Dwell Richly

www.bible.com/1713/col.3.16.csb

What do you do to get your worship groove on? Some folks like to put on worship music on their radio or their music player. Other folks like to open up a hymnal and sing with abandon. But let us not forget that other great style of worship, singing together.

What most seem to forget when it comes to the biblical instruction for worship is that it is to be done together with other believers. This is usually where we run into problems. Whereas you and I have our preferences as to the type of worship we enjoy individually, it gets a little tiresome to have to sing with others who do not share your worship style. For myself, I’m all for singing together with others, as long as it is songs that I am familiar with. But where I attend, that is usually not the case. I will grumble I suppose, since our worship team is dedicated to the idea of singing a new song every week. Now I suppose that if I listen to Christian music radio more than I do, I probably would hear all the latest from Hlllsong and Elevation worship which our church favors. But who has time for that? I have always believed that you should always a mix of new and old, familiar and new. That way everyone can worship at least once.

I also believe you ought to sing as much as you teach. For everyone, this is probably the one time all week we will all get together and worship. If so, then it ought to include songs we can all sing. This may mean singing the same song every week or every few weeks just to get everyone on the same page. The more we can sing together, the more we can worship together. And that’s kind of the point regardless of how old or young your congregation is.

I may just be set in my ways, but there are good ways and bad ways to put together a worship service. Just my two cents.

Brokenhearted

www.bible.com/1713/psa.34.18.csb

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that “broken-hearted” was a diagnosable medical condition. About a year ago I was talking to a doctor at the hospital where I work and they were discussing a case where a woman had a verifiable heart condition. She had recently suffered the loss of her husband, and her health now was in jeopardy. The doctor said she was dying of a “broken heart”. I was astonished. But this confirmed for me the close connection between the our emotional life and our phsyical life, or I might add, the connection between our body and our spirit. I suspect her soul was in pain because it had been sheared in half by the loss of her husband. What was so normal for so long, their constant companionship, now was broken by death. It was hard to see, and losses like that take a long time to heal, if there is any desire to heal.

It is not uncommon for couple that have been married many years, and had great marriages, to die within hours, days, or even months of each other. The situation varies by case, but sometime the diagnosis is a “broken heart.”

I take some comfort in the fact that when we form a relationship with the Lord, He will never leave us. In the Lord, we have hope for a constant connection. We will never be grieved by a broken heart with God, because He is always present with us. The promises of scripture are certain. He is close to the broken -hearted.

If you are feeling far away from God today, may I reming you it is rare for God to leave you, but that you have pushed Him away, either through sin, indifference, or a conscience that is insensitive. I want to caution you not to let this last too long, or you might get used to God being “far” from you. Don’t let that happen. Repent of your sins, draw close to God, and He will draw near to you.

Dear God, sometimes I lose my way. I am thankful that You are never far from me. Be My ever-present Companion, my Guide, my God. Thank You Jesus for relieving me of my burden of sin. May I serve You ever. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

For Mothers

www.bible.com/1713/pro.31.31.csb

Is there a good Mother’s Day text? I mean, there are probably many women who are mothers in the Bible that would make for a good tale on a Mother’s Day Sunday, but Mother’s Day per se did not exist in the time of the Bible, largely because women were not considered as important as men in the culture of Israel thousands of years ago. It’s not that they were unimportant, because a woman’s essential function in those days was to produce offspring. But if she couldn’t do that, it was a rare man that still appreciated her (namely Elkanah of 1 Samuel 1 and Zechariah of Luke 1).

But that kind of the point of Mother’s Day, isn’t it? Only the women who have produced (and raised) children get special mention today. That America still celebrates this day ought to be a mystery, as our collective lust for abortion continues unabated. How is it that we are nation that both celebrates women who birth and raise children, but still demand that a woman be allowed to kill her own child before it’s born? I see a conflict of priorities here. Why do we continue one and allow, even condone the other?

There are many women who will be left out today. Because they have never had children (and want them) or had children who were lost. This day brings them special pain. While many celebrate, many others mourn. Some mourn the loss of their own mothers, or mothers they never knew. Everyone has a mother, this this day speaks and hits different people in different ways. While you may be reading this and noting how thankful you are that you are not like those other people, as Christians we need to be sensitive to all.

Under Christianity, motherhood is no necessity to blessing. Christ saves all where they are, without regard to father, to mother, to children or parents. Christ saves you because He loves YOU. Any sins you have committed have been washed away in the blood of Christ. And that my friend is the reason I have to keep going. It doesn’t matter what I have done, Christ has still forgiven me. I can’t get that anywhere else.

