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The Meaning of Life… (warning – graphic illustration included)

Thoughts that encourage loving and being devoted to Jesus

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9 And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.  Romans 5:8-11 NLT

Without argument, most things are at their best when they are fulfilling their purpose and design.
For instance, a piano is made with a specific purpose: to produce music. However, I happen to know that someone once stood on a piano in order to put a fastener of some kind in the ceiling. Some artistic women have used piano tops as family picture galleries. I have seen piano tops that were cluttered filing cabinets or wide library shelves.
There is an intelligent design in the creation of a piano. The manufacturer did not announce: “This is a good piano. It has at least nineteen uses!” No, the designer had only one thought in mind: “This piano will have the purpose and potential of sounding forth beautiful music!”…
Do not miss the application of truth here. God was saying to Abraham, “You may have some other idea about the design and purpose for your life, but you are wrong! You were created in My image to worship Me and to glorify Me. If you do not honor this purpose, your life will degenerate into shallow, selfish, humanistic pursuits

556    The Way of the Cross. Here indeed is a strong and fruitful devotion! May you make it a habit to go over those fourteen points of our Lord’s Passion and death each Friday. I assure you that you’ll gain strength for the whole week.

I love Tozer’s illustration, but struggle with the application.

Simply put, we weren’t created to worship God, or to glorify Him.  I have seen too many people over the years try and fulfill that purpose, only to burn out, then drop out.

We were created for a purpose, and understanding that purpose can result in the most amazing worship, and result in God’s being glorified, a glory we are promised to share in. (see Col. 1:26-29)

Our purpose, our erason for existence is simpler, and more amazing.

As the piano was made to make music, we are made to be loved by God! We are created to be His friends!

Nothing less that being the ones whom God pours Himself to, whom God has chased throughout History, planning each step to bring us into this wonderful relationship.

We can’t mistake our response for the reason. It doesn’t work backwards. St Josemaria wants us to encounter that passionate love, that is why He wants us to contemplate the cross. Not out of duty, but because we need to know we are loved. And the Way of the Cross shows it to us, step by step, as Christ embraces torment, because it will show that love in a way that is undeniable.

It may be a blunt and graphic illustration, but saying that worship is the purpose and meaning in life is like saying going to the bathroom is the purpose of eating and drinking. Worship isn’t the purpose, it is the consequence. The purpose is being loved – a completely passive experience, and something we have no control over. This even works into my somewhat profane illustration, because a major part of worship is relieving oneself of everything impure… for God’s love will cause the eliminating of waste in our lives.

Therefore His sustains us through the most painful points of life. In the places where everyone else abandons us, He is there, comforting us, drawing us into His peace.

Finally, the glory of God has someone to love. In fact He draws us to Himself and loves us, that is truly glorious.

That is our purpose – to be loved. That is what gives meaning to our lives.

Know that you are loved beyond measure, experience that love that is unexplainable… and find out why we praise His name!

 

 

A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How Do I get… like That? A sermon on Psalm 71:15-24

How do I Get Like That??
Psalm 71:15-24

I.H.S.

May the Grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so transform us, that our lives are lived in praise of God!

  • Intro – I so wanna be this excited about my faith!

When I read the Psalm preparing for this week, I immediately wished I could always be this excited about my relationship with God.

The second was to blast the translators for missing out on their punctuation. I mean, this is how they wrote it…. (read flatly)
 
15  I will tell everyone about your righteousness. All day long I will proclaim your saving power, though I am not skilled with words.”

Compare that to this (pumped up!)

15  I will tell everyone about your righteousness! Though I am not skilled with words, all day long, I will proclaim your saving power!

How I wish I could, every waking moment of the day, find the energy to be like that. Even more, I want my sermons to reveal the amazing love that God has for you, that that was your attitude and behavior.

  • Young and Old

One of the lines I really want to look at in this passage is verses 17-18. Hear those again,

17  O God, you have taught me from my earliest childhood, and I constantly tell others about the wonderful things you do. 18  Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God. Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me.

