Category Archives: Worship

He has risen

Tomorrow on Easter, I will not be going to a church building and celebrate with fellow believers. Easter will look very different this year. I feel a little sad and disturbed.  Easter is the biggest day of the year for Christians. 

I love the big event. Churches around the world pull out all the stops for this special day.  They do special music, everyone is dressed up, we usually see the biggest crowds, those who don’t usually attend show up, there may be an egg hunt on the lawn, the preacher will have his sermon refined to a fine point and rehearsed to a place where he could do it without notes.  It is a wonderful day in the controlled chaos that is called Easter. All in the hope of a spiritual breakthrough for someone on the edges of the church. 

I’m sad that it won’t be happening this year. Or at least not in the way that I’m used to.

Yet then I must take a step back and come to the realization, Church is about more than the big event happening at your building. It’s about the big event that happened 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem when it was discovered that there wasn’t a body in Jesus’ tomb.

This is a time of social distancing and face masks.  For some, it is a time which, “the Church has left the building.”

There is a valuable truth to be comprehended here.  When the Church is forced not to meet together there comes to us a lesson.  That lesson is: the church is not a building, WE ARE THE CHURCH. Church isn’t an event you go to. It’s a people you belong to.

So as you gather around your blue tinged screens, watching a message or two, please remember and set your hearts on the founder. A founder who came out of the grave on the third day.

HE HAS RISEN.

HE HAS RISEN, INDEED.

New Year’s Plan

This is the day the Lord has made, Rejoice and be glad in it.
We have to be alive.
Think freely, practice patience.
Smile often. Savor special moments.
Live God’s message.
Make new friends. Rediscover old ones.
Tell those you love that you do.
Feel deeply, forget trouble.
Forgive an enemy. Hope. Grow.
Be crazy.
Count your blessings. Worship.
Observe miracles; make them happen.
Celebrate small victories.
Discard worry. Give, Give in
Trust enough not to take.
Pick some flowers, Share them.
Keep a promise. Look for rainbows.
Gaze at stars. See beauty everywhere.
Work hard, be wise. Try to understand.
Take time for people. Take time for yourself. Take time for God.
Laugh heartily, Spread joy.
Take a chance.
Reach out. Let someone in.
Try something new. Slow down.
STOP
Be soft sometimes, Celebrate life.
Believe in yourself, Trust others.
See a sunrise. Listen to rain. Reminisce.
Cry when you need to.
Trust life. Have faith.
Enjoy, wonder, comfort a friend.
Have good ideas. Learn.
Make some mistakes.
Explore the unknown, Hug a kid.
Be alive.
Anticipate a good day,
Believe a good day,
Plan a good day,
Think a good day,
Work a good day,
Pray a good day.
Be Still and know God.

Christmas

As we come to the celebration of the birth in a manger of a Messiah King, each of us must look toward our own spiritual needs.  Pie, and drink may well satisfy the physical. It is not the satisfaction the dusty soul seeks.  It is a sweet well of cool water that flows and urges us to drink of the Well of Life. It is not great intellectual knowledge of the great things of man or even God, but the very person and presence of God.  Some would well say restore the Christ in Christmas.  Instead I think there is a greater need to restore Christ in Christians.  This yearning after God has never completely died in any generation.  There have always been some that have looked beyond the Santa Clause hats and grossly decorated trees and insisted on reading the story in the Bible of the reason for beginning and end of Christmas. Please my friends and loved ones, take time this week to read Luke Chapter 2 verses 1-20 for your own and perchance around that aforementioned tree, read it to the those you love and care for the most.

Merry Christmas

Christian Sabbath?

The big question for the Sabbath is whether in the New Testament a commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy, is the same it was commanded in the Old Testament.  Do we, as enlightened new covenant Christians, be constrained in the same manner and constricted like the Hebrews.

Remember, if you will, if we say yes to this conformity, then the same punishment is also attached.  The Hebrew law for Sabbath keeping states you could be killed for carrying sticks on the sabbath day.

