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Realignment

17 Oct

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When we go out, my husband drives the Honda van that I drive most of the time. Last night he took his hands off the steering wheel and held them up, so I would notice– not his “look ma, no hands” bravado– but that the wheel shook back and forth. He explained that the van only needed the wheels balanced since the car didn’t pull to the left or right. When that happens, it’s time for a realignment because the wheels aren’t straight and all going in the same direction. I didn’t know I was in for a mechanics lesson. I thought we were just going out to dinner!

In Psalm 50 God calls out the wicked for their deeds: undisciplined living, greed, thievery, adultery, and slander. Then he lets us in on his response in verse 21:

These things you have done, and I have been silent;
.    you thought that I was one like yourself.
But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.

The wicked assume that God is like them. In other words, they think he would approve of their rationalization of their sin, that he shares their perspective.

“God doesn’t really mean I should follow his Word right now. He sees that I am being mistreated. He knows the perpetrators are evil and not deserving of my love!”

“The people who have been oppressed deserve to loot and grab what isn’t theirs. Good for them! Surely God is OK with righting wrongs.”

“I’m not sharing anything that anyone doesn’t already know about so-and-so. They are bringing disgrace on the name of Jesus. We need to be praying they will find their way back to him!”

And so it goes– justification for stepping outside of God’s best for the Church and for each one of us. In other words, casting his words behind us. (Verse 17)

The actions mentioned in this psalm are worthy of God’s rebuke. But this is small compared to the underlying grievous offense: seeing God– the Creator and Sustainer of the entire universe; the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent One; the source of all mercy and all justice– as one like us.

God is completely other.

We can catch glimpses of how amazingly gloriously holy he is, but we are using a limited human intellect. We are made in his image, and so we can know something of who he is, but logically there is no way for the created to understand the Creator. To reduce God to operating with human motivations is to strip him of everything worthy of worship.

Or to say it another way: as long as we think God is like us, our worship of him will be far less than he deserves.

Why would we sing the praises of a hero when we can adore the living God?

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

Does my worship feel “off”? Is it bumpy, pulled to the sidelines, or less-than-inspiring? A realignment is most likely necessary.

Psalm 50 gives practical ways to adjust my mind and heart:

Verses 14-15:
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
    and perform your vows to the Most High,
     and call upon me in the day of trouble;
    I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

Verse 23:
The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
    to one who orders his way rightly
    I will show the salvation of God!”

  • offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God– tell him what you are thankful for, list the blessings he has showered on me
  • perform your vows to him and order your way rightly– live the way he has called me to live, let my actions line up with his Word
  • call on him in trouble– let my first response to difficulties be to cry out to him, not take it out on others around me

The result? To be able to glorify God and see his salvation; to be so captivated by his god-ness that worship is my automatic response.

He is holy!

Default Fault

10 Oct

IMG_4518Colors everywhere! One of my greatest joys is looking at color– on autumn trees, in aisles of material at a fabric store, over rows of souvenirs in a market. Even in my craft room raw materials are arranged by color.

When I’m in a hurry I toss items for sorting later– a length of ribbon, buttons from a friend, and other finds– on my desk. When I have time to create, I gravitate upstairs to my room. And I put everything in its place.

Sometimes this takes up all the time I had for creating art. Last time that happened I laughed out loud at myself and the irony! While I enjoy a neat space for working, the goal is to use the supplies to create art.

———-

After Jesus had* healed Bartimaeus of his blindness, entered Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosanna!” from his followers, and cleansed the temple of unprincipled merchants, the religious leaders of Israel ask Jesus:

“By what authority are you doing these things?”

Continue reading

Collective Worship as a Means of Grace

3 Oct
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A couple of years ago I made a discovery that has changed the way I read the Bible. This foundational perspective shift radically altered my interpretation and application of Scripture. The beauty of this idea is that it’s so simple that it requires no special knowledge or training.

Do I have your attention? Here it is:

Continue reading

Tradition!

5 Sep

 

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I’m going to make an assumption: that everyone reading this blog would like to grow spiritually, be more like Jesus, connect with God on a deeper level, and/or become unstuck regarding his/her relationship with God.

 

The Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?” Continue reading

Glimpse of Jesus’ Heart

22 Aug

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All around Jesus the cries of his followers proclaimed:

Hosanna!”

Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!

The praises rang out so loudly the Pharisees feared reprisals from the Roman governor for disturbing the peace. They told Jesus to quiet his followers, and Jesus replied, I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.

