Delight in the Lord

February 19, 2013 at 5:25 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Personal Testimony, Worship | Leave a comment

I have been on vacation for the past week.  My family had a winter retreat in Estes Park, which was a much needed time of rest and relaxation with no schedule for almost four days.  We played games, went on lazy walks and read; we enjoyed being surrounded by beautiful mountains; we saw some of the famous Estes Park elk herd just outside our back porch; we had a visit from some deer one morning; we disconnected from the computers and cell phones; we spent extra time in God’s Word and prayer.

One theme that came up in my devotion reading during our escape was the idea of delighting in God.  I started reading the first day in Psalm 37, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (v4 ESV)  I have often seen attention given to the promise of this popular verse, but I focused, for a change, on the command, pondering what it means to actually delight in God.  I believe when we truly delight in him, he is one of the desires of our hearts that we are given.  On the second morning I read Psalm 40, “I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” (v8)  I memorized this verse years ago in the NASB where “desire” is translated “delight,” and that connected to the previous day’s thought.  Finally on the third morning I read Psalm 42, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” (vv1-2)  We should delight in God, delight to do God’s will, thirst for him and long for him.  Fortunately for me, I was, for a few days, in the perfect setting to do just that.

I pray this thirst for God will continue as I step back into real life and won’t be interrupted by the daily routines of jobs and ministry.  Take some time this week to just enjoy the presence of God, to delight in him and in his word.

Advertisements

Astonished at the Majesty of God

November 14, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, It's All About God, Worship | Leave a comment

“And all were astonished at the majesty of God.”  (Luke 9:43 ESV)  These words jumped out during my quite time reading recently.  I wondered how often am I astonished at the majesty of God.  Yet if we comprehend his majesty, his might, his holiness, his grace, then we should be astonished in a major way.  Jesus had just recently healed a woman who had spent her entire 401(k) on doctors who could do nothing for her.  Just the touch of Jesus’ robe brought her complete healing (8:42-48).  Astonishing!  He went to the home of a dead girl and with only two words brought her back to life (8:49-56).  Even more astonishing!  Jesus sent out the twelve and gave them power and authority over demons and disease (9:1).  That also impressed me on the same morning: If Jesus cold give away that kind of power and never lack it himself, what kind of power and authority does he have?  Astonishing!  He took a few loaves and a few fish and fed over 5,000 people – an act of creation (9:10-17).  Even more astonishing!  Then Jesus healed a boy with a demon that his disciples (with their given-by-Jesus authority) could not (9:37-42).  Astonishing!

No wonder all were astonished.  So I had to ask myself, “Does Jesus astonish me?  Or am I so used to these stories that I simply don’t react any more?”  Jesus is astonishingly powerful and astonishingly majestic.  Yet I often miss it.

It was in that context of thought that the next words jumped out to me as well.  “But while they were all marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.’” (Luke 9:43-44 ESV).  The most marvelous thing about Jesus is not the miracles he performed while walking on earth; the most marvelous thing about Jesus is what he came to earth to accomplish.  Let this sink into your ears, he said; something more marvelous than all these astonishing miracles is about to take place.  I will be put to death by the authorities (9:44, see also 9:21-22).

I should marvel at the amazing power and authority of Jesus, but I should marvel even more at what he accomplished in his death.  He purchased my forgiveness and life in full.  “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”  Amen.

A Visit to Worship Woods — A Parable about Worship Styles

September 15, 2012 at 9:01 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Worship | Leave a comment

I created this illustration many years ago and have used it in numerous settings, but have never written it down.  I was reminded of this in my devotions this morning and decided it was time to write it.  It is the story of the churches in Worship Woods.

Imagine you are new to the small town of Worship Woods and are trying to find a church.  There are only three evangelical congregations in town, so you decide to visit them all.

The first church you come to is Praise Pentecostal.  It meets in an old remodeled warehouse on the outskirts of town.  When you enter the auditorium, you notice people milling around talking and laughing together with drinks from the coffee shop in the lobby.  Dress is very casual.  When it’s time to begin the praise band gets up and leads music, which is best described as exuberant, with guitars and drums.  It is upbeat, it is sometimes loud, and the people clap along, some even seem to dance in their places.  The music goes on for 45 minutes; in fact the music is the main focus of the service.

