Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Heart of Worship Tuesday: Oceans

In the past few years, a song has touched me like no other. It began as a contemporary worship song penned by Matt Crocker, Joel Houston, and Salomon Ligtelm.

The story behind this song is simply that it is based on the story of Peter in the New Testament walking on the water to Jesus. (Matt. 14:22-33, Mark 6:45-56, John 6:16-24.)

The song contains these words:

You call me out upon the water
The great unknown, where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep, my faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours, and You are Mine.

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fears surround me
You never fail and You won't start now

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours, and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my faith could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my savior

This song describes the call from God to us to step out in absolute faith. He asks things of us that seem terrifying and impossible at times. Peter asked Jesus if he could come to Him on the water, and Jesus told him to do so. Peter, in absolute faith, stepped onto the water and began to walk! A mere man walked on water!

Granted, he did fall when he took his eyes off of Jesus. But, that is life; yet Peter still had faith that Jesus would save him, which is why he cried out to Him to do so. When we fall, that is EXACTLY what we should do: cry out to Jesus! The song itself is a resolve to choose to keep their "eyes above the waves" and stay focused on Christ. It is to trust that He will never lead us wrong, no matter where it goes.

Then, the song asks the spirit to "lead me where my trust is without borders". This is the kind of faith we should have. Borders denote limits, or even fear. True, fruit producing faith in Christ breaks down these limits and fears we have. As human beings, we often think that we are unable to do something that God asks of us. With God, there is nothing we cannot do, and nothing is impossible. We just have to take a deep breath and let go, and tell God that we will submit to whatever His will is. He knows better than we do, and His plan is so great and vast like the ocean. We just have to walk it and keep our eyes on Him the best that we can.

"What is impossible for man, is possible for God."- Luke 18:27

"...For Truly, I say to you, if you have faith like the grain of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'move from here to there', and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."-Matthew 17:20

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Heart of Worship Tuesday: Because He Lives

This has to be one of my absolute favorite hymns ever written.  So, I had to know the story behind it.

William and Gloria Gaither wrote this song in the late 1960s. Around this time, they were pregnant with their third child. This was a troubling time for them. Gloria was dealing with mononucleosis. She also feared bringing a child into the world with the immorality taking hold.

Then, one night on New Year’s Eve, she sat in her living room, and her emotions of fear consumed her. Then very suddenly, she was filled with a calming peace. She realized in that moment, that God was going to work everything out and that everything would be okay. She chose to leave the future in God’s hands.

Remembering how the Holy Spirit had come to comfort them, they wrote this song after their child was born.

This is the first verse and chorus:

God sent His son, they called Him Jesus

He came to love, heal and forgive

He lived and died to buy my pardon

An empty grave is there to prove my savior lives

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow

Because He lives, all fear is gone

Because I know He holds the future

And life is worth the living, just because He lives

The first verse is a powerful testament to the belief of the christian, and why we believe. And it makes sense that during a time of turmoil,  we trust so deeply in the fact that because our Savior is risen. It is all because He suffered and died for us, we have that hope. Because of that simple fact, we have hope for tomorrow, and for eternity.

Matthew 6:25-34 says,

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

Here are the next two verses of the song:

How sweet to hold a newborn baby

To feel the pride and joy he gives

But greater still the calm assurance

This child can face uncertain days because He lives

And then one day I’ll cross that river

I’ll fight life’s final war with pain

And then as death gives way to vict’ry

I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He lives

When we are born, or when we are on our deathbed, we can face whatever may come because He is there. We have the hope of heaven, and the the knowledge that He will take care of us no matter what. There will be times that we will suffer (Matthew 5:45, 1 Peter 4:12). Yet, because of Christ, we have no reason to lose hope in spite of those trials.

1. http://www.staugustine.com/living/religion/2015-01-29/story-behind-song-because-he-lives

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Truth is: Good Intentions Mean Nothing

Social media is blowing up over the situation with the Gorilla Harambe and the small boy. I have read into the situation, watched the video and come to these conclusions:

1. I don't think the Gorilla was intending to harm the child.
2. Tranquilizing would have made the situation worse.
3. The only option was to shoot the Gorilla.
4. The zoo needs to come up with a safer display. (For real, though.)

Let me expound on that first one. I don't believe that Gorilla was TRYING to harm the child. But with a closer look, you realize that the child received a concussion from the experience. The Gorilla dragged the child many times. The Gorilla didn't know his own strength. Male silverback gorillas are a hundred times stronger than a child as well as an adult.

There were times it was looking as if it were trying to 'comfort' the child. I can't deny that fact. But I also can't deny that the Gorilla caused injury to the child. You can't erase what happened with the Gorilla's possible good intentions. 

