Worshiping the Lord

Worshiping the Lord

Scripture: Ezra 3:11, Nehemiah 12:27-47, 1 Chronicles 25:6-8
Date: 12/07/2019  Lesson: 10
'Excellence must always be a goal in worship. Praises must come from the heart and be expressed in the best way so that people will be spiritually uplifted. Striving to achieve a balance between joy and reverence is crucial for adoring, praising, and worshiping our Creator.'

Life in the Spirit - Paperback or Digital PDF

Life in the Spirit - Paperback or Digital PDF
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Jean Ross: Hello, friends. Welcome again to "Sabbath School Study Hour," here at the Granite Bay Seventh Day Adventist Church in Sacramento, California. I'd like to welcome all of those who are joining us across the country and around the world, and a special welcome to our online church members that tune in every Sabbath to participate in our Sabbath School during our study time. I'd also like to welcome our regular Sabbath School members that are here in person and also those who are visiting with us. Very warm welcome to all of you.

You know, we've been studying through two Old Testament books, the two books of Ezra and Nehemiah. That has been the theme for this whole quarter. Today we are on Lesson Number 10, which is entitled, "Worshiping the Lord," and we'll be studying that subject in just a few moments. For those of you who might be joining us online, if you don't have a copy of our study today, you can download for free today's lesson by simply going to lesson.aftv.org, and you can download Lesson Number 10, and you can study along with us.

We also have a free offer we'd like to let you know about. It's a book entitled "Life in the Spirit," and this is free. All you need to do is call the number... and ask for Offer Number 155. We'll be happy to send this out to anyone who calls and asks. We can also make this book available for you for a download, a free download. All you'll have to do is text the code "SH047" to the number 40544. You'll then be able to download a digital copy of the book "Life in the Spirit," and it's an inspiring read, dealing with what the Holy Spirit does in the heart of a believer. Well, before we get to our study this morning, we have a special musical item that'll be brought to us by the Granite Bay Church Choir.

♪ Tell me the

story of Jesus, ♪

♪ write on my

heart every word. ♪

♪ Tell me the

story most precious, ♪

♪ sweetest that

ever was heard. ♪

♪ Ooh, ooh, ooh. ♪

♪ Tell how the

angels in chorus, ♪

♪ sang as they

welcomed His birth, ♪

♪ singing, "Glory to

God in the highest, ♪

♪ peace and good

tidings to earth." ♪

♪ Tell me the story of

Jesus, write on my ♪

♪ heart every word. ♪

♪ Tell me the

story most precious, ♪

♪ sweetest that

ever was heard. ♪

♪ I love to tell the story

of unseen things above, ♪

♪ of Jesus and His glory,

of Jesus and His love. ♪

♪ I love to tell the story

because I know 'tis true. ♪

♪ It satisfies my longings

as nothing else can do. ♪

♪ I love to tell the story,

'twill be my theme in glory, ♪

♪ to tell the old, old

story of Jesus and His love. ♪

♪ Jesus loves me, this I know,

for the Bible tells me so. ♪

♪ Little ones to Him belong. ♪

♪ They are weak,

but He is strong. ♪

♪♪♪

♪ Tell me the story of

Jesus, write on my ♪

♪ heart every word. ♪

♪ Tell me the

story most precious, ♪

♪ sweetest that

ever was heard. ♪

♪ Yes, I love to

tell the story, ♪

♪ 'twill be my theme in

glory, to tell the old, ♪

♪ old story, the

story of Jesus, ♪

♪ the story of

Jesus and His love. ♪

♪ Tell me the story of Jesus. ♪♪

Jean: Thank you, choir, for bring us that beautiful story, "Tell Me the Story of Jesus." Really, that's what the Bible is all about. It's telling us the story of Jesus, and that's what we're going to be studying this morning. Well, before we start our lesson, let's just bow our heads for a word of prayer.

Dear Father, we thank You that we have this opportunity to gather in Your house to open up Your Word to study a very important subject, that of worshiping the Lord. We were created to find our greatest joy in bowing before You, coming in your presence to worship You, so bless our time together today, for we ask this in Jesus's name, amen. Our lesson this morning is going to be brought to us by Pastor Doug.

Doug Batchelor: Thank you, Pastor Ross, and, again, thank you to the choir and Hafdis, and Michelle, and those who've been leading. Morning. Happy Sabbath. We're continuing our study in the book of Ezra and Nehemiah. As Pastor Ross mentioned, we're in Lesson Number 10, today, "Worshiping the Lord," and we have a memory verse. Memory verse actually comes from Ezra because we're studying both Ezra and Nehemiah, and they are books that overlap chronologically and historically. So if you look in Ezra 3, verse 11--this is our memory verse from the New King James Version. We're going to say it together, Ezra 3:11. Are you ready?

"And they sang response--" oh, come on, you can do better than that. I'll give you a chance to find it. Ezra 3:11. Let's say this in unison. Ready? "And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, 'For a He is good, for His mercy endures forever towards Israel.'"

