Page 2 of 55

The Power of a Song

tamara-menzi-HQ_Vh1fSWHk-unsplash

Last night two friends, Jamie Burnette, Savannah Allison and I gathered around my piano for more than an hour and sang some old hymns and gospel songs. I was reminded by all of the comments how important it is to “sing Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” Listen to Paul’s words in Ephesians:

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-21, ESV)

I think if Paul were writing today, he could say “and do not get drunk with the news, with who should have done what, with Republicans and Democrats, with conspiracy theories, with…” the list could go on and on. When there are so many things you do not know, focus on what you do  know.

Again in Colossians Paul writes:

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:15-17, ESV)

Do you think Paul struggled to understand the times? Of course he did! Nero was the emperor, Rome the oppressive regime. What did he tell the Colossians to do? Let Christ’s peace rule (don’t miss this word) in your hearts. How do you do that? Sing! Yes, sing!

So here is a link to last night. While you’re doing whatever this Friday demands, listen to these songs. Worship. I cannot guarantee you that you will answer questions so many are asking–but you will have peace.

Our People…Praying for You

Today is the National Day of Prayer. Psalm 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” As you join Evelyn Kinninger, Ryan Holland, Sarah Bristol, Jay and Glenda Glenn and Bill Hiatt as they pray for us, pray that you too will trust in the name of the Lord.

Calling All Sinners

aaron-burden-AvqpdLRjABs-unsplash

If you want a scholarship for college, you have to make good grades in high school, do well on the SAT and be at least marginally involved in your community. If you want to join the military you have to be able to pass a physical exam. If you are going to be a nurse you have to take a mind-blowing test before you can be licensed.

That’s how life works…work hard, prepare, be dedicated and you will go somewhere. It’s not how God works.

David wrote in Psalm 25: Good and upright is the Lord, therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right and teaches the humble his way. (Psalm 25:8-9, ESV). We really expect this to say: good and upright is the Lord, therefore you’d better be good and upright to get his attention. Be honest. That’s our attitude. “If I don’t measure up God won’t show up.”

Only the ignorant need to be taught. Only sinners need to be saved.

God teaches sinners. I love the old hymn, “Come ye sinners, poor and needy, weak and wounded, sick and sore…” The Pharisees, zealously religious people in Jesus’ day, accused Jesus of being a “friend of sinners.”

Jesus befriended sinners.

If you’ve blown it, come to Jesus. If your mistakes loom larger than your successes, come to Jesus. If you’ve failed, come to Jesus. The old hymn continues, “Jesus ready stands to save you, full of pity, love and power.”

Calling all sinners. Come to Jesus.

It is Well With My Soul

Horatio_Spafford
Horatio Spafford

This hymn was written after traumatic events in Horatio Spafford’s life. The first two were the death of his four-year-old son and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer and had invested significantly in property in the area of Chicago that was extensively damaged by the great fire). His business interests were further hit by the economic downturn of 1873, at which time he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the SS Ville du Havre. In a late change of plan, he sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire. While crossing the Atlantic Ocean, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sea vessel, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford’s daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, “Saved alone …”. Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died. (From Wikipedia)

This pandemic has affected all of us in different ways. Some have lost businesses, others have lost loved ones. Some are lonely, others are restless. Some weary, others afraid. Let the words of Spafford’s hymn comfort and encourage you. Make them a prayer of declaration today.

When peace like a river attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll,
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
it is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well
with my soul.
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
let this blest assurance control,
that Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
and hath shed his own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought
my sin, not in part but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul.

And Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll.
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend,
even so it is well with my soul!

 

Take time to watch this. You’ll discover why 14 million others have done the same.

