Christianity 201

November 2, 2017

When Gratitude Shines in the Darkness

Clarke Dixon’s full-length articles return next week. In the meantime, this is a shorter one we had in the files which you hadn’t seen before.

by Clarke Dixon

Harvey, Irma, Maria, Abdulahi Hasan Sharif, “Ahmed H”, Stephen Paddock. These are names that have been associated with fear, sadness, and anger in recent days. Whether nature unleashing “natural” disasters, or humans being inhumane, these names can be added to a long history of names that have stirred up negative emotions. We can add to the list the names of various diseases that cause us to think of loved ones. Cancer, Parkinson’s, Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, it seems the list could go on forever. Yet, when the dust settles, something else bubbles up. Gratitude for the first responders. Gratitude for family and friends being at one’s side. Gratitude for complete strangers who have responded with help and aid. Gratitude to God for hope that holds firm in the midst of fear.

No matter the tragedy, eventually the emotions of fear, sadness, and anger make space for gratitude. To respond to the events of life with a range of emotions is not bad. But to be moving to new emotions is good. One is reminded of the words of the Psalmist:

Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5 (NRSV)

In this Psalm, the Psalmist has an experience that many can relate to, namely, the experience both of God’s goodness, and seeming absence:

6 As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
7 By your favor, O Lord,
you had established me as a strong mountain;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.. Psalms 30:6-7 (NRSV)

The Psalmist next makes an appeal to God in prayer and you can probably guess how the Psalm ends:

11 You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever. Psalms 30:11-12 (NRSV)

Joy and gratitude. With God in our lives these are always the emotions we can look forward to even if we don’t feel that way in the moment. With Christ’s grace and love keeping a firm grip on us through the hardest of trials, salvation will come. The Psalmist does not say he will give thanks to the Lord for the rest of his life. He says “I will give thanks to you forever.” That is a very long thanksgiving celebration!

Read more at clarkdixon.wordpress.com



Regular readers: Consider writing for C201. More info at our submissions page.


Choosing articles for C201; what we ask ourselves:

  1. Is this a blog to which I would want to refer readers to see what else the author has written about?
  2. Is the article rooted in scripture? Is God’s word the focus?
  3. Does the item present thoughts or ideas which dig deeper, beyond the obvious or superficial?
  4. How does the article contrast or complement what else is available here?

In addition to submissions we’re always looking for readers who can recommend suitable material.


 

October 12, 2017

Grateful for the Christian Church?

Because Thanksgiving has already happened in Canada, our U.S. readers can consider this an early Thanksgiving article for them!

by Clarke Dixon

As people gathered around the Thanksgiving turkey with thanksgiving reflections, how many said something like “thank you Lord, for Christians”? It feels like right now, many would echo the thoughts of Gandhi: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.” Do we, who call ourselves Christian, inspire gratitude? Are people grateful for the Christian Church? If you are a Christian reading this, are people grateful for you? You may wonder why I am sticking to the series from Romans for Thanksgiving Sunday. Read on, there is a connection!

8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:8-10 (NRSV)

As far as I know, people upon discovering their spouse is in an adulterous affair don’t say “thank you, Lord!”. Nor if they discover their family member is a murderer do they say “thank God for that.” And so on. People, whether religious or not, have gratitude when their loved ones  are righteous. Paul fleshes out for us in Romans 13 the kind of life that inspires gratitude.

A life full of love inspires gratitude: “love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law”. Love naturally inclines us toward the righteousness that people are thankful for when they experience it from their loved ones. When we learn to love, we do not even need the law. One who holds to a high standard of love does not need rules saying “do not commit adultery”, “do not steal”, and so on. He or she would not want to. When I am driving my wife’s van on the highway, I need the occasional sign to remind me of the rule “thou shalt not drive faster than 100 km/h”. It is easy to speed when you have a smooth ride and a 3.6 litre V6 engine. When I ride my motorcycle, I need neither the signs, nor the rule. Having an engine smaller than your average lawn mower, it is “out-of-character” for my Honda 125 to go any faster. When we are so filled with the love and presence of God that His love is overflowing from us, we don’t need the rules to keep us from hurting people. Hurting others is out of character for a loving person. Doing anything but being helpful to others is out of character for the loving person. Keep in mind we are not talking about the “I love what you do for me” kind of love, but the Jesus-going-to-the-cross-for-people-who-do-not-deserve-it kind of love. It is a decisive, sacrificial, other benefitting kind of love.

Are we learning that kind of love that inspires gratitude? If people are not generally thankful for Christians, perhaps we Christians are not loving like we can and should?

Paul continues:

11 Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12 the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13 let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. Romans 13:11-14 (NRSV)

A life full of light inspires gratitude. To give a loose paraphrase of verse 11, “do this love thing we just spoke of, knowing the age we are in, the age of light breaking in on the darkness”. There is a progression in the Bible from God saying “let there be light” through spiritual darkness beginning with Adam and Eve, through Israel called to be a light to the nations but often having trouble finding the switch, to Jesus being the true light in ways Israel never could. John calls Jesus, the “true light, which enlightens everyone” (John 1:9 NRSV). With Christ a new day has dawned and the darkness is receding. We are called to wake up and live in that new day. We are called to live as those belonging to the Kingdom of light, and not those who live according to the old empire of darkness.

The metaphor of waking up continues with the command to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” when we get dressed. In other words, when people see us, when they see what we put on in the morning, they will see Jesus. Here is also a reminder that it is not about our efforts. It is about God’s continual presence with us.