Father God, You have made us all to be Your children. May we continue today to serve and honor You. If we have had the privilege of a mother, may we remember her in prayer Nd the woman in our lives that brought us life and chose to, despite the pain and effort. Thank You Lord for the the blessing of pregnancy and love found in families. Thank You for Your marvelous plan to make us and and allow us to find You and worship You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Dejection, Turmoil and Hope

www.bible.com/1713/psa.42.11.csb

Your daily struggle is different from mine. This Corona has touched you differently than myself. I consider myself fortunate that I’ve been able to continue working through the shutdown, albeit on a limited basis. My wife has not been affected near as much I have, and we are doing ok. Had we both been forced to stay home and be furloughed, I don’t know that we would have made it. Like many others we would have tried to pay for things on credit, hoping for the stimulus check or Big Brother to help us.

I know it feels right now that faith and trust in God seems like some “pie in the sky” kind of thing, a false hope. Why bother with faith when I have real problems to deal with? If I have trouble feeding my family or paying my rent, what good is religion going to do me? That is a very good question. So let me ask you a follow-up question.

How do you decide what’s important during a shutdown? Is it any better to pay for rent and utilities with that government stimulus check than for a new TV or that new glittery thing you’ve has your eyes on? What is better to spend your money on? Your answer is inherently religious. Because in reality, money has no morals. TV’s and glitter, rent and utilities have no moral compunction. But you bring it with you. Buying a new TV will bring immediate happiness and will last for as long as you have power and a place to put it. If you value immediate happiness, then you will buy the new thing. However, if instead you value longer-term goals, like having a place to live, or food to eat or power and light, then you are applying value to long-term happiness. You are making a value judgment. Values come from somewhere. Where do they come from? Your world-view, and your world-view is shaped by your religion.

You may say, “I have no religion.” That may be formally true, but all of us have a value system that is based on what we see our role in the universe. If you see yourself as nothing, shaped by blobs of goo, then you apply no morality or value to anything, because all things are meaningless. You are going to buy that TV because they makes you happy. You may apply yourself to that blob theory, but see value in making others happy, like your landlord, or your spouse and children. If you see value in others and legitimate entities living beside you in this meaningless universe, then, despite the worthlessness of all things, you still value companionship and well-being between individuals, and will pay the rent and the utilities. But all decision inherently possess a judgment of some kind based on a set of ideals (and experience from prior judgment) that in some form or fashion is your religion.

Religion is only that formal relationship and ritual you have developed (whether alone or in concert with others) to rectify your position in the universe. Your values and judgments come from that religion. You can be a complete atheist and still have religion, because religion is how you’ve have decided the issues of the universe and how you will interact with them. Questions like, “Who am I?” and “Where did I come from?” and “Who is the final authority in my life?” give us the answers that decide what kind of religion we have, and the values we hold.

Christians are people who have been perpetually unsatisfied with the answers they’ve come up with themselves or that others have given them. For Christians, they look to the only authoritative book they know, and from their glean their answers to not only the questions above but about all the others questions worth asking. As a Christian, I find the Bible to be the best book for answering these questions, even though it comes from the tribal experience of one family on earth. Though it speaks directly to Israel, it speaks to all of us. God was not concerned only for Israel, but for every human being made in His image, which is all of them. God loves all of us. And this is the reason I make the decision I do, and why through all the turmoil and despair, I still have hope. I need this hope, because it makes the turmoil and despair bearable.

One line from the Princess Bride always haunts me. “Life is pain. And anyone that tells you different is selling something.” That is a succinct philosophy of life. I might suggest that Christianity is telling you different. Not that life isn’t painful, because it is, but that life is more than pain. Life is love. Life is peace. Life is turmoil. Life is despair, but life is also hope.

Heavenly Father, I pray today for my brothers and sisters around the world who are reading these words. I pray for their hope today. I pray that despite their life and their turmoil, You will grant them hope. I pray these things in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Hard-Hearted

www.bible.com/1713/ezk.36.26.csb

I will also sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place My Spirit within you and cause you to follow My statutes and carefully observe My ordinances.
(Eze 36:25-27)

We are dirty. We are stubborn. And we are lawless. We have no good thing in us since we were corrupted by sin. And yet, God was not done with us. When He could have cast us aside and abandoned us, He didn’t. Some might say he couldn’t, but then they would wrong. God could. God doesn’t need us. And I’m certain there are times that God positively does not like us.