Now, you know, that particular phrase there, "The Lord is good, for His mercy endures forever," is found 41 times in the Bible. That's a lot. "The Lord is good," and especially the part, "His mercy endures forever." "His mercy endures forever." The very fact you're here today is evidence that God is a merciful God. He has been merciful to you throughout your life. Now, the lesson today is on worshiping the Lord, and our mission--you know, we're going through the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Today we're specifically dealing with Nehemiah, and we're specifically dealing with chapter 12, only verses 27 to 47. That's our mission. Whole lesson covers those verses, and we've got plenty here to talk about.

I could stop right here and say, "All right, let's talk about worshiping the Lord." And we come to church, we worship the Lord, and a lot of examples of worshiping God in the Bible. What is "worship"? It's confusing to me. Now, if you grow up in a secular world and someone says, "We're going to go worship," I go, "What does that mean?" You picture someone bowing to a statue of Buddha? I wasn't sure. What does "worship" mean? "Worship" really springs in English from the idea of "worth-ship," but God is worthy. Might I suggest to you, I used to think, when people said, "We're going to go to church and worship the Lord," I had pictures of--you know, you went to Catholic church when I was a kid. I went to a couple of Catholic schools and then, you know, they'd say these chants, and we'd go through the Mass, and I thought, "Oh, man, when is this over?" I thought--no, really. I thought worship was the most boring thing in the world.

I'd like to submit to you that, if you ever discover what real worship of God is, there is nothing more thrilling, more pleasurable, and more fulfilling and exciting than genuine worship. People think about going to heaven and "What are you going to do?" And there's a lot of things, neat things that I think I liked to--I love to explore. Just the idea it, "You'll mount up with wings like eagles." I love to fly. "Soar to worlds unknown." That's not in the Bible. That's in "Rock of Ages," but it's going to happen. We will--we'll sort of go visit unknown galaxies and cosmos. I can't wait to explore and to see the earth made new and build--we'll build houses and inhabit them. I love puttering around and building working in the yard, and I can think of all those things but, biblically, the highest thrill, the greatest pleasure, for those that knew God was to worship God.

So when it says that "From one new moon to another and one Sabbath to another shall all flesh come before the Lord to worship Him." You think about when Isaiah had that picture of the angels in the presence of God, and the whole temple was filled with smoke, and the building shook, and the angel said, "Holy, holy, holy," and that was so thrilling. It was so frightening and exciting to be in the presence of God. So when you think about worshiping God, realize that understanding what real worship is, is one of the most important pursuits. It's being in the presence of the Creator and sustainer of the universe is awesome when you think about it, and so that's really what we're dealing with.

Now, in Nehemiah chapter 12:27--I've got a couple of you that are going to help me with some verses here. But in Nehemiah 12:27, it begins by saying, "Now at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought out the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem--" so they're going to bring all the different Levites in. They don't all live in Jerusalem. They live in suburbs around the cities-- "to celebrate the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals and with stringed instruments and harps." They're going to have a great celebration. What's the occasion? To dedicate the walls.

Now, if any of you have ever moved into a house, did you have a house dedication? You know, in the Bible, that was appropriate. We were really excited yesterday afternoon. Wash my truck, and then I drove up on the building site because I've been out of town for a couple days, and I'm always excited to see what kind of progress is happening on the house of the Lord on the hill. And so I went up there to look around, and it's--they got the windows going on the back. The walls are all taking shape. You can kind of see where things are going to be, and it looks like the Lord has had this long fall. We may get it closed in before the rains come, and we're very excited, but, you know, we're planning a dedicated, and we're thinking about picking dates. Now, we're close enough where we think, you know, "We're going to bring in some people. They need to know. We want to have a date for a dedication," and we thought, "Actually, we want to have a month of dedication." Let's not just do one week. There's so many ways and people to thank and things to do to celebrate this place set aside to be a house of prayer, a house of proclaiming the Word. And so it's appropriate to have a special dedication when you thank everybody for the Word, thank everybody for the gifts and to praise God for something that's accomplished.

You know, in the Bible, they not only dedicated houses of the Lord, they dedicated houses. Look in Deuteronomy 20, verse 5. It was so important that, before soldiers went into battle, the priests would stand before the soldiers, and they'd make this statement. They say, "If any of you are afraid, go home, lest you cower in the battle and you frightened the other soldiers." Said, "If you married a wife and you have not taken--" in other words, "If you are betrothed to a wife and you've not taken her yet, then leave." She should have that experience. And then it says, "And what man is there of you who has built a new house and if you've not dedicated it, let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man dedicate it." And so that was so important. You dedicate your home. You build a home.

And, you know, that's--you think about it, it says, you know, "It is important, if you planted a vineyard, you didn't eat from it, if you are engaged to a woman, and you've not been married, if you build a house, and you've not dedicated it," they said, those were three reasons to walk away from battle, plus if you're afraid. But they said a man ought to experience these things before he goes and fights like a soldier and dies. And so I thought that was interesting. But not only did they dedicate homes. When a child is, you know, born, shortly after, don't we have a dedication? Dedicate children, and we dedicate homes. No, they dedicated temples.