Let us be reminded of Paul’s original appeal:

1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NRSV)

People don’t like it when we are not conformed to this world. But when we are full of love, when we are full of light, the people close to us are grateful. If our nation is not particularly grateful for the Christian Church, then perhaps it is time for us to wake up and put on Christ. Are you up and dressed yet?

Read more at clarkdixon.wordpress.com

 

November 23, 2016

Thanksgiving

We’re paying a return visit to Rick Morgan, who blogs in the UK at Digging The Word. Click the title below to read at source. This is very timely for our US readers for whom today is the start of the Thanksgiving holiday.  This is actually two different posts, we’re presenting them in reverse order to how Rick had them. Click the individual titles to read at source. Other titles in this series include A Heart of Love Has Peace, A Heart of Love Even When Life Is Difficult, A Heart of Love Joyfully Praises God.

A Heart Of Thanks: Refuses To Forget

Most people are quick to forget where the blessings come from.

Luke 17:11-19 As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, He reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. 12 As He entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, 13 crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

14 He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy. 15 One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” 16 He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him for what He had done. This man was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” 19 And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you. “


You just met a man that you heard rumors about, and then sure enough you and your friends all cry out for healing, all ten of you get what you asked for.

Which leper are you? You just witnessed ten people healed simultaneously, you being one of them, what do you do?

Do you think the other lepers remained healed? If so, what was the benefit or blessing for the one leper who returned to give thanks?

Does living with a heart of thanks make a difference in your life?

I have been blessed beyond measure, I have been healed from the leprosy of sin, I need to give God thanks for what he has done and what he is still doing in my life.

Thank you Lord for healing me and bringing me back to life! I am an unworthy servant that seeks to obey you fully from a heart of gratitude.

I Will Give Thanks

I will give thanks to the Lord forever, I will give thanks
I will give thanks to the Lord forever, I will give thanks (repeat)

For He is good, And His love endures forever
For He is good, And His love endures forever

I will give thanks to the Lord forever, I will give thanks
I will give thanks to the Lord forever, I will give thanks

For the Lord has been so good to me
He has blessed my life abundantly
He’s provided, guided, lifted me, He is faithful through it all

O His love endures, yes His love endures
O His love endures, yes His love endures

Can we ever comprehend how good God is to us? I don’t think that we can comprehend or appreciate it before we get to heaven and meet him face to face. Then we will understand why the song says “I will give thanks to the Lord forever!”

Psalms 30:11-12 You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give You thanks forever!

As you count your blessings today don’t forget to praise and worship God for the gifts that are impossible to have without him. Things like salvation, true love, the ability to know him and relate to him, if we really appreciate these things then our desires for the stuff that the world has to offer will fade.

October 13, 2016

Psalm 100: A Call to All to Give Thanks

As we mentioned on Saturday, this was Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. Since Clarke Dixon’s regular contributions here are based on his sermons of the previous week, we have Thanksgiving as today’s theme, which for most of readers, comes a few weeks early.

by Clarke Dixon

Around the table at Thanksgiving many people have a tradition of saying what they are thankful for. I am always thankful that my son, who arrived on a Thanksgiving weekend twelve years ago, arrived safely. Especially so since he arrived at the hospital before the doctor who was on call and methinks sitting down to a Turkey dinner at the time. But while it may be easy coming up with things to be thankful for, how many have really thought about whom they are giving thanks to? The what of Thanksgiving happens naturally. The to whom and why gets a bit muddy for some. It is not muddy for the Psalmist in Psalm 100 who has a clear sense of gratitude; what for, to whom, and why. This will become clear to us as we take a look:

1 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
come into his presence with singing.
3 Know that the LORD is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name.
5 For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100)

Some things to note about the Psalmist’s call to Thanksgiving:

The call to thanksgiving is a call to know the LORD. 

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth. (Psalm 100:1 emphasis mine)

The Psalm begins with a call to make a joyful noise, not to just any lord, but the LORD. Many of our translations use LORD all in capitals in place of the actual name of God. There is a long story about this but suffice it to say here that we have a call to give thanks to The One Creator God Who has revealed Himself as recorded in the Bible. Here we have not some nebulous concept of a god that can never be known, but a very specific and personal God who can be known and has made Himself known. The Psalmist is very clear on to whom thanksgiving is due, the One God Who has made Himself known.

Further, the Psalmist is clear on some specifics that we can know about the LORD:

Know that the LORD is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. (Psalms 100:3)

For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalms 100:5)

The call to thanksgiving is a call to experience joy in the LORD.

1 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
come into his presence with singing. (Psalms 100:1-2 emphasis mine)

These should not be taken as commands so much as an affirmation of what comes naturally. People naturally respond to really good news with joy, noise, and singing. Even those who cannot carry a tune cannot contain their enthusiasm. When we know the LORD properly, we will understand that the opportunity of being in relationship with Him is a fantastic opportunity. We will understand how amazing a thing it is to enjoy God’s presence. A church I once pastored could joyfully claim that a former Prime Minister of our nation was once a regular attender. Yet that fact pales in comparison to having the King of Glory in attendance. If there is joy lacking in the church services across our nation, perhaps it has less to do with getting a handle on worship style and more to do with getting a handle on how utterly fantastic a thing it is to be in the presence of the LORD.