Much can be learned about worship in this exchange in Luke 19, but the juxtaposition with the next passage is what grabs my heart as I read this morning:

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

The crowd exalted Jesus at the top of their lungs– loud raucous praises filled the road from the Mount of Olives into the city. As they rounded a bend, Jesus saw Jerusalem and wept. Silent tears did not slip down his cheeks, the Greek word for wept means to convulse into sobs– the kind that would erupt from a father at the sudden death of his son.

Can you see it?

The crowd, wild with delight that their King has come at last, praises the Son of Man while his body shakes with unspeakable sorrow.

Did anyone notice? Did the crowd stop cheering? One by one, did they drop their arms and palm branches turning to one another in confusion? Did anyone ask Jesus what broke his heart? When he was finally able to speak and describe his pain, did anyone respond? If someone did, no record of it exists.

What we do know is that, as people praised the One who could save* them, they glimpsed his heart for those who don’t know him.

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

Often my worship of God with other believers is concerned with our relationship with Jesus – how much he loves us, that he has forgiven us of all our sins, when we’ll see him in heaven, etc. These are wonderful reasons to praise him and glorious realities to contemplate as we worship.

I’m not sure, however, that I have ever tried to glimpse his heart and see what breaks it during worship. Tomorrow will be the first time.

Will you join me?

———-

*Hosanna means: God saves

Outsiders on the Inside

16 Aug

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Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you. 1 Peter 1:1-2

 

The Christians Peter wrote to were outsiders, scattered all over the Roman Empire, not clustered together in Jerusalem. Outsiders, especially in the First Century lived at the bottom of society. If they had a job it was most likely feeding pigs or washing feet. Some were probably beaten, others had their possessions confiscated, and most likely anyone trying to climb socially avoided them altogether.

These undesirables focused not outwardly, but on their relationship with God. While they saw the haves and the standard of living they enjoyed from the outside, they saw life from the inside of the Kingdom! These believers knew the sanctifying work of the Spirit and the regenerating power of Jesus’ blood.

And they possessed grace and peace – possessions of which those around them knew very little.

The mathematical word multiplied means an abundant increase in something that exists already. Elementary math students know that zero cannot be a multiplier. In other words, zero can’t be reproduced into two or three (or any other number of) piles. It literally doesn’t compute. In order for grace and peace to be multiplied to the Christians Peter addressed, by definition they must already possess them to some degree. In this introduction of his first letter, Peter prays that God will multiply, bestow a many-fold increase in, the amount they already have.

Peter knew what it was to be harassed– and he knew how much greater the grace and peace of God were compared to the life’s difficulties. He reminds his readers that the grace and peace of Jesus do not simply negate the hard stuff of life, they exponentially surpass it.

Abundance is a God-sized concept. He lavishes blessings like grace and peace on us until they fill and overflow our finite containers, spilling over onto those around us.

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

Put all the hard stuff of you life in one place in your head. Or make an actual list. Include the unfair, as well as things you deserve, that hurt and make life difficult.

Now, in your heart gather up what you have in Christ, all of which you (and I) don’t deserve: grace, peace, forgiveness, redemption, joy, eternal life, inheritance with Christ, a new heart…

Now compare lists.

The troubles we have in this world don’t come close to what we have in Christ. I’m ready to worship God now; I don’t have to wait for Sunday!

Needy

16 Aug

Driving at 70 mph for a day and a half gives me time to think. A LOT of time to think about the previous week spent with a very dysfunctional family that doesn’t follow Jesus.

My heart aches for them to know Him. My soul feels so helpless… and worn out. I read the Word and prayed in the morning and in the moment constantly. I’m not sure whether I’m beat from the hard work of praying so much, the constant interaction of so many who need Jesus, the very, very long roadtrip… or maybe the combo. In any case, I need the family of God.

While driving I was also thinking about getting ready for Sunday.  Man, am I ready! I am needy. Having been in the fray all week, I need the fellowship of kindred hearts like all these cars going in the same direction have. I need perspective like the hawks have hovering above the tangled strings of highway. I need the family of God.

During the week I have not been apart from God. I have had to be close to Him. But I have been alone with Him.

I need to lift up His name with those who also love Him.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:23-25

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

Sometimes I take worship for granted, or at least I value it more at times. This week is one of those high-value, can’t-wait-for-Sunday kind of weeks. How about you? When was the last time you deeply desired to worship God with your brothers and sisters in Christ? Why?

I can’t wait for Sunday! Until then, this is on… at 11!

 

 

 

 

The Crowd

9 Aug

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Driving by the corner store by the high school I felt free. The crowd around the store was made up of students, and I was now a college freshman. But being a graduate wasn’t why I felt free.