Again, I love the energy of the Psalmist and the idea that God has been teaching us from our youngest moments. For it is often in our youth, or our earliest days walking with God, that telling others about the “wonderful things God is doing” occurs. That is an amazing time in our faith, as our dependence on God just soars.

  • Present things – aren’t the future –

But there is the second half of it there – which is all too real. As we go through life, there are times when we might wonder if God has abandoned us. Times where our understanding of God wavers and where we don’t see His power and mighty miracles so easily. 

Where did God go? 

Why don’t we see Him at work in this?

And while we respond “and also with you,” we aren’t so sure He is with us. The Psalmist was there – and prayed accordingly.

That is why He could also rejoice – for he knew, 20  You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth!21  You will restore me to even greater honor and comfort me once again!

That is the kind of trust, the kind of faith that we should have! Not the type that denies the downtimes exists but embraces them – knowing the promises of God for the future and for our eternity.

That is trusting God. That is finding joy knowing His promises overwhelm the present challenges that we face. God will restore us, even as He restored Job. And He will comfort us, His presence there, always.

That is what I desire each of you have, even more than I want it for myself. The confidence that allows you to look past these days of COVID, these days of uncertainty, knowing the love of God will sustain you.

  • Look to His wonders – to His faithfulness – to His righteousness

For it is by knowing His promises that we can join in worship with the Psalmist,

22  Then I will praise you with music on the harp, because you are faithful to your promises! O my God. I will sing praises to you with a lyre, O Holy One of Israel! 23  I will shout for joy and sing your praises, for you have ransomed me! 24  I will tell you about your righteous deeds all day long!

In the adult Bible Study, we will also talk about this as we end chapter 8. Promises that God will use everything to bless us, and nothing can separate us from God. But that is the same focus David has here…

That God will be dependable, that what He has promised – He will do!

And that realization should get us excited…  We can sing and shout for God has made us His own!

He has done what is right, and He has made us His own children. As we are invited and drawn into His presence, we know that that is the purpose of this sermon, this service.

To help you know this. God loves you, has saved you, and you are welcome in His presence, both now and for eternity.

And knowing this, may you realize that you dwell in peace, even though you can’t explain how wonderful it is. And until we are before His throne, that peace of heart and mind is guaranteed to us in Jesus. Amen!

The Mystery that Underlies Worship, and Makes it Worth It!

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Devotional Thought of the day:

7  No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began.
1 Corinthians 2:7 (NLT2)

Christianity is both. It is full of mysteries like the Trinity, creation, the Incarnation, atonement, providence, and eschatology. In fact, it is the most mysterious religion in the world. It is not at all obvious, not what we would expect. That is what all the heresies have been: what the human mind naturally expected. Yet Christianity is also supremely simple. John was right. There is, in the last analysis, only one thing: the love of God.

Here is common ground for a discussion of the structure of liturgy. Strictly speaking we should say that liturgy, of its nature, has a festal character.2 If we can agree on this starting point, the issue then becomes: What makes a feast a feast? Evidently, for the view in question, the festal quality is guaranteed by the concrete “community” experience of a group of people who have grown together into this community.

As much as I hate the idea of worship wars, or the ability of both sides to ignore the blessings of their perceived antagonists, I love to talk about worship. Even more, I love worshipping God, with his people.  It can be done with choirs and pipe organs, it can be done with a band and people facilitating the singing of the congregation, it is done with a half dozen people and a guitar.  Or people singing acapella.

There is no need for worship wars, not when there is so much to celebrate, as the people of God are gathered together.

This is the point that Pope Benedict speaks of, this moment where the community is formed. The feast is not because of the many incredible mysteries we fail to completely understand.  Those mysteries, which Kreeft lists, are mere supplements to the true mystery, the truth that binds us all together.