 

Now therefore…

Yesterday I preached from 1 John 3:1-3 on adoption. If you haven’t listened to the sermon you can find it here:

At the close of the sermon I shared this official document which is read aloud when a child is adopted in the state of North Carolina. I wanted you to see it in print today. Take time to read it and find in it a picture of your own adoption by your Father in heaven. (parentheses in the document are mine)

NOW THEREFORE, it is hereby ordered, adjudged, and decreed by the Court:

  1. That from the date of the entry of this Decree herein, the said minor (your name here) is declared adopted for life by the petitioners and that said child (your name here) shall henceforth be known by the name of: __________________________________________________________ (your name here…insert Christian) and the State Registrar of Vital Records shall make a new birth certificate for said child (your name here) in accordance with the provisions of Section 48-9-107 of the General Statutes;
  2. That the Decree of Adoption effects a complete substitution of families for all legal purposes and establishes the relationship of parent and child, (God the Father and your name) together with all the rights, responsibilities, and duties, between each petitioner and the individual being adopted (your name here);
  3. That from the date of this Decree of Adoption, the adoptee (your name here) is entitled to inherit real and personal property by, through, and from the adoptive parents (God the Father) in accordance with the statutes on intestate succession and has the same legal status, including all legal rights and obligations of any kind whatsoever, as a child born the legitimate child of the adoptive parents.

Let your mind soak up these phrases: adopted for life. Substitution of families. Parent and child. Rights. Responsibilities (of both parent and child). Inherit. Real. Personal. Child. Legitimate.

You are becoming who you already are.

Make Me Know

caleb-jones-J3JMyXWQHXU-unsplash

We don’t like admitting that we’re ignorant. The word ignorant, while laced with negative connotations simply means without knowledge. We know much less than we think we do. Google has deceived us. Siri has led us astray. Alexa has convinced us that all knowledge can be found with a simple command.

Job (13:23) in the midst of his own woes and bad advice from would-be friends prayed a legitimate prayer to God: Make me know my transgression and my sin. We are easily self-deceived, easily deluded into thinking that what we are doing is ok. We trick ourselves into thinking that “prayer requests” aren’t really gossip and that the “second look” really isn’t lust.

Unless God reveals the gravity of our sin, we will not know the weight of the cross on Jesus’ back.

In Psalm 25:4 David prays, “Make me to know your ways O Lord; teach me your paths.” God told Isaiah, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9, ESV) If we, without realizing it, have reduced God to a Google search or an Alexa command, we have diminished his omniscience (his knowledge of all) and we lean on our own understanding without even realizing it.

You will never know your way if you do not know God’s ways.

In Psalm 34, we hear David pray again: “Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” (vs. 8, ESV) The way you should go will never be outside the boundaries of God’s ways. If you want to know your way you must know His ways first. God is concerned with the details of your life. His mind can comprehend billions of people going down trillions of roads. If he feeds the birds, then whatever you’re facing today is of unspeakable importance to him.

Your way matters to God more than you will ever know.

In Psalm 39 David prays a most unusual prayer: “O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! (vs. 4, ESV) The full psalm reveals that David has sinned and God has disciplined him. We aren’t privy to what the sin is–we only know that David is suffering long and hard for it. It appears that God has “cut him down to size.” David realizes he will not live forever, that he has a limited time and space on the earth.

You can no more measure your days than a yardstick can measure the Atlantic Ocean.

Whatever you are facing today, an uncertain diagnosis, unconfessed sin, the unknown of your job situation–pray this prayer: make me to know. If you doubt God’s desire to reveal Himself, consider that He sent his one and only Son, wrapped in human flesh, exposed so you would be covered, ruined so you would be restored, rejected so you would be accepted. Jesus was naked so you would be clothed, hungry so you would be fed, homeless so you would have shelter.

Lord, make me know.

 

Surely Goodness and Mercy

mario-alvarez-M1YdS0g8SRA-unsplash

Psalm 23 is the most oft-quoted Psalm. Charles Spurgeon said, “I have all things and abound; not because I have a good store of money in the bank, not because I have skill and wit with which to win my bread, but because the Lord is my shepherd.”