Since I brought up worship style let us recognize too, that the call to thanksgiving is a call to experience joy in the Lord rather than a call to enjoy ourselves. When we put the emphasis of church worship on making sure people enjoy themselves, we begin to emphasize perfection in performance. If the church I pastor suddenly put an emphasis on excellence in performance I would soon find myself out of work. When worship is more about joy in the Lord than enjoyment of oneself, our experience of worship will be decided long before the church service begins.

The call to thanksgiving is a call to praise the LORD.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name. (Psalms 100:4 emphasis mine)

Sometimes a skeptic will ask if the Lord is so insecure that he needs our praise. This is to completely misunderstand praise. Praise is not something God needs, nor is it something that must be commanded, but is something we do quite naturally. Does the mother or father of a child need to be instructed to praise him or her when they take their first steps? Momentous occasions call for momentous praise. To give thanks to the Lord for all His goodness is a momentous occasion.

The call to thanksgiving is a call that goes out to everyone, everywhere.

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth. (Psalms 100:1 emphasis mine)

We don’t normally think of God’s people in the Old Testament as being a missionary people. But the Psalmist is, calling everyone, everywhere to give thanks to the LORD. People sometimes mistakingly think that God changes direction between the Old and New Testaments. He does not change directions, but goes further along the same direction, revealing Himself and His goodness more fully and driving the point home that He is love. We know from the Old Testament that all people, everywhere owe a debt of thanks to the LORD for life itself. We know from the New Testament that all people, everywhere have the opportunity to experience eternal life in Christ.

Do we have the confidence as Christians to know that calling everyone, everywhere  to thanksgiving is the right thing to do? Or do we hide behind a philosophy of faith as a private and personal thing? God did not keep the fact that He is Creator private. He has not hidden His goodness. He did not hide behind a tree, but bore the cross publicly. He did not roll the stone back across the tomb to hide the fact of a missing body. Either God is to be thanked or not. Either by everyone, if it is true, or by no one, if it is not. The Psalmist knew what was what and was not shy about issuing a call to thanksgiving. Are we?


All scripture references are taken from the NRSV

Originally posted at Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon

October 8, 2016

Thanksgiving, a Celebration of God

This is Thanksgiving Weekend in Canada. Russell Young adapted this from a presentation he is doing. His regular contribution will appear Sunday.

by Russell Young

Thanksgiving is often celebrated as a harvest festival, a time of bringing in the riches of all that the land has provided the labours of man from the season just past.  It is a time of rejoicing for God’s provision.  In norther climates where leaved trees grace the land, thanksgiving is also a time of exceptional beauty.  Autumn leaves reveal their varied colours and brilliance as green leaves are changed into many oranges, browns, reds, and yellows.

The idea and even command to thank God goes back to the beginning of the Bible.  The Lord told his people how they were to present thank offerings.  However, King David’s prayer of thanksgiving gives some idea of his heart. “Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.  Sing to him, sing praise to him tell of his wonderful acts.  Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice…” (1 Chr 16:7-10…NIV)

David’s thanksgiving was for and all-sufficient and merciful God.  It was not for the bounty of a season but for the character of God and his faithfulness…for his “wonderful acts.” He recognized God’s everlasting covenant promise, for protection against enemy nations, for the splendor of his holiness and for his majesty. David’s praise of thanks was, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

The God of creation is preparing an eternal place in his presence for those who love and obey him. His people should think of this.  Is there not more to be celebrated than a bountiful harvest?  Is He not more to be celebrated than temporal riches or good times?

It is easy to let discouragement destroy our joy and our hope when the world seems to have turned against us. Many lose their faith when trials come.  They expect to live in the blessings that they imagine God should supply them.  All people go through difficult times.  God did not promise to relieve us of all our challenges and to satisfy our wants.  In fact, his Word says that his children will suffer persecution and trials and that he disciplines and punishes those he loves. The challenges of life are to prepare us for the real hope of a place in his coming kingdom and they are to be considered blessings.  Paul taught: “[G]ive thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you.” (1 Thes 5:18 NIV)

In spite of challenges, many people can celebrate that they live in the presence of peace and safety.  They don’t have to seek shelter from blazing guns or falling bombs as believers must in Iraq or Syria.  They are not wantonly tortured as they are in many African countries.  Not many have to fear suicide bombers. Many will have something to eat tonight. Their children are not starving and have access to adequate healthcare.

give-thanks-to-the-lord  King David remembered who God was. He proclaimed, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Ps 107:1 NIV) His love and mercy extends to all who are contrite in heart and who will humble themselves before him.  The prophet Isaiah revealed God’s words: “This is the one I will esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” (Isa 66:2 NIV)

King David had taken another man’s wife and even had him killed.  His penance brought redemption and forgiveness.  God was truly merciful to him.  All of the redeemed can appreciate the sins that cost the life of God’s one and only begotten Son? David did not just thank God for a bountiful harvest and a full stomach. He thanked God for his awesomeness and mercy.