What one thing Peter Kreeft says is the only thing. the love of God! (for us!)

This is our ultimate glory, this is our ultimate joy, this is what we celebrate, for as it is revealed, as the truth of it sets up inside our souls, worship and celebration is the result.

If we are more focused on the realization that God loves us, this staggering, beyond the experience of being truly loved, then worship is empowered to be something more than a pattern, a habit, a time set aside to make sure we are good with God.

It becomes a dance… it becomes a life-giving time of restoration and healing. It becomes the core of our worship, more important than being liturgical or contemporary. More important than being perfect, for all that falls aside with this thought.

“we are loved!”

Heavenly Father, as You gather us together, help us to remember this glorious truth.  All we shall hear, say, sing, pray, and even our silence, Lord, may we realize that You love us.  AMEN!

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 35.

Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 62–63.

Are We Too Solemn, too Reverent in our Worship?

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The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day

15All the people of Judah were happy because they had made this covenant with all their heart. They took delight in worshipping the LORD, and he accepted them and gave them peace on every side.  2 Chronicles 15:15

In the beginning of Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, we detect the enthusiasm of the new converts, for whom being Christians was an unexpected gift, a blessing, great riches bestowed on them by God. It is good for us to realize this—for us who, as Christians, live for the most part with wrinkled brows and such an anxious awareness of the problems it entails that we feel almost guilty when we are happy about being Christians—that might be a form of triumphalism! Fundamentally, the joy of this epistle derives from the fact that the Apostle has dared to look directly at the heart of Christianity, at the triune God and his eternal love.…  (1)

There is a part of me that misses the old days when I would enter church and its silence would lend itself to the awe I felt being in the presence of God.  Reverence wasn’t just an attitude one took on to appear pious, it was something you were assimilated into, it consumed you. It was a very solemn reverence, one that facilitated dropping all your defenses, dropping you guard, and collapsing in the arms of God, in His sanctuary.

Those were precious times, and I still need them on occasion.

But then I need days like yesterday when as our mass ( our worship service ended) some people spontaneously began to clap.  Not sure who, not sure why, but it was appropriate to applaud God at that moment.  TO thank Him fo the work He does in us, work wrought with the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead.  For in His resurrection, in that moment of glory, we find ourselves taken up into Him.

His death we share in, even as He takes from us our sin, our shame, and our pain.

When I was younger, my dear devoted teachers would be angry? hurt? shocked? by the idea of people applauding and rejoicing in the presence of God.  But what else can you do, when you, as Pope benedict XVI describes, “dare to look directly into the heart of Christianity, at the triune God and His eternal love”

That love is so overwhelming, so precious, so deep, we must respond, we have no option.  Even when overwhelmed (see Jeremiah 20 – he tried to keep silent! )  This is what Christianity is about – to know we are loved beyond measure, to know we are loved by God, Father, Son, and Spirit.  He has accepted us as His own, given us peace beyond explanation, and therefore we delight in worshipping Him.

We are His… and even on Monday, that is incredible news.

(1)  Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

Our Suffering, our Doubts, and Jesus’s Struggle at the Cross. A Good friday Devotion

clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought for Good Friday:
1  My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? 2  Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief.    Psalm 22:1-2 (NLT)

22  Here’s the story I’ll tell my friends when they come to worship, and punctuate it with Hallelujahs: 23  Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers; give glory, you sons of Jacob; adore him, you daughters of Israel. 24  He has never let you down, never looked the other way when you were being kicked around. He has never wandered off to do his own thing; he has been right there, listening. 25  Here in this great gathering for worship, I have discovered this praise-life. And I’ll do what I promised right here in front of the God-worshipers.   Psalm 22:22-25 (MSG)

He is pleased to withhold from us the milk and honey of his consolation, that, by weaning us in this manner, we may learn to feed on the more dry and solid bread of vigorous devotion, exercised under the trial of distaste and spiritual dryness. 3. That as violent temptations frequently arise amidst these desolating drynesses, we must resolutely fight against them, since they do not proceed from God; but nevertheless, we must patiently suffer them, since God has ordained them for our exercise.