Let’s ignore the issue of which day is the sabbath, we can address that some other day.  That issue need not be addressed here because we have to understand the requirements of sabbath and their relevance to us before setting a time and place.

In Romans 14 we are admonished not to quarrel and accept those whose faith is weak. But it goes on to speak to the sabbath issue in verse 5:  “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike.  Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.”  Please notice this is not an indictment of those who keep one day holy and another as secular or unholy.  The argument is the keeping a day holy when they all should be kept as holy.  So what Paul was saying in Romans was that every day is to be holy AND one day is special.  Holiness of the Sabbath is a good thing AND Holiness of every day is even better.

Paul did not take a side.  He simply said, “Let both honor God.”  Keeping the sabbath is making it special. For the Christian, the sabbath should be holy, like every other day. Where we get confused is the special part.

How do we make one day special?  This special day, in my opinion, is the day I STOP.  That is what SHABOTH in Hebrew means.  Stop and set a day and “BE STILL and KNOW THAT I AM GOD.”  My sabbath is that day of the week that I set aside to first, STOP my usual life, second WORSHIP, third to FELLOWSHIP with fellow believers. It is a day of POINTED REST.  It is a day when I express my “I LOVE YOU GOD”, “I COUNT YOU MY LORD”, “I AM YOURS IN WHAT EVER HAPPENS.” That is the rest meant for the Israelites in the wilderness. That was the rest for the Hebrews in Canaan. That is the rest that Jesus talked about in Matthew 11:28,29

Echo of Joy

Zephaniah 3:14-17
Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away His judgments against you,
He has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
You will fear disaster no more.
In that day it will be said to Jerusalem:
“Do not be afraid, O Zion;
Do not let your hands fall limp.
“The Lord your God is in your midst,
A victorious warrior.
He will exult over you with joy,
He will be quiet in His love,
He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.

In our terrible times politically, and internationally we are given a sense of God is still in control. There is a gladness in these words. They are a part of a men’s study I am doing and sometimes it is difficult to find joy in the Minor Prophets. There is the overthrow of the Northern Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians, the spreading of the 10 tribes to take away their identity, the fall of Nineveh, a prophet being swallowed by a fish, and a whole lot of gloom, despair, and excessive misery. But here in the last phrases of Zephaniah is hope and joy.
Here we join in with God dancing and singing. The very words seem to dance with Joy. The phrases seem to be written in a staccato, rapid-fire manner; almost as if the prophet was laughing while he was writing.
It is singing which it truly catching. The God of the Universe is in our present. God has a voice and HE calls us to join in. SHOUT to the rooftops, God is here. For with every beat of your heart comes a sound of God’s love and joy for you. The notes of our praise fill HIS heart with Joy. The notes of HIS joy fills our hearts. We are glad because HE is glad. We sing for joy, and HE shouts the joy with us with singing because we do. JOY is an ongoing echo between man and God.
SHOUT, go ahead where ever you are, whatever you are doing, stop and shout for Joy and cause that joy to fill God. And then listen carefully and you will hear the echo from God.

A Prayer of Connection.

My LORD and my God.

By my very existence I know that I am an image-bearer of you the Most High God.  Listen to me as I call upon your name in the full expectation of our like-minded Spirits were created to connect. 

I praise you because of your calling, I belong here.  I belong here on this earth. I belong here at my Kings table.  I belong here at the feet of Jesus.  I belong here within this community of like-minded believers. I belong here not because I deserve it but because you desire me to be here.

Sweet Jesus, you deserve to be loved, you deserve our reverence, you deserve all my praise. I will not allow anything, nor my situation, not my lack of faith, not my feelings of unworthiness keep me from your presence. I do not my rejectors and nor my naysayers keep me from worshiping. I don’t buy into their lies.

In your presence, I am strangely warmed, I am blessed, I am encouraged, of your concern of my plight.

There is no other place I would rather be.  I am yours.

Please don’t give up on me. Don’t stop drawing me to this place of belonging. I trust you God to lead me wherever it may be.  I give you the lead in all my ways. My hope is only in you.  Reveal to me your will, your path, and your road to blessings. Because you are here my Jesus, I call upon your name to bless our lives.