God is not only near the righteous but he lives within them as Holy Spirit.  Without him victory over the world, the evil one or the sin loving flesh could not be gained.  Temptations would command the believer’s attention and as Paul has reported, the weakness of the flesh would result in defeat and death.  He called the flesh, “the body of death.” (Rom 7:24 NIV)

God placed Adam and Eve in an ideal setting, the Garden of Eden, and yet they sinned. He started the human race again with righteous Noah following the Great Flood, and they sinned.  He chose a special people, Israel, and offered them many promises of blessings for obedience, and they rebelled.  He redeemed them from Egypt and led them in the wilderness; even then they continued to sin. He gave them the law and the prophets and the tabernacle system of worship.  He made his requirements clear and recorded them on stone…and his people sinned. Finally, he gave the life of his Son as a payment for sin, and the Spirit of Christ, his Son, to live in the repentant.  Just as Christ had lived a sinless life in the body that the Father had prepared for him in the womb of Mary, he has made provision for victory for all who live under his lordship through obedience.  This is the believer’s great hope and the ultimate expression of God’s love for a helpless sinner.  Christ in you.

What are you giving thanks for?  Is it a meal?  A comfortable bed, close friends? Or, is it for the faithfulness of a loving and all-sufficient God and creator.  What is your celebration about?  Be thankful for God and his mercy.  Celebrate his love and the hope he offers. Celebrate him, not just what he has done.

Like King David be prepared to say, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

 

October 14, 2015

The Gift of Restraints

Clarke Dixon returns for his regular mid-week column. For this one, you need to know that this past weekend was Thanksgiving in Canada. So if you’re Canadian, this is a few days late, but for most of our readers, it’s a few weeks early. Click the title below to read this at Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon.

Thank God for Rules

Many people gather around the traditional turkey dinner on Thanksgiving with a custom of each person sharing something to be thankful for. These can be somewhat predictable, with family, friends, God’s goodness, health and chocolate often on the list. Rarely, if ever, will someone say they are thankful for rules. Why is that? There are three reasons:

  • We value individual liberty and freedom. Rules are seen to push against freedom.
  • We fear judgementalism. Those who do not like rules may feel that those who do are judgemental.
  • We value self-esteem and self-confidence. Consistently being poor at keeping rules can make one feel like a bad person.

Since we do not seem to like rules very much, why are we talking about them on Thanksgiving? Why are we thinking of God’s law, and why are we focusing in on the Ten Commandments? It is partly because I have begun a sermon series on Deuteronomy and didn’t want to leave it for Thanksgiving. However, I was intentional in getting the Ten Commandments to land on this particular weekend. Why? Because the God’s law is something we can be truly grateful for.

While my wife remembers most of our wedding gifts from sixteen plus years ago and can identify items around the house that were gifts, I can identify very few. Typical man perhaps? But one I do remember. A plain black power drill. I can remember it partly because among all the gifts which tended to be quaint items, or kitchen items and the like, the drill stood out like a sore thumb. I remember it because it was from my parents. I also remember it because it is the wedding gift that over the years I have been most grateful for. A strange gift at the time perhaps? Best wedding gift ever in the long run! My parents knew what they were doing. We may think that rules make a strange gift from God. But they are a great gift in the long run. God knew and knows what He is doing in giving them! So in what ways are the rules a gift that we can be grateful for?

As the people of God stand ready to enter the land God has promised to them, Moses reminds them of the ten commandments God had given them earlier. Let’s take a look at the first group of the ten commandments:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me, 10 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

11 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

12 Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you.  (Deuteronomy 5: 6-12 emphasis mine)

These are rules given to help the people of God honour God. Remember that God is Creator, God is Sovereign. To honour God is truly important. To be given guidance on how to do that is priceless. Such guidance is a wonderful gift.

Let us consider the last group of the ten commandments:

16 Honour your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

17 You shall not murder.

18 Neither shall you commit adultery.

19 Neither shall you steal.

20 Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbour.

21 Neither shall you covet your neighbour’s wife. Neither shall you desire your neighbour’s house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.
(Deuteronomy 5: 16-21, emphasis mine)

These are commandments that help us to honour one another. Keeping in mind the violence of the world that led to the flood in Noah’s day, and also the violence still in the world in the days of Moses, to be given guidance on how to honour one another is a gift. Indeed the good relationships that would be found among God’s people if they keep the law would be noticed by the neighbouring nations:

See, just as the Lord my God has charged me, I now teach you statutes and ordinances for you to observe in the land that you are about to enter and occupy. You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!’ For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is whenever we call to him? And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today (Deuteronomy 4:5-8, emphasis mine)

Not just the Ten Commandments, but the entire Law was a wonderful gift of God in guiding His people toward good relationships.

So far we have considered God’s law as being a gift to his people as they prepare to enter the promised land. But are rules a gift for Christians today? Some have said that Christians are not about the rules, but only about grace. Let us consider the following:

First, in following Jesus in the way of the cross, the Christian is to live out a wonderful ethic of love. Some see this as contrasting to a way of rules as given in the Old Testament. However, this is not a contrast, as the law and love belong together. Remember the words of Jesus:

17 ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 21 ‘You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.” (Matthew 5: 17-21)

How can we have a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees when they were known to be the best at knowing, keeping, and enforcing the rules? By coming at the rules from a place of love and practicing them for the sake of love. The religious leaders were practicing the rules for the sake of religion, but the Christian is to be ethical, living out the rules, as a means of loving God and loving others. God’s law helps the Christian know how to express love. What a gift!

Second, the Christian finds in the Old Testament rules foundational teaching on what pleases and honours God. We are not required to become Jewish in becoming a Jesus follower, and so there are many customs and laws that are not binding, especially with regards to dietary restrictions and the like. However, we do see in the Old Testament law what pleases God and what does not. We still learn from them practical advice on how to honour God and how to honour others. What a gift to have such guidance!

