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Archive for May, 2009

This Wednesday I was reflecting on the parable in Matthew regarding the gifts of the Master and his servants:

The Parable of the Talents

14: “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them.

15: To one he gave five talents[a] of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.

16: The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more.

17: So also, the one with the two talents gained two more.

18: But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.


19: “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.

20: The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’


21: “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’


22: “The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’


23: “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’


24: “Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed.

25: So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’


26: “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?

27: Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.


28: ” ‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents.

29: For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.

30: And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

As I was still contemplating this parable (and the multitude of hidden messages, and meanings still baffles my mind) I saw a picture that someone posted on TwitPic:

guitarstringsunused

The third servant was not unlike these unused and partially rusted guitar strings. These strings had never been used, producing no music. Not good music, nor bad music, not music to ease the ear of a philosopher-king, nor to educate someone to play music in the first place. You can see how wasted the potentiality of this music is in the photo – one can almost hear all the music that could have been played to entertain the masses, or even the one – wasted because someone refused to use these strings. They buried their talent and music from these strings will never be heard.

What are your God given talents? Are you utilizing them to HIS greater Glory, or are you like the third servant? Are YOU the Rusty Strings?

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I was running across some email that had been sent to me from various people for a myriad of reasons, and had been sent this video as an attachment… I think the video pretty much speaks for itself.

In the video, Daniel Beaty transforms himself and his audience into the little boys and girls we used to be, and then asks the difficult questions that arise from time to time.

In the poem Daniel’s father is a loving, involved father. Talking to his child every night, tucking him in, keeping him safe, assuring his child knows his father while growing up. One night, his father doesn’t come to tuck him in. He doesn’t come the next night, or the next… Daniel’s father has been separated from him. Daniel grows up missing those moments with his father that he should have had. These weren’t the fault of the child, but the fault of the father for the choices that he made that caused the separation between the two.

In the same way as Daniel’s father, we make decisions, take actions, say words, or neglect to make decisions, fail to take action, or refuse to say the words that cause us to enter into a state of sin. It is this state of sin that causes our separation from our Heavenly Father. Knock, knock…

In the same way as Daniel Beaty, we can imagine God sitting in His house, wondering whatever became of us. We used to come around, used to talk to him, and used to listen as well. We have separated ourselves, allowed our hearts to be hardened, and closed the door to our souls through sin. Knock, knock…

Today, I heard someone blaming God for the separation between us and Him. I spent time thinking about it, time praying about it, and time composing a blog entry on the topic in my head. At this moment I’m writing from a stream of consciousness, letting the blog entry write itself. While I’m doing so, I’m hearing a sound, a familiar one, one that I hold dear. Knock, knock…

I ended up approaching the person that sounded like they were blaming God for our separation from Him. I explained that WE are the ones responsible for our actions. WE are to blame through our sins against the laws of God. However, even as much as WE deserve to be forever separated from God, as much as WE have truly earned the wages of our sins – Just as Daniel Beaty doesn’t forget his father, God does not forget us. He does not fail.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16

How much He must love us! Not only to continually forgive us, to reach out to us, but to send the means of our salvation and reconciliation to Him. And sending His Son, knowing that nothing short of the sacrifice of His Son’s very life would suffice to pay the debt WE incurred.

Oh, that sound? It is the sound that I hope each of my brothers and sisters here on World-Prayer, and you my reader, hear as well. It is the sound of Him, knocking on the door to our hearts. Closed by sin, opened by His sacrifice.

Knock, knock!

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Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them, and they with me. Revelation 3:20

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Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

In 1865, Henry C. Welles, a druggist in the village of Waterloo, NY, mentioned at a social gathering that honor should be shown to the patriotic dead of the Civil War by decorating their graves.

In the Spring of 1866, he again mentioned this subject to General John B. Murray, Seneca County Clerk. General Murray embraced the idea and a committee was formulated to plan a day devoted to honoring the dead.

Townspeople adopted the idea wholeheartedly. Wreaths, crosses and bouquets were made for each veteran’s grave. The village was decorated with flags at half-mast and draped with evergreen boughs and mourning black streamers.

On May 5, 1866, civic societies joined the procession to the three existing cemeteries and were led by veterans marching to martial music. At each cemetery there were impressive and lengthy services including speeches by General Murray and a local clergyman. The ceremonies were repeated on May 5, 1867.