This is the same thing with life. People often try to justify our wrongdoings by saying that we 'only had the best of intentions'. When I was younger, I sometimes would get too rough playing with my sister. I didn't know my own strength. I would tell her and my parents that 'I didn't mean to' hurt her. My parents told me that they understood, but it still didn't change the fact that she got hurt. I still needed to learn to be more gentle. 

When we stand before God one day, the 'good intentions' won't matter. A lie is still a lie. Adultery is still adultery. Sin is still sin. The 'good' intention won't change the consequence of the sin. It doesn't matter if the sin isn't "as bad as another sin". Sin is still sin in God's eyes. God never said that there was ever a situation where sin was okay. When we strive to see more how God sees sin, the more we understand how grave it is. (James 2:10.)

We will make mistakes. But when that happens, we need to admit to it, and repent of it. We need to stop doing that sin and change. 

Sin is sin. It doesn't matter our intentions, as good as they may be. But as Romans 3:8-10 says, "Why not say, as some slanderously claim that we say, “Let us do evil that good may result?” Their condemnation is deserved!What then? Are we any better? Not at all. For we have already made the charge that Jews and Greeks alike are all under sin. As it is written: 'There is no one righteous: not even one.'"

In the end, 'the wages of sin is death.' (Romans 6:23.) For a Christian, there is no place for spiritual compromises.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Do we Take Our Purity Seriously?

Oh great. Another article on purity. 

I know, I know. I am sure you're tired of hearing about it. 

But this goes so much deeper than our sexual purity. Purity in the life of a Christian flows into everything we do and think. 

I was just thinking recently that many of us don't take purity in Christ that seriously. Or understand what it means for that matter. We make too many compromises. We don't allow God to refine us.

I am guilty of this. I think in one way or another, we all are. 

Purity, whether we want to face it or not, is a complete, and full surrender to God. Do we ever take into account what that really means?

We surrender our hearts. 
Everything we do stems from where our hearts are. God asks us to love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind. (Matt. 22:37.) Our hearts EXIST for God. Our hearts SEEK God. Our Hearts praise Him continually. Our hearts revel in His steadfast love. It's emotional. Our hearts become like clay. We love Him so much that we are willing to do EVERYTHING in our power to please Him! (John 14:15.) 

After what He did for us, why wouldn't we?

We surrender our minds. (Phil. 4:8. Prov. 23:7. Isaiah 55:7-9.2 Cor. 10:4-5.)
Purity of our minds is probably one of the most important. Our thoughts hold so much more power than we give them credit for. 

Philippians 4:8 (my favorite verse) talks about the purity of mind: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (emp. added)

It may not seem like it, but the things we feed our minds are important. I know for me, there was a time that I made compromises that  affected my mind in a negative way.
I have come to see now that it really does matter! Why make it harder for ourselves by filling our minds with things contrary to God's word? Jim Morrison once said, "Whoever controls the media, controls the mind."

I think we take for granted just how true this is. The more we see something, the more numb we become to something. The more we see it, and are entertained by it, the more silent support we give to sin. Whether it be premarital sex, partying, using people, lying, etc. We all know that this is sinful. (Romans 1:32.) Our society is obsessed with sin, and it is going to do anything it can to glorify it on our screens.

All sin starts with a thought. If our minds are filled with the world's garbage, how can we expect to make Godly choices? I am speaking from experience. I don't want my mind to be filled with things not becoming for a Christian.

We surrender our Bodies.
There is a reason I put this after surrendering our minds. We can't even begin to think we can surrender our physical bodies if our minds don't surrender first. 

Our bodies are the temple of God. (1 Corinthians 6:19.) They are to be used for His glory.

Purity doesn't happen by accident. Purity happens with concrete, clear, decisions. It's about surrender. When you say you want to be pure it should be the most important thing in your life. (Next to your actual relationship with God.) This means you are going to strive for it with everything in you. This means going the extra mile (or more) just to do what God has commanded you. No compromises. No excuses.  Is it easy? No. 

I am not perfect. I have made dumb mistakes. But I have found that this is what God wants for us. In order for God to really make us what we need to be, we must choose to go above and beyond. This is taking up our cross. (Luke 9:23.)

Purity takes effort, support, and time. If you have made mistakes, you can come out of it. It may be difficult, but you can. In our world, it may seem almost impossible. But that which is impossible with man is possible with God. (Luke 18:27.) Never forget that.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Heart of Worship Tuesday: How Great Thou Art!

Recently on Netflix, I have been watching the Planet Earth documentary series. I am very fascinated by the natural world. Seeing and learning about the world that God has created is incredible.