Third, the rules open our eyes to our need for salvation, and our need for a Saviour. I know I am speeding on the #2 highway, not just because of the number the needle my speedometer is pointing to, but because there is a posted limit as to what that needle should be pointing to. We become very aware of our shortcomings in keeping the rules when the rules are posted for us in black and white. As Paul writes:

What then should we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ (Romans 7:7)

In becoming aware of our lack with regard to the rules, we become aware of our need for grace. In becoming aware of our need for grace we are awakened to the wonderful joy of knowing salvation in Jesus. The Holy Spirit convicts and encourages all along this journey. The rules, in being a part of that journey toward salvation are a real gift!

So when we think of the things we can be grateful for, I hope that we can all thank God for rules!


All scripture references are taken from the NRSV.

May 28, 2015

Gifts in Kind

In North America, we usually use the phrase “gifts in kind” to refer to donations people make to charities and non-profits of things other than cash. Someone will donate a valuable sterling silver cutlery set, or an oil painting by a renown artist.

We usually think of such gifts as originating with people who are wealthy — after all, they owned these beautiful pieces in the first place — but it can also be done by people who are too poor to make a monetary gift, but find themselves in possession of something that can be assigned a value and then sold by the organization they wish to support.

Today, I want to consider a situation where the gift was somewhat “in kind” — and I’m borrowing the term here for a different purpose — is being made because it has become impossible to give to the original intended recipient. In other words, person “A” is no longer around to bless, but in their honor, I am giving to person “B.”

2 Samuel 9:1 David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”

Now there was a servant of Saul’s household named Ziba. They summoned him to appear before David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?”

“At your service,” he replied.

The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”

Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan…”

As the chapter continues, David pours out his generosity to Mephibosheth. The book Men of the Bible by Ann Spangler and Robert Wogelmuth tells us:

…David lavished Mephibosheth with more than he ever could have dreamed: land, servants, and access to the king’s table. Mephibosheth had not deserved the misfortune that had marked his life. But neither did he earn the good fortune that suddenly befell him. Mephibosheth must have been overwhelmed by it all.

There is more to the story to be sure, but I want to return again to verse one:

1 David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”

I’m wondering if there’s anyone reading this who can think of someone who has passed from this life, and there perhaps a wish that you could have done something, or done more to bless that person?

Before we continue, it’s important to note that David and Jonathan had a covenant relationship. Matthew Henry notes:

It is good sometimes to bethink ourselves whether there be any promises or engagements that we have neglected to make good; better do it late than never. The compendium which Paul gives us of the life of David is this (Acts 13:36), that he served his generation according to the will of God, that is, he was a man that made it his business to do good; witness this instance, where we may observe,

1. That he sought an opportunity to do good.
2. Those he inquired after were the remains of the house of Saul…
3. The kindness he promised to show them he calls the kindness of God

At this point, it’s easy to let yourself off the hook and say, “I did not have a covenant relationship with anyone like that.

But is there someone to whom you could say,

  • Your father was a major influence in my life
  • Your mother helped me through a difficult time
  • Your brother was like a brother to me
  • Your aunt and uncle were very generous to me at a critical time
  • Your sister’s encouragement was always both needed and appreciated

and then, in recognition of that

  • invite them over for dinner or out to a restaurant?
  • give them a gift, perhaps even a Bible or Christian book?
  • make a charitable donation in their name or in memory of their loved one?
  • write out the story of how their relative blessed you and print it out for them as a keepsake?
  • failing all else, just simply tell them how much their family means to you?

Verse seven is our model. In light of the deep relationship between David and Jonathan:

“Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”

Is there a Mephibosheth in your life?

 

February 22, 2015

The Bible on Depression

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During Sundays in February we’ve been visiting the blog Christian Fellowship Devotions.  Archives at the blog go back to 1996, and today I want to link you to their topical index.

For our final Sunday with them, I wanted to use an older item by Janice that deals with a topic I know is very real to many of you.  (I think by NNAS she is referring to the updated New American Standard.) Click the title below to read at source.

depression

Passages about Depression

Depression — it’s something many of us struggle with — yes, even Christians. Being depressed does not mean you are “not a good Christian.” In fact, some of the “heroes of our faith” went through periods of what used to be called “melancholy.” Sometimes depression is a result of sin, but at other times, it is as Christian psychiatrist Frank Meier says, simply “…the result of life stresses.” Here is a bit of what God’s word has to say about it.

Biblical Examples of Depression

Neh 1:3-4 (NNAS) They said to me, “The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire. When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. Psa 13:1-3 (NNAS) How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death.

Psa 102:9-11 (NNAS) For I have eaten ashes like bread and mingled my drink with weeping. Because of Your indignation and Your wrath, For You have lifted me up and cast me away.My days are like a lengthened shadow, And I wither away like grass.

Prov 14:13 (NNAS) Even in laughter the heart may be in pain, And the end of joy may be grief.

What We Are to Do About Depression?

We should follow Nehemiah’s and the Psalmist’s examples, pouring our hearts out to God:

Neh 1:6-7 (NNAS) Let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before You now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Your servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against You; I and my father’s house have sinned.We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses.

James 4:8-10 (NNAS) Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

Find things to be thankful for, even in the most painful times. God will honor that.

1 Th 5:18 (NNAS) In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Share with a trustworthy friend. Let him minister to you.

Rom 12:15 (NNAS) Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

October 19, 2014

Everyone Matters

Jesus’ compassion wasn’t measured by the social context, or the condition of the individual, but by the need.