The first official recognition of Memorial Day as such was issued by General John A. Logan, first commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. This was General Order No. 11 establishing “Decoration Day” as it was then known. The date of the order was May 5, 1868, exactly two years after Waterloo’s first observance. That year Waterloo joined other communities in the nation by having their ceremony on May 30.

Since May 5th, 1866, America has set aside a day of remembrance for her war dead.

There has been 651,008 Battle Deaths in all wars (excluding the current war in Iraq and Afghanistan) since the War Between the States.

But as my father stated so well last night … when we spoke on the phone … It is not merely about the dead … but those who were left behind … wives who lost husbands … sons and daughters who lost parents … It is about remembering the tremendous sacrifices paid by all!

My father is part of the generation that Tom Brokaw rightfully named: The Greatest Generation.

Ian Drake dubbed them: The Men Who Saved the Western World

It is not my intention today to slight any service member who served in any war … ALL OF YOU ARE HEROES!

But I am privileged to have my father with me today, on  September 18th he will be 71 years of age

It is estimated that of the 16.4 million Americans who served in World War II, only about five million are still alive, the youngest being in their mid-seventies.

Those remaining veterans are estimated to be dying at a rate of 1,100 to 1,700 per day.

And I want to take a moment of PERSONAL PRIVILEGE here today to honor my hero, my father, and to say to him: DAD, THANK YOU … AND YOUR GENERATION … FOR DOING WHAT YOU DID!

Now, I know that by this time many of you are wondering how in the world I am going to tie this scripture in with Memorial Day and the GREATEST GENERATION … hang on!

In the text scripture I’ve picked for today today we see where God did three things:

Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

1: He formed

2: He breathed

3: He caused man to “become”

The thesis or though of the sermon is simply this: The actions of One caused another to become.

I want to pose a soul-searching question today: How many people are not “alive” (figuratively speaking) today because we have refused to form them and breathe into their nostrils the breath of life?

1: He Formed

Gen. 2:7: (a) And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground

The word “formed” literally means: To mold into a form through squeezing into shape … like a potter.

§ At the dawn of time … the Creator God formed man into a shape that pleased Him.

§ The creation wasn’t yet alive … therefore he had no say in his shape

§ The actions of the One Creator God … forever shaped the man.

Sixty plus years ago, on battlefields far away my father’s generation was forming me. Because of theiractions I had the opportunity to “become” who I am today.

Note: Theydidn’t make me who I am … they merely gave me the opportunity to “become.”

The older I get the more I realize that not only do I physically carry his DNA, it is also prevalent in my mind and in my spirit.

1: He Formed

2: He Breathed

Gen. 2:7: (b) and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life

The word breathed in this passage means: Puffed

The phrase Breath of Life means: Divine Inspiration

Creator God “Puffed” “Divine Inspiration” into the nostrils of a molded lump of clay called: MAN … and MAN BECAME … what he previously was not … alive!

1: He Formed

2: He Breathed

3: Man Became

Gen. 2:7 (c) and man became a living soul.

Man was filled with Divine Inspiration … not Divine Constraint or Divine LIMITATION … but DIVINE INSPIRATION!!!

Creator God placed within the man all he would ever need to become what the Creator desired him to be!

I’m glad that my earthly father placed within me the things I would need to become who God wanted me to be.

Sometimes he resorted to CONSTRAINT AND LIMITATION (WHIPPINGS) … but he got it in me!!!

*And I’m of the strong opinion that if we had a few more squalling babies today … we’d have a whole lot less squalling parents tomorrow!!!

My father placed things within me like:

§ Love (There was never a time in my life that I doubted my father’s love for me, my mother, and my siblings.)

§ Honesty

§ Trustworthiness

§ Respect

§ Manners

§ Discipline

§ Work Habits

And on and on I could go …

These things didn’t guarantee success … but they sure stacked the deck in my favor!!!

Memorial Day is a day of commemoration for those who have died in the GREAT WARS that secured America’s freedom.

However … today we are engaged in another GREAT WAR … A SPIRITUAL WAR!

This war will not only determine America’s freedom and fate … but this war will determine the freedom and fate of the world … for this and all future generations!

This war is not for land or some political ideal

It is neither a Republican War nor a Democratic War

It is not a Racial War

It is not a Social War

It is a Spiritual War … the War of the Ages

A battle or good versus evil

It is a battle for the souls of men, women, boys, and girls … who Without Jesus … will die and go to an awful place called hell!