When I see that incredible footage, or see those things in person, it takes my breath away. 

The other day, I got to see a tiger and a white tiger up close. They were such beautiful animals. When I learn about ecology and how every living thing has a purpose, it causes me to praise God. When I see the images of the crystal caves, canyons, and massive mountains, I am humbled. When I sit underneath the night sky, I want to reach up and fly among them. I feel God’s presence so strongly.

Sleeping Bengal Tiger-photo by me

White Tiger-Photo by me

I see God’s fingerprints everywhere I go, even if it is just walking my dog outside. I love watching the birds, busy bees, and beautiful butterflies. I love blowing the seeds off of a dandelion. My heart skips a beat when I watch a summer thunderstorm. It is also these little things that remind me that God created this world. I am truly not in control.

I am sure this feeling of awe is what led Swedish Pastor, Carl Boberg to pen this now famous hymn. It says that one day, Mr. Boberg was out walking around when a thunderstorm blew in. After the storm, he stood by the bay, he heard church bells ringing. It was so peaceful. It led him to write a poem called O Store Gud. (O Great God). Later, Stuart H. Kine found the poem and translated it into English. (1)  I am so glad he did.  This song perfectly describes the feeling of awe towards our creator.

“O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds thy hands have made.
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
They pow’r throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, my savior God to thee,
How great thou art! How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my savior God to thee,
How great thou art! How great Thou art!”

The second verse is similar:
“When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze!”

Have you ever stood on top of a mountain or maybe even a plateau? How did you feel looking down and out at everything around you? You feel small, don’t you? This is God’s way of saying, “Hey! I am here! I did this!”

Romans 1:20 says, “For His invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

We know God exists because of the natural world around us.

David also noted in Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above displays His handiwork.”

Another way we have awe for God is in the things He did for us. The next verse says this:

“And when I think, that God His son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in.
For on that cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin.”

Can you imagine it? God sent the only son He had to die. Recently at a youth rally for girls, one of the speakers gave a hypothetical scenario to illustrate this. Let’s say the whole world is getting sick and dying from an illness of some sort. A doctor comes to a mother and says, “The cure is in your son. He can help millions of people. But, we will have to take his life to get it.” The speaker said in the case of her son, she wouldn’t do it. 
God did what so many parents probably couldn’t do, give up their child. I think that fact is hard to grasp. Jesus is God’s son. God had to let Him suffer so we could be saved.

And, what are we really? We have done nothing since the beginning but mess up over and over again. We pushed away and killed the prophets that God sent to us. We ignored His word too often to count. We murder people. We are cruel to others. We look to things other than God to fill the void in our heart.

We killed a perfect man, the Son of God. God’s son. We have an infinite number of strikes against us. We are totally, and completely unworthy! Yet, somehow, God loves us anyway. He wants us to love Him too. He gives us a way to be saved, if we will so choose it.

And if we accept God’s love through submission to His word and seek Him, how amazing will Christ's return be!

“When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
And there proclaim, ‘my God how great thou art!’

Hebrews 9:28 says, “So Christ, having been offered to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those eagerly waiting for Him.”

Matthew 24:44 says, “So you must be ready. For the Son of Man comes at an hour you do not expect.”

Jesus is going to come back. The question is, are we ready? When we see Him, is fear going to be our hearts? Or are we going to be filled with joy knowing that our savior is here to take us home?

I know for me, I want to be filled with joy. If you aren’t, why? Have you not obeyed the Gospel and given your life to Christ? Are you living a life of sin that God wouldn’t be pleased with? Are you just not convinced of your salvation? Look to God's word. Or if you need guidance, contact me, and I will help you find the answers you need.

Either way, we all need to make sure we are ready. It should be a day that gives us joy when we think about it I want to be excited about Christ’s return. 

"How Great Thou Art", Sung By Karns Church of Christ
(This gives me chills!)

1. http://www.allaboutgod.com/how-great-thou-art.htm

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Heart of Worship Tuesday: Blessed Be Your Name

We all go through difficult times. We all go through good times. Yet, through it all, God is there with us
“Blessed Be Your Name” is a more recent worship song. It was written in 2001 by Christian recording artist, Matt Redman. He penned it a few weeks after the terrorist attacks on 9/11. In his book of the same name as the song, he notes that:
 “For the few weeks following those attacks, church attendance went up dramatically…It wasn’t written consciously in response to those dark events-but no doubt, being immersed in the spiritual and emotional climate of those days was an important factor in birthing it…It’s really a song born out of the whole of life-a realization that we will all face seasons of pain or unease. And in these seasons we will need to find our voices before God.” (1)

This song is full of imagery, much inspired by the book of Job. In the first verse it states:
“Blessed be Your name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name!”