The Bible tells us that Jesus was tested in every way we are, that he faced the same issues, the same temptations, the same situations which can cause us to doubt, or to want to run.

We see that today, in the passage that Jesus quotes from the cross.

He too had moments where the Father seemed to far away, where the illusion of being abandoned was strong.  Where the feeling that God has left us on our own to struggle dominated every other feeling we have.

I’ve often wondered why God allows us to go through these times.  Surely they don’t come from God, yet St Francis de Sales indicates they are ordained by God for our exercise.  God allows them to come upon us, as He did Job and Jesus, for a purpose.

IN Jesus case, the abandonment was seen for what it was, a pouring out of wrath that far exceeded the wrath of the Pharisees, Sanhedrin, and the Roman guards.  A wrath that one taken upon Jesus would kill him, yet like the grain in the sand, it would give life to us, and to all those who believe and are baptized.

In our case, the suffering intended to defeat us, intended to drive us away from God can and does (eventually) ordain for us to be drawn toward Him.   De Sales calls this being drawn a vigorous devotion, I beg to differ a little.  Like the psalmist I look at my own pain, my own suffering to early, to often, being drawn down into the darkness, being overwhelmed by the pain.  But there He rescues me, He reminds me of HIs love, He shows me that He was always with me.

This is the point David is making in the Psalm, which starts out so dark, which so describes the pain of being crucified or struggling today.  The point where we can see as the light shatters the darkness, as our faith, no even more sure of God’s presences testifies to naturally, without even thinking.  read it again,

22  Here’s the story I’ll tell my friends when they come to worship, and punctuate it with Hallelujahs: 23  Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers; give glory, you sons of Jacob; adore him, you daughters of Israel. 24  He has never let you down, never looked the other way when you were being kicked around. He has never wandered off to do his own thing; he has been right there, listening. 25  Here in this great gathering for worship, I have discovered this praise-life. And I’ll do what I promised right here in front of the God-worshipers.   Psalm 22:22-25 (MSG)

When we are struggling, when Satan and his minions are oppressing us, when all seems dark, this is what is true.  He is with you, He loves you, and you will soon be praising Him as the Holy Spirit convinces you of this reality.   Like the cross, the victory, the depth of God’s love is revealed in these trying moments, in the midst of the pain, and the darkness.  We then see the truth;

You weren’t abandoned, He was there… and you will tell others about this!

AMEN!

Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.

We pray and plead with you…”Do You Job!”

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
3  For we remember before our God and Father how you put your faith into practice, how your love made you work so hard, and how your hope in our Lord Jesus Christ is firm. 1 Thessalonians 1:3 (TEV)

9  The servant does not deserve thanks for obeying orders, does he? 10  It is the same with you; when you have done all you have been told to do, say, ‘We are ordinary servants; we have only done our duty.’Luke 17:9-10 (TEV)

12 We pleaded with you, encouraged you, and urged you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy. For he called you to share in his Kingdom and glory.(1 Th 2:12 NLT)

92         Every Christian has the duty to bring peace and joy to his own surroundings on earth. This cheerful crusade of manliness will move even shrivelled or rotten hearts, and raise them to God.  (1)

“Do your job”  – Bill Belichick

This week a couple of Patriots players commented that their coach rarely compliments people, and that when he does, it really really means something to them.  It’s not just someone trying to be nice, or trying to motivate them, the praise is sincere and they are worthy of it.  They might not even think what they did was that noteworthy, but Coach noticed it.  Often it is just that they obeyed his instructions to “Do your job.”

Some people make a big deal of living a life in tune with Jesus, reflecting his love  Some will argue that such is a mandate, that we aren’t saved unless we reach that level of perfection.  Others will point out that it is wrong to tie works to salvation, works to being required to have faith.  They are so afraid that people would think they saved themselves that to teach anything as what we should do puts them into a frenzied panic.