It is a battle to:

§ Love the unlovable

§ Forgive the Unforgivable

§ To reach the unreachable

§ To teach the unteachable

§ To feed the hungry

§ To clothe the naked

§ To comfort those who mourn

§ To do good to those who despitefully use us

§ And to love our neighbor as ourselves

This is the battle in which we are engaged!

There are two questions that beg an answer:

1: Are we forming and breathing Divine Inspiration into the lives of those in our sphere of influence?

2: Years from now … will history judge us as Christianity’s Greatest Generation?

Will they refer to us as the Generation that Saved Christianity?

If we are to reach our generation for Jesus, and form the possibilities for future generations to know Him … WE MUST CONDUCT OURSELVES AS THE GREATEST GENERATION CONDUCTED THEMSELVES!

We must become Spiritual Soldiers that mimic the character of the WWII heroes:

1: We must realize that Forming the lives of others and breathing Divine Inspiration into them: IS OUR SACRED DUTY AND PRIVILEGE… NOT OUR CHOICE!

I’m positive that it wouldn’t have been my father’s generation’s choice to spend four years island hopping in the Pacific, but they felt it was their duty!

2: We must develop the attitude that we: DO WHATEVER IT TAKES!

3: We must learn to: Endure the Hardships! … DON’T QUIT!!!

4: We NEVER FORGET the Price that was paid for our freedom (Calvary)

5: We honor the Heroes of the Faith … by “Becoming” what the Creator placed within us to be!

As I begin to close this most unusual topic today, I do so by again posing the question: Are we breathing the Breath of Life into those in our sphere of influence … or are we breathing in the poison of sin?

§ One day a harlot (caught in the act) was brought to Jesus … He breathed the breath of Life into her!

§ He encountered the Woman at the Well … He breathed the breath of Life into her!

§ He brought Zaccheaus down out of his tree … And breathed the breath of Life into him!

§ He encountered a funeral possession one day … touched the bier …stopped it … and breathed the breath of Life into the young man!

§ He encountered Eric DeMar one day, after a long time knocking at the door of his heart, and  … HE BREATHED THE BREATH OF LIFE INTO ME!

§ A lifeless lump of Clay … who knew no real joy … came to life!

§ I have never been the same.

Are we breathing life or the poison of sin into others?

§ Hatred

§ Judgmentalism

§ Racism

§ Unforgiveness

§ RELIGION and not Salvation

And on & on I could go.

One day I will stand before God …

If I am to hear those words: WELL DONE MY GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT …

§ I must learn to form lives …

§ I must learn to Breath Divine Inspiration into those I can reach

§ I must learn to be patient and allow them to “become”

§ I must learn to not breath the poison of sin into their lives

A few years ago I attended the funeral service of a Giant of the Faith (to me anyways): My grandmother.

Draped across her coffin was a Christian Flag

The flag stated the message very clearly:

§ She was a solider in God’s Army

§ She was a fallen soldier on a foreign battlefield

§ But she had fought many battles

§ Endured much pain

§ Won great victories

I hope that when my time comes to meet my Maker …

I will have lived a life true enough to Christ that my family and friends will feel comfortable draping my coffin with Christian Battle Flag!

The flag will state the message very clearly that I wish to convey to this world:

§ He was a solider in God’s Army

§ He was a fell on a foreign battlefield while in service for his Lord

§ He had fought many battles

§ Endured much pain

§ But won great victories

I hope my friends will tell their children and grandchildren:

§ Eric didn’t view his Christianity as a choice … he viewed is as his solemn duty and privilege!

§ He did whatever it took to Form others and Breath Divine Inspiration into their lives!

§ He endured the hardships

§ He enjoyed the beauty

§ He never forgot the cost of his salvation

§ Honor him by “becoming” the person the Creator “formed” and “Divinely Inspired” you to be!

singlepoppy

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields. John McCrae

flanderslandscape

Are we forming, breathing, and allowing to become, a generation that we can pass the torch, from our failing hands?

Will they call us the greatest generation?

The torch has been passed to us …

WHAT WILL WE DO WITH IT?

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Ooook, how am I going to tie these three together?

Last night I had taken in a pretty entertaining night of television by watching the final performances of Kris Allen and Adam Lambert, the final two standing on season 8 of American Idol. The voting had just opened when I opened up TweetDeck (a social messaging client for Twitter). I was seeing rave reviews for both contestants and was enjoying reading most of them, the complimentary ones denoting support for one’s favorite singer.