Blessed be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be Your name!”

In the bible, good times were often correlated with times of ‘plenty’. This meant that lots of food was growing. People were happy and had what they needed and more. In times of famine, food wouldn’t grow and the economy went bad. Today is no different. We go through periods of things going well, and other times not so much.

In the second half of the first verse, it talks about going through the desert and the wilderness. The desert is dry and many times void of food. It is often hot. It is easy to become tired and weary.

 In a wilderness, it can be easy to get confused and lost. There is nobody, except animals-some which could kill you.

The children of Israel, as a result of their sin, wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before God let them into the Promised Land. We can also see a parallel of how our own sin can plunge us into difficult times. Yet, God is forgiving and patient. (1 Romans 2:4, John 1:9.)

God’s love is abundant, and just knowing that He is in control gives us comfort.
The next verse says this:
“Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s all as it should be
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Tho there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name.”

There are times in our lives when things will be great. There is “sunshine” in our lives, so to speak. It is easy to praise and serve God during these times and to be thankful. But so many things can take us by surprise and derail our lives. Whether it be loss of a loved one, illness, broken relationships, accidents, or the loss of a job. All these things can come in and choke out our sunshine. We may begin to feel hopeless and uncertain.

As the song says, “though there’s pain in the offering, blessed be Your name.”  There are going to be times when it is difficult to serve God. It is so hard to give our all when our hearts are broken. The person is saying that, despite the fact they are in a rough patch, they are still going to give anyway.

Romans 5: 3-5 says, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Our trials and tribulations, if we let them, can help us grow spiritually. When we give it everything we have, even in the most difficult of times, we will be blessed.

Job exemplified this. Despite the fact that he lost his wealth, his home, his family, and his health, he still praised God. (Job 1:21.) There are going to be times that bad things happen to us. It won’t make any sense. But in the end, He can use it for good, such as the case with Joseph when his brothers sent him into slavery. (Genesis 50:20.) We can come out of it and be stronger than before. 

In the chorus we have this line:
“Every blessing You pour out
I turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in Lord
Still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord…”

No matter where we find ourselves in life, we should look to God. We should patiently wait through every trial and tribulation.  We should strive to give God the praise as Job did: “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. BLESSED be the name of the Lord!”

Saturday, April 16, 2016

I'm Weird. You're Weird. We're all Weird. Let's Rejoice!

In Tim Burton's film, "Alice and Wonderland", I believe it had it right when Alice told the Mad Hatter that all the best people are mad and bonkers. I think I quite agree with that statement.

As Christians, this is precisely how the world sees us. They think we are crazy, much to our dismay, oftentimes.

I get it. Right now, things in our nation aren’t so good from a moral perspective. It is easy to worry, wondering what could happen. 

As time goes on, we begin to lose "our muchness", as the film also states.  I see far too many Christians getting down and out about the liars and the dirty, dirty ways of the world. Discouragement abounds. We are becoming increasingly quiet about God's word. Many are losing their boldness and confidence.

Again, I get it. More and more people are rejecting God. People are rejecting us. It hurts. It’s easy to feel discouraged and wonder how the church could possibly grow at a time like this.  There is a part of you that wants to gain some sense of normalcy and keep your mouth shut. 

I’m here to tell you, whatever you do, don’t! God wants us to embrace our weirdness. Because, let’s face it; we are a weird people. The world doesn’t get it. They will never get it. Sure, there will be a few people that take a second look and join our weirdness.  But, we are weird and that is how it is. Very few people will want to take the road less traveled by. (Matthew 7:14.)

1 Peter 4:4 says, “With respect to this, they are surprised when you do not join them in the same debauchery, and they mock you.”

We don't make sense to them. They are going to make fun of us. They are going to insult us. Yet, Jesus turns this into something positive.

“Blessed are you when others revile your and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12.)

“If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” (1 Peter 4:14.)

We are blessed when we stand up for what is right and others think us strange. We are supposed to be a strange people. While we don’t suffer in the US like others in the world, the treatment of Christians here is turning sour. Many are wondering why we won’t just shut up.

Find the joy and embrace your weirdness. Stop worrying so much, and just embrace hope and trust in God.  No matter what happens in this world, He will be right there. Whether you are mocked for your faith or even killed for it, God tells us not to be afraid of people. (Matthew 10:28.)

Despite the circumstances, there is joy. Give the world something else to think we are weird for. Find hope and joy in the stressful times. (Romans 12:12.) Find it in the uncertain times. Find the contentment  and joy when they are ridiculing you for your weirdness. Then you’ll be even weirder to them. And that is a bigger blessing than you realize.