Tag Archives: Church

Have You Seen the Light?

Yesterday was Round Up Sunday at my church. We weren’t roundin’ up doggies, we were roundin’ up volunteers for the various ministries in the church. In keeping with the country western theme, many in the congregation were dressed in their western attire and we sang some great old-time songs.

One of my favorites that we sang was I Saw the Light by Hank Williams Sr. This song reminds me of when I was a kid because Hank Williams was always one of my dad’s favorites, along with Tennessee Ernie Ford, Ernest Tubb, and Johnny Cash, and we heard them all a lot growing up.

Although it was great to sing this song as a church yesterday, I couldn’t help but hear the original Hank Williams version in my head. I found this awesome “video” of it on YouTube and decided I wanted to share it with you all for Music Monday.

As a bonus, I found this Hank Williams Sr. version of I’ll Fly Away, which was our closing song for our Round Up Sunday service. The first time I heard this song was at my husband’s Grandma Ruth’s memorial service, and I have loved it ever since.

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The Fading Light of the City on the Hill

I had a great time at the Casting Crowns concert last night! But it was so much more than just a concert – it was a wonderful night of worshipping God and allowing Him to work in my heart on some things that need work. There are a number of things I could focus on in writing about thoughts I had on songs that were played, and I’m sure some of those songs will be the subject of my Music Monday posts over the next few weeks. But today I want to share one of the songs that is on Casting Crowns’ upcoming CD Come to the Well that is due out October 18. This song is called City on the Hill and you can listen to it by clicking on the title – the link will take you to a RootMusic page with an audio file of the song.

“City on the Hill” is a very convicting song about division in the Church today. We are called to be a city on a hill shining the Light of Christ to a hurting world. But as we fight over petty differences we cause that Light to fade so that the world can barely find it.

The Light has not been extinguished, and it never will. But if Christians continue to focus on what we are against then the world will never see the Light that our negativity obscures. If we continue to be critical of one another about things that are not essential to the faith then the Light will be obscured even to those within the Church. If we focus on our preferences in the style and conduct of worship instead of on spreading the love and Light of Christ to a hurting world then we fail to do the will of God.

Such division is not new. Paul wrote warning the early Church in Rome to avoid divisions that would cause the Light of Christ to fade: “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” Romans 16:17-18 (NIV).

You see the poets thought the dancers were shallow
And the soldiers thought the poets were weak
And the elders saw the young ones as foolish
And the rich man never heard the poor man speak

Each one thought that they knew better
But they were different by design
Instead of standing strong together
They let their differences divide

But it was the rhythm of the dancers
that gave the poets life
It was the spirit of the poets
that gave the soldiers strength to fight

It was the fire of the young ones
It was the wisdom of the old
It was the story of the poor man
that needed to be told

I see this in the Church today, each one thinking they know better. Christians who because of grace should know better arguing over the kind of music to be played in worship or how the prayers should be conducted, disagreeing over the “right” way to do things. Denominations disagree over whether a strict liturgy should be followed or whether a worship service should be free to be led by the Spirit.

The big problem in that last sentence is the word “should.” There is no right and wrong when it comes to worship style or other nonessential differences in the Church, as long as the focus is on the Light of Christ and the Glory of God. We are different by design and all have something to give to fuel the awesome Light of the City on the Hill. If we honor those differences while lifting up our Savior then the world will be able to find the City on the Hill. Let us stand strong together on our Rock and Redeemer and not let our differences divide.

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Community – A Poem

9/27/11 Update: I linked this poem to dVerse Poets Pub for Open Link Night ~ Week 11. If you like poetry, dVerse is the place to be.

It’s Thankful Thursday again, and so I’ve been pondering all that I am thankful for, searching my heart and mind for a thankful poem. Something that I am particularly thankful for this week is community.

I thought about the various communities I belong to. There is my family, immediate and extended, that is a community of sorts. There is my local church community. There is the blogging community that I am part of. There is my work community. And there is the small city community that I live in. Each community has its own characteristics and blessings. My favorite communities are those in which God is at the center.