You can look here in--matter of fact, I think one of you are going to read for me 1 Kings 8:63. You've got that? There was actually a Psalm that they would sing at a dedication of a house of the Lord. Now, when you read the Psalms, you probably jump right to verse 1, but do you know, a lot of the Psalms actually had titles? And the title of Psalm 30, it says, "A song at the dedication of the house of David." Not the house of the Lord--the house of David. So when David--do you remember in the Bible? Hiram gave him materials, cedars from Lebanon, and sent workers down to build a house for David when he became king, and he had a Psalm to dedicate that house. All right, go ahead and read for us, please 1 Kings 8.

Female: "And Solomon offered a sacrifice of peace offering, which he offered to the Lord, 22,000 bulls and 120,000 sheep. So the King and all the children of Israel dedicated the house of the Lord."

Doug: So when the Temple of Solomon was built, there was a great dedication service, and don't forget that about the incredible sacrifice that was made because later in the lesson, we talk about sacrifices. Look in 2 Chronicles 5:13 and 14. Solomon is praying here. Now, you have the dedication of the temple, both in 1 Kings and in 2 Chronicles. It's the same story. "Indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and the singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord, that when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and the cymbals and the instruments of music, and they praised the Lord, saying, 'For He is good, For His mercy endures forever.'"

Now, that's what we just quoted from Ezra, isn't it? "That the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so the priests could not continue to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God." Now, wouldn't you like to see that experience repeated that--Karen and I were reading in our Sabbath worship, and we're reading this book on prayer, and they talked about every aspect of prayer, E.M. Bounds, you can possibly think of they talk about. And they talk about what makes a church different from other buildings is it's a house of prayer, and how prayer consecrates it, but it's not just prayer. It's praise.

Look what happened. When they began to sing, to praise God, and including the instruments of music, there was a worship that was taking place there. The glory of the Lord so filled the temple that the priests couldn't go in. I'm not talking about the Holy of Holies where you had the Shekinah glory. They couldn't even go into the holy place because the glory of the Lord was so intense that it was like, you know--I don't know--like an oversized arc welder in there. There's just the brightness and the smoke coming out, that they just couldn't handle it, and it was too bright for them. Wouldn't you like to have that problem? That'd be frightening. Says, "The presence of God is like a consuming fire and the glory of the Lord." It was a sign of His approval.

You know, there's only a few times in the Bible when fire came down from heaven. Came down on the sacrifice of Abel, we believe, came down when Moses built the temple. And to inaugurate that first tabernacle, the fire of the Lord comes down to inaugurate this tabernacle. It came down on the altar of Elijah to inaugurate, to approve, show approval for his worship. So when that fire comes down and accepts the sacrifice it was usually a sign of God's blessing and His approval with His presence.

So do you have worship in your home? Do you want the fire to come down in that temple? Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Do you sing praises to God? The Spirit comes in. Some of you remember the story when Jehoshaphat went to battle against Moab, Edom, and the Ammonites. God said, "You'll not have to fight in this battle. You just go out, put the band and the orchestra out front. Sing to the glory of God and watch what happens. And the Lord went and fought for them, so the enemy all turned on each other. So I think we underestimate the importance of music and worship in successful Christian living. Psalm 71, and I could read many Psalms along this line: "Also with the lute I will praise You and Your faithfulness, O my God. And I will sing with the harp, O Holy One of Israel. My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing."

Now, something that I thought was interesting here in that previous verse, it talks about--they played with these different instruments, with trumpets, cymbals, instruments of music--and maybe that's not the one I'm looking for. It talks about harps and stringed instruments, and I wondered, "Harps, well, I know what the harp is." In fact, the Greek word for "harp" is "kithara." Does that sound familiar? And in Spanish, the word for guitar is "gitara" because a harp, a guitar is really a form of a harp instrument. It's just got the fingerboard on it. But I wondered what the other stringed instruments were that says "stringed instruments and harps." So there's probably many different varieties. So they bring all these instruments before the Lord to praise the Lord, inaugurate the temple. Psalm 57, verse 9, "I will praise You, O Lord, among the people. I will sing to You among the nations."

So one of the things they were doing is they were singing loudly, and the others, nations, and the pagans that lived among them, were hearing them sing. You know, when others hear you sing the songs of God, it has a converting influence. You know, the infancy of the Salvation Army, they would go out on the streets of London, and they would sing. They would have testimonies, and they would sing, and a lot of the people that were struggling with sin and alcohol on the streets, they'd hear the music. They'd be drawn in, then they'd hear the testimonies. They'd hear them give praise reports, and they'd be invited to, you know, accept the Lord and turn from their sins, and it was spreading like crazy, but music--the Salvation Army had their own hymnbook because they had written hundreds of songs, and music was really, like, a foundation of what their ministry was.

