, that is only fourteen percent of the total year these individuals are giving unto the LORD in worship. Even if you add holidays such as Christmas Eve and Easter that really doesn’t change the overall percentage of how much time within the year they actually devote to the LORD in worship.

Building upon this reality of the possibility of there being a minimum of fifty-two Sundays in any given year I would like to take this math a step further and consider how many hours there are in any given year. If you do the math and take the number of hours in each day and multiply it by the total number of days within the year you will find that there are eight thousand seven-hundred and sixty hours within the entire year. If each church service lasts approximately two hours, and there are fifty-two Sundays in a given year, then the percentage of total time individuals give to the LORD in worship is a little more than one percent. ARE YOU A ONE PERCENT CHRISTIAN? ARE YOU A FOURTEEN PERCENT WORSHIPPER! ARE YOU A ONE PERCENT, FOURTEEN PERCENT WORSHIPPER? Stop for a moment and think about the fact that if you give to the LORD fifty-two Sundays in a year—that is, fifty-two days within and throughout the entire year—you are ultimately only giving Him fourteen percent of the days you have been given. With this being said, we must also understand that if you only give two hours every Sunday then you are truly only giving the Lord a little more than one percent of your total time throughout the year. Pause for a moment and think about this reality, for it is possible to be a Christian who only gives fourteen percent of the total number of days they have within a year to coming before the LORD, and even more than this they give roughly one percent of their total time to the LORD in worship. We know and understand concerning the tithe that the LORD has commanded and instructed ten percent, and yet I fear there are many Christians who severely and sorely limit the time they give to the LORD in worship. There are countless men and women who may enter into the house of the LORD with others each and every Sunday, and yet Sunday’s are the only day they give to the LORD. For these men and women Sundays are the only day they give to the LORD in worship, and the only day they give to the LORD in coming before His word to “hear from Him.” What’s more, is that such individuals only give one percent of the total amount of their time to worshipping the LORD, which means that they keep a full ninety-nine percent unto themselves. What a tremendous affront and atrocity this is when you consider the One who leaves the ninety-nine in order that He might find the one. We have the opportunity to worship the One who leaves the ninety-nine that He might find the One, and we ourselves were that one whom He left to find, and yet we can’t even commit to Him more than one percent of our total time within the year. Here is the good Shepherd who leaves the ninety and nine in order that He might search out and pursue that one sheep which has been lost, or that one sheep who has been snatched up by the wolf, or the lion or the bear. Consider if you will the parable which Jesus Himself spoke concerning the good Shepherd who is willing to leave the ninety and nine in order that he might find and rescue that one which has gone astray, or which has been lost, or which has been snatched by the enemy and adversary:

“Then drew near unto Him all the publicans and sinners for to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. And He spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layers it on his shoulders, rejoicing? And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just person, which need no repentance” (Luke 15:1-7).

Within this parable which Jesus spoke unto both publicans and sinners alike, as well as unto the Pharisees and scribes which murmured against Jesus for receiving and eating with sinners we find Jesus speaking of one of them having an hundred sheep and leaving the ninety nine in order to find that one which was lost in order that they might recover it. What’s interesting about this is that Jesus didn’t necessarily speak of Himself as that One who would leave the ninety and nine in order that He might find and recover that one which has been lost, or which has gone astray, however, it is directly implied. We can infer and conclude when reading the words found within these words that Jesus is indeed the good Shepherd who is willing to leave the ninety and the nine in order that He might find and recover that one who was lost and restore them to their rightful place. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this absolutely remarkable reality, for this would be echoed a second time when the disciples asked Jesus who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus initially responded to them by declaring that unless they became like a little child, they would not even there into the kingdom of heaven. Jesus would go on and speak of offending one of these “little ones,” and would again echo these words about leaving the ninety and nine in order that they might find the one. Consider if you will the words which are found and recorded in the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative of Jesus’ life as written by the apostle Matthew. Beginning with the tenth verse of this chapter you will find the following words which are incredibly similar to those we find in the gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke:

“take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That sin heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. For the Son of man is come to save that which is lost. How think ye? If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:10-14).

