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You are likely familiar with something called the “Stages of Grief.” A researcher named Kübler-Ross studied dying patients and those who loved them as they passed from this life. The research concluded that people go through five stages of grief in varying orders: 1. denial and isolation, 2. anger, 3. bargaining, 4. depression, and 5. acceptance. As you read the short book of Habakkuk (you can do this in 10–15 minutes), you will likely see each of these stages of grief as he is processing his pain through prayer. As you arrive at the third and final chapter, you will see something else: worshipful thanksgiving. For the Christian, there should be a sixth stage of grief: worshiping God by faith and trusting Him to one day and some way work it all out for His glory and our good. Habakkuk 3:17–19 (ESV) says, Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. In our day, this would be like saying something like, “Though there is no food in my house, no money in my account, no cure for my cancer, no reconciliation with my loved ones, and no hope for my future, I will put on worship music and sing to God from a glad heart.” It sounds crazy right? It is easy to worship God when life is wonderful. It can be much harder to worship God when life is awful. Worship is by faith trusting that the God who took care of our biggest problem of sin will one day take care of all our problems. The opposite of worship is idolatry. This is a big theme in the Bible, and the focus of the first two of the Ten Commandments; there is one God, and we are to worship Him alone, not idols. The final line of an entire book of the Bible says, “Keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21 ESV). Although the thing being idolized may not be bad, idolatry is often a good thing standing in God’s place, which is a bad thing. Idolatry is often the result of seeking to use God to get what we want. The problem with this is that God is not the end we seek, but rather the means to another end we seek. We worship God so that we will get healed, get rich, or get something else we want. When He doesn’t come through, we become agitated and frustrated that our worship isn’t working. This is not how God works. God does not exist to give us our idols so that we can worship them instead of Him. Worship is seeing God as our end, and worship as a means to connecting with and becoming more like God through our relationship. Worship can happen whether we are sick or healthy, poor or rich, dying or living, crying or laughing. Even though life changes, the goodness of God does not. When God, instead of our idol, becomes the gravitational center of our emotional universe, we become healthy enough to process the problems and pains of life with God. When change, crisis, or calamity hits our routine, we are given an opportunity to move from routine to real relationship with God through worship. Practically, this means that we go to church to be with God’s people in God’s presence, learn from God’s Word, and open our mouths and hearts to cry out to God in faith that He hears us, loves us, and will never leave us nor forsake us even if everything else is being taken from us. What is your worship routine at church and at home? Is your worship routine building your relationship with God? If not, what changes can be made?

We live and minister in Scottsdale, Arizona. It’s a beautiful dry desert that is, for most of the year, barren with red clay dirt and green cactus as far as the eye can see. But, everything changes during monsoon season....

When you are a kid in school, teachers tell you that you need food, water, air, and shelter to live. But, you also need love. Without love, we literally die.   Some years ago, there were beautiful medical facilities built to house newborn orphan children who did not have parents. The children were given a clean environment, sunlight, healthy food, fresh water, a comfortable bed, and fun toys. Yet, the children grew sick and died in staggering numbers. The doctors did research and could not figure out why the healthy children were dying. An outside group was brought in to research the crisis.   Can you guess what they concluded?   The children needed to be loved. The children needed to be held, cuddled, and spoken to multiple times every day. Without love, children literally die. God made us for loving relationship and human connection. Knowing this, God who made us and knows what we need says over and over in the Bible, in places like 1 John 4:21, “whoever loves God must also love.”   Love.   It’s a little word with big implications.   When you tell someone you love them, and mean it from the heart, it reveals that something profound and priceless has happened in your relationship. When Grace and I decided that we not only loved one another, but that we would say “I love you.” then our relationship would never be the same.   Christianity is about many things, but one of the most important things is love. This is why Jesus says in Mark 12:28–31 that it is “most important” to “love.” In 1 Corinthians 13:13 we are told that the “greatest” thing in all the world “is love.” Love is sometimes what you feel, sometimes what you say, but always what you do. Love is ultimately shown in action. True love is unselfish and does what is in the best interest of the beloved. This results in acts of service and sacrifice, much like Jesus Christ who served us by sacrificing His own life as the greatest act of love the world will ever know.   How are you doing at loving your child in word and deed? How can you love your child better? How can you help your child to love God and others?

Like every child who is part of a family, in the Church God’s children have their part to play in the family of God. This is what the Bible means by ministry service unto the Lord. Ministry grace is the spiritual gift or gifts that God gives to Christians, enabling them to have fruitful and fulfilling kingdom service. First Peter 4:10 connects spiritual gifts to God’s grace: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” Ministry grace transforms our entire life so that everything we do is seen through the lens of ministry to God by the abilities and opportunities he has given us. God gifts every Christian for meaningful and rewarding kingdom service to be done at work, home, church, and wherever else they find themselves. The results of using our gifts are glory to God, help to others, and joy for us. The Christian who serves according to the grace of their spiritual gift is able to live a purposeful and passionate life of humble service, which is itself a gift of God. And, as we step out in faith to serve we find that God gives us wisdom, courage, and perseverance that we did not have but that God has provided for us through the grace of the Holy Spirit. How have you seen God’s grace at work through the Holy Spirit in your ministry service?

The next time you see a child that has been adopted into a family and loved, remember that every Christian is like that. God is a Father, the Church is a family, and each Christian has been in a very real spiritual sense been adopted by the Father into the family. Adopting grace results in God becoming our spiritual Father and including us as members of his family, the church. Ephesians 1:4–6 says, “In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” Adopting grace completely transforms our motive for holy living. With God as our loving and perfect Father and the church as our helpful brothers and sisters, we seek to live good lives and do good works because that is what our family does; we don’t do them in order to be part of the family. This means that rather than adopting grace serving as a license for sin, it makes us part of a people who are so loved and served by their Father that the last thing they would want to do is bring disrepute to his name or harm to their loving family. After all, we have such a great Father who has loved us so well that we want to be with Him and be like Him by the grace of the Holy Spirit. What do you think about when you consider that God is a Father who has adopted you along with your brothers and sisters in Christ?

Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for...

The resurrected Jesus teaches and commissions his disciples before he returns to heaven. Because Jesus is alive, because the Bible is true, and because we believe the gospel—the good news that Jesus died for sin and rose for salvation, and that no one comes to the Father but by him—we should witness (preaching repentance and forgiveness to everyone by the power of the Holy Spirit) and worship. Luke’s great biography of Jesus’ life closes with Jesus’ people worshiping him—literally kissing his nail-scarred feet.

Zacchaeus was not just a wee little man, he was a man idolizing money and power and taking advantage of his neighbors. But when Jesus calls out to Zacchaeus, his life is changed forever. Zacchaeus immediately repents and offers restitution to anyone he’s wronged, which results in much rejoicing.

In this parable, a nobleman gives ten of his servants one mina each to engage in business with while he goes away to receive a kingdom. Those who steward their mina well are entrusted with cities to oversee; those who don’t have theirs taken away. Similarly, Jesus is a King with a kingdom, and we have the opportunity to be faithful servants of Jesus’ kingdom while we await his second coming.