Yet we don’t see that in the writings of St. Paul to the churches, especially this church in Thessalonika. We see a prayer that encourages and applauds living life in harmony with Jesus.  We see Paul plead with people freed from the Old Covenant Law to live a life in a manner consistent with what God created and recreated them to be. It is the understanding St. Josemaria had when he talked of our joy and peace transforming even the most shrivelled of hearts.

It is simply what we do.  It is a response to God asking us to “do our job.”

Do what you are created to do.  It’s not miraculous, though it requires a supernatural dependence on the mercy of God.  It is not special, it is just ordinary.  It is serving, ministering to the needs of those God puts in our path.  And the more time we spend with Jesus, the more it becomes, unnoticed.  It is just our life, and we encounter it with the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life!  

This is the life described in Romans 12, and 1 Corinthians 12-14.  A life lived, affected deeply, far more than just consciously by God’s work in our baptism, and in those times where we commune with Jesus’ Body and Blood.   When we are in awe of His love and His presence, when the Spirit has us focusing on Him, there is a mystical transformation that occurs, as God conforms us into His image.

And so we pray, and plead with you, do your job, confident that God will work in you, even as He planned.

So go, “do your job!”

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 599-601). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How Easter Changes Our Worship

Featured imageHow Easter Is Transforming OUR World!

The Change to Our Worship

Psalm 150

Glory to Him Alone

Praise the Lord!

 Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord!

Hmmm, maybe you think I am saying, “praise the Lord”, as my praise of Him, the God who has called you by name and gathered you to this place.  The God who declared that you are His child, declared you are holy and righteous, backing that up by separating you from your sins, even as His united to Jesus, even as Jesus promised, when He said,

17  Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 18  Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. 19  And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. 20  “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21  I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. John 17:17-21 (NLT)

Actually, like David’s Psalm, I am enocouraging you to praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord!

With your voices, with your hearts, with your lives,

Praise the Lord!

Why Don’t We?

There would seem to be three things that could stop us from praising the Lord.

The first is sin, and we are reminded over and over, that sin has been dealt with at the cross.  We are reminded of that in our baptism, where we are joined with Christ’s death, that or sins would be nailed to the cross.

Ezekiel tells us of this promise

25  “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. Ezekiel 36:25 (NLT)

as does St. Paul,

6  We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. Romans 6:6 (NLT)

The Second is Satan, whose only real power is to accuse us of being sinful and evil. Again, the cross of Christ is the key to taking care of this, for there Christ defeated Satan by bearing our sins, even as the prophet Isaiah said He would.

10  Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has come at last— salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth— the one who accuses them before our God day and night. Revelation 12:10 (NLT)


That passage then goes on to describe the third enemy of mankind, the last thing that could try to possibly stop us from praising God, the fear of death.

11  And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die..

That doesn’t mean we give up on living, it means that we know what we started the service with, the promise, well, let me read it again

5  Those who win the victory will be clothed like this in white, and I will not remove their names from the book of the living. In the presence of my Father and of his angels I will declare openly that they belong to me.
Revelation 3:5 (TEV)

That means that we will enter into His rest, into His glory, that we will realize what Jesus promised when He said we would be in Christ and in the Father. That means we don’t fear eternity, but we look with patient expectation to His return.

You’ve been forgive, you’ve been cleansed, you’ve been made part of the family of God.  Satan’s been defeated, and eternity in His glory is yours, for you are Christ’s

So let us hear David’s words ring out – not just as David praises, but as the encouragement to know God’s love and mercy so much….that we cannot help but

Praise the LORD!

A Simple List To Revitalize Church Services: (just 2 things!)