The next Sunday you decide to visit Liturgy Lutheran.  The building is a glorious old brick structure with gorgeous masonry and beautiful stained-glass windows.  The atmosphere inside is quiet.  There are a few people visiting softly in the foyer, but most are in the sanctuary praying as melodious organ music plays in the background.  The dress is obviously more formal.  The service follows a strict calendar with some well-selected hymns, numerous soft prayers and a proscribed reading from the scriptures.  There are kneeling pads available, and many of the participants are on their knees.  The word that best describes this service is awe.  The members at Praise Pentecostal think the worship here is boring, while the members of Liturgy Lutheran think the service at Praise is irreverent.

On the final Sunday you visit Biblical Baptist.  The building is again a traditional brick church building, but it is much simpler than the one you visited last week.  When you get inside you notice that the focus of the sanctuary is the pulpit.  In fact, everything at a Biblical Baptist service is centered on the message.  The music is a few songs selected to match the pastor’s theme, and when he gets up to speak, everyone pulls out their Bible and notes.  The pastor preaches for 45 minutes focusing on one passage of scripture, including detailed understanding and relevant applications to life today.  If the members here attend one of the other churches in town, they wonder why there is no focus on the Word.  The members at the other two churches readily admit that Biblical Baptist has the best preacher in town, but they wonder if those people ever worship.

So which church worships the right way?  There may be one of these styles you prefer; there may be one you’re really uncomfortable with, and, though all of these churches are out of balance, you can’t say that any of them are wrong.  Biblically, worship should be all three of the styles demonstrated by these churches.  Psalm 95 was used by the Jewish people as a call to worship during the Feast of Booths, and I believe it should serve as a pattern of worship for us today.  It begins with loud, upbeat, Praise Pentecostal kind of worship.  The first verse says, “Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.” (NIV)  But then the middle of the Psalm goes into a quiet, awesome, Liturgy Lutheran style of worship.  “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.” (v6)  And, finally, the chapter adds the warning, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (v8), indicating that genuine worship involves hearing God’s voice and responding in faith – a Biblical Baptist kind of worship.

Corporate worship should, at times, be exuberant and noisy.  Yet, at other times, it should be quiet and awe inspiring.  And it should include opportunities for worshipers to hear God’s word and apply it to life.  Though most churches will emphasize one of these styles over the others, each of them should be a part of the worship experience.

True Worshipers

June 15, 2012 at 11:07 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, It's All About God, Worship | 2 Comments

John 3-4.  These two chapters are full of some pretty incredible things.  There is so much that could be written, said, preached about them:  There is Jesus’ talk about being “born again;” there is the most famous verse in the Bible (3:16), a verse that presents the Gospel in a sentence; that is followed by 3:20-21, a statement that has fascinated me in recent years – those who trust Jesus show their works to be done by God; there is John’s incredible statement, “He must become greater and I must become less (3:30); there is a contrast between those who believe and those who do not in 3:36, a verse that convinced me once and for all that punishment is in store for those who don’t know Jesus; these are followed by the amazing story of the Samaritan woman at the well in chapter 4, which includes Jesus’ teaching about giving the living water (4:13-14), Jesus’ only direct claim to be the Messiah other than his testimony under oath (4:26), and a passage which demonstrates that Jesus was all-knowing (4:18, 29); these chapters possibly include the first non-Jews to believe that Jesus was the Savior of the world (4:42); and finally,there is an official’s son whom Jesus healed from a distance (4:49-53).

However, I was pondering 4:23, where Jesus said to the woman at the well that true worshipers worship the Father in spirit and in truth.  The Jews and Samaritans had a debate about proper worship, whether it should be done on the Samaritan mountain where Abraham built his altar, or in Jerusalem where Solomon built the temple.  Jesus seemed to say that place didn’t matter as much as the heart of the worshiper.  Today we also have debates about worship, whether it should be done in this or that style.  I think Jesus would say that style doesn’t matter near as much as the heart of the worshiper.  As I age, I hope I can worship with any style the people I worship with use.  I hope I can worship with any age group no matter the music they use, as long as it is God-exalting music.  I hope I age with a heart of worship rather than with a form I happen to like.