This particular passage presents us with similar language and similar words, and yet we notice something different here—namely, that Jesus declared of Himself that the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. What’s more, is that Jesus would go on to declare that it is not the will of our Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. These words are absolutely essential to consider and understand, for these words bring us face to face with the fact that Jesus is that good shepherd who is willing to leave the ninety-nine in order that He might search for and find that one who was lost. This reality is something that must be recognized and understood, for Jesus was one who was willing to leave the ninety-nine in order that He seek after and search for that one which was lost, and yet there are some of us who are absolutely unwilling to leave the ninety-nine percent that we might come and appear before the LORD. I wrote that our giving the Lord one Sunday a week only amounts to a total of fourteen percent of the overall days you have been allotted during the week, and how only given the LORD two hours each Sunday is only one percent of the total amount of time you have been given throughout the year. Consider the fact that if the service is shorter than two hours than that percentage drops even further. Permit me to ask you a very pointed and powerful question—namely, whether or not you are a one percent worshipper who only gives the LORD two hours a week out of the time you have been given. You have been given twenty-four hours in a day, and you have been given seven days in a week, and yet only giving two hours a week once a week is by far short-changing and cheating God. In Scripture the LORD spoke of robbing Him concerning the tithes and offerings, and yet I can’t help but feel as though there are countless men and women who rob God—not merely, and not simply with their tithe, but also with their time. We have been given one-hundred percent of the blessing and provision of the living God, and He has asked for ten percent in return as His tithes and our offerings, and we have been given one-hundred percent of our time. The intriguing reality is that the LORD isn’t asking for every waking minute of every day, as that would be impossible. Consider if you will the time you need to devote to your spouse, or your kids, or your job, or any other responsibilities you might have. Scripture is not clear about the prescribed amount of time the LORD requires or even asks, and we know that Daniel prayed to LORD three times a day, while David declared he would seek the LORD in the morning, and would seek the LORD in the evening. There is nothing in all of Scripture that speaks to the prescribed and allotted amount of time the LORD has asked of us, and yet the underlying reality comes down to how much we are willing to give Him.

There is not a doubt in my mind that only giving the LORD one day a week, four days in a month, and fifty-two days in a year is not only robbing God, but it is also cheating Him and is a gross and tragic affront to Him. What’s more, is only giving the LORD two hours on a Sunday in the house of the LORD is a tremendous tragedy and affront before the living God, and is nothing shy of completely and utterly cheating the LORD. Allow me to ask you if you have robbed and cheated God with your time, as you have withheld time from Him. Permit me to ask whether or not you have been stingy with your time, and have even thought that you didn’t have any time to give to the LORD in worship, in devotion, in prayer, in praise, and the like. Allow me to ask whether or not you have robbed and cheated God with your time as you have kept most of it for yourself and unto yourself without any regard for what the LORD might ask, and what the LORD might require of you. This reality of being a one percent fourteen percent worshipper is something that I cannot shake within my heart and spirit, as I am being forced to examine my own time and how much time I hoard to myself versus how much time I give to the LORD. I am forced to look at how much time I give to the LORD, and how much time I would much rather hold back for and unto myself. I can’t help but think about the words which the ancient Hebrew prophet spoke about robbing God with tithes and offerings, as well as the rich young ruler and how he left the presence of Jesus sorrowful because he had much possessions and wasn’t willing to let any of it go and give any of it up. I can’t help but feel like these two passages of Scripture help paint a very vibrant and vivid picture of our hesitancy and reluctance to give of ourselves, and to give of our time before and unto the LORD. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the third chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Malachi, as well as words which are found within the synoptic gospel narratives of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ found within the New Testament concerning the rich young ruler:

“Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return? Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts. Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee? Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered” (Malachi 3:7-15).

