Strength and My Song

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the Lord, is my strength and my song: he has become my salvation. Isaiah 12:2

Spread plentifully throughout the Old and New Testaments are songs of praise to God. Often times those songs come at what appears to be very odd times. But God was a way of life for these people. Times were tough; life was tough. Throw in the added disadvantage of being hated for what they believe, it would have been understandable if they had fallen away. Many did.

But those who remained faithful knew the value of worship. Poetry. Loud music. Solemn pronouncements. Dancing. Kneeling. Prostrating themselves before God. Rending their garments.

There was a reverent fear of God. I’m sure the stories were passed down about what happened to people who were disobedient to God. But when it was all said and done, they worshipped. Whatever it took, they did it.

I think we can learn from them. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, when we worship, we merely offer what we have to God, whether it’s through song or poetry or prayer or bowing silently before a Holy, Almighty God. It doesn’t even have to sound pretty or eloquent. It just needs to come from the heart.

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The God of Peace

May the God of peace be with you all. Amen. Romans 15:33

We are coming upon a time of the year when many people are
under a lot of stress from different sources. People have busier schedules,
spend more money, visit close relatives, and eat more than they should. Paul’s
prayer at the end of Romans 15 is as applicable today as when it was written.
They had stresses in Paul’s day that we don’t have now.

The Bible talks a lot about peace. In fact, one of our
Savior’s names is the Prince of Peace.

Of course, political leaders define peace as “the absence of
war,” but that’s not the peace I’m talking about. Peace is elusive. We know it
when we have it; we know it when we don’t. We don’t often know how to get it
when we don’t have it.

    Internal peace.

    Getting-a-sound-sleep peace.

    Having-a-clear-conscience peace.

    Knowing that all-is-well-with-your-soul peace.

You can’t buy that peace nor can you manufacture it.

May the God of peace be with you all. Rest completely in
that prayer.

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True Worship

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100:4-5

Throughout the Psalms is a general theme of “Give thanks to God; his love endures forever." I suspect a phrase similar to that is in the Old Testament 30 times or more. In fact, each verse in Psalm 136 ends in “His love endures forever.” Obviously it’s a phrase that God wants us to be familiar with.

You see, we forget easily. We forget that the world doesn’t revolve around us. We forget that we are expendable and can be replaced. We forget that we are not permanent on this earth. And we also forget that God’s love endures forever.

The writers of Psalms wanted to make it crystal clear that we should be giving thanks to the One who created and redeemed us. Then they remind us that The Lord is good. It’s a fairly simple recipe in how we should treat God.

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Thanks.

I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. Ephesians 1:16

A number of years ago I wrote a letter to my Little League coach. It had been a full 25+ years since I had seen or heard from him. I wrote him a letter thanking him for the influence he had over my life during three short summers. It wasn’t long. It wasn’t eloquent or fancy, but I had to do it.

When someone tells me that he’s a self-made man I have to laugh hysterically. I laugh because he has been influenced by teachers and coaches and parents and challenging friends and fellow students and co-workers. That’s why we need to express our thanks to the people who got us where we are. (think how you would react if someone did this to you!)
Make a list of those who have influenced you over the years. It’ll dig up some old memories, both good and bad. Now pick one, just one, that you know is still living. Write that person a short letter or card, thanking him/her for the influence he/she has had. It doesn’t have to be fancy or long. Sign it, then send it.

More importantly, pray for that person. Unless you’ve been in contact recently, you probably don’t know exactly how to pray for the individual. Pray through Ephesians 1:17-23. It’s very powerful stuff.

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Give Thanks

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 107:1

This is the week of Thanksgiving Day. It’s a day when families and friends gather round large turkeys with all the trimmings and thank God for what he’s given. I’m sure we don’t do it often enough.

I don’t know about you, but being thankful isn’t natural for me. I like to think that I’m the model of Gratefulness, that every little (or big) thing that comes my way, I’m thankful for. You guessed it, I’m not. But as I’ve stated elsewhere, it’s not always about me. In fact, it rarely is.

We need to be reminded often that we’re not on this earth alone and the things that people do for us should not go unthanked. And of course, God should be thanked as often as we can because without Him we’d be total wrecks!

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He Knew Their Thoughts

Jesus knew their thoughts…” Matthew 12:25

Jesus was getting ready to heal the man with a demon, and the Pharisees were indignant. They said he could only drive out demons by Beelzebub, the prince of demons. Earlier in the chapter the Scripture states that these same Pharisees were plotting on how they might kill Jesus.

But Jesus knew their thoughts. He knew what caused them to get to this point. He knew the anger and frustration they must have felt at someone trying to “muscle in” on their territory, so to speak. He knew who was behind their vile thoughts about him. And he also knew that they didn’t care a wit about the demon-possessed man or the man with the shriveled hand earlier in the chapter.

Jesus knew their thoughts. He knew just how far those thoughts would take them.

Two thousand years later, Jesus still knows our thoughts. He knows our frustrations and anger and joys and pains. He knows the unkind rumor we think just before it comes out of our mouths. He knows what we're capable of, both good and bad.

And yet, incredibly, He still loves us.

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Chit Chat with the Messiah

Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside…” Matthew 20:17

Have you ever wondered what Jesus and his disciples talked about when they were walking to places? They would regularly walk 2, 5, 10 or more miles to get to the next town so they had to talk about something. Obviously we’ll never know this side of Heaven how those conversations went, but He had gained the trust and confidence of twelve men.

I had a professor in Bible School that was a great man of wisdom. He was often slow in communicating that, but when he did we wrote down everything he had to say. Everything. We hung on his every word. I imagine it was like that for the disciples of Jesus too. When he spoke, people listened intently. Picture them gathering around Him even as they walked (and walking backwards if they had to).

And yet, I’m not sure they fully grasped who He was or what He came to do. I find that I do that often enough. I doubt and question and wonder. It’s the valleys and peaks of our Christian experience. They are normal and can be expected if we hope to mature in the Christian faith.

But I can say with certainty, “Yes, it has been worth it all.” 

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How’s Your Serve?

Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” Matthew 20:26

James, John, and the remaining ten disciples were arguing about who was the greatest. Actually, the ten were upset at James and John for trying to secure a special place in the Kingdom of Heaven. Though the text doesn’t say it, I presume at least a few of the ten were indignant because they weren’t quick enough to ask! It’s a very human thing to want.

But Jesus set them all in their places. If you want to be great, serve others. That’s it. It’s certainly not what the world teaches. The world tells us to be great first then you’ll be able to serve humanity. Or “look out for Number One because no one else will be looking out for you.” What an upside down kingdom we’re a part of.

It’s a very basic lesson to us all: if you want to be great in the Kingdom, serve.

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Name Dropping

As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Matthew 20:29

Have you ever seen a famous person on the street? It’s kind of a cool experience. To this day on occasion you’ll probably “drop a name” if given a chance. “Yeah, I rode the elevator with that guy.”

In the previous passage, we see the mother of James and John vying for her sons to take seats of honor in the coming Kingdom (and the remaining 10 disciples becoming angry about it). They all knew who Jesus was. The very thought of the Messiah being in their presence every day was phenomenal. I’m certain they too were name droppers.

“I walked to Jericho with THE Messiah.” That kind of story just begged a response: “What was it like? What did you talk about?” Then, the disciples could tell the full story. What an opportunity!

We too walk with the Messiah. We talk. We listen. We argue. We laugh. Then we have an opportunity to “name drop.”

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