With that thought, I love the words of this song we sing occasionally on Sunday:  “I’ll give you more than a song, for a song in itself is not what you have required.  You look much deeper within, through the way things appear; you’re looking into my heart.  I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about you.  I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it when it’s all about you, it’s all about you Jesus.”

The Foolishness of God

April 1, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Posted in Wisdom, Worship | Leave a comment

Here are the words to the Michael Card song we played before the sermon in church today.  These are great lyrics for an April first Sunday.

God’s Own Fool  (by Michael Card)
It seems I’ve imagined Him all of my life as the wisest of all of mankind,
But if God’s Holy wisdom is foolish to men He must have seemed out of His mind.
 For even His family said He was mad, and the priest said a demon’s to blame,
But God in the form of this angry young man could not have seemed perfectly sane.
Chorus:
When we in our foolishness thought we were wise,
He played the fool and He opened our eyes;
When we in our weakness believed we were strong,
He became helpless to show we were wrong.
 So we follow God’s own Fool, for only the foolish can tell.
Believe the unbelievable! Come be a fool as well!

Come lose your life for a carpenter’s son, for a madman who died for a dream;
Then you’ll have the faith His first followers had, and you’ll feel the weight of the beam.
 So surrender the hunger to say you must know, have the courage to say, “I believe.”
For the power of paradox opens your eyes and blinds those who say they can see.
Chorus:
When we in our foolishness thought we were wise,
He played the fool and He opened our eyes;
When we in our weakness believed we were strong,
He became helpless to show we were wrong.
 So we follow God’s own Fool, for only the foolish can tell.
Believe the unbelievable! Come be a fool as well!

If you want to hear the message called, “The Foolishness of God,” check here.  That message should be posted by midweek.  Happy Palm Sunday and April Fools’ Day.

Leviticus and Holiness, Grace and Worship

January 31, 2012 at 9:29 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Grace and Faith, Worship | 1 Comment

To our modern and post-modern ears, Leviticus is a rather boring book.  It is full of seemingly irrelevant rules and regulations about sacrifices and priests – things we don’t need or use today.  However, to the careful reader, there are many gems to be found.  Here are two exercises to help find some of those: First, when you read this book, notice how often God mentions holiness, cleanliness, and related thoughts; the theme verse is “Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.” (found in 19:2 and other places)  God desires his people to be holy.  That would have two lessons for today, both a reminder of how we should act and a reminder of our ultimate holiness, which is found in Jesus.  Second, as you are reading the Law books of the Old Testament, take time to read Hebrews 8:1 through 10:18 numerous times.  Your eyes will be opened to the incredible work that God did through Jesus; you’ll see in part what it means that the Law is fulfilled in Jesus.

I found one of those hidden gems while reading Leviticus today.  I was amazed that God ordained Aaron to be the high priest in Leviticus 8 and 9, considering that it had been only a short time since Aaron made the golden calf idol for the Israelites to worship, and how, when confronted about it, he told Moses an outright lie to pass the blame.  Yet, here in Leviticus, God is still making him the priest.  What a picture of grace and forgiveness!  Before Aaron and his sons could do anything, they had to offer a sacrifice for themselves, for their own sin, but when they had done that, they were able to offer sacrifices for the people too.  I’m sure the Israelites saw the grace pictured in this, so after Aaron had made the sacrifices, and after he had blessed them, and after the glory of the LORD appeared, “they shouted for joy and fell face down!” (9:24 NIV)  We should emulate their response.  How often do we take God’s grace and forgiveness as routine, when we should shout for joy and fall down to worship?

The Wind in the Willows

October 18, 2011 at 10:09 am | Posted in Books and Movies, Worship | Leave a comment

Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing.  It was small wonder, then, that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said ‘Bother!’ and ‘O blow!’ and also ‘Hang spring-cleaning!’ and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat.