It was then that I ran across a “tweet” (it’s what they call a message posted on Twitter), that (paraphrased) said that “conservatives, and straight people, need to call in votes for Kris because the ‘gays were going to come out in force for Adam'”. This comment struck me as odd for several different reasons.

  1. First of all, it’s just rude.
  2. Secondly, it presupposes that another group of people would vote simply based on sexual orientation as opposed to who was the better singer in their opinion.
  3. Thirdly, it is  presumptuous toward the actions of a political mindset of people (conservatives), to being predisposed to be against homosexual people for no other reason than they hold a certain orientation.
  4. Lastly, it is in direct violation of the Scriptures that so many conservatives try to site to justify their prejudices.

Let me make this clear from the start, I am a staunch conservative. I have a hard line social and economic philosophy, and oppose nearly every liberal notion that has ever been espoused. I am also a heterosexual male and believe that engaging in homosexual behavior is a sin, as is denoted in Scripture. HOWEVER, that being said – and YES that is a big ‘however’, This post is NOT about the political aspects of homosexuality, or conservativism, or any of that – This post is about the hypocrasy of those that attempt to sit in judgement of their fellow man.

1Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
3And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

– Matthew 7:1-3

As the Scripture says, we are not to judge on another, but to look into ourselves and judge ourselves. The verse calls those that judge others to be hypocrites, seeing the mote in your brother’s eye, but missing the beam lodged in your own. It very clearly indicates that we need to worry about that beam in OUR eye long before we start pointing at our brothers. The poster of that tweet must have forgotten this directive in the Gospel. The poster seems to think it is the job of humans to sit in judgement of, in this case, Adam Lambert in order to deny him the chance to win a talent competition. The mentality is “hey conservatives, we can’t let this homo win”… This judgemental attitude, and actions, are what Matthew is specifically addressing – and saying “HEY, you aren’t to be doing that!”.

36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
37″Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
– Luke 6: 36-38

The reader may have missed that previous Gospel stricture, but two of them? Here in Luke 6, we see that the admonition against judging someone else is repeated, and we are told that we will actually be blessed if we refrain from judging others.

Well, this all begs the question: “What do we do then when we are confronted with sin, and the sinner?” – it has been said in many ways, we are to ‘hate the sin, but love the sinner.” This New Commandment is direct from the Christ Himself: “Love your neighbor as yourself”. The Great Commandment is often cited as two – the Great, and the New:

1) One should love Yahweh with one’s entire heart, soul, mind, and strength
2) One should love one’s neighbour as one would love oneself

These are found in both Matthew and Mark  (Mark 12:28–34 & Matthew 22:34-40). The first (if acted upon properly) will channel God’s love and grace through us and put us in a forgiving, loving mindset, while the second reinforces that feeling. Note that there is no “except” clause in either of these two. No “unless they are of a particular ethnic class”, nor “except if they worship differently than you”, nor “barring the fact that they commit a certain sin or another” – we are to love them, with Christian love, guided by the Father, tempered by the Son, and guided by the Holy Spirit.

This means that while we can hate the sin, we can never hate the sinner. We are not to judge anyone save ourselves. We are to charitably guide and try to steer our brothers away from sin. We are not to judge them, and throw obstacles in their way because we disagree with their life choices.

I would shudder to think of the wrath of God if He applied the even the same standards of judgement that some of us have on our fellow man. Without the prism of the redeptive sacrifice of Christ, our deaths as wages of our sin would be swift, sure, and unredeemable. It is only through grace that we are saved. What hypocracy on the part of mankind to usurp the righteousness of God and presuppose we are better judges than Him! His Son gave us the two Great Commandments; Love God, and love each other. Since when does “love” equate with hatred? The only place I have ever seen it is in extremely disfunctional and abusive domestic settings. This is not the Love that Christ was talking about – AND YOU KNOW IT!

We are CHRISTIANS, followers of Christ! So FOLLOW HIM already! Do NOT sit in judgement of your fellow man, regardless of his sins. Love him as we have been commanded (interesting word that, commanded… not asked, requested, suggested, opined, or side-noted – COMMANDED!). Preach and teach the word, and help them. Don’t get hung up on their sins until and unless you are ready to have your sins judged as well, as harshly, and without redemption.