David was known as a musician. Middle of the Bible has 150 songs. He's the greatest king, but he understood the importance of the right kind of music and the power of music. Now, there's good music, and there's bad music, and some people say, "Well, it depends on what culture is." I say there's good music and bad music for every culture. And, I mean, just like you've got God and the devil everywhere, there's the good and the bad, and there's different kinds of music for different occasions. Even in church, there's lots of good music, but there's different kinds of music for different occasions. If we're doing an evangelistic meeting, the music you sing might be a little different. And appeal following a sermon, you want the appropriate music for the appeal. If you're singing a lullaby, you've got a different--you know, all over the world, lullabies are the same.

You got music for war. Do you know, in the Bible, there were songs they sang with the drums as they went off to battle? And there were songs they sang when they came back from battle. Miriam and the women went out with tambourines. David and Saul came back from battle, and the women that went out, they sang songs of victory. And so there's different kinds. There's romantic music. Some people think that love songs must be all of the devil. No, in the right context, there is romantic music, and you wouldn't sing romantic music as you're getting ready to go to war. That would not put the men in the right frame of mind. You definitely would not do a lullaby as you're getting ready to go out to war.

And so the right kind of music, it might be good music, but there's also right occasions for it, and there's a whole study on that. But, you know, Martin Luther was quite a singer, and one of the ways he earned his keep as he went through school is he would go from door-to-door and sing for money, and that made me feel pretty good because I used to play music for money. I used to panhandle and beg. I couldn't sing very good, but I played the flute or played guitar. Sometimes I'd be with friends who could sing, and we'd panhandle. I said, "Martin Luther did that. All right, I'm not alone." But he understood the power of music, and with the Protestant Reformation, almost as much as the teaching was the songs they began to sing. See, during the Dark Ages, they had people singing in foreign languages words they didn't even understand, chants and stuff. It didn't mean anything.

Music was meant to be instructive, and Moses told the children of Israel, he says, "These words of your experience should be put into song so that your children will remember them." So Scripture songs are great for that purpose. Who was it? Plato said, "Give me the music of a nation, and I will change the mind of that nation. Music is a secondary language to express." Confucius said, "If one should desire to know whether a kingdom is well-governed or if its morals are good or bad, the quality of its music will furnish the answer." Andrew Fletcher said, "I knew a wise man who believed that if every man was permitted to make all of the balance, he needed not care who should make the laws of a nation." If you could control or adjust their music, you can adjust their morals. I think we underestimate the power of music.

Now with that in mind, what's the typical music like if you surf through the radio? Music is not neutral. Listening to it affects you. There has been a number of studies, and the jury is in, music has a physiological effect on you as you listen to it, for good or bad. And how many of you have you ever caught yourself? You go into some public place, and they've got background music, and you know, there are a lot of stories I can name right now as you're walking around. They've got music playing. Do you think they just play what's local on the radio? No. Supermarkets have their own station of specially chosen music to put you in a serene state of mind where you will not think or care about how much something costs. It's true. It's absolutely true. They play music that's kind of happy and upbeat and light, and you say, "Ah, que sera, so I don't care how much it costs, you know." And it makes people--they find certain kinds of music. I mean, if you're walking through the market, and you're hearing-- [humming somber music] You're not going to buy anything. That's very somber music. So there's a psychology to that, and I find myself going there.

You know, when you become a Christian, there's certain kinds of music that you may have known before you're a Christian, and you don't want to sing those songs because they don't have the right message, but you still know them. And so, you know, I go into the store, and I come out, and I jump in the car, and I'm going, ♪ Yesterday, love was such an easy-- ♪ Karen goes, "What are you doing?" "Oh, you know, I just listened to that song. Sorry, dear--that song." So what do you do? Then you start singing-- ♪ He's able. He's able. ♪ Trying to overcome evil with good.

You know, we're laughing, but it really is serious because I remember I got in a car. I was in Southern California, going to Palm Springs to speak at an AMEN meeting. That's a group of doctors, and I was late, and I was supposed to be there, and I got my rental car, and I jumped in the car, and I'm trying to pull out the map and hand them my license as you pull out of the gate, and, you know, then you've got to adjust your mirrors. You're in a new car, and you're trying to be safe, and you're in a hurry, and I'm looking at the watch, I'm looking at the GPS, and I must've been ten minutes down the road before I realized that, from the time I turned the ignition in the car, ten minutes later, the radio had been going the whole time with terrible music, but I was so busy with what I was doing, and in our culture, you hear it so often in the background.

I like eating at Chipotle, but the music they play there is terrible sometimes, and I've had to go to them several times. I'm trying to talk to someone. I'm already a little deaf. I asked, "Could you please turn it down?" They've got a volume. They can control it, the house music. And if there's not a lot of people in there, I'll go say, "Do you mind? Listen, look, I'm deaf. Could you just turn it down while I'm here so we could talk? "No problem." They turn it down. They hear the same thing all-day long. They don't care. But sometimes it's the wrong kind of--we hear it so much in the background, you wonder how much does that affect us? So you've got to compensate by trying to listen to the right kind of music, and the "Praising the Lord" with the right kind of music.