So begins the marvelous adventures of Mole, Ratty, Badger and Toad in the children’s classic The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame.  We recently finished reading this century-old novel together as a family, and we loved the escapades of the critters and the colorful, picturesque language.  This little book is full of fun yet good lessons in friendship, faithfulness, hospitality and circumspect behavior.  We were especially anxious to find out what happened to Toad on his wild and trouble-filled romps with a motor car.  Though I’ve complained about wordiness in other contexts, in The Wind and the Willows, the long, wordy sentences were very vivid and awe-inspiring.  The only negative was the difficulty of listening to such long sentences read out loud.  For instance, when Toad is put in prison, the description of where they locked him up is a one-sentence marathon going 231 words, which is roughly equivalent to the two paragraphs of this blog from the beginning to here!

Here is another great example.  When Mole and Ratty are on an outing, they come near the home Mole so quickly deserted in the beginning of the book, and something in the air grabs him.

We others, who have long lost the more subtle of the physical senses, have not even proper terms to express an animal’s intercommunications with his surroundings, living or otherwise, and have only the word ‘smell,’ for instance, to include the whole range of delicate thrills which murmur in the nose of the animal night and day, summoning, warning, inciting, repelling.  It was one of those mysterious fairy calls from out the void that suddenly reached Mole in the darkness, making him tingle through and through with its very familiar appeal, even while yet he could not clearly remember what it was.  He stopped dead in his tracks, his nose searching hither and thither in its efforts to recapture the fine filament, the telegraphic current, that had so strongly moved him.  A moment, and he had caught it again; and with it this time came recollection in its fullest flood.  Home!

In one of the more touching scenes, Mole and Rat are looking for a lost otter child and come across the “Piper at the Gates of Dawn,” a Christ figure and the One who completes their quest by drawing them to the missing child.  The chapter is a great description of what it means to fear God.

Then suddenly the Mole felt a great Awe fall upon him, an awe that turned his muscles to water, bowed his head, and rooted his feet to the ground.  It was no panic terror—indeed he felt wonderfully at peace and happy—but it was an awe that smote and held him and, without seeing, he knew it could only mean that some august Presence was very, very near.  With difficulty he turned to look for his friend, and saw him at his side cowed, stricken, and trembling violently.  And still there was utter silence in the populous bird-haunted branches around them; and still the light grew and grew.

Perhaps he would never have dared to raise his eyes, but that, though the piping was now hushed, the call and the summons seemed still dominant and imperious.  He might not refuse, were Death himself waiting to strike him instantly, once he had looked with mortal eye on things rightly kept hidden.  Trembling he obeyed, and raised his humble head; and then, in that utter clearness of the imminent dawn, while Nature, flushed with fullness of incredible colour, seemed to hold her breath for the event, he looked in the very eyes of the Friend and Helper; saw the backward sweep of the curved horns, gleaming in the growing daylight; saw the stern, hooked nose between the kindly eyes that were looking down on them humourously, while the bearded mouth broke into a half smile at the corners; saw the rippling muscles on the arm that lay across the broad chest, the long supple hand still holding the pan-pipes only just fallen away from the parted lips; saw the splendid curves of the shaggy limbs disposed in majestic ease on the sward; saw, last of all, nestling between his very hooves, sleeping soundly in utter peace and contentment, the little, round, podgy, childish form of the baby otter.  All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered.

“Rat!” he found breath to whisper, shaking. “Are you afraid?”

“Afraid?” murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love. “Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never!  And yet—and yet—O, Mole, I am afraid!”

Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.

If you are looking for a challenging, yet fun read for your children; if you want to read something together with them, even if they are teens like my daughter, then check out The Wind in the Willows.