This poem is a double acrostic, with community at the beginning and community at the end, and what I love about community in between.

                                COMMUNITY

                  coming together with smiles, music
             o
ut in the hall gathered with three or two
      m
elodies, singing, talking, sharing, no boredom
  m
any friends, our safe and contented place of asylum
u
nity the core of community, like Cajuns out on the bayou
  n
eeding each other to lean on, love, in trials or in fun
       i
nfinite joy and grace always genuine, not quasi
             t
hankful for kinship, a bond that’s ancient
                    y
es, our Lord has shown us the way

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25 (NIV).

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Would You Recognize Jesus?

Last Saturday I went to our local Fish Fest concert event. The headline act, and the reason I went, was Third Day. They are my favorite Christian band. I had intended to write something about one of the songs they sang or about the concert generally for my Music Monday post today. But something happened at the concert that changed that.

When it was time for Third Day to start, their lead singer Mac Powell came out and said that first a new artist that they were promoting, and whose first album Mac helped produced, was going to play a few songs for us. His name was Trevor Morgan. He played two songs before Third Day came out and they were great. I decided I wanted to get a copy of his CD before I left the concert.

As a side note, I want to say that this is one of the things I love about Third Day. They are always promoting new Christian artists and helping them get a start. All the fame has not gone to their heads and they don’t mind sharing the stage with someone new.

Later in the show, Trevor came out again and with Third Day as his back-up band he sang a song called “Jesus Rides the Subway.” I had videotaped a few songs during the concert, including one of Trevor’s solo songs at the beginning, but I really wish I has known this one was coming because I would have taped it. Thankfully someone had taped this song at an earlier show and posted it on YouTube.

The third verse of this song really hit me.

Jesus went to church on Sunday
He sat in back and sang the hymns
Jesus went to church on Sunday
But they didn’t recognize Him

I thought to myself, if Jesus came to my church would I recognize Him? Jesus said that whatever we do for the least of His brothers and sisters, we do for Him. (Matthew 25:40). The downtrodden, the poor, the hungry, the poorly dressed, the homeless – all of these are Jesus Himself. The humble, the contrite, the ones who encourage others and seek His will, those who feed and clothe the hungry and the naked, those who in their weakness rely on God – these represent Jesus in our midst.

But often we are so busy looking for perfection in church that we don’t recognize Jesus when He is right in front of us. A critical spirit prevents us from seeing His grace and mercy.

So yesterday before church I prayed that He would guard against a critical spirit that I might recognize Him if He was there. I was blessed to see Him. I saw Him in the service of the women setting up for an after-church social event. I saw Him in the eyes of a friend when I asked how her son who has cancer was doing. I saw Him in the beautiful musical offerings. I saw Him in the wonderful sermon we heard. I saw Him in the heartfelt prayers offered for our congregation and God’s church. I saw Him in the kids playing on the grass after church.

Sadly, not everyone recognized Him. Would you?

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Madeleines with Lemon Curd for Recipe Friday

Last Saturday afternoon, right before his friend came over to hang out, my son said, “I need to make Epicurean Creamed Peas this weekend.”

“What for?” I asked.

“For French class,” he replied, “but I need three people to evaluate it. I guess I’ll have to be one of the three.”

Just to set the record straight, I had told him already that my husband and I wouldn’t be home for dinner on Sunday because we were going to a concert, so I’m not sure when he was planning to make these peas. On top of that, the instructions for the assignment said that he needed three evaluations from other people, plus his own evaluation.

So I suggested he make a French pastry instead and bring it to church on Sunday morning for the snacks that we put out for after church when people are visiting. That way he would have plenty of people to evaluate his cooking project. He agreed that was a good idea, and we found this Madeleines recipe on WordPress.

The Madeleines were a big hit a church! We didn’t bring a single one home, and several people told me they heard how good they were but didn’t get to the snack table in time. Plus, he got an A on the project for French class. I’ll bet the pictures of people from church eating them with a smile helped!

We did make a few slight modifications to Mary’s recipe linked above.

