Worship – Hurricane – Still Worship

[reprinted from November 12, 2004]

Jesus told her, “Believe Me, woman, an hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know. We worship what we do know, because salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”     John 4:21-24 (HCSB)

This Scripture has taken on new meaning for me as my hometown area ‘recovers’ from the devastation brought to us this year by a hurricane called Ivan. It is said that the Pensacola area has lost 50% of its canopy. 50% of the trees that gave us shade and cooled our sea breezes during the hot summer months – is gone. Two months after the storm and still there are roadways blocked by trucks hauling wood debris. City sports fields do not have green grass. They have mountains (literally!) of wood chips from debris that has been brought in and ground up. The cost of paper products should go down this year!

Churches still have blue plastic covers on roofs needing repairs. Steeples are missing. Water leaks into places it does not belong. Homes – smashed roofs – yards are ‘battlefields’ – temporary housing which means trailers or a relative!

And so a ‘place to worship’ is on my mind this morning. I think we want to have some assurance that God will not let anything happen to the ‘place’ that we come to worship Him. And yet, Jesus tells us here that the Samaritans and the Jews were incorrect in their thinking about the sanctity of their place of worship. And, of course, I know that worshiping God is not limited to a building. But when that knowledge walks itself into my life and I have to apply it, personally and intimately, it’s difficult to understand what God allows. God is trying to tell me something again.

A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks.

Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.          Acts 16:22-25 (NLT)

This is an awesome story about how God supernaturally released Paul and Silas from jail. But God did not do the miraculous until after Paul and Silas were “severely flogged” and put in prison with their feet in stocks so they couldn’t move. There was no finding a ‘comfortable’ position to lay on the floor. There was no going to the restroom down the hall. And yet – they were “praying and singing hymns to God” and being a witness to everyone in the jail. They did not need a nice place or a convenient place to worship and pray. Their sanctuary, their place of peace, was within them and provided by God Himself.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty…
If you make the Most High your dwelling— even the LORD, who is my refuge—
then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.           Psalm 91:1, 9-10 (NIV)

Today is a good day to move in with God. The rent/mortgage has been paid by Jesus and I have an ‘eternal lease’ that cannot be broken by anyone but me. No hurricane or storm can tear it down. It’s a safe haven that God has created for me to worship Him.

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