Sometimes as Christians we ask ourselves that pithy catch-phrase from wristbands of days gone by: WWJD? “What Would Jesus Do?”… We have an answer in this instance –

The “let he who is without sin, cast the first stone” incident is one of the most well-known lessons of the Bible. A woman, who had been caught in the act of adultery was brought to Jesus Christ by the scribes and Pharisees as a test to see if the Messiah was a liberal in matters of the Law of God. In response to their deceitful query, He didn’t condemn the woman, not because He was a liberal, not because He condoned her sin, but because the men who brought the woman to Him were hypocrites. He was the only person there that day who was free of sin, the only one who had the right to “cast the first stone.” He didn’t stone her (or her accusers), but instead forgave her and told her to “sin no more.” Otherwise, the day is coming when she, if she didn’t thereafter repent, won’t be stoned, but will be burned – along with the hypocrites who brought her to Him that day, if they didn’t thereafter repent of their sin:

“Blessed are they that do His Commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” (Revelation 22:14-15 KJV)

The woman, the Scribes and the Pharisees were all caught in the act! It seems, perhaps, that Jesus Christ wasn’t the only one who was “set up” that day. While they used the woman caught in adultery as the means to try to entrap Him through His answer, the woman herself may have been partly entrapped – the man that she was “taken in adultery, in the very act” with (by definition, if she was “caught in the act,” the man had to have been caught too) was not brought to Him with her. Whoever he was, he was just as guilty and just as subject to “the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 20:10 KJV) that the scribes and Pharisees quoted in condemning the woman. Letting him go was more hypocrisy on the part of the themselves-adulterous scribes and Pharisees.

“And early in the morning He came again into the Temple, and all the people came unto Him; and He sat down, and taught them.””And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto Him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto Him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the Law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest Thou?”

“This they said, tempting Him, that they might have to accuse Him.”

“But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground, as though He heard them not. So when they continued asking Him, He lifted up Himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground.”

“And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.”

“When Jesus had lifted up Himself, and saw none but the woman, He said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?”

“She said, No man, Lord.”

“And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” (John 8:2-11 KJV)

HE did not condemn her, nor the Scribes, nor the Pharisees (those that would pass judgement in His stead). His judgement will come at the End of Days. This was what Jesus did as a man on earth (different than His role as Judge in Days to come) – What Would Jesus Do? – and begs the question, what should WE do? We should worry about not being worthy to cast that first stone. We should worry about the judgement that will be visited on us. We should worry about the beam in our own eye…

We should adhere to the Great Commandments and live our lives as we profess – as followers of Christ.

O God, I need to feel that I have forgiveness from You. So often my good intentions do not become what I want them to be, and so often the good I want to do, I don’t do. It is hard to face up to the wrong that is in my life. I have sinned against you in thought, words, and deeds. I ask you to forgive my sins. When I feel Your forgiveness, I feel clean and good inside and so free to be what You want me to be. Help me feel this goodness, and strengthen me to forgive those who have wronged me. Help me to spread your grace, and ask forgiveness of those I have wronged. I pray in the name of Christ who shows us the way to Your forgiving presence. Amen.

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main-church

So, you have come to church. What does that mean? Where do we turn to define this gathering? How are we to evaluate what does on in this service, and how are we to think of ourselves in this gathering?

As in everything, the Word of God must direct our answers, and especially it must regulate our worship. But the Word does not come to us like a training manual or a curriculum guide. It comes to us presupposing our reverence and feat of the Lord, for only then will we begin to receive wisdom.

Psalm 95

1 Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.

2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.

3 For the LORD is the great God,
the great King above all gods.

4 In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.

5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.

6 Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;

7 for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.
Today, if you hear his voice,

8 do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, [a]
as you did that day at Massah [b] in the desert,

9 where your fathers tested and tried me,
though they had seen what I did.

10 For forty years I was angry with that generation;
I said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they have not known my ways.”

11 So I declared on oath in my anger,
“They shall never enter my rest.”

Our worship is to  be full of singing, shouting, joy, thanksgiving, and psalms (vv 1-2). Our worship is to be a response to the revealed knowledge of our Creator (vv 3-5). Our worship is our devoted service to our Covenant Head; He is our God and we are His people (vv 6-7). Our sorship is never based on our previous confession, but our confession and service “today” (v 7b). It must be rooted in faith that is expressedi n faithful works, trusting always in the God of Creation and Covenant and not in our won strength. Our worship may never be presumptuous (vv 8-11).