First, we don’t have a Madeleine pan, so he just used mini cupcake papers and lined them up on a small cookie sheet. The recipe made 26. Some of the Madeleine’s turned out a bit oddly shaped, but it didn’t affect the flavor one bit!

Second, it took about 16 to 18 minutes to bake these at 350° instead of 12, and they still didn’t get very brown on top, but he didn’t want to over-bake them.

Third, instead of just dusting them with powdered sugar, he spread lemon curd on top of each Madeleine after they were cool, and then the powdered sugar. The sugar soaked into the lemon curd so you couldn’t really see it, but I think the added sugar was a nice balance to the tart (British) lemon curd. (Don’t tell his French teacher!)

 

I knew he was going to have to bake these again, especially since I only got two. And lucky me, he made some more Tuesday night. I think the second batch was even better. Mmmmm!!

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A God of Surprises

Christmas Day is more than half over. The presents are all opened and some have been tried out already. We’ve eaten our Christmas “dinner” of glazed spiral ham, garlic mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing, and rosemary cauliflower and carrots. There’s still pecan pie for dessert, but I’m still too full.

Last night we attended a wonderful Christmas Eve candlelight service at church. It is my favorite service of the year. We always close by singing Silent Night as each person lights their candle from the candle of the person beside or in front of them. All the other lights are dimmed and by the end of the song the place is lit mostly by candlelight. It always amazes me how all of those small flames can add up to such a bright light. It is a wonderful reminder of how we each carry the light of Christ in our hearts and together we can light the world with His love.

We had a guest speaker, Steve Halliday, who shared a message of the surprise of Christmas. Even though God foretold the coming of the Messiah, with at least 100 Old Testament prophecies regarding His birth alone, when it actually happened Jesus’ birth was full of surprises. Instead of the King coming to earth into a rich and well-connected family, He was born to a young peasant girl and a carpenter. Instead of being born in a posh hospital, He was born in a lowly stable. Instead of announcing His birth to royalty and aristocrats, the angels brought news of the Messiah’s birth to lowly shepherds. Nothing was what you would expect; it was all full of surprises.

Steve shared a story of how when he was a child his older sister always tried to guess what her Christmas presents were. She would shake, squeeze, and hold presents up to the light trying to figure what was in the box. She didn’t like to wait and wanted to know what the surprise was. His story reminded me of the time, when I was 9 or 10, that I really wanted to know what was in my presents. One day before Christmas, when no one was home, I carefully peeled the tape and opened every one of my presents, discovering what each one was. Christmas was not the same that year. There was no surprise on Christmas morning (though I had to feign surprise so as not to be found out!).

The rest of the Christmas Eve message was that God still has surprises for us today. We might have some idea what He is going to do because He has told us in His Word. He will give us wisdom if we ask. James 1:5. He will answer our prayers if we pray in His name. John 14:13-14. He will take care of all our needs. Matthew 6:31-33. The real question is how will He fulfill these promises. Therein lies the surprise. And if the incarnation is any indication, all of God’s surprises will be wonderful, indeed.

I often complain that I wish God would let me in on His plan. Seems my tendency to want to know what my presents are ahead of time is still there. But I think I’ve learned my lesson. As I thought about the promise of God’s surprises and the disappointment I felt that Christmas morning when I knew what all my presents were going to be, I realized that it is best not to know ahead of time what God has planned. It is better to have faith that the fulfillment of His promises will be better than I can ever imagine. Then when His surprises come I’ll be delighted by the wonder of His glorious gifts.

On this Christmas Day, I wish you all the wonder and joy of the surprises God has in store for you!

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To Following Willingly

Several months ago I wrote about Revelation 3:20 and a painting of Jesus that portrays this verse that hangs in my in-laws house and in my own living room. This is a great verse to ponder in preparation for Thanksgiving because it talks about Jesus coming in to eat with us.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Revelation 3:20.

Although Jesus will come dwell and dine with all who open the door and welcome Him, He is ever the gentleman. He will not knock the door down and force anyone to believe in Him. It is a choice we are all given whether to welcome Him into our lives and hearts.