Devotional Thought of the Day:

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37  Right at the crest, where Mount Olives begins its descent, the whole crowd of disciples burst into enthusiastic praise over all the mighty works they had witnessed: 38  Blessed is he who comes, the king in God’s name! All’s well in heaven! Glory in the high places!39  Some Pharisees from the crowd told him, “Teacher, get your disciples under control!” 40  But he said, “If they kept quiet, the stones would do it for them, shouting praise.” Luke 19:37-40 (MSG) 

For ceremonies are needed to this end alone that the unlearned be taught[what they need to know of Christ. (1)

With zeal and patience, pastors of souls must promote the liturgical instruction of the faithful, and also their active participation in the liturgy both internally and externally, taking into account their age and condition, their way of life, and standard of religious culture. By so doing, pastors will be fulfilling one of the chief duties of a faithful dispenser of the mysteries of God; and in this matter they must lead their flock not only in word but also by example. (2)

Yesterday I was sent links to a number of articles about worship.  They were from every aspect of Christian faith, and from different views, even within my own small corner of Christianity, the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.

It was funny because each article had a “to do” list, that if you followed these things, your church’s service would be right, and people would benefit, and be blessed.  It was funny because the advice in the articles were often in complete disagreement!!

Dust off that organ!  Ditch that old organ!

Get people to used to the patterns and use of hymnals!  Get them out of rote use of hymnals!

Of course, they both stipulated the need for trained excellent musicians, that would leave the people in awe – whether organists or praise bands, even as they lamented the fact that people would listen to the musicians of the other style, and not sing!

I am not a expert in worship, I don’t have a PhD, or pastor some church of 2000.  I do teach lay ministers, guys and ladies who help their pastors by serving, and I am about to teach a class on worship.  It is the 7th or 9th time I’ve taught it.  In it I do rely on experts, like Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI, Bishop William Willimon of the United Methodist Church, Dr. Robert Webber, and of course the Lutheran Confession – especially the article quoted above from the Augsburg Confession.  I also learn a lot from my minister of worship arts, Dr. Chris….. and this is what I have learned… and taught, based on experience.

If I boil it down, there are only two things that are needed to revitalize worship services,

Give them something to sing about.
Our job is to preach Christ, their hope of glory, to give a reason for why in the midst of this broken world, e have hope.  To reveal to them the height and depth, the breadth and width of God’s love for them – which is so clearly revealed in Christ’s incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and in their being untied to all of that, and given the gift of the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
The presence of God’s Spirit which brings comfort, peace, mercy, assures us of God’s love and promises…

Give them that to sing about…..as they said at Vatican II – dispense the mysteries of God!  (and teach them what you are giving them! Vatican II and the Augsburg Confession both agree on that)

Let them sing
I have heard a million reasons why people don’t sing in church, why men won’t, why young people won’t, that older people won’t sing new songs.  When I came to my present church, it was clearly stated to me, this church has never sung, does not sing, will never sing!  The music choices pretty much guaranteed this, and propagated it.  Songs that required extensive vocal talent, sung in keys that even a first tenor and first soprano found challenging.  Words that couldn’t be savored, sometimes because you need a dictionary to define them.

We sing now, because we can.  We don’t always do it well, but it is from the heart, it is a reaction to God’s love, poured out on them.  From hearing it through every aspect of the service, from tasting it, touching it.  The songs are simple enough, the instrumentalists facilitate it. The people pour out the emotion need to pour out, the praise, the glory, the trust, the thanks, the despair, the lament… it becomes their music the lyrics that resound from their heart, and we let them sing it. (yeah – even those who voices are challenged)

They sing the praises of the God they know is present, they put into prayer the trut they have, to put it all into His care.

it is at the point that we are no longer afraid to let them sing acapella for a verse, for even a song….or a chant.

And it is wonderful….. whether the powerful anthem, or the simple cry of this version Lord’s prayer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4lcfXcZ68I   (this is how we do it – as our time of family prayer ends)

give them a reason to sing…..

let them sing…

give it a try… and see what happens….. as God is lifted up… and praised.