I found this on the blog of Jonathan Zinck who pastors The Pier Church in Brockville, Canada; a city in which we were involved for 14 years. He wrote it for the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday, and with a largely U.S. audience here, I thought of filing it away for the end of November; but with its references to leprosy it seemed more immediate in light of Ebola and Enterovirus. There are however, less dramatic examples of outcasts around us all the time. Do we reach out to touch them as Jesus did?

Thankful in All, for All

“Everyone has to matter, or no one matters”. This is a quote I saw on Twitter yesterday. Although it was a quote from a current TV drama, it was a statement I couldn’t ‘shake’. The reason it resonates with me so deeply, is because it is a statement I have been wrestling with the last number of weeks. Whether in conversations with friends, in my devotions, or while ‘people watching’ over the steam of a cup of coffee, the message of this statement has been churning my heart.

When it comes to compassion and needs to be met, my first step has always been to meet the challenge. In fact, as a Church family that we affectionately call ‘the knee-cap’, our primary mandate is to invest in others’ lives. So why the challenge in my heart? It isn’t because of the words ‘to matter, but the word ‘everyone’. This statement speaks more than just being compassionate, but that our compassion is not limited to a few, but a commitment to ‘all’. This statement challenges my heart because its origin isn’t in a TV drama, but from the words of Jesus.

At the very onset of His ministry, Jesus was approached by a leper, begging Jesus to heal him. While for us today we would see this leper as a man who was sick, those in Jesus’ culture saw him as a social outcast. People feared so much about ‘catching’ the disease, that they would make those with leprosy yell out “…unclean! unclean!”. As a result, leprosy not only condemned the afflicted physically, but socially as well. Because of this, what happens next is remarkable:

“…Deeply moved, Jesus put out his hand, touched him, and said, “I want to. Be clean.” ~Mark 1:41

Jesus’ compassion wasn’t measured by the social context, or the condition of the individual, but by the need. From the very beginning of His ministry, Jesus made it very clear that He had come for all, and that ‘everyone has to matter, or no one matters’. In fact, the Bible tells us that this statement is the very context of the Cross. John 3:16-17 Jesus proclaims that He came to spiritually rescue ‘all’ who would come. John 17:20, Jesus prays that ‘all’ who believe the message will be united as one. Romans 3:22, stresses that salvation through the Cross is for ‘all’ who believe, and 1 Tim 4:10 impresses on us that Christ has come as Saviour for ‘all’.

So what’s my point? Why am I so challenged by the statement ‘ Everyone has to matter, or no one matters”? Because if I am a follower of Christ, I am not only to live a life of compassion for others, but a life of compassion for all. Because as I honestly look into my life I have to ask myself if I show equal measure of compassion to everyone. Am I willing to walk with those who are labeled as socially ‘unclean’ in the same way with those who are socially accepted? Am I willing to invest in the needs of those who oppose me, in the same way I am willing to invest in the needs of those who accept me? For all of us, as followers of Christ and walkers with Christ, is mandate our to show compassion to all…period?

Jesus’ voice from the Cross answers with a resounding “Yes!” What Jesus risked with the leper pales to what He did on the Cross. Taking on the ultimate persecution, humiliation, and torture, He sacrificed and invested His life for ALL…yes All. Regardless of our need, our past, or our social status, Christ made the ultimate sacrifice so that we (all of us) have the opportunity to reach out to Him in faith, to receive the ultimate reward- salvation and eternal Hope.

Thanksgiving is not only a time of celebrating how we have been blessed, but the active sharing of what we’ve been given. Likewise, Thanksgiving of Faith- celebrating the message of the Cross- is not only celebrating our salvation and deliverance, but is sharing this hope to all, by investing in others what Christ has invested in us: all love, compassion, and message of Hope.

So here’s my encouragement, challenge, and request for you. My request is that you walk with me in this. I encourage you to wrestle with what “Everyone has to matter, or no one does” means to you. I want to challenge you to intentionally reach your hand out to someone who you have personally regarded as ‘unclean’, and example Christ to them.

Being a follower of Christ is not only fully receiving what Christ has done for us, but the commitment to follow Christ…walking in His steps…love those He loves (All)…share hope with those He sacrificed His life for (All). This is a Thanksgiving celebration of Faith.

October 14, 2014

Combatting Entitlement

Regular contributor and Canadian pastor Clarke Dixon continues to look at issues revolving around the broader theme of generosity. Click the title below to read this at this blog, Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon…

Curing a Bad Case of Goodstuffitis. Gratitude, Generosity, and Deuteronomy 8

Many of us suffer from a widespread but little known affliction called “Goodstuffitis”. How do you know if you have it? Its primary symptoms are forgetfulness and boasting but the early warning signs that we are getting it are when we say things like “I deserve this, I earned that, life would be unfair if I did not have it.”

The Bible speaks of a people in danger of coming down with a bad case of goodstuffitis in Deuteronomy. God’s people are ready to enter the promised land and God, through Moses, is preparing them. But the danger they face in the future is not just from the danger of battle, but also what waits for them beyond the battle:

12 When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15 who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, an arid wasteland with poisonous snakes and scorpions. He made water flow for you from flint rock, 16 and fed you in the wilderness with manna that your ancestors did not know, to humble you and to test you, and in the end to do you good. 17 Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today.” Deuteronomy 8:12-18 (NRSV emphasis mine)

Affluence is the danger that lay ahead of God’s people. Note the twin dangers that lurk in a good life; forgetting God and exalting oneself. A lot has been written on the sobering statistics of the Christian faith in Canada. Some blame church music, some blame boring preaching, and some blame stuck-in-the-mud ethics for the shift away from faith. Meanwhile those of an atheistic bent would have us believe that we can thank better education. But perhaps what we are experiencing are the symptoms of a bad case of goodstuffitis. Things are going good for the typical Canadian. Opportunities abound. Houses are being built. Fancy cars, fancy cottages, and fancy coffees are being bought. People are doing well. And God is all but forgotten. Self, on the other hand, is exalted.