“O come, let us worship” we are told in Psalm 95. The gathering of the saints together is at the heart of Christian worship and is not to be forsaken (Heb 10:25 – “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”) The ultimate worship time is not when you can get away all by yourself, unless the god you are ultimately worshipping is yourself.

To emphasize the “corporate-ness” of worship is not to lessen the importance of individual faith. Reformation of the Church must begin with individuals. It is the individual who will give an account for every idle word (Matt 12:36 – “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.”) Jesus will be separating goats from His sheep. But those who are His elect will constitue corporately one body, one bride, not many bodies, or many brides. One rampant sin that individuals must repent of individually is the sin of individualism. We are organically connected to Christ (John 15:1 – “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.”) and to one another (1 Cor 12:26 – “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”)

We live in a day that worships ‘spontaneity’ as more virtuous than well-planned order. We live in a day when breezy informality is considered to be more sincere than solemnity and formal celebration. But lack of ‘order’ is why the Corinthians were being chastised (1 Cor 14:40 – “But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.”), while ‘order’ in the Church in Colosse was commended (Col 2:5 – “For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.”) The assembled order of Jerusalem was a thing of beauty and glory to God and His people;

Psalm 122
A song of ascents. Of David.
1 I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the LORD.”

2 Our feet are standing
in your gates, O Jerusalem.

3 Jerusalem is built like a city
that is closely compacted together.

4 That is where the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD,
to praise the name of the LORD
according to the statute given to Israel.

5 There the thrones for judgment stand,
the thrones of the house of David.

6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.

7 May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”

8 For the sake of my brothers and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”

9 For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek your prosperity.

and we are the New Jerusalem.

While we come and are cleansed, saved and sanctified as individuals, we are baptized into the body of Christ. We are connected to the historical Church and we are to understand much of the Lord’s instructions as instructions to us. This has several implications.

Everyone who is asked “whom is worship for” knows how the question is to be answered. Certainly, our service does not look like the ‘seeker-friendly’ types now so popular. Psalm 85;6 instructs us to ‘kneel before the Lord, our maker’. Our worship is to god, for God, and according to the instructions of God. But, let’s be careful not to fall into the other ditch. This fathering of God’s people is initiated by Him, and it is for His beloved. This i the place of covenant renewal, where God rejoices over us with singing as well;

Zephaniah 3:14-17 (New International Version)

14 Sing, O Daughter of Zion;
shout aloud, O Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
O Daughter of Jerusalem!

15 The LORD has taken away your punishment,
he has turned back your enemy.
The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you;
never again will you fear any harm.

16 On that day they will say to Jerusalem,
“Do not fear, O Zion;
do not let your hands hang limp.

17 The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.

Therefore, we should see the whole service as something initiated and coordinated by God to which we respond.

The Call to Worship, then, is God’s call, coming through His appointed elders. The Confession of Sin is God’s cleansing of His people – we can’t gather on holy ground wearing dirty shoes. The time of prayers and of the Word preached can be considered our consecration, a time where God equips, strengthens, and prepares His people – these are His sheep and He is the Good Shepherd leading us to greener pastures. Communion is the time where God nourishes HIs people – He brings them to His Table, to His feast. The Benediction is the final Commissioning in the service – placing His name upon us again, He sends us to the good works appointed by Him.

God-centered worship does not mean that we act as though we have no need to receive. It does mean that we are not providing a cheap form of entertainment to fill our Sunday (Mal 1:8 – “When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty.”) Entering His presence to seek His mercy, to receive His gifts, to listen humbly to His Word and to feed thankfully at His table – that is genuine Christian theocentrism” – Peter Leithart.

Romans 12:1-2 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual[a] act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – We are to be changed by this worship, offering our bodies as living sacrifices (so we die), and being transformed by the Word and presence of God (so we live). Getting our worship in church, therefore is the first and most important step in transforming families, reaching our in evangelism and missions (even if they are not here right now).

When worship is understood this way, we do not see this time as a small offering of my week to appease God. I gather on the Lord’s Day because all seven are His. I tithe because everything I own is His. I don’t leave church to go do something else. Our worship leaves us in the same place as Isaiah, “Here I am, send me.”

