How Do You Worship?

ImageOne of the greatest compliments ever paid to Christianity in the first century is that believers’ lives were so changed from the inside out that they turned the world upside down. Is that what the world says about us or do we fade into the background? If ever there were two psalms that should ignite our passion it is Psalm 95 and 96 which mirror Romans 1:20. God’s very creation sings for joy and we should be as well.

As you read these two psalms note the imperative verbs: Come! Shout! Sing! Bow Down and Worship! Proclaim! Tell! Ascribe! Say! Kneel! Announce every day! How can a Christian be silent when we read words such as these? As you enter the sanctuary open your hearts to worship and let the Illuminating Holy Spirit enter and change you from the inside out. Go forth and proclaim to those about that you are a new creature in Christ…and do it TODAY for Psalm 95 implores that.

Who is the Lord Most High? He is majestic in His splendor, note that the psalmist used that word three times in vs. 6,7,8. What does that mean to you? Spend some time pondering that you are entering the Holy of Holies. Dress in holy attire for you come to stand in the presence of the King of Kings.

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It is Fitting…and no this is not about clothes!

ImageHow fitting to follow Romans 11 with  Psalm 92 and 93  which teach us much about humility, about the Creator, the Sovereign One in all of His fullness, and His work. The psalmist says it is fitting (it is a beautiful thing, it is a good thing) that we should give thanks to the Lord Most High! Stop and give Him praise today for Vs. 5 He works are great, His thoughts are deep; Vs. 8 He reigns forever; VS. 10 He has chosen to exalt the righteous and anointed us; Vs. 12 He promises that the  righteous will flourish; and Vs. 14 He promises as the palm continue to be fruitful even in old age. How marvelous is our God!

As the psalmist walked about and observed the workings of the Temple and the Palace of the King he came away with a picture of God’s provision for those He has blessed. The cedar is mentioned 51 times as Cedar and 24 times as Cedars in the Bible. Because of its strength, longevity, its height, and its durability it was chosen for the building materials to construct the Temple. Its walls were lined with cedar, on which were carved figures of cherubim, palm-trees, and open flowers, which were overlaid with gold. (Wikipedia)

ImageThe palm also is a picture of longevity and in fact continues to provide fruit even when old, is continually filled with vitality with  many leaves. In the cedar built courtyard, the palm provided shade in the heat. Sequestered in the court it was protected against the desert storms and fluctuating temperatures and it is here that it was nourished and protected.

Both of these trees give us a beautiful picture of the righteous who has chosen to dwell in the courts of God. Psa 84:10 “Certainly spending just one day in your temple courts is better than spending a thousand elsewhere.” Psa 65:4 “How blessed is the one whom you choose, and allow to live in your palace courtsImage

We thank thee Our Father for these beautiful pictures of the righteous. May we give you thanks and praise! You truly are the Lord Most High…and thus it is fitting, right, correct, and my duty to praise Thee!

Rom 11:36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever! Amen.

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What does My Heart Say to those Who are Lost?

ImageIn our pm church service our new pastor shared his vision for the next few months ahead. One thing came across both sincerely and repeatedly: there are at least 58,000 people within a 3 mile radius of our church. Some may be saved, some are definitely unsaved, and some are open to hearing the news of the gospel message. His question back to the audience was:  Are we willing to sit idly by while hundreds are marching to hell or are we willing to step up and get involved in witnessing, serving, learning evangelism tools? Paul had the same heart and vision for his readers.

It is “God’s grace” and men’s destinies that should propel one’s heart from couch potato to active Christian. The questions that arise from Romans 9 are: Do I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart for the lost? Do I have such a heart that I would wish like Paul and Moses to release my ation to anther as my gift and spend eternity in their place in hell? , Messiah did for us. Do I see others as much a countrymen as I am or am I so prejudiced that I cling to my “race huddle.” Where is my heart? Where is your heart?

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The second point is “God’s mercy” which is offered freely to all. This too should propel us into active service for the kingdom. God calls all but only those who respond to his call are descendants of Abraham because they choose to believe by faith.

Thirdly, as we said a few days ago, appearances can be deceiving. Things are not always as they appear to be for as Paul said, we see through a glass dimly but one day will see clearly God’s sovereign plan. Dr. Keith Krell writes regarding Paul’s question: Has God failed? “This is one of the greatest principles in the entire Bible. Things are not always as they appear to be. When it looks like God’s Word has failed us, we should repeat this verse with personal application. “Even though this situation has happened, it’s not as though God’s Word has failed me.” Always remember: God’s promises and plans never fail.”

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Do You Have a Battle Strategy?

