Archive | September, 2013

Death. And Life.

28 Sep

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I will not die, but live,
.  and will proclaim what the Lord has done.  Psalm 118:17

Fall has come to the Midwest. Death is everywhere. Leaves on the ground turn brown and crunch beneath my feet. Flowers once glorious wither, their petals once so glorious have faded as life leaves every cell.

Photos I was looking at yesterday whisper across time that family members and friends are slowly dying like the players in some macabre horror movie. Pink cheeks and sparkling eyes grow into loose eyelids and crow’s feet before our eyes as we watch, every one of us, step by step, walking toward death.

In this moment I am immortal. That is my reality, my perspective, on this fall day. I drink deeply of the pungent fragrance of the leaves under my feet on my morning walk and the pumpkin spice candle burning here on my desk. But the greater reality is that I am living to die, that I will cease to exist in this world today, next week, or in a year yet to come.

I am living to die.

Or maybe, I am dying to live.

The Lord has chastened me severely,
.  but he has not given me over to death. Psalm 118:18

I will die, it’s true. But I will not be given over to it. I am not meant for death; I am meant for life!

My question is then: why do I spend so much time, effort, thought, and resources on what is dying? A better long-term investment would be in what will last.

Logic demands it. The way I live denies it.

Open for me the gates of the righteous;
.   I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord
  through which the righteous may enter.
I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
.   you have become my salvation.  Psalm 118:19-21

The way to life is through the gate of righteousness, and (thankfully!) I am not the gate, the Lord is. The gate does not depend on me… yet I must enter. And on the other side, the living side, I give him thanks!

The stone the builders rejected
.   has become the capstone;
the Lord has done this,
.   and it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day the Lord has made;
.   let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:22-24

This is the day – the day I walk through the gate – that the Lord has made. (Yes, he has also made today, but the day referred to in this verse is the day the psalmist walked through the gate with the solid capstone supporting the arch overhead.)

The verses above are from my 1985 NIV. The latest revision of the NIV makes this phrase clearer:

The Lord has done it this very day;
.   let us rejoice today and be glad. Psalm 118:24

Let’s worship him today because he is our salvation! In fact, how can we keep quiet?

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

As I look ahead to worshiping God with my church family tomorrow, I’m struck by how much of what we will do is dying. The building where we will gather will have  a shorter life than the Parthenon – which is now in ruins. The instruments will end up broken and unplayable. The tech pieces (many of which are already outdated) are going to malfunction beyond repair and end up in a tox-drop dumpster in a couple of years.

My brilliant harmony will be gone before the end of the song. The choral swell will echo a moment and fade to silence. The band arrangement will disappear just as quickly. The clothes I wear, the outfit I so carefully put together to be just hip enough but not too distracting, will someday be the rag I use to wash my windows.

All this is dying. Is my worship living to die?

Or is it dying to live?

———–

I love it when God puts thoughts from different people together. I was meditating on the above last week, and this is what my pastor wrote and preached on last Sunday. (For the sermon, choose: Awake-Week 1, Sep. 22, 2013.)

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Why Gather?

7 Sep

WHY 

QUESTION:

Why do we come together on Sunday mornings?

This is a serious question, not an off-handed, patronizing shock-question at the beginning of a blog. I’ve been asking myself this for several months.

We don’t need to be together to worship God. We can do that on our own at home, walking through the woods, lying on a beach, or riding on the subway.

We don’t need to gather together to hear the Word of God preached and taught. Again, we can do that at the kitchen table, in the forest, beside the ocean, or in a train car.

So what’s the big deal about Sunday? (And I do believe it IS a big deal.)

There are many passages in Scripture about meeting together. One of the most notable being Hebrews 10:24-25. However, what continues to hit me this week are two passages in Psalm 116:

14 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people.

18 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the Lord—
in your midst, Jerusalem.

The Psalmist desires to make good in front of God’s people– not for his own glory…

12 What shall I return to the Lord
for all his goodness to me?

…but because God has been good to him.

Once again, in the midst of one of the most hedonistic societies in the history of civilization (though overused, “It’s not about me,” is truer in this situation than any other), can we agree that every worship service is not for us worshipers? Not for my comfort, my preferences, my senses, my edification, or my enjoyment. Not one iota, jot, or tittle. That is not to say that some of our desires aren’t met in the process of worshiping God, but they are merely side effects– not what drives the event or the goals of it.

So, why do we gather together as a church body? Simply, to worship God together and publicly proclaim His goodness.

Nothing else matters except that God is glorified.

Soli Deo Gloria.

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READY FOR SUNDAY

What if all of us arrived at our places of worship this week with an all-consuming goal and singular focus that God be glorified in all that is done, said, sung, and thought?  How would my attitude be different? What about my interactions with people would change? How would I handle distractions from this goal? Would I prepare differently today?

Writing this blog can be so humbling and convicting! I’m hoping reading it is, too. Will you join me in this? Can a revolution in our churches start with us, this week, that will change our hedonism into God’s glory as He is enthroned on our praises?

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