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I wrote this blog entry several years ago, while I was in a different relationship and struggling with all things worldly. I was having angst in my professional career, difficulties with athletes I was coaching, sometimes even having doubts regarding my faith. Today, as I was rereading some of these posts (as one would reread a journal or diary), I was struck by the powerful message that a simple email can contain, and pass on to others. Many of you reading my blog today haven’t gone back to read what I posted so many years ago, and I’m not suggesting you should, but I do want to share the message that I was conveying in this one with you:

Today I got an e-mail from a friend that kind of struck me strangely.

The reason for this reaction is because I was feeling rather down today and when I read this, it put life into perspective for the most part. My situation is one that involves a girl that I have been friends with for a long time. Lately we have been having difficulty talking to each other. I have been getting more frustrated as the situation has gone on, wondering if it was some change I was going through, or one that she was, or one that we both were, or even if it was just a perceptual change in the dynamics of the relationship.

While the two of us are working through these things I have been depressed, daily wondering if I had lost her as a friend since I hadn’t treated her very well for about the last month.

I have been praying hard. I have thanked God that she has had patience with me and forgiven me when I needed to be. I have also asked for guidence from Him so that I would feel inspired. I have been feeling lately that my prayers were not being heard.

How wrong a man can be!

Today (back to the e-mail) I received this e-mail from another friend.

It brought me to the realization that God is watching, waiting, and loving all of us. He has knocked, and through the noise of my own ego, I hadn’t heard Him. This e-mail was like a pounding.

He was telling me that He is here, and that He is waiting for me to trust.

Blind trust.

Here is that e-mail:

This is good to hear. The bible talks about a door also and it says “I stand at the door and I knock. If any one hear my voice and open the door I will come in and feast with him and him with me.” Revelations 3:20

Jesus knows what is on the other side – us!

A sick man turned to his doctor, as he was preparing to leave the examination room and said, “Doctor, I am afraid to die. Tell me what lies on the other side.”

Very quietly, the doctor said, “I don’t know.”

“You don’t know? You, a Christian man, do not know what is on the other side?”

The doctor was holding the handle of the door; on the other side came a sound of scratching and whining, and as he opened the door, a dog sprang into the room and leaped on him with an eager show of gladness.

Turning to the patient, the doctor said, “Did you notice my dog? He’s never been in this room before. He didn’t know what was inside. He knew nothing except that his master was here, and when the door opened, he sprang in without fear. I know little of what is on the other side of death, but I do know one thing… I know my Master is there and that is enough.”

I read that e-mail and all of the sudden I felt a sense of peace. I resolved to let Him guide my life. I would try, with His help, to become a better friend to the girl I have felt angst with lately. Hopefully, she will understand the difficulty that I have been having and continue to be my best friend in the entire world.

To her – Thank you for everything! I’ll be here for you just as you have been here for me.

To HIM – Thank you Jesus for loving me, for forgiving my wretched sins, for sacrificing yourself so that I might live in and for you. Please continue to guide my path with the Light of your Holiness.

To YOU (reader) – Thank you for reading. It is an inspiration to be able to share with you my thoughts on our Lord Jesus Christ and have you walk with me as I journey on my faith-walk.

Prayer for Reflection:

Holy Trinity; I thank you for everything you do for me. You are the Most High God, who came to Earth as a man in Jesus, and continues to be our Comfort, our Guide, our Paraclete through the Holy Spirit. I confess that I am a wretched sinner, and without your grace I am lost. I have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed. I am seperated from you by this sin, and nothing except your grace, your compassion, your gift to me that I have any hope of redemption. Thank you for sending the Son to wash away my sins. Thank you for sending the Spirit to comfort me in times of need. Thank you for your gift of grace. I ask you to take my words of long ago, and help me to continue to be inspired by them, and to bless those that read them so that they also might be inspired to carry out your will for them on Earth. Help us to do your will until the time that “every knee shall bow, and tongue confess that Jesus is LORD“. Amen.