So music was a very important of their worship program. Music can be a great power for good. "Testimonies, Volume 4," verse 71. "Music rightly employed is a precious gift of God, designed to uplift the thoughts to high and noble themes and to elevate the soul." "Education, 167." "Song is one of the most effective means of impressing spiritual truth on the heart." That's the book of "Evangelism." I think a good evangelist program, you should incorporate good music. If you can't get good music, don't have any music, but you want good music. "Music was made to serve a holy purpose, to lift the thoughts to that which is pure and noble and elevating." That's the book, "Patriarchs and Prophets," page 594. So music is very much part of worshiping the Lord, just as the proclamation of the Word is. Can you say, "Amen?" All right, someone's going to read for me our next verse where we're dealing with a section of purification. If you would do that for us, I'll appreciate it.

Male: Nehemiah 12:30: "Then the priests and Levites purified themselves, and purified the people, the gates, and the wall."

Doug: All right, they're getting ready to dedicate the gates and the wall. We talked about purifying--or dedicating a temple, dedicating a house. Could dedicated the baby. Jesus was eight days old when he was brought to the temple. Now they're going to dedicate a wall. Well, they built this to the glory of God. It's the walls of Jerusalem, but before they do that, you know, whenever you're involved in a construction project, there's sometimes some garbage, so before you're going to dedicate it, what do you think they had to do? Says they needed to purify it.

Well, how do you purify the gate and the wall? Do they sprinkle holy water on it? Well, probably what happened, where do you think they brought the garbage? That was brought to the gates. Matter of fact, one of the gates in the story of Nehemiah, it's still there today. They called it the Dung Gate, the Garbage Gate. Things went out of the city to keep the city clean, and they usually took it down to the Valley of Hinnom, and there was a landfill down there. If you live in the suburbs of Sacramento, you probably once or twice a week, you roll your can out front by your gates, and someone comes by and picks it up, right?

You know, it's the most interesting thing in Taiwan. They've got--it's a very clean city. I don't know if it was always that way, but they've got this practice where, early in the morning, you're not allowed to leave your garbage out on the streets because they didn't want problems with rats, so early in the morning, you'll hear the garbage trucks come up the street, and they play music, you know, like our ice cream trucks? And they play this, some classical music, and everybody hears it. You're to run out while the truck is here. You give him your garbage. You go back in. You cannot leave your cans out on the street. Every citizen brings their garbage out. They've got to be ready, or you have to live with your garbage until he comes by again. It's said, "So they keep it a very clean city," but a lot of places they kind of keep it at the gates, so it meant they would clean up the garbage, maybe partly from construction, other garbage, and the walls.

Now, I won't go into detail, but if you read your King James Version, one of the words they describe "boys," is an interesting phrase they used to describe "males." I'm not going to tell you what that phrase is. You just have to read that in the King James Version. But the wall was also the latrine, and so, when they said, "to sanctify the walls and to sanctify the gates," Deuteronomy 23:14, you know, that in the law of God, they had a little sanitation law. They said that everybody was to have a stick with a paddle on an end for a practical purpose when they went through the wilderness for the purpose of sanitation. And God said, "You're to keep the camp clean," "For the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp--" He wasn't just isolated to the sanctuary. He walked among them-- "to deliver you and to give your enemies over to you. Therefore your camp shall be holy, that He may see no unclean thing among you, and turn away from you." Now, that verse stuck with me.

If you want God, and certainly that would also be true of His angels to hang out with you, be clean. Does that make sense? God wants our homes to be clean. Are we wanting to witness for the Lord? One of the ways we witness for the Lord is by keeping things clean, neat, orderly, try to not have things pile up, and Christians should not be hoarding stuff. Do you realize you can't take that stuff with you? I'm at the stage where people are--my kids, sometimes they're giving me things. I say, "You realize, what I'm gone, I've got to give it back to you?" Said, "How long you want me to store these things?" Isn't that right? "Naked, I came into the world, naked I'm going to go." And so we shouldn't be trying to see how much we can collect. If anything, we should be minimizing and investing in God's work, amen? So keep clean.

Numbers 19:19, says, "And on the seventh day, he shall purify himself, wash his clothes and bathe in water." So part of the purification of the camp was they would physically clean, they would wash their clothes. Some of you remember that before God gave the Ten Commandments, what was one of the things that he told the children of Israel? He said, "Wash yourselves and be ready against the third day. God is going to meet with you and wash your clothes." And they were to clean up and come into the presence of God. So if you read on Daniel chapter 12, when we're talking about purifying, it's not just the clothes and the body, though the sanitation is important. What does it mean for a Christian? Daniel 12:10, "Many shall be purified, made white and refined." Is that just talking about physical purity or heart purity when it's talking about you're going to be refined? "But the wicked will do wickedly."

So what does the "purified" talk about? "Blessed are the pure in heart." So as they're getting ready to dedicate the walls and the gates, there's to be a purifying. You know, your mind is a temple, and God has given you gateways to the soul. You've got certain walls. You want them purified. You know, your eye is a gateway to your heart. You've got to screen what comes in your ears, your mouth, all of your senses. You get to make choices about what you listen to, what you watch, what you hear, what you say, and I think that there's a statement in the "spirit of prophecy" that were to guard the avenues to the soul and keep those things pure. "If we walk in the light," 1 John 1:7, "as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses."