Romans 8:

One of the greatest privileges a believer in Christ has is his freedom from condemnation, both here and in the afterlife. Freed from the rules and regulations of the Law, the believer is freed to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading and guidance regarding the standards of the Commandments. Today, in Romans 8 Paul continues his dialog with both Jew and Greek as to how to live as we face the battles between the flesh and the new nature. The battle begins in the mind and is carried out in one’s life.

Point 1: Know that you are no longer condemned by the law of sin. We are free in Christ to walk in newness of life.

Point 2: We will face struggles here until we leave for eternity. Therefore, we need to set our minds on the things of the Spirit not on the things of the flesh. The mind set on the flesh is hostile towards God and brings only death. The mind set on the Spirit is pleasing towards God and brings life. Our attitudes and actions reveal which one we have chosen.

Point 3: Our empowering comes from the Holy Spirit who illuminates our spirit to the things of God. In addition, the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness by reminding us of our new walk, of what is sin, what is displeasing to God through conviction in our spirit. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us in prayer at the throne of God with groanings that cannot be uttered by man. The Holy Spirit searches our hearts to see where we are astray and to redirect us. Lastly, not only does the Holy Spirit intercede for us in prayer but He intercedes for us according to the will of God because He knows the will of God whereas sometimes we are either ignorant or unwilling to accede.

Point 4: Paul has led us through this maze of thoughts to bring us to the crux of this whole issue which is what our total perspective should be as one changed from the inside out. Whereas the enemy seeks to undermine and to destroy, the Holy Spirit seeks to encourage. We are no longer condemned; therefore no one has the right or privilege to be against us spiritually speaking; no one or nothing can separate us from the love of God; and lastly through all tribulations we now can overwhelmingly rejoice and be conquerors.

So the question is why are we wringing our hands and weeping when we should be rejoicing? We are more than conquerors through Christ once we realize the battle begins in the mind and is transferred to our actions and attitudes.

This graphic, courtesy of David Austin, former Exec Direc of bible.org shows how this works.

Imagecopyright D. Austin

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“The D Word” is NOT Divorce!

ImageToday would have been the anniversary of my in-law’s marriage. They lived through their 73rd wedding anniversary, she dying on that day and my father in law 18 days later. They were a beautiful picture of true wedded bliss, literally bound to one another “until death do us part”. On the other side was my own mother who buried two husbands and was widowed for several years after. What does all of this have to do with today? In  Romans 7, Paul is using the analogy of marriage to show that just as my mother in law  was bound to her first husband for 73 yrs; she was never was “unbound”. It was death that unbound my in-laws, if even for a short period of time. My own mother was married for 35 yrs upon which my father died. She then was, unlike my in- laws, free to marry another and several years later she did. It was death that ended my own parent’s marriage relationship. It was death that ended my in-law’s marriage. Death is the only “D” word allowed!

 Paul reminds us that once someone is crucified with Christ, who was raised from the dead, so are we also “raised to newness of life” and no longer bound to the Law.  Jesus’ death and our acceptance of that sacrifice for our sin rescinded our binding to the Law.

Therefore, once freed from the rules and regulations from the Law,  what is the believer’s responsibility? It is to see the Law as God’s standard of righteousness, to see how it reveals man’s sin, and to see it as a guide for life. One’s position becomes one’s practice so to speak. We are now to live a life of holiness that we may honor and glorify Him who gave so much. In the past we were slaves to sin, now we are slaves to righteousness. But, as Paul says, it will be a struggle between the flesh and our new spirit in Christ until we take that last breath. We struggle between what we want to do and what we should do. It is at times like this that we can only come to Christ for cleansing. IJohn 1:9 “But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.” Thus Paul ends this chapter by saying: Romans 7:25 “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” And that should be our ending as well.

Hangest thou in there Beloved!

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Polish the Gift!

ImageWhen we recently moved and unpacked all of our remaining trinkets, some of which are priceless antiques, it was amazing to note that even after hours of carefully packing and having sat for over 4 yrs in the covering of those supposedly tarnish free papers, many of the silver pieces had indeed tarnished. With a cloth the work began and with intense rubbing slowly the tarnish was removed. Paul says, in Romans 5 that like the tarnish on our silver, our suffering is the tarnish we carry with us as we face the struggles in our walk on this earth. Daily God uses His rubbing tool to polish away our tarnish so that we may reflect Him and His love to the world.

In chapter 6 of Romans, Paul is reminding believers that believers have a precious gift of eternal life but it is not always so wonderfully visible due to our tarnish a.k.a. sin.  The Holy Spirit must polish us to remove our tarnish and sometimes He uses suffering. The question before us is: Are we allowing Him to rub away our flaws? We can aid in this by immersing ourselves in the Word daily.