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Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day… It can be hard sometimes because mothers know everything. They can tell if you took more than 10 seconds picking a card for them from Wal-mart, or if you went to the specialty shop that deals only in greeting cards, and spent hours there finding exactly the right one. They know when you hide things. They know when you are lying or telling the truth. They know when you are hurt, even if you try to “be a man” and walk it off. They can tell from a tone in your voice if you are upset, angry, miffed, happy, amused, – a wide range of emotions that can be broadcast to your mother with a simple grunt or tilt of the head. They don’t have eyes in the back of their heads, but they KNOW what you are doing anyway. Everyone has been there, when your mother asks you “what were you doing?” – DON’T ANSWER! It’s a trap! She already knows…

Mothers know everything don’t they? My mother did (and still does). She knows almost before I visit her if I have been having a good or a bad day, what kind of mood that has put me in, she has shown near clairvoyance in things related to my job(s), and been able to diagnose all these issues and perform near miraculous feats in snapping me out of bad moods, and extending my good moods. She never fails to be in my corner when I am in the right, and the first one in line to let me know when I have done wrong. She is the one person in the world that I dread disappointing, fear angering, and loathe making cry – even when they are tears of joy.

And that’s just the pressure an earthly son puts on an earthly mother. Can you imagine the issues that Jesus’ mother Mary (Theotokos, Mother of God, Holy Mary, Ste. Mary) had to deal with?

First, she is visited by the angel Gabriel during the Annunciation.

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.””How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. ~Luke 1:26-36 (NIV)

Can you imagine the pressure that this 14 year old girl had just been dealt? In todays world, while it is MUCH more commonplace, it is still fraught with anxiety – A 14 year-old, unwed, mother to be. Engaged to be married to a local citizen by the name of Joseph. By all accounts Joseph is what we call a “stand-up” guy. He receives the news of Mary’s pregnancy and begins considering ways to become un-engaged and yet not make the issue public as it would have brought shame to both their houses, and would likely have cost Mary her very life.  Joseph is then visited by Gabriel and is instructed that this Incarnation is of God, and that he – Joseph – was to become the step-father of the Living God, Incarnate of the Virgin Mary. Joseph, astutely, agrees with the pronouncement and stops thinking of “putting Mary away.”

Fast forward nine months – Mary and Joseph are in Bethlehem, because they are of the house and lineage of David. They have travelled to Bethlehem, the city of David, as a decree went out from Casaer Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. We have all heard the powerful, moving, and traditional recitation of the 2nd Chapter of Luke. The Child is born, the shepards and wise men come. The cattle are lowing, the poor baby wakes, the little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes…

In the 2nd Chapter of Luke a simple yet powerful phrase is used to describe Mary’s reaction to all that has happened. The phrase is actually used twice in this passage, and at other times throughout Jesus’ life- once after the shepards came and saw the baby, and went out and began to prostelytize the arrival of our Most High King, and the second time in this chapter after Jesus gets “lost” in Jerusalem and they find him at the temple. Mary’s reaction to all that happens in her little baby’s life is that she “treasures them up, and ponders them in her heart.”

Arguably Mary is the first Christian. She was there before the beginning of Christ’s ministry on earth, before he got “lost” in the temple, before his miraculous birth, she was there from the beginning. She knew who He was, knows who He is, and knows what He is to become. And she, above all others, having seen all of the humanity in Him, watching Him grow up with the neighbor’s kids. Watching Him at Joseph’s side learning the trade of carpentry, debating the finest minds of His time at the temple at a mere age of 12 years-old, gathering His disciples and she still believed, she still treasured these moments and pondered them in her heart. She was there at His first publicized miracle at the wedding in Cana, there at the feeding of the 5000, there at the many healings, there at the beginning, and there at the end. She watched Him carry the Cross down the Via Delarosa. She watched as they nailed Him to the Cross, raise the cross up, and place above His head a marker saying, “Jesus, King of the Jews”.  She was there when He addressed her, and the disciple that He loved saying, “Mother, behold your son. Son, Behold, your mother.” One of His last acts was to make sure His mother would be cared for after His mission on this earth was complete. She was there when they brought Him down from the cross after He died, likely holding Him for the last time in a position immortalized by Michaelangelo’s Pieta.

So – In answer to the question posed by the video at the beginning of the post, “Mary, Did You Know?”

I believe that she DID know. I believe that she knew, and that she believed it all to be true. Otherwise at some point, just like any other mother, she would have been the first in line telling him, “Knock it off!”

Now, here is your homework – Answer this question:

If the person that knew Him the best, saw into every nook and cranny in His life, having treasured all He went through and pondered each and every moment in her heart – if SHE could believe in the risen Christ, the only begotten Son of the Most High God, why would YOU doubt?

May The Lord bless you and keep you.May the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you.

May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

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