That word "cleanses" can be substituted with "purifies." "The blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin." Why? As we walk in the light. You know, one reason God took the children of Israel through the desert is because deserts--do you know you have less chance of catching a cold in the desert? You've got a lot better chance of getting an infection and catching a cold if you're in a tropical climate than if you're in a desert. The sun in the desert tends to sterilize things, and he brought them through this purifying environment where they could be healed and cleansed. Finally, now, how do we guard the gateway to our souls? "Brethren, whatsoever things--" how many of you know this verse? It's a good one to memorize. "Whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things."

That's a good--that's a good quote. If you've got a desk, or if you've got a place where you have a poster you look at, you might want to put that up because one of the hardest things to do as a Christian is maintain your thinking in a positive way. There's a lot of negative things in the world. If you want to think about negative things, there's plenty of ammunition, lot of negative things out there. Try to hang out with positive people, for one thing, and if you got a good Christian friend, and if you're married, encourage each other to say and to think those things that are just and noble and lovely and pure and of good report, and that should--and what we choose to watch or listen to should fit in that category.

Romans 12, verse 9: "Abhor what is evil." It means, "Hate what is evil." "Cling to what is good." Someone said, "It's not enough if you're a good gardener to love flowers; you need to hate weeds." Job was a perfect and an upright man who love God and hated evil. Psalm 101, verse 3: "I will set nothing wicked before my eyes." That's an excellent test in this day. You know, we have more screens. We're living only one generation away from people who had no such thing as a television, but not only are there TVs now, people will have their laptops. They got the tablets. They got their desktop computers. They've got their phone screens. You go on an airplane, there's a screen. I stopped to pump gas, and all the sudden, I heard voices. I turned, and there's a commercial playing on the pump. It's got a screen on it. There was a restroom, some public place. You go in the restroom, they got monitors. So they don't want you to waste any time while you're standing there. It's advertising stuff. So we are surrounded. Have any of you seen that yet? We are surrounded with messages.

And so, as a Christian, boy, for one thing, it's impossible to not be influenced by that to some extent. This week, I was up at the cabin in Covelo, and I knew we had a problem because I was working in the kitchen, and I heard this loud scratching, and I went into the restroom, and I thought there's a mouse in the bath. And I opened up the shower door and there's no mouse, but I could hear it scratching. I got down on my knees, and I listened, and right underneath the bathtub, there's some mouse nest a rat's nest, and you're hearing all this activity and stuff, and I had no way to get to it. It's under the floor. And so I'm pounded on the tub, and it got quiet for a minute, and then it came back again.

I thought, "Oh, man, that's going to be a problem." I was starting to smell something a little strange, anyway, and the only way to deal with it is I've got to crawl under the house. It's in the middle, in the back of the house. Brightest part of the day, it's dark back there, full of black widows. And so I had to put on some dirty clothes because I knew there is no way I can go under there, crawling around, and not come out dirty. There's just no way. And so, you know, you get out, and then I--still, I haven't dealt with the rat yet. I put some poison out. But so I got out, and I was slapping my stuff. Dust is flying everywhere.

I'm dusting myself as you can, and that's kind of what it's like in this world is trying to keep your mind clear and pure. It requires an extraordinary effort. The only way you can do it is to have the Holy Spirit, and you've got to put on special clothes to be able to--hazmat suit, I guess. Job says and Job 31 verse 1, "I have made a covenant with my eyes. Why, then should I look upon a young woman?" In the following verses, he talks about faithfulness to his wife. You know, there's an epidemic, absolute epidemic of pornography because it is so readily available. They say that one-third of all streaming material that goes through computers is pornographic. That's staggering when you think about it. You need to make a covenant with your eyes. This is men and women.

All right, going on to the next section, two large thanksgiving choirs. If you read in Nehemiah chapter 12, now, I'm not going to read all of this. I'm going to jump a little bit because, I'll confessed, there's a lot of names in there, and I will probably be struggling through some of them. So let me get to the heart of it. Nehemiah 12:31, "So I brought the leaders of Judah up on the wall, and appointed two large thanksgiving choirs." So He gets them in stereo. "One went on the right hand on the wall towards the Refuse Gate." No, nothing about--I mean, they're not the refuse choir, since that's where the direction where it was-- "And after them went some of the priests, the sons with the trumpets, with the musical instruments of David the man of God, and Ezra the scribe went before them. By the Fountain Gate in front of them--and they went on the stairs of the City of David, on the stairway of the wall, beyond the house of David, as far as the Water Gate eastward. And the other thanksgiving choir--" I'm in verse 38-- "went the opposite way, and I was behind them--" this is Nehemiah.