Alexander McClaren added:

No wise, forward look can ignore the possibility of many sorrows and the certainty of some. Hope has ever something of dread in her eyes. The road will not be always bright and smooth, but will sometimes plunge down into grim cations, where no sunbeams reach. But even that anticipation may be calm. “Thou art with me” is enough. He who guides into the gorge will guide through it. It is not a cul de sac, shut in with precipices, at the far end; but it opens out on shining tablelands, where there is greener pasture.”

He who guides into the gorge will guide through it.

You may be in the gorge, but the Lord promises His presence. He will not abandon you. He never forsakes His own. Scripture is replete with those promises. Here are two:

It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8, ESV)

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17, ESV)

Oswald Chambers, in My Utmost for His Highest adds:

We have the idea that God is going to do some exceptional thing— that He is preparing and equipping us for some extraordinary work in the future. But as we grow in His grace we find that God is glorifying Himself here and now, at this very moment. If we have God’s assurance behind us, the most amazing strength becomes ours, and we learn to sing, glorifying Him even in the ordinary days and ways of life.

So take a few minutes and join Shane and Shane and the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir and sing through the storm:

Dare Pray This Prayer

 

samuel-martins-3U7HcqkIbb4-unsplash

This prayer is taken from The Valley of Vision, a compilation of Puritan prayers:

My God,
I bless you that you have given me the eye of faith,
to see you as father,
to know you as covenant God,
to experience your love planted in me;

For faith is the grace of union
by which I spell out my entitlement to you:
Faith casts my anchor upward
where I trust in you
and engage you to be my Lord.

Be pleased to live and move within me,
breathing in my prayers,
inhabiting my praises,
speaking in my words,
moving in my actions
living in my life,
causing me to grow in grace.

Your bounteous goodness has helped me believe,
But my faith is weak and wavering,
its light dim,
its steps tottering,
its increase slow,
its backslidings frequent;
It should scale the heavens, but lies groveling in the dust.

Lord, fan this divine spark into glowing flame
When faith sleeps, my heart becomes
an unclean thing
the fount of every loathsome desire,
the cage of unclean lusts
all fluttering to escape,
the noxious tree of deadly fruit
the open wayside of earthly tares.

Lord, awake faith to put forth its strength
until all heaven fills my soul
and all impurity is cast out.

Amen.

What You Crave Will Enslave

heather-barnes-gP1YecpRyD8-unsplash

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,  yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:25-33, ESV)

In yesterday’s sermon I talked about three reasons (arguments) we should not worry: theological, logical and philosophical. There is never enough time to finish a sermon, to cover every point. God’s word is like a rich, multi-layered dessert–full of flavor and nuances that cannot be described in a thirty-minute reflection or proclamation. The point of this blog post is to zero-in on a word that appears twice in English translations as almost the same word–one can easily miss the nuanced way Jesus uses this word.

Seek.

Jesus says the Gentiles (unbelievers) seek after basic things like food, drink and clothes. He also instructs us to seek first. The root word seek is defined as an unceasing quest. We are to engage in an unceasing quest for God and the things of God.

We are to never seek after even the basic necessities of life. To seek after is a combination of the root word seek and the prefix epi–meaning over and above. To seek after is to have an inordinate desire for. When you seek after food you become a glutton. When you seek after clothes, you become a shopaholic.

In Jesus’ brilliant sermon, he draws a fine line between seeking and seeking after.

Whatever we seek after will seek after us.

Whatever consumes our thinking will consume our lives. Jesus places a clear priority on seeking (an unceasing quest) first God and his kingdom. Because he says seek first, clearly we are to then seek food, water and clothes. Eat well. Drink plenty of water. Wear warm clothes. When we seek first God and his kingdom, we will not seek after (obsess over) other things.

Perhaps this pandemic has revealed obsessions that consume you, addictions that control you, desires that drive you. Confess this to God. Seek Him first. Then he will add whatever you need.