What are we to do? The cure for goodstuffitis is gratitude. God’s people are told to “remember the Lord your God” (verse 18). They are, of course, not just to remember that God exists, but rather to remember that everything good that they have and experience, would not have happened if it were not for the Lord’s goodness to them. Likewise, we can remember the Lord in all the good that we have and experience.

However, we may push back and say “I have this because I earned it, I am entitled to it.” We might consider the words of Paul here: “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?” 1 Corinthians 4:7b (NRSV). Yes, we may have worked hard in school to get good grades, but did you create your own brain? Yes, you may work hard to earn money, but did you create the earth with its resources, routines, and seasons so necessary for your work to be carried out? At some point or other, everything that we can point to as good in our lives has its source in God.

​Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (James 1:17 NASB)

And the greatest example of all is our salvation. How people so badly want to earn it! How people so assuredly think they are entitled to it. We can not, and we are not. Salvation, in all the fullness of what that means, is a gift! There is no greater good that we could have or experience, but gratitude must be applied to keep us from developing goodstuffitis even in this: “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15 (NRSV).

We have been considering how God through His Holy Spirit is creating within us the character trait of generosity. We have considered also that we may at times stifle the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. A bad case of goodstuffitis with its symptoms of boasting and a sense of entitlement can kill generosity. It’s not hard to see how this can kill our hopes of becoming generous people; “I worked for it and you didn’t, I deserve it, and you don’t.” But thankfully there is a cure, and that cure is gratitude. Lord, may I not feel entitled to, nor boast about, the good that I have and experience, but may I be grateful to your for it, and knowing it is from your hand, help me share it with others.

April 6, 2013

Stones of Remembrance

This appeared a few weeks ago at Brilliant Perspectives, the blog of Graham Cooke, this article is written by Allison Bown. To view this at source, with an additional personal application from the author,  click here.

Remembering is essential in encouraging ourselves in the Lord. David did it often. In Psalm 77:10-11,

“And I said, “This is my anguish; But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. ”I will remember the works of the LORD. Surely, I will remember Your wonders of old.”

Graham (Cooke) has said that faith is cold blooded on days – an act of our will, not of our emotions – and that’s what I see in David’s words here. (Check out Psalms 42, 63, 78 & 111 for more examples). Meditating on God’s previous faithfulness and goodness strengthens us in the Lord.

Joshua knew this truth too. In Joshua 4, he followed God’s instructions to take 12 stones as they crossed the Jordan to build a memorial on the shore of the Promised Land. God wanted future generations to ask, “What do these stones mean to you?” and their elders were to tell them the stories of God’s deliverance from Egypt and of His faithfulness in the wilderness.

But Joshua took it one step further. He made it personal. In verse 9 it says,

“Then Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests who bore the ark of the covenant stood; and they are there to this day.”

Why? Why did Joshua do it and why did the Holy Spirit include it in the story?

On the day that his apprenticeship ended and his destiny was validated by God in the sight of all Israel – I believe Joshua wanted to remember. What if each stone was a memory of God’s faithfulness? In the wilderness …in the days of living in the tabernacle…growing up under Moses’ mentorship… with his friend Caleb…

Lost in the the vast crowd of Israelites crossing over, was Joshua able to set up his own private “thank you” to the God who had been so constant in his life for over 40 years? I think so.

Graham has often talked about the power of thanksgiving, to still our souls and to expand our hearts to hear and see all that God is doing. Thanksgiving is how we enter into the presence of God. “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise” (Ps 11:4). Not through study or effort… but through thanksgiving, which always leads to praise. How could it not?

Remembering the goodness of God has saved my life on many occasions. It has kept me in the “land of the living” (Ps. 27) when nothing else could. It has given me courage to fight and has been the Holy Spirit’s favorite way to bring comfort and make me smile.

I have a journal in which I record my thanks, usually just in a short sentence. On challenging days, I pull it out and read it out loud to God. Just the weight of the accumulated goodness of God has the power to give me a higher perspective of my circumstances. *Around my office are objects that remind me of our journey together. Each has a story of goodness that goes with it, and while many seem to be simple decorations, they are stones of remembrance that encourage me.

I’ve often imagined Joshua stopping by the Jordan in the years that followed, possibly after the not-so-great days. Off in the distance, there may have been a family gathered around the visible memorial stones that commemorated Israel’s beginnings. But I think Joshua preferred to spend his time looking at the smooth waters of the Jordan, remembering the hidden memorial of personal thanks that lay just below the surface and the faithful God who inspired it.

When it was time to go, he was encouraged and strengthened. Stones of Remembrance seem to have that effect, both then and now.

~Allison Bown

October 25, 2012

Seeing God Face To Face

NIV Ex. 33: 18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”

19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

God artistic license grantedThe inspirational gospel singer Sandy Patti once had a song out called “We Shall Behold Him.”* Have you ever wondered what that might be like when we first see him, as the song says, “face to face in all of his splendor?”