So Ezra is with one group. Nehemiah is with another group-- "with half of the people on the wall. So the two thanksgiving choirs stood in the house of God, likewise I and the half of the rulers with me, and the priests, and the singers sing loudly with Jezrahiah the director," so they got a choir director. That's important. Also, that "day they offered great sacrifices, and they rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy. The women and the children also rejoice, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard far off."

Now, they just didn't go into the temple and shut the doors. They didn't have some secretive cult to where they say, "Well, there's no windows because we don't want anyone to see what we do in here." They actually--not just they're in the temple. They get up on the walls on two sides of the city, massive choir, and they're singing in response to each other. Maybe they're doing parts. You know, one of the most amazing things I've ever seen as I've traveled through the South Pacific, boy, some of those islanders can really sing, and I was in Micronesia years ago, and they had a Pohnapeian children's choir. Pohnpei is the capital of Micronesia. And those kids, it's like they don't need any lesson. They all know how to sing, but not just how to sing. They all knew how to sing parts. And, you know, we can be trained. You get all these different parts in the note, but they would sing, and they would offset each other. ♪ Jesus is come--coming ♪ ♪ again--every morning, night, and noon. ♪ And they're all singing these different parts of the song. I'm going--and it's like they're not even trying, but it was so beautiful. Actually, took them on a tour in America, and they cut a record. It was such an amazing singing group.

Well, the Hebrews were singing like that, and they're singing parts, and they're playing the instruments. Now, why did they go up on the walls? They want the other nations to hear them. Keep in mind, it's not just them. You read through the story of Nehemiah, they had a lot of problems with the other nations that had intermarried with them, that were doing business on the Sabbath. They're surrounded with other nations that had moved into the land while they were in Babylon, and they're still there, and they did not have the right to chase them out like when they came with Joshua. It's not theirs now. It belongs to the Persian king. And so they are singing and glorifying God on the wall so others will hear them.

You remember the story where Paul and Silas are in jail, and they've been whipped? But instead of complaining, they praise God, and they sing, and what happens? The angel of the Lord comes, and there's an earthquake, and the prison shook, and the doors were opened, but it says the other prisoners were listening to them, and the doors were opened because the other prisoners were listening to them, and so their music actually liberated the others, but they were singing because the others could hear them. And so it's a witness. And so they had these two great choirs, and they're doing it how? Great joy. They rejoiced. Even though they've been through struggles, they're rejoicing.

You know, I've read the book of Jonah 100 times. That may not be an exaggeration. And I heard something. I was listening to a sermon on the radio yesterday and a pastor highlighted something in the end of Jonah's prayer that, you know, when God set Jonah free? Jonah was in the belly of the whale. When does Jonah actually set free? The last part of Jonah's prayer, he says, "But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving. I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord." Then the fish gets instructions to burp him out and set him free, after he thanks the Lord. Now, what do you thank the Lord inside a fish?

You know, I'm amazed, in Daniel chapter 6, before Daniel goes to the lions' den, he kneels down three times that day. He prays and gives thanks. Did Daniel know what was going to happen? He knew about the law, and he still thanks the Lord. In all things, give thanks. So one of the things our choir should be doing is what? They call that thanksgiving choirs. That doesn't mean once a year in November. It means their choirs were giving thanks. These are choirs of joy and gratitude, and then one more thing.

Oh, I've got so much I could say. 1 Chronicles 25, verse 7: "So the number of them, with their brethren, who were instructed in the songs of the Lord, all who were skillful, was 288." Now, there's a special group in revelation in the last days. How many? Hundred and forty-four thousand. What's 2 times 144? Two eighty-eight. Isn't that interesting that they had the two choirs and how many? Two eighty-eight? That means each choir had roughly--isn't that interesting? So when you look at Revelation, remember, the keys are in the Old Testament. Sacrifice as part of worship, Nehemiah 12:43, "Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and they rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy, and the women and the children also rejoiced."

Now, some people, when they come to church and they sacrifice, they go, "Oh, no, not again. It's offering time." Should that be our attitude, or should we just be praising the Lord for all of his blessings? And I heard this one church--I don't recommend it, but when the pastor would get up and say, "It's time for the offering," they all broke into applause. I'm not recommending that. I'm just saying it'd be nice if--"Pastor, it's time for our offering. Amen." We'll try that today. Let's see if any of you remember. We're going to have another offering in just a minute. He's got the baskets back there. No "Amens," huh?

Okay, Romans 12:1-2, what kind of sacrifice is part of worship? "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present yourself a living sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And don't be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind," and "Moses was willing to sacrifice being called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin."

Our last section, priests and Levites as part of the worship. So they realize that God had specified that Aaron and the children of Levi were to be leading out in the priesthood and the temple services, so they needed to recruit them because they had gone back to their farms. Matter of fact, I'm jumping ahead to Nehemiah 13 verse 10. "I realized that the portions for the Levites had not been given them, for each of the Levites and the singers--" notice, "the Levites and singers who did the work of the Lord had gone back to their fields." Some of them had full time jobs in music and somewhere to teach the Word. Let me prove that to you. 2 Chronicles 7: "In the third year of his reign," Jehoshaphat, this is, "he sent the leaders Ben-Hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel, Michaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah. And with them he sent the Levites." So they taught in Judah.