No one cared enough about you to do even one of these things out of compassion for you. But you were thrown out into the open field because you were despised on the day you were born. “I passed by you and saw you lying in your blood, and I said to you as you lay in your blood: Live! Yes, I said to you as you lay in your blood: Live!
(Eze 16:5-6)

Your fame spread among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through My splendor, which I had bestowed on you.” This is the declaration of the Lord GOD.
(Eze 16:14)

Once we were nothing. We had been corrupted and made putrid by the rot of our own sin among our bones and in our heart. Our heart had solidified to stone, because we stopped caring. That is a hard place to be. God should have abandoned us, left us at the side of the road, but he didn’t.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!
(Eph 2:4-5)

And now, suddenly as the sunrise, death is shuffled off like scales, and God calls us to life. By faith we are saved through grace. By faith we pursue and receive baptism so that we may receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, the gift of life everlasting because we have been regenerated by the Spirit. No more subject to sin, to corruption, to rot. We are alive!

Why? Because God did not WANT to leave us in sin. He CHOSE to bring us life because THAT is what God is like.

Be grateful today that we have a God who chooses us, not because He has to, but because He wants to.

Thank You God for my life. Thank You for a beating heart of flesh, that cares, that loves and responds to You in worship! Great is our God! Praise His Name! In that Name we pray, Amen!

I Can Do All Things . . .

I found this promotional item on my Facebook feed yesterday, and I knew immediately I had to have it. It features a mug with the statement, “I can do all things through a verse taken out of context.” I didn’t question it. I immediately went to the website and bought one. It will be here in a few days and I cannot wait. I already have plans to feature it prominently whenever I do a video because it speaks to the core of my teaching philosophy. In popular Christian culture, it is so easy to take a verse out of context and make it say something contrary to the Word, and that is one of my all-time pet peeves.

So I share this with you today if you too are disgusted by such things. God bless You and may you have a wonderful day!

https://www.reformedsage.com/products/all-things-mug

 

Prepare Your Heart

www.bible.com/1713/jol.2.12.csb

What keeps you from being close to the Lord? On this Sunday, we ought to be closer than usual. We ought to be reminded of our obligations to the Lord in worship and word. But, if your life has been like mine, Sunday morning worship has been a bit different. For the present, churches are still officially “closed.” Some churches are doing drive-in services, and I commend them for their inventiveness. Our church has been dong internet church since it had already been equipped with that ability long before the quarantine started. But getting up and getting ready for church has fallen out of habit. This morning I watched church in my bathrobe. I suppose robes are appropriate.

But I will tell you that Sunday doesn’t feel like Sunday any more. I miss getting up and getting out. I miss worshipping with other believers, sitting in the chairs at church and the communal feeling of being with others of like mind and faith. I miss the opportunity to talk to people who are just today making that decision to follow Jesus. I know all that can be done virtually, but it isn’t the same.

And then I miss going out after church to get dinner. I miss the Chinese buffet, but also the Cracker Barrel and the trips to a different town to try out different options there. I miss that freedom, the ability to get out of you cubby-hole and seeing how other people live. Lord willing, all of this will be rectified by the end of the month.

Until then, I must take Joel’s message to heart. At the core of his message (to Israel) is to prepare your heart for the Lord. Three things we don’t do normally: fasting, weeping and mourning, are all three designed to set up apart. Fasting obviously sets you apart from your normal habit of satisfying the flesh. Weeping sets you apart from your normal apathy about your sins and the plight of your soul. Mourning reminds you that because of our sins, we deserve death, eternal death in judgment. Happy thoughts anyone? These are not happy thoughts. These are purposefully designed to put your soul on notice. God is watching and aware of what you are doing. Be ignorant no longer.

This is usually what Sunday morning is for. It is a reminder of where you are spiritually.
And if you have been separated from your soul lately because you haven’t been in a church house, may I recommend you set apart some part of your house to get you in that particular mood?  Find a space where you can set apart, Scripture calls it a closet for prayer, where you can be separate, turn off the noise, and be holy. If you don’t have one, make one, so that you can find a sanctuary for your soul. And take the time to be alone with God.

Dear God, I know I need you. I know that every day, the longer I spend away from You, I spend to my detriment. Help me Lord Jesus to find You again, to shut off the noise of my life and listen to Your Voice. I pray this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.