“And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou. Me good? There is none good by one, that is God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy f at her and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my tough up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:16-22).

“And When he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:17-22).

“And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? None is good, save one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these things have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, He said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” (Luke 18:18-25).

These passages help bring us face to face with the tremendous reality that we can not only rob God with our tithes and offerings, but we can also be sorrowful in the presence of Jesus when He asks us to give something we either would not like to give up, or feel He is asking too much of. The rich young ruler wasn’t sorrowful because Jesus made the request for him to sell all he had, nor even give to the poor, nor even follow Him, but rather because he had accumulated and amassed too much and realized that following Jesus would cost him too much. Stop for a moment and consider whether or not your following Jesus has cost you anything within your life. The rich young ruler was told to sell all that he had, to give to the poor, and then to come and follow Jesus, and yet he would leave the presence of Jesus being sorrowful because he knew that to truly follow Jesus and to truly have eternal life he would need to give up too much. This reality would be closely linked to the words which the apostle Peter would speak unto Jesus concerning everything they gave up that they might follow Him. Simon also called Peter would declare unto Jesus that they had given up and forsaken everything to follow Him, and he would even go so far as to ask what they had received and what they would receive as a direct result. If there is one thing we must recognize and understand it’s that worshipping the LORD and following Jesus the Christ can, will and must cost us something. Ornan the Jebusite offered to give David everything David needed to offer the burnt offering for the LORD and David refused declaring unto Ornan that he would not sacrifice unto the LORD his God that which cost him nothing. We must realize and recognize that worship before and worship of the LORD cannot and must not come cheap, and that when we speak about worship, the LORD demands the very best, and He demands that which is first. What’s more, is that following Jesus is closely connected and closely related to worshipping the Lord. Just as the LORD demands the first and the best when speaking of our worshipping Him, so also does Jesus speak of our giving up everything that we might truly walk with and follow Him. The underlying question is whether or not we have been sorrowful in the presence of the LORD because we realize He has asked too much of us. More often than not the more you have and the more you have been blessed with the more you will have to sacrifice before the LORD, and the more you might even have to lose. Consider all that Job had, and how the more Job had the more he had to lose as he would lose all his possessions in a single day save a few servants who would return unto him with the news.

With all of this in mind I leave you with the words which describe the encounter which Simon also called Peter had with the LORD, as well as with the words which our Lord spoke concerning those who wished to follow Him. What began as a discussion about time and our worshipping the LORD before we ever enter into the sanctuary of the LORD ultimately comes down to our willingness to give up everything we have that we might walk with, follow and worship Jesus who is both Christ and Lord. This type of discussion must ultimately and always come back to whether or not our worship of the LORD, and even our walking with and following Jesus is indeed a sacrifice. Permit me to ask you whether or not your worship is a sacrifice. Permit me to ask whether or not your prayer is a sacrifice. Permit me to ask whether or not your praise is a sacrifice, for Scripture itself speaks of “the sacrifice of praise.” Is your worship a sacrifice before the LORD? Is your prayer a sacrifice before the LORD? Is your walking with Jesus a sacrifice? Is your following Jesus a sacrifice? Does your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ cost you everything, or has it cost you nothing? If it hasn’t cost you anything then I would strongly ask whether or not you ever truly made the decision to walk with and follow Jesus, and who and what you have been walking with and following. Having this new before you and in front of your face I would like to draw your attention to the following words and passages which further confirm the absolutely wonderful reality of worshipping the LORD and walking with Jesus being a sacrifice before and unto the LORD:

“Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. But many that are first shall e last; and the last first” (Mark 10:28-31).

“Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the Regel nation when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first” (Matthew 19:27-30).

“Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee. And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting” (Luke 18:28-30).

“The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. IF they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in the light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. Think not that I come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter run law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:24-39).

“Then said Jesus unto His disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mathew 16:24).

“And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

“And he said to them all, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23)

“And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27).

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