Delight in God’s Word

November 17, 2010 at 9:25 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, English Bible Translations, Worship | Leave a comment

Psalm 119.  I have always loved this long, long chapter, by far the longest in the Bible, because it’s all about God’s Word.  These past two days, while reading through it in my devotions, I was struck by how much we should delight in God’s Word.  I marked everything the author says we do, or should do, with God’s Word.  Not surprisingly, the author says we should “keep,” “obey” or “observe” it 38 times.  Two examples include the famous verse 9, “How can young man keep his way pure?  By keeping it according to Your word,” and verse 166, “I hope for Your salvation, O Lord, and do Your commandments.”   The author says he “knows,” “meditates” or “learns” the Word of God, or wants to, 15 times.  One example is verse 27, “Make me understand the way of Your precepts, so I will meditate on Your wonders.”  My surprise was that he claims to “believe,” “trust” or “hope in” the Word only four times!  But, what spoke to me this week is how often he “delights in,” “loves,” “longs for” or “treasures” the Word of God; 24 times!  Add to that the 11 times he asks God to “revive” or “strengthen” him by the Word, and that’s a lot of delight and revival!  Here is a small sampling of those:  “Your Word I have treasured in my heart.” (11)  “Your testimonies are my delight.” (24)  “I shall delight in Your commandments, which I Love.” (48)  “O how I love Your law!  It is my meditation all the day.” (97)  This guy even “anticipates” the lonely night watches so that he can meditate on the word! (148)

          O that I might delight in God’s Word like this author did!  As a preaching pastor, I am able to spend much time studying and meditating on God’s Word, but sometimes that becomes routine and I’m just making sermons.  I am thankful and honored to have the job I have, and I love my job.  I am praying that I don’t just preach the Word but that I also always delight in the Word.  May I love Your word and may it be my meditation all the day!

          I saw a great video related to this today — sent to me on the day I’m thinking about such things in my devotions — an accident of God’s timing!  It is the celebration of a tribal people when they get their first copies of the New Testament in their native language.  O that we would appreciate it so much!  Often for us, the availability of God’s Word in English, like some of my sermon preparation, is routine.  Let’s love and delight in God’s wonderful word, available in our native language.  Here is a link to the video:   http://vimeo.com/16493505

First Snow

November 11, 2010 at 9:36 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Worship | Leave a comment

We woke up this morning to a beautiful dusting of snow.  The fall has been very nice, and this is late for a first snow in Denver, but surely as God is faithful, the seasons will change.  I find the snow very beautiful; it’s still coming down lightly outside my office window.  What a great morning to read Psalm 147; certainly that timing was no accident!  This psalm begins, “Praise the LORD!  For it is good to sing praises to our God, for it is pleasant and praise is becoming.” That great introduction is followed by numerous things God does or has done that deserve our praise.  Among them is verse 16, “He gives snow like wool; He scatters the frost like ashes.” Praise God for his great faithfulness which is demonstrated by the changing seasons, and praise God for his incomparable beauty of which we get to see small glimpses in this world.

Thanks to all the veterans who have given and preserved for US such a great freedom and such a wonderful prosperity.  God bless you.

Stepping Out of Our Cultural Worship

August 30, 2010 at 11:13 am | Posted in Uncategorized, Worship | Leave a comment

Psalm 96:3, 7-10.  “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.  . . .  Ascribe to the LORD, O families of nations, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.  Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts.  Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth.   Say among the nations, ‘The LORD reigns.’”

          God’s heart is for his name to be proclaimed among all nations and all cultures.  Often we get so caught up in our own cultural milieu that we forget his heart.

          We want our daughter to experience some different styles and cultures of worship and to have a heart for the nations, and since yesterday was a Sunday off, we attended worship at Living Hope Baptist Church, an African-American congregation in our denomination.  It was a great service.  Pastor Robin Holland was on vacation so youth pastor, Scott Sangster gave a wonderful message on the older son in the Prodigal story.  Good exegesis and great application.  Though my daughter said, before we went, that she is always uncomfortable visiting other churches, she commented, on the way home, how much she enjoyed the service at Living Hope.  In addition to the message, we appreciated the worship team and the great music they led; the enthusiasm for truth; the central place of prayer in the service; and the attitude of worship and thankfulness over the offering.  I’ve never been in a church where the leaders gathered around the filled offering plates and thanked God for his abundant supply – something more of us should try.  May God bless Living Hope with many who come to know the Savior through their ministry!

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.