Micah’s question

It was his favorite spot.

High above his hometown of Moresheth.  Though it was quite a hike up the mountain, it was his place of worship, his place of prayer, his place of solitude, his place of getting above it all and just be still and know that the LORD was God.

It was high enough to see afar off the edge of the Mediterranean sea.  The blue was metered by the distance and late fog that rolled in about this time each evening. The sun was about to dip into the sea.  It was a special time between Micah and the God of Judah.  It was a moment of pure religion and worship.

In an attitude of prayer. He watched the sun just touch the sea.  Light was slowly dimming, to Micah it was a parable of his life.  The colors around him became less and less. Twilight was his hour of meditation.  A time of quiet before God.

Below was the plain of GAD the ancient home of the past enemy of Philisita the home of Goliath. In the quiet of that moment his mind went further up the mountain to its crest.  There was the cave that David had hidden in from Saul.  On the other side was Bethlehem. And even further was Jerusalem.  Jotham had replaced Uzziah and he was even worse leader, filled with sin and idolatry.

Micah had witnessed the wrath of God when Judah’s sister nation fell to Assyria. Some of the Israelites made it out.  With nothing more than what was on their backs they had move back to Judah.  It was a boarder crisis. And with them came their worship of Idols, wickedness and a bent toward the depravity of their hometowns.

Looking again to the setting sun.  The very edge was now touching the horizon.  Dipping its edge into the water grave of the sea.  Sun suddenly was clouded by a fog, intercepting its rays. Darkness came quickly like a great judgement.  The day, the light, the warmth suddenly vanished. With the quickened darkness came a sadness, a loneliness and a pent up anger.

How long will your mercy meter your justice?  When will your wrath become stronger than your love?

Looking at our own world I too ask.  Looking at our nation in turmoil where no one wants to help the regular person. YES LORD, HOW LONG WILL YOUR MERCY METER YOUR JUSTICE? WHEN WILL YOUR WRATH BECOME STRONGER THAN YOUR LOVE?

Based upon the first chapter of the minor prophet Micah.

He is here

It is one of the things we cannot live without.  The deepest part of our soul cries out for it.  Without it, we start to shrink moment by moment.  All our efforts seem pointless without the zest of it.  Some have died from the lack of it. 

That thing is hope. Hope that life will turn out.  Hope that someone is standing in our corner.  In all the places you could find yourself this exact moment, there is a truth.  That truth is that Hope is here.  It is not a false hope that makes untrue promises.  It is not a guarantee of an outcome invented by any man or woman.  It is not a fantasy or an illusion or even a make-believe invention.  It is a real and everlasting Hope.

It is a hope based on the truth proclaiming God is still God.  It is a hope that God is really holding it all together.  It is a hope that God has not turned His face away.  It is a hope God can and is involved in our lives.  He is intimately acquainted with every heartache; more that we can ever know.  Hope is here

It is a hope that you are loved in your worst moments.  It is a hope that pursues you even as you turn away.  Make no mistake.  Hope is here.  No matter where you have been.  No matter when you are now.  Hope is here.  Because Hope is a person. His name is Jesus.

Do we still need a Bible?

As I was preparing to attend church last week, I dutifully selected one of the many Bibles that fill a goodly part of one of my shelves.  There are big ones with plastic tabs along the edge, so scriptures can be more easily found.  There are old broken-down ones that have lost their binding and used only gingerly on my desk and examined with care. There are numerous Bibles that are differentiated by the translation; NASB, MOFFAT, KJ, NKJ, NIV, Message, RSV and on and on.  This week I chose a TNIV.  It is a study Bible with lots of helps and references.

As I sit in the sanctuary just a few moments later and the scripture for the sermon is blaringly displayed across three screens, I wonder, “what is the necessity of lugging a big black book to church”.  What is it that makes me feel that I have my act together in worship when I carry my Bible?  Has the church passed by the need to have pew Bibles for those don’t have one, or do we don’t need one at all?  The Word is passed down to the congregant in little spoons full by the upfronts and that seems to be good enough.

