I was reading Psalm 111 this morning which says, “I will praise You with my whole heart.” I was inspired to write this psalm of praise.
I Will Praise You
I will praise You with my broken heart
In Your goodness and mercy You heal me
I will praise You in the raging storm
Your mighty right hand will calm the winds
I will praise You when the flowers bloom
Their beauty a witness of Your glory
I will praise You while the sun shines bright
Pointing to You as my eternal Light
The works of Your creation testify
You alone are worthy of praise
Created in Your image we have the power
to create, but only from what You
have already made
Guide us, O Lord, to use our creative power
for good and not for evil
that the whole earth would glorify You in praise
I will praise You
Praise the Lord
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen was never one of my favorite Christmas songs, until a couple of years ago when Mercy Me came out with The Christmas Sessions album. Their rendition of this old classic is much more energetic than any I had ever heard before. I also love the back-up vocals that sound almost like a choir in the background.
As I listened to it this morning getting ready for work, I thought of one of my favorite verses from Isaiah:
Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:4-6 (NIV).
We all were gone astray and Satan had power over us. But then into the world came the Son of God, and the angels brought us tidings of comfort and joy. Now we are free from Satan’s power and can live instead in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a Merry Christmas, indeed!
Last year I wrote an acrostic poem titled Advent, and I have been astounded in the past 4 weeks how many times it has been viewed. The search terms stats on my blog show that a lot of people have been searching for Advent acrostic poems. Since it is a topic of great interest, I decided to write another one. It is quite different from the first but carries the same Great News of hope found in a manger.
Angels to the shepherds sing
Divine arrival of the King
Victory is now in sight
Emmanuel comes this night
Need of all mankind is met
Thankful hearts, He paid our debt
My favorite Christmas show ever is A Charlie Brown Christmas. I remember watching it every year on TV when I was a kid, and now I own it on DVD and watch it every year still. My favorite part is when Charlie Brown asks, “Can anyone tell me what Christmas is all about?” And Linus walks into the spotlight and tells Charlie Brown what he wants to know; what we all need to know.
Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life
The season of Advent is about anticipating our celebration of the coming of Christ into the world. But it is also about anticipating His second coming into the world at the end of time. For that reason, our pastor gave a sermon yesterday titled “End Times – A Lutheran Perspective.”
It was a very interesting and informative sermon. He talked about the many attempts of mankind and the church to predict the exact time when the end will come, even though Jesus clearly said, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32.
He also talked about the various perspectives on the end times and the thousand-year reign of Jesus written about in Revelation. There is the pre-millennial view that