What was the job of the Levites and the priests? Just sacrifice once a week? Or were they to be scattered throughout the 12 tribes, and their job was to be teaching the Word of God and the way of the Lord? They were also the doctors, quite honestly, and they were the judges for not all cases, but in many cases among the people, but when they were not supplied by the tithes and the offerings, they said, "Look, if you guys aren't going to help, I've got to support my family." They'd leave their ministry. They'd go to their fields. Jehoshaphat said no, no, no, we need to be returning the offering and the tithes so they could be doing their work of teaching. Deuteronomy 12:19: "Take heed to yourself you do not forsake the Levite as long as you live in the land."

So, anyway, we did, I think, a pretty good job of covering the--most of the lesson here. I want to remind our friends we have this beautiful book that I think you'll enjoy by Joe Crews, called "Life in the Spirit." We'll send you a free copy. Simply call the number 866-788-3966, and ask for Offer Number 155. When you do that, you can even get it right now by texting. Everyone uses their phone. You can get a free copy of this book. Just text "SH047." Text that to 40544. You can download it and have your copy now. Thank you very much for studying with us, friends. Lord willing, we'll do this again next week.

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Male: We were going to church every other week. About 19 years old, things really started to make sense for me. I started to go to church for myself, and the pastor wanted to study with me. We came to the study on baptism. I kind of just shrugged, put my head down. I said, "I'm not ready." He looked me in the eye and said, "Jason, you'll never make yourself ready. This is something you have to do." I put a lot of things behind me. The drinking and smoking and all that stuff stopped. All throughout the time, what I've been learning about God, it was just me and God.

Comes around up to about August, and I meet this girl. About two years in the relationship, we're talking about marriage and everything. We didn't pray. We didn't study together. We were arguing a lot, but we were engaged. I started drinking again, and that was a slow, downward spiral into different things, and my devotional life started really weaseling away. We broke up in 2008. It was heavy for me because, again, being with somebody for that long, it's almost like a divorce. I started to fall back away even more. I remember looking in the mirror, just looking at myself and saying, "What are you doing? How can you do this to God? He's brought you so far." And, you know, God really heard my cry.

There was a testimony telling at my church, and there was a call, and kids started getting up. Bunch of high school kids start getting up for calls to baptism. I'm back, doing the PA system at this time, and I feel just, like, this urge. Just, my heart just start ripping out of my chest, and I just had this feeling just to go up. I get up to the front, and I meet the pastor in open arms. I realized that there's so much more to life than just living life for myself and, you know, falling away, it's not a necessity, but God can work through anything in the bad to make it to good. That's a promise he makes.

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Doug: What can be more irresistible than a kitten? These guys might look cute now, but some of their ancestors have grown into man eaters. [roaring] We're here in a lion park in South Africa now where we can view these creatures in relative safety, but there's a reason they're known as the king of beasts. So what is it that people find so enchanting and frightening about lions? Is it their speed, their claws, their sharp teeth, or all of the above? Might also be some of the stories about man-eating lions, like in 1898, right here in Africa, they were building a bridge over the Tsavo River in Kenya, and two brother lions terrorized the construction process, eating 135 workers.

Did you know lions are mentioned in the Bible over a hundred times, and you can find them all the way from Genesis to Revelation? It's usually in reference to their ferocity and how dangerous they are. Of course, Samson killed a lion with his bare hands. David kill a lion. There are man-eating lions in the Bible. The way that they punish criminals was by throwing them in the lions' den, and early Christians were even fed to lions. But, amazingly, as the Bible mentions, not all lions are to be feared.

There have been a few friendly lions in history. For example, in the 1950s, a couple, George and Margaret Westbeau, who lived up at a ranch near Seattle, Washington, adopted an abandoned lion cub. They named it Little Tyke because they felt sorry for it. But they discovered, as they tried to feed her, she refused to eat any meat at all. They were concerned, thinking there was no hope for this little lioness to survive, and everybody told them the same because we know, in the wild, lions survive on almost an entirely meat diet. Then someone showed the Westbeaus that verse in the Bible that talks about, in heaven, the animals are vegetarians, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. That encouraged them, and so they began to feed Little Tyke a purely vegetarian diet.

Not only did she survive, she thrived, growing into a lion that was over 352 pounds and over 10 feet long. In fact, zoologists that examined Little Tyke when she was full grown, said they had never seen such a perfect specimen of a lioness in their life, a pure vegetarian. You know, when we hear incredible stories about that of Little Tyke, it reminds us that God's original plan was to make a world of total peace. It describes it here in the Bible in Isaiah chapter 11, verse 6: "The wolf also will dwell with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with a young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child will lead them."

Nothing is going to hurt and destroy in the new heavens and the new earth that God is going to create. Wouldn't you like to live in a kingdom where there's perfect peace, where there's no more death or killing or pain? God says that He wants you in that kingdom. The Lamb of God made it possible for you to have an encounter with the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Wouldn't you like to meet Him today?

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