I have one Bible that I started my ministry way back there and since then the cover fell off, the pages are so well worn that I must be careful not to tear them.  It has been marked, highlighted, annotated and referenced thousands of times.  There is a sense of history about it.  If I have the latest version with updated references and scriptural research, why don’t I just throw it away?

Books have lives, and for me and my fellow attendees, consideration must be made for what we have lost personally and collectively by neglecting the Bible as a tangible object.  As one writer said of both the Bible and the hymnal that they, “straddle the worlds of literary and religious reading, of song and private reflection.”   They are a part of the method that should not be done away, just because there is no pocket in the back of the folding chairs. Bibles at church are part of the foundational formation of the family of God? Another scholar points out that what we hold dear affects us and called it, “hand piety.” That which we hold, that which we carry, that which we place on our laps at church has a significance.  These things are permanent parts of our experience of knowing God.

With the Bible on our phones and words on the screen in most evangelical churches, are we being molded into the church by the objects we touch, hold, and memorize? I really don’t think a Bible app on a smartphone holds the same importance as a Bible you have prayed with, cried with, laugh with and come through terrible trials with. A smartphone is just too easy to become a group of loosely networked individuals, where devotional practices and worship are experienced in an individualized manner.

Take your Bibles to church.

By the way, I was snooping a couple of weeks ago and those who had their screens on during service were not looking at a Bible application.

Bubbles

“If I do this.”

If I drive an electric car, I will be making a difference to the polar bears.

If I live a good life, I will have good karma.

If I drive defensively, I will not get run over.

If I go to church once and while I will be accepted.

There was an invalid who every day would be found by a special place.  It had five great colonnades or walkways with alcoves on both sides.  They surrounded a great pool of water.  He had come there every day for thirty-eight years.  The common understanding was when the pool was disturbed by a visiting angel, the waters would start to bubble.  “If I am the first in the pool, I will be saved.

Year after year trying to be as close as possible so when the bubbles began he would roll into the healing water. Like himself, hundreds of sick, lame, blind, disadvantaged all depended upon the bubbles.  They put their trust in the bubbles.  They had faith in the bubbles.  The bubbles made all the difference.  The water no matter how cooling or inviting was not good enough; it had to have bubbles to be effective.

Every day was spent staring intently at the surface of the pool.  It was a danger just to blink and miss the first bubble as it disturbed the surface.  In our lives, we too wait anxiously for the next bubble in lives.  That next stirring will make the difference.

The malady of the day is the dependence upon the bubbles and not on the source of healing.  There have been great revivals, great outpourings of God’s Spirit on men.  These great stirrings have made a great difference. The great Reformation drew millions to a new faith-based belief.  The concept of evangelism crusades as espoused by Rev. Billy Graham gave place to millions of lives changed.  But these great stirrings were not little bubbles upon the pool.  They were great upheavals.  They were not choices of what is contemporary one moment and outdated the next.

Faith in bubbles is the problem.  If sing the right song in an easy key and repeat the verse repeatedly, I will be moved.  If we make the church more relevant, you will hear, “Here it is.  Here is the agitation that will turn people to God.  A well-orchestrated worship experience will save the church.”  “The bubble will be our cure.”

We tend to be polarized in our experiences.  When things are going well we have great things to praise God for.  When things are going poorly we have things to pray to God for.  They are both just disturbances in our lives.  And like the poor man at the pool, we are not saved by it.

It is all showman’s tricks.  It is all smoke and mirrors.  It is all bubbles.  It is trading a true faith in God to a faith in bubbles.  The man at the pool was saved not by the bubbling disturbance of the waters beneath the colonnade.  It was no external disturbance that would heal the wretched man.  What healed that invalid by the pool was a person. It is the advent of Jesus into the middle of our lives that provides the healing of spirit and of mind. By faith, we are saved.  Faith in the commander who said, “Pick up your mat and walk.”

The Kingdom of heaven does not come with the observation of the bubbles.

What do you think?