In the book we are reading for our adult education class at church — The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert E. Coleman — the author points out another instance in which Jesus did not force Himself on others. Talking about John 6:60-69, Coleman notes that Jesus did not force any of those who followed Him to accept His teaching if they did not want to. “The surprising thing is that Jesus did not go running after them to try to get them to stay on his membership roll.” The Master Plan of Evangelism pg. 45. There was truth to be taught and a price to pay in terms of giving up one’s selfish desires for those who willing chose to follow Him.

It seems that some churches today have forgotten this principle. They do not simply teach the truth and leave it to the individual whether to believe and follow as Jesus did. Instead, they run after people with offers of compromise and programs to fill their selfish desires for entertainment and instant gratification, all to increase membership numbers. Rather than focus on the quality of teaching and the depth of commitment of the congregation, they focus on sheer numbers.

I’m not suggesting that increasing the number of believers is not a laudable goal. The early church began with only 120 members, as recorded in Acts 1:15, but quickly grew. After being filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter preached the Gospel to the people gathered around. “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” Acts 2:41. But each of those disciples who believed was then taught what was necessary to be a disciple. The church grew not only in numbers but in wisdom.

Jesus will not force any to follow Him, but those who do will be blessed beyond measure. The price for such blessing is to surrender one’s own will in exchange for the will of God. It may seem a high price to pay, but it’s really a bargain. Are you willing to pay the price? If you do, your life will never be the same.

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The Relationship Plan, Part 2

Our second full adult education class was awesome! We learned the next two principles of Jesus’ strategy for sharing the truth of the Gospel and growing the Church from The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert E. Coleman.

I wrote about the first two principles last week in The Relationship Plan. First, Jesus selected His disciples carefully; and second, He spent time developing a close relationship with them. The next two principles build upon this relationship foundation.

The third principle is that the disciples who chose to follow Jesus were consecrated, which means they were dedicated or set apart for service to God. And being dedicated to Jesus required their obedience. In John 6:60-69 we see that many of those who had been following Him walked away as His teaching about obedience got harder, but the 12 did not leave Him. Even today His disciples must answer as Peter did: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:68-69. In his book, Coleman writes:

“It soon became apparent that being a disciple of Christ involved far more than a joyful acceptance of the Messianic promise: it meant the surrender of one’s whole life to the Master in absolute submission to his sovereignty. There could be no compromise.” pg. 44.

But Jesus’ requirement of obedience was reasonable. He did not expect the disciples to obey what He had not yet taught or what they did not already understand. He knew that learning from the Master was a process developed through relationship. They needed only to be willing to submit their will to His. “Their capacity to receive revelation would grow provided they continued to practice what truth they did understand.” pg. 48.

Coleman argues, and I think rightly, that the problem with the church today is a “general indifference to the commands of God.” pg. 51. Those who call themselves Christian do not want to be obedient if it is not convenient. This reminded me of a quote I recently came across from St. Augustine: “If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.” To be a true disciple of Christ, you must believe Jesus and obey that which you understand Him to have taught you. You must be willing to submit to His authority. The standard that we are required to live up to is that of Love.

This may all seem quite difficult. How can we who are sinners by nature be truly obedient to Christ? The answer comes when we look at the fourth principle, which is the impartation of the Holy Spirit. While He was with them, Jesus made sure the “disciples understood that they were not just keeping a law, but were responding to One who loved them, and was willing to give himself for them.” pg. 53. As the end of His time here on earth neared its planned conclusion, Jesus began to tell His disciples that the Father would be sending the Holy Spirit to be with them when He was physically gone. Coleman points out that “only those who followed Jesus all the way came to know the glory of this experience. Those who followed at a distance [or] . . . stubbornly refused to walk in the light of his Word . . . did not even hear about the work of the blessed Comforter.” pg. 59-60.

I think that is still true for those who call themselves Christians today. Many follow at a distance and only for what’s in it for them, or they stubbornly believe they are earning their own way to heaven. In either case, such Christians miss out on the truth that true faith comes from responding to the One who loves them, and so they miss the blessing of the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide, teach, and comfort them. They also will fail in any attempts at evangelism. As Coleman points out, “It is only the Spirit of God who enables one to carry on the redemptive mission of evangelism.” pg. 57. Without the power of the Holy Spirit to give us courage, strength, and wisdom, as well as to regenerate the hearts of those we seek to share the Gospel with, there is no hope for the Church.