For the first time in my entire K-12 school career, peer pressure had no hold on me. It didn’t matter who my friends were or what group of kids invited me in to their closed circle. I laughed out loud when I realized that none of the important social complexities mattered to me anymore. Not one little bit!

I couldn’t believe how different it felt to be on the other side of graduation from the way I felt just a couple of months earlier. Regret followed that feeling almost immediately. Much of my time, energy, and emotions had been squandered on petty and trivial concerns that dissipated quicker than the cigarette smoke rings being blown out of the pursed lips of those in the cool crowd hanging out on the corner.

This memory revisited my heart earlier today as I read chapters 4-8 of Revelation. God gave John a glimpse through the doorway to the throne room in heaven. In response to being in the presence of the One seated on the throne…

The four living creaturesday and night… never cease to say,

‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
    who was and is and is to come!’”

The twenty-four elders bow before him and cast their crowns at His feet saying,

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they existed and were created.”

They were joined by “many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!'”

After that, John heard “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!'”

Not a single one of these beings thought about any of the concerns that filled my day. Instead, they were filled with the presence of the Lamb, and they fell down and worshiped Him.

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

Very soon we will be on the other side of the ultimate graduation and will understand how little of what we are giving our hearts and minds, time and fortunes, devotion and experience to really matters.

One thing that will remain is the worship we give God now. Like an eternal echo that continues, never losing intensity or volume, the worship I will give God tomorrow will join the worship in heaven that will continue forever.

More than Enough

27 Jul

This week I don’t have a compelling Scripture or a coordinating photo.

All I have is the thought that if everyone in the world was to be in the same room with Jesus, we would all see Him a bit differently through our need. Some would see the Mighty Warrior through their desperation. Others would be in the presence of the Prince of Peace because their lives were spinning out of control. Still others in the midst of grief would know Him as the Comforter. And some would simply be captivated by his glorious beauty.

The same God revealed, but seen through individual situations, perspectives, and longings.

In every one, and altogether, He is more than enough.

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

I will be in that room this weekend– with individuals gathering together with independent needs, but we will be united in task and purpose: to glorify the One who is more than able to care for all of us and all of our distinct needs. He is more than enough for all of that.

Though we will each worship a slightly different facet of who He is, we will be united because He is the unifying reason that we gather.

He is more than enough for each and all of us. And more.

and

12 Jul

ampersand

You are Creator and the Word

The One who spoke and the Speaking

Speaking life out of nothing

Giving chaos meaning

You said, and it was so

Morning and evening

 –

You are the Voice and the Way

The Narrow Road and the Whisper

Whispering which way to go

Hearing cries to deliver

The Way and Only Truth

Small Gate and Life-Giver

 

You are the Cloud and the Fire

Shekinah Glory and the Burning

Burning up soaked wood and stone

Igniting, overturning

Behind and before

Thirsting and soul-yearning

 

You are the First and the Last

The Final End and Beginning

Beginning all things new again

Glory never dimming

The Root and Branch of Jesse

Victorious and winning

 

You are the Lion and the Lamb

Perfect Love and Agonizing

Agonizing wondrous cross

Conquered death by sacrificing

Fully God and Fully Man

The Crucified and Hope-Rising

…and…

Opposites and paradox.

Remember Venn Diagrams from math class? Circles that describes sets – if one circle is “Green Things” and another is “Round Things”, the circles both contain the green lollipops, traffic lights, and round-cut emeralds, overlapping with an intersection of “Green Round Things”.

But what if the circles are “Green Things” and “Blue Things”? Do they overlap, or are they exclusive– independent circles without an intersection? What about “Blue-Green Things” (green and blue mixed to make blue-green). And what about rainbows… every color is part of a rainbow.

Groups that seem to be exclusive, after thoughtful inspection, do share concepts.

Sometimes the set names are so specific the intersection contains a single item.

Often God is described with conflicting concepts. Like Morning and Evening, First and Last, Lion and Lamb; like Crucified and Lord… At first these seem to contradict each other, creating a paradox. But think about these pairs and how they relate to each other. Taken together they complete the larger concept.

How wondrous that conflicting concepts meet in God!

He is the total set. The Both/And. The Ultimate Concept. The All-in-All. The Complete Union.

He is greater than any single concept for several reasons, among them that He created the concepts.

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  Eph 4:4-6

The intersection contains one Item.

And: Christ the Lord.

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

When I think about all the “ands” that describe God, my soul spontaneously worships Him.

Please leave a comment with other “and” statements that cause you to worship our Lord and Savior!

 

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