Our gift of eternal life has taken us from death to life through the baptism of regeneration and now  our old self is buried with Christ. Paul will reiterate this same thought in Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” So Paul then asks, why then would you want to exploit God’s grace by resurrecting the old man, the old life,  the tarnished man? He who has died to sin should reflect that marvelous sheen that comes with polishing just like your earthly silver.

So then, as eternally secure believers, dead to sin what must we do? We must make 4 choices:

  1. Not let sin reign 1Co 9:27 Instead I subdue my body and make it my slave, so that after preaching to others I myself will not be disqualified.
  2. Offer ourselves as a gift to God Col 3:12 “clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,”
  3. See from whence we came—the mirror has no claim on your past life now.
  4. Polish your gift of eternal life. How? By immersing yourself into the Word of God and let the Holy Spirit polish your tarnish away.

Today, take a look in the mirror, you have been bought with a price far beyond what anyone could fathom to purchase. It was paid by our Beloved Jesus. Treasure it and polish your gift until the world can see your reflection. The world is watching, looking, what do they see when they see you? Are you tarnished or perfectly polished? Is this your prayer? Holy Spirit polish me until I reflect the Savior to the world!

 

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The Blah Days…How Do You Get Through Them?

ImageThere are days when it feels like you have experienced nothing but the blahs, nothing but problems, as if someone has used you for a punching bag. Do you turn to a self-pity party or do you turn to God? How does turning to God change your perspective? In all these three psalms (86-87-88) the authors find themselves in such straits and offer to us the prescription for those times.

What to do: Center your focus upon God through prayer…the psalmist cries out: God incline your ear to me, be gracious to me.

State the circumstance to God: I am needy, experiencing affliction, trouble, feeling forsaken by friend and foe, and even sometimes feeling alienated, abandoned, alone, rejected, hidden from God’s view.

Be honest: Sometimes even feeling angry at the circumstance, at friend/foe and even God.

Remind yourself of the character of God:  God you are good, forgiving, slow to anger (unlike “me”), abundant in lovingkindness (said 3 times which is a good reminder for all of us), great, comforter, deliverer, helper, merciful, gracious.

GOD YOU ALONE ARE GOD!

This is how you get through those times we all experience from time to time. So when you feel like you have experienced the “one-two-three punch” follow these steps and find peace, reconciliation, and a renewed view of the circumstance.

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What Satisfies? A Bird’s Eye View or the Very Reality?

ImageThe idiom “a bird’s eye view” means to see from above as  opposed to a “dog’s eye view” which is ground level.  As bird lovers will tell you there is a profound difference between the two. On the fifth day that God created the birds to fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky, he created many, two of which are the eagle and the swallow. Whereas the eagle never feeds upon carrion but seeks live prey, is fearless and tenacious, the timid swallow feeds upon the wing, across the expanse of the sky to catch insects. It prefers the habitats of men, where insects are plentiful and often chooses the most extraordinary places for its nests. In Psalm 84, the psalmist reflects that it was in the Temple this wee bird has found a protected refuge high above in the sheltered eves where it literally has the privilege of a  ‘bird’s eye view’  of the comings and goings, the words spoken at the altar, hearing and seeing all of the rote day after day view of the animal sacrifices, the songs of the choirs as they echo across the courtyard, the smells of the meat as it is consumed. What a view! It must be marvelous notes the psalmist! While only the priest has the “dog’s eye view” or ground level view, and I as a worshiper do not even see this, the swallow has it all! He passionately wishes for a moment that he too could reside as the swallow in the courts of the Lord’s temple.

While the psalmist has this wish for just a moment to be as the swallow so that he could see within, we as believers, because of the perfect sacrifice of our savior who tore the curtain asunder from top to bottom, can now not only view the courtyard but also the Holy of Holies. We do not need to just be a swallow with a bird’s eye view but now we have the totality of the very presence of the living God–used only here in Ps 84 and Ps 42:2. It was only the High Priest once a year that could enter this sacred place but now we are given the privilege to  enter boldly. Heb 10:19 “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus,…  let us draw near” into the very presence of the living God. In this we are most blessed, blessed beyond that of the swallow, blessed beyond this worshiper, blessed beyond the High Priest. Standing at the entrance to the temple of God to the His very presence is beyond comparison. The psalmist had only the hope, but we have the reality all because we have chosen to trust in Him. It is there that He the Mighty God Almighty bestows favor upon us as we choose to walk blamelessly.    

As you worship today consider the view that is yours because of the sacrifice Jesus paid.