Jesus’ plan was based on relationship. He made Himself known to His disciples, and in doing so made the Father known to them. Now that He sits at the right hand of the Father, it is the Holy Spirit who carries on the daily relationship with the believer. “The Spirit of God always insists on making Christ known.” pg. 60. Those who listen to the Spirit will insist on making Christ known as well.

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Freedom Isn’t Free

Today is Veteran’s Day in the United States and Remembrance Day in Canada. It is a day to remember the sacrifice of veterans, both living and dead, to secure our freedom. Because of the willingness of our veterans to give their time and even their lives, we are free to worship God, to read our Bibles, to spend time with our families, to express our opinions in writing, and to love our neighbors in the way God calls us to.

I love the freedom my country affords to me. I hope I never lose it. But if I ever did, if I ever ended up living in a country where I wasn’t free to profess the Gospel, my soul would still be free. “Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” John 8:31-32. Today there are many countries in the world where the citizens do not enjoy the freedoms we have in the United States and Canada. Often citizens in those countries are imprisoned, tortured, and persecuted simply because they believe in Christ. And yet these persecuted Christians never lose sight of freedom they have in Christ.

I am reminded of the old American Negro Spiritual, sung by slaves who did not enjoy the freedoms of citizenship their “owners” enjoyed:

Free At Last

Free at last, free at last
I thank God I’m free at last
Free at last, free at last
I thank God I’m free at last

Way down yonder in the graveyard walk
I thank God I’m free at last
Me and my Jesus going to meet and talk
I thank God I’m free at last

On my knees when the light pass’d by
I thank God I’m free at last
Tho’t my soul would rise and fly
I thank God I’m free at last

Some of these mornings, bright and fair
I thank God I’m free at last
Goin’ meet King Jesus in the air
I thank God I’m free at last

Today, I remember the many veterans, living and dead, who have served our country to ensure my freedom to share the Gospel of Christ that sets free the souls of mankind. If you are a veteran, thank you for your sacrifice. The freedom you have ensured for our country was not free, and I hope we never forget that. Likewise, the freedom that Christ gives was not free. It cost His life on the cross. But freedom is well worth the price.

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Psalm 6 – Trusting God

I have been very blessed in my life. Though I have experienced trials, right now my life is pretty good. There are people in the world, even in my own country, who are currently experiencing trials beyond what I can imagine.

Still there are days when I feel a bit of melancholy come over me. Sometimes it is because of thinking of those who are worse off than I am. Sometimes it is because I grieve over those who don’t know the Lord. Sometimes it is because I wonder if I am living my life as God wants me to. Am I missing out on something great that He has in store because of my own stubbornness?

On days like that I turn to the Psalms, and I want to share one with you all today.

Psalm 6

For the choir director: A psalm of David, to be accompanied by an eight-stringed instrument.

 1 O Lord, don’t rebuke me in your anger
      or discipline me in your rage.
 2 Have compassion on me, Lord, for I am weak.
      Heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
 3 I am sick at heart.
      How long, O Lord, until you restore me?

 4 Return, O Lord, and rescue me.
      Save me because of your unfailing love.
 5 For the dead do not remember you.
      Who can praise you from the grave?

 6 I am worn out from sobbing.
      All night I flood my bed with weeping,
      drenching it with my tears.
 7 My vision is blurred by grief;
      my eyes are worn out because of all my enemies.

 8 Go away, all you who do evil,
      for the Lord has heard my weeping.
 9 The Lord has heard my plea;
      the Lord will answer my prayer.
 10 May all my enemies be disgraced and terrified.
      May they suddenly turn back in shame.

This Psalm talks of enemies, but sometimes I think the worst enemy is within. My own doubt and sinful nature, my own weakness are my worst enemy. Unless I turn them over to God and trust that “The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord will answer my prayer.”

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