AMEN

(1)  The Augsberg Confession,

(2)  Catholic Church. (2011). Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Alleluia! He is Risen, therefore… We Praise Him!

Alleluia!  He is Risen! Therefore

We Praise Him for He Keeps His Promises!

Psalm 146

 

In Jesus Name

 

May you praise God our Father as you realize the richness of the grace, the depth of the mercy, and the overwhelming love given to you in through the work of Jesus Christ.

 

He is Risen….response…and therefore!

 

Once upon a time there was a pastor who tired of his work, and that people never seemed to hear the message that he labored to create.  As the story goes, he decided to do an experiment, and started to preach the same sermon, week after week.  Eight weeks or so later, one of his elders asked him if he had used one of the stories in the sermon before, because it sure sounded familiar.

Now, I’ve never done that, probably never will, but I have to admit I’ve been tempted a time or two.

I do imagine that some of the series we do get repetitive.  It’s not just me, it’s the readings and the focus of scripture. Though it may say the same thing many different ways there is but one message we preach – Christ Jesus who is the hope our glory.

Since Easter, we’ve used a familiar cry, getting more familiar it, perhaps even tiring of it. (though I hope not!)

Alleluia – He is Risen!

(He Is Risen Indeed, alleluia!)

and therefore –

(We are risen indeed, alleluia!)

Because of the resurrection, we have a new life, a holy life set apart to God,  Because of our resurrection with Jesus we have peace, and we persevere.

Today we realize we live a life that is lived in praise of God, because He has kept His promises to us, to those who call upon His name.
LORD versus YHWH

     They’ve got to hear this… but so do we!

     Luther’s explanation of the 2nd!

 

As we look at Psalm 146, which is the passage we focus on this morning, we see one word repeated over and over.  LORD – is all capital letters.

The word LORD is there, because the translators didn’t quite know what to do with God’s name.  It is the name he revealed to the Moses, to reveal to the people He would save.  It is the name we are commanded to never use in vain, but to call upon in times of need, and as we see today, to use to praise God.

Does it make a difference, whether we use Lord, which is a title, or the personal name of God?  Imagine a man call his wife, Mrs. X, or saying, “wife, come here!”.  As I asked people such questions this week, there was a consensus that using a title puts distance between two people, it acts as an insulator, moving the relationship from personal and intimate to more distant, more uncaring.

Luther, in talking about the 2nd commandment, talked of it, not just using the name of God improperly, but by using it in vain, because we don’t use it when we should, to praise Him, to praise Him by laying before Him our lives, our problems, our struggles.  That’s what we are supposed to do, that’s how we are supposed to use His name.

God gave us His name to use, to help us realize how committed He was to keeping His promises, the actions that He would take and complete.  That’s is why we have hope in YHWH, in God.

Hear the actions He takes again,

He gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry! The LORD frees the prisoners! The LORD opens the eyes of the blind! The LORD lifts up those who are weighed down! The LORD loves the godly! The LORD protects the foreigners among us! He cares for the orphans and widows! But he frustrates the plans of the wicked!

Where others fail us, God doesn’t. We aren’t going to get that kind of response from anyone else.  We shouldn’t expect it from powerful people, yet we so often do, and complain when they let us down.  Their plans don’t last past the time they leave office, never mind until they breathe their last.  If our faith, if our trust is in God, then we have something, in them, not so much.

That is why we praise Him.
The Incarnational life – but not quite the way we think

That’s why we praise and glorify Him.

Just a few months ago, during the Christmas season, we praised God because, as the Gospel of John put it, “He came and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

We call that, using church words, the incarnation.

But we praise Him now for a different incarnation, that He has gathered us and given us a new birth Himself.  We were born again, linked with His death, so that we could be raised with Him, so that we could relate to God the Father as our Father, so that we could use His name.  He who dwelt among us, calls us to dwell in Him.