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The Resurrected Christ…A View from Matthew 28

ImageA journey with the Apostle Matthew has taken us on a circuitous route, or sinuous if you like. It has been fraught with danger, and filled with expectation of what lay beyond the next bend. We have journeyed in and out of Israel, found those who are faithful and those who are not. It is as we say journey of highs and lows but with the Messiah always in charge. Today in Matthew 28 will be no different.  Today we will see that what men contrived for evil God will turn to fulfill His ultimate plan that all nations would hear, all men would decide for or against, all believers would have the promise of “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Matthew tells us that it is in that the semi-darkness women have left their beds to walk to a cemetery to “look” at a tomb. Matthew leaves us wondering, yet wants us to focus in on the miracle unfolding. He points to the earthquakes, both as Jesus uttered “It is finished,” to the timing of the resurrection. Just as God dispelled darkness and ushered in light so too here God dispels the darkness with a stroke of light along with an earthquake and the moving of a tombstone as if it were a pebble. The messengers of the Lord who announced the coming Messiah come now to announce His resurrection. He is no longer wrapped in the cloak of death but is risen “just as he said.”  Matthew Henry wrote: “On the first day of the first week God commanded the light to shine out of darkness. On this day did He who is the Light of the world, shine out of the darkness of the grave.”  

In this same time frame there are guards who see the miraculous of the tomb opening, an angel whose appearance was like lightning and faint as dead men. Upon awakening from this faint, they rush to the side of the religious leaders to share the news only to be given large sums of hush money with the promise of “we will protect you.” Instead of the truth just say the disciples came while you slept and stole the body. It reeks with the breaking of yet another commandment: “do not bear false witness.”  The religious leaders had asked Jesus for a sign from heaven, yet when given, they add insult to injury and deny themselves and others the right to eternity. Truly Jesus was right when he said: Mat 23:13 “But woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You keep locking people out of the kingdom of heaven! For you neither enter nor permit those trying to enter to go in. The plainest evidence will not affect the hardest hearts of men without the illumination of the Spirit of the living God.

Thus the guards’ fear along with the religious leaders denial and total rejection of God’s sign will be to encapsulate them like the grave shroud that Jesus shed. It will encase their minds and physical being and will remain with them until they face eternity where they will hear God’s voice utter: “I never knew you.”

 In contrast the fear that the women face is quickly discarded with a stroke of light as it illuminates not just an angelic being but an empty grave. Their fear turns to joy when they hear two times “do not be afraid,” first from the angel and then from the lips of our risen Lord. Their immediate fear is banished by God’s messenger and His Beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. That is what happens to us when we accept the Risen Savior as the Resurrected Christ, our fear turns to joy and unlike the guards who cowered in fear we shout and praise God: “Hallelujah.”

As you ponder all of this closing segment of Matthew, may you also search your heart. There is a principle we would gather here: When we come with pure hearts, we are given great and mighty blessings. When our hearts are defiled those blessings are withheld not only now but for all eternity.

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To Our Children….Ps 78

ImageIn Matt 25 we sat at the feet of Jesus as he answered the disciple’s questions. We listened as he taught through 2 powerful parables about the eternal consequences of being faithful or being faithless. This is the same point that Asaph makes in Ps 78. He reminds his listeners that the source of being faithful begins early with a grateful heart, teaching the young to be grateful to God for all He has done, grateful to God for who He is.

Asaph says this where we have gone astray. We have not heeded Deut 6 about the Word being taught while sitting, standing and walking. In addition, Asaph says we must resurrect the age old mantra: listen, heed, and incline your ears. But, we do not… instead we talk, talk talk and we escalate our words and the volume until the children just turn us off.  Asaph said if we want to be wise and learn we must go back to the past and resurrect the real way it is to be done. And then he adds: he who would be wise will observe and learn.

Let me once again remind you, or so Asaph says, “I will “begin at the beginning” and make insightful observations about the past.” First, avoid the mistakes of your ancestors who were stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful. Secondly, you parents, teachers etc, why are you not teaching doctrine and lessons you have learned to this generation? You must begin to teach them to honor and praise the Lord. Thirdly, a key point ! Share about the Lord’s praiseworthy acts, about his strength and the amazing things he has done. Too often we get caught up in the stories but forget to show how God was the orchestrator and the conductor as he rehearsed his musical creation. We fail to teach the children the names of God and His attributes.

Why is this so needed? In vs 6-7 Asaph says “so that the next generation, children yet to be born, might know about them. They will grow up and tell their descendants about them. Then they will place their confidence in God. They will not forget the works of God, and they will obey his commands.” This is how they will grow and mature into faithful followers of our Master. To neglect these principles is to leave children drifting and heading into faithlessness.

Our mandate is to carry that message to this generation and the next and the next and the next. This year I stepped up and taught 1st graders in VBS and soon will work  in Good News Club at a local elementary school. So here’s my question to you:

Where are you fulfilling this mandate in your home, church or wherever God has planted you?

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