Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Living for the Weekend?

"In the morning you shall say, 'Oh, that it were evening!' And at the evening you shall say, 'Oh, that it were morning!' because of the fear which terrifies your heart, and because of the sight which your eyes see" Deuteronomy 28:67

This verse is a part of the curses that the Lord promised to Israel if they did not continue in the Love and the remembrance of the Lord and His word. At the heart of the Law was always the core tenet: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength." This is the same commandment that Jesus affirmed as the greatest commandment of the law in Matthew 22:37-38. It was the very heart of what Israel was to be about.

We in the church age do not live under the principle of Law, but rather the principle of Grace. Deuteronomy gives Israel a list of physical blessings if they keep the law and curses if they fail to keep the Law. In the church, under grace, we find that we are already blessed with every spiritual blessing and our actions grow naturally out of our unity and fellowship with God through Christ. Yet, there is a principle and an indirect application that we can derive from the verse we are looking at today.

Many Christians seem to live in this constant attitude of "Oh, that it were morning" and "Oh, that it were evening" and this is not the life that Christ has for us. Our abundant spiritual blessings in Christ, right here and right now, preclude that our lives should be lives of thankfulness and praise. Even our trials and suffering are matters for the deepest thanksgiving. When we are under divine discipline we can be thankful that our Father will not let us live lives that are separated from Him. When we experience the trials that are not divine discipline we are to rejoice knowing that trials are the tool by which God is conforming us to the image of Christ!

In an often-quoted passage of Paul we get a great command: "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4) Each day, each morning and evening, is a time to rejoice in the Lord. Each day is a day to be thankful for all that He has done for us. Each day is a day wherein we are to stand in the victory that Christ won or us at the cross. Praise the Lord for all He has done for us in Christ Jesus Our Lord, that in every situation we can say that we too have "learned in whatever state I am, to be content..."

Monday, March 15, 2010

Don't Forget!

One of the chief threats to the Israelites as they took the land that God had given to them was that they would forget. God warned them about this in Deuteronomy 8:17-19 and 9:4-6. The exhortation of the Israelites as they entered into the land was to remember that it wasn't because of their strength that they were taking the land, and it wasn't because of their holiness or goodness as a people that God was giving it to them. It was because of HIS faithfulness. The second they started thinking about how great they were, how worthy or how strong they would lose sight of the Lord and all reality. This would disrupt their fellowship with God and result in the introduction of divine discipline in their lives.

This is very similar to something that Jesus said in a passage that we will be studying shortly in the main service. When addressing the Church at Ephesus the Lord rebuked them for "leaving their first love." The corrective exhortation that the Lord had for them is as follows: "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place--unless you repent." (Revelation 2:5)

We are a forgetful people, and just as the Israelites were easily seduced to forget that it was God that gave them the land, and placed them in it, we can neglect to remember the wonderful gift of the relationship that God has given us in Jesus Christ. This is why it is so very important to be in fellowship, prayer and Bible study regularly. So that we can be always remembering the love with which is IS LOVING US each day.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Some thoughts on Praise and Worship

"I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth" Psalm 34:1

The words "praise" and "worship" have mutated in Christendom since the time that the Bible was written. Both of those words now immediately make the modern Christian think of corporate singing. Though praise is spoken of a great number of times in the New Testament it is only rarely used in reference to singing. Let's think about a practical illustrations.

Imagine that I set aside thirty minutes each week to tell April (my wife) how thankful I am for her, how much I love her, and how much I appreciate all that she is and does. Great idea, right? Now, how effective would it be if I took April completely for granted the rest of the week. What would she have to say to me each week when our set time of appreciation came around if I was rude, dismissive and thankless throughout each and every day? I can speak from experience that my thankfulness and appreciation of April needs to be a day in and day out occurrence or else problems will arise.

Do we sometimes act similarly with our Lord? Thinking that Sunday is the day to thank and worship Him and dismiss Him the rest of the time? I would carefully put forth the statement that if each day is not filled with praise and thanksgiving then our moments of worship on Sunday morning will always be riddled with a hollowness and hypocrisy. We will then find ourselves focusing on the musical style or the many other distractions that are available to us rather than turning our thoughts towards God in praise.

Brothers and sisters, I am writing to myself more so than to you. I pray that our body may be a body that is characterized by thanksgiving and praise to God for His abundant blessings that fill our lives. When we understand our position before God aright there should be no situation in our lives that does not evoke praise and thanksgiving. Our Salvation, our relationship with God, our brothers and sisters in the Lord, the material blessings that He has given us, and even our trials and difficulties are powerful reminders that His praise "shall continually be in my mouth."

If this joyous and thankful attitude is missing from your life the answer is not to try to create it by strength of will. Nothing would be worse for us than to be fake and inauthentic in our lives. The way this natural mindset will flow from us is by beholding our Savior and coming to a deeper and more vital understanding of His great love for us and all that He has done for us.

As an exercise to get you started read this passage of scripture out loud to yourself inserting your name where indicated*:

"But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved , even when was dead in trespasses, made alive together with Christ (by grace has been saved), and raised up together, and made sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward in Christ Jesus." Eph. 2:4-7

Have a blessed week, my beloved brothers and sisters!

* I asked you to place your name where the word "us" is used in this passage. Anyone who has put their faith in Christ is one of the "us" being spoken of here. You are richly and personally loved, blessed and favored of God in Christ.