Intense pain and a debilitating headache prevented me from attending services with my local church family . . . again. Grieving the loss of community worship, I watched an online sermon. At first, complaints soured my experience. The poor sound and video quality distracted me. But then a voice on the video warbled a familiar hymn. Tears flowed as I sang these words: “Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart. Naught be all else to me save that Thou art.Thou my best thought, by day or by night. Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.” Focusing on the gift of God’s constant presence, I worshiped Him while sitting in my living room.
While Scripture affirms the vital, essential nature of corporate worship (Hebrews 10:25), God’s not bound within the walls of a church building. During Jesus’ chat with the Samaritan woman at the well, He defied all expectations of the Messiah (John 4:9). Instead of condemnation, Jesus spoke truth and loved her as she stood next to that well (v. 10). He revealed His intimate and sovereign knowledge of His children (vv. 17–18). Proclaiming His deity, Jesus declared that the Holy Spirit evoked true worship from the hearts of God’s people, not from a specific physical location (vv. 23–24).
When we focus on who God is, what He’s done, and all He’s promised, we can rejoice in His constant presence as we worship Him with other believers, in our living rooms . . . and everywhere!
Where do you enjoy worshiping God? How do you enjoy His presence and experience joy while worshiping Him?
Amazing God, please help me worship You as I rejoice in who You are, what You’ve done, and all You promise to do.
The Destruction of the Temple and Signs of the End Times
24 Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings.2 “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you.5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.6 You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.
9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields near by, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.’
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around.
“Fear not!” said he, for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled mind;
“Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind.
“To you, in David’s town, this day
Is born of David’s line
A Savior, who is Christ the Lord,
And this shall be the sign:
“The heav’nly Babe you there shall find
To human view displayed,
All meanly wrapped in swathing bands,
And in a manger laid.”
Thus spake the seraph and forthwith
Appeared a shining throng
Of angels praising God on high,
Who thus addressed their song:
“All glory be to God on high,
And to the Earth be peace;
Good will henceforth from heav’n to men
Begin and never cease!”
This is not the original carol but never the less I hope you like it
17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles[b] from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
35 Jesus wept.
36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
The story of the illness, death, and resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:1-45) provides the context for this hymn for those who are grieving deeply over the death of a loved one. Lazarus’ sisters Martha and Mary had sent word for their friend Jesus to come when Lazarus was ill. But Jesus took his time, finally arriving “too late,” and joining the grieving sisters who said, “If only you had been here…..” Jesus also grieved; he loved all three of them. The text ends with a prayer that the risen Christ still speak to those whose grief is raw and to assure us all “from your empty tomb…that life never dies.” This text is the first of sixteen hymn-like choral pieces in the collection The Last Journey: Songs for the time of grieving (GIA), with texts and music prepared by John Bell of the Iona Community. Each piece is also available separately from GIA. Some texts, like this one, were co-written with Graham Maule. The tunes were composed or arranged by John Bell, usually for organ, and often with a descant instrument. Bell’s original tune published with this text was named PALMER, but a note at the end says that “other tunes, such as ROCKINGHAM, may be used if the text is to be sung by a congregation.” That old beloved tune is well suited to this text, and in Lift Up Your Hearts, there is even a link to a psalm often sung at funerals: ROCKINGHAM is used again with a setting of Psalm 116 that includes the line, “His saints the LORD delights to save; their death is precious in his sight.”
O Christ, you wept when grief was raw, and felt for those who mourned a friend; come close to where we would not be and hold us numbed by this life’s end
The well-loved voice is silent now and we have much we meant to say; collect our lost and wandering words and keep them till the endless day.
We try to hold what is not here and fear for what we do not know. Oh, take our hands in yours, good Lord, and free us to let our friend go.
In all our loneliness and doubt, beyond what we can realize, address us from your empty tomb and tell us that life never ends.
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
This for me has to be one of the most interesting story’s in the bible, the fact that the Samaritan woman does not realise she is speaking with Jesus.
2 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Wonderful story of love; Tell it to me again; Wonderful story of love; Wake the immortal strain! Angels with rapture announce it, Shepherds with wonder receive it; Sinner, oh, won’t you believe it? Wonderful story of love.
Refrain: Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful, wonderful story of love.
Wonderful story of love; Though you are far away; Wonderful story of love; Still He doth call today; Calling from Calvary’s mountain, Down from the crystal-bright fountain, E’en from the dawn of creation, Wonderful story of love.
Wonderful story of love; Jesus provides a rest; Wonderful story of love; For all the pure and blest, Rest in those mansions above us, With those who’ve gone on before us, Singing the rapturous chorus, Wonderful story of love.
26 As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28 Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then
“‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”’[b]
31 For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed.33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”[c] And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.[d]”
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.
As the varied way of life we journey, Come the plains and then the mountainside, Come the days of joy when birds are singing, And the world is fair and sweet and wide; Then a deeper joy comes, overfilling, From the everlasting throne of love, And all other joy is but an echo From the ever-blessèd heights above.
There are shadows on the earthly pathway Where, at times uncertainly, we tread; In perplexity we halt and linger Till our faith again is upward led. For the heights of truth are ever calling, And celestial radiance from afar On our pilgrim way is gently falling For our comfort where the shadows are.
In the days of peace and golden sunshine, In the days of joy, or days of woe, There is confidence in Him who holds us; There is light to guide us here below. And beyond await the heights of rapture, Where all earthly joys, transcended, fade In the glory of the Saviour’s presence, In the Home eternal He has made.
38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us.41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.