That is what Christianity is all about, the relationship we have with our Creator.  With the God who loves each of us, and pulls us into Him.  It is seen throughout our church service, from allowing Him to cleanse us from sin, to our leaving our burdens, the things that cause us anxiety in His hands in prayer, to communion, the most intimate meal’

He gives us His name to call upon, in prayer and praise. Knowing He is here, knowing He loves us,

That’s were find comfort, and the strength to do amazing things, as we reach out to those around us, loving those who do not know love, or the power of God to fix and heal relationships.

Incarnate, dwelling with God, or to use the old phrase, abiding in Him, we find something the world cannot give…..

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, and we are kept there, secured in that peace by Jesus Christ.  AMEN.

Advent Devotion: Convenient, Comfortable Christianity? Hmmm…

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - The F...

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) – The Flagellation of Our Lord Jesus Christ (1880) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 But when the Son of man comes, will he find any faith on earth?  Luke 18:8b (NJB)

 57 As they travelled along they met a man on the road who said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ 58  Jesus answered, ‘Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.’ 59  Another to whom he said, ‘Follow me,’ replied, ‘Let me go and bury my father first.’ 60  But he answered, ‘Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.’ 61  Another said, ‘I will follow you, sir, but first let me go and say good-bye to my people at home.’ 62  Jesus said to him, ‘Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’Luke 9:57-62 (NJB)

650 When will you realise that your only possible way is to seek sanctity seriously. Make up your mind—don’t be offended—to take God seriously. That levity of yours, if you do not fight against it, could end up by becoming a sad and blasphemous mockery.  (1)

Yesterday we began Advent, that time of year where we build expectation of Christ’s return, as we consider life prior to the Incarnation.

It is hard to look back, without considering the voices of the prophets, and their call on the people of God to take their relationship with God seriously.  Their reminders that we have a relationship with God who has made it possible, and that we should neglect that relationship.

Yet too often we do.

Advent seeks to shake us from that – to prepare us for Christ’s coming – not just the 6 lbs 8 oz Baby Lord Jesus, lieing in a smelly feeding trough, but the returning Lord who gave it all, for us.

It’s a startling image in this day where peopel are put out if they are asked to pay more in taxes, or meet the expecations others place on their time and their lives.  We want to be served instantly, we want it our way, we want things to be convenient, and comfortable, with no sacrifice and no cost.

We hear that salvation is free, that God paid all the cost for our sins, with Christ dieing on the cross, and we rejoice.  We focus on that part of the message of God.  We love it, rejoice in it, willing share that part with others.

But we don’t want the inconvenience of being in a relationship with God.  It might be uncomfortable, He might ask us to sacrifice something, to downscale our lives in order to help others. He might ask us to spend time with Him, and with those people at church that aren’t like us.  He may ask some of us even to suffer for the faith, and how many of us are really willing to do that?

SO the prophetic question is asked – do you trust God?  Are you willing to trust Him, even if it seems to mean some personal cost?  What if it means giving up a personal dream, or embracing discomfort?  What if it means being alienated from family?  What if it means our friends turn their back on us, because we won’t be there when they want us to be, because of our commitments to serve others, especially those others they might consider “less deserving”?  Will you trust God, when it costs you a little of what it cost Jesus, the shame He embraced on the cross? Are you willing to trust Him enough that you would embrace suffering, if it meant one more person would know Christ?

Remember why – it was for the joy awaiting Him, the joy of sharing His glory with you!  The joy of bringing you into the glory and love that is shared between this Triune God we worship.

Is your trust in Him, your love for Him enough to embrace a inconvenient, uncomfortable messy way of life?

Look beyond the manger, and the shining stars and “cute” depictions of the birth of Christ.  Look at the rejections He endured, Look at the cross He bore, and the investment He’s made, promising you the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. KNow His faithfulness, His trustworthiness, His love and mercy….

and embrace a life of faith and trust…. knowing that no other life is worth living.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2728-2731). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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