In his earthly body, Moses returned from Mt. Sinai severely sunburned — so to speak — after being in close contact with God. In the New Testament, when Jesus became “transfigured,” he appeared in dazzling white.

Exodus 33 says that no man — i.e. no human being in their present state — can look at God and live. The image and presence of God is simply too much. However, the Bible in Deuteronomy suggests something else. Even Moses in other encounters spoke face-to-face with God.

Still; lying in bed the other night unable to sleep, I wondered about the whole subject of what will strike us the first time we do in fact behold Him. Usually the verse is quoted that suggests that God made us to look like Him. I have a hard time taking this literally. In fact, in one period of my life, I was convinced this would be better interpreted that “God made us out of his imagination.” I still believe there are fewer similarities than most of us think.

What if C.S. Lewis’ depiction of God as Lion is more accurate than what many of us have in mind: “He’s not safe, but he’s good” — referring to Aslan, the Lion, in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe?

Or what if God is able to shape-shift or transform or morph into a second form, or many different forms? (Well, of course “is able” isn’t the question…)

I just wonder if some day, as we stand there and God makes His first appearance to us if we will just stand there going, “Holy mackerel;” or “Holy smokes;” or… well I know I’ve probably got the “Holy” part right.

I can guarantee it won’t be a Wizard of Oz moment with God simply being a man — who looks like us — behind the curtain. The concept scares the hell out of me. Literally. It’s supposed to.

So what do you think God looks like?


skydome*I always thought “We Shall Behold Him” would be best performed at the Rogers Centre (aka Skydome) in Toronto or any other stadium with a retractable roof. (At night, of course.) As the roof unexpectedly unlocks and begins to divide into two sections, a powerful soprano begins the lyric of the first verse, “The sky shall unfold…” Even more cool if at that exact moment God makes the whole sky light up like it was daytime. He could do that.

(The picture is a daytime shot with the roof partly opening or closing. )

November 25, 2010

A Day To Give Thanks

I found this post tonight at the blog, Jeofurry’s Jesus Journey.   Honestly, that’s the name of it.   I’ve heard people quote from the original documents proclaiming Thanksgiving Day in the United States, but had never seen this in print before.   It’s a great window into the spiritual life — and particularly, spiritual priorities — of those who have gone before us.     This appeared at Jeff’s blog under the title In All Things

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

This is the day that has been given over for many years in this country to stop and give thanks to God for all that He has done.  It has a longstanding tradition in our country.  A quick perusal of the history of this celebration reminds us that our country has not always been what it is now.  If you have never seen it before, take a look at George Washington’s Thanksgiving Day proclamation in 1789:

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor — and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me ‘to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be — That we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks — for His kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation — for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of His Providence which we experienced in the tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed — for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted — for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which He hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions — to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually — to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed — to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn [sic] kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord — To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease [sic] of science among them and us — and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best. — Given under my hand at the City of New York, the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

We have nothing that is not given to us by God.  This may offend some who think there is no God, but I am not going to apologize for it or waver on it at all.  There is a lot of turmoil in our country and in our world, but it is not shocking or unexpected.  Some of the turmoil is a direct result of the fact that we have neglected to recognize or give appreciation (dare I say thanks) to God for all that we have in this nation.

It is axiomatic that when you forget the source of ALL that is good, you will lose that which is good.  We have forgotten our Source in this country for the most part.  We talk about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but all of these are meaningless apart from God.  Life itself is a gift and ALL that we have is a gift, not of chance or happenstance, but of Providence i.e. the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Liberty is given through His Son, Jesus Christ, and it isn’t the kind of liberty that turns to anarchy where each does what is right in his own eyes.  It is the kind of liberty that recognizes the boundaries of true freedom lies within God’s Kingdom and His reign.  Only then can true happiness be found.  Happiness that doesn’t consist of what we have or can get, but rather in is found in relationship with the One who truly loves us as we are and works within us to make us even more than we realize we could be.

November 13, 2010

The Feast at the Table of the Lord is Ready To Begin

If you want to process some worship music that goes to a deeper level, you can’t not know about the vast catalog of songs from U.K. worship songwriter Graham Kendrick.

Today’s song is from a series of recordings intended for “public praise;” that is, taking the music that exalts God out on the streets.

This song talks about a grand feast that God is preparing for us.   When we think of the phrase, “the table of the Lord,” we tend to think of hushed whispers and the solemnity of a communion service or Eucharist.   But in Jewish thought, the sharing of a meal is usually associated with celebration and dancing.  As this song says, the table is “laden with good things.”

Turn your speakers up loud and play this one a couple of times!

The trumpets sound, the angels sing
The feast is ready to begin
The gates of heaven are open wide
And Jesus welcomes you inside

Tables are laden with good things
O taste the peace and joy he brings
He’ll fill you up with love divine
He’ll turn your water into wine

Sing with thankfulness songs of pure delight
Come and revel in heaven’s love and light
Take your place at the table of the King
The feast is ready to begin
The feast is ready to begin

The hungry heart he satisfies
Offers the poor his paradise
Now hear all heaven and earth applaud
The amazing goodness of the Lord

Jesus
We thank you
For your love
For your joy
Jesus
We thank you
For the good things
You give to us

Graham Kendrick
Copyright © 1989 Make Way Music,
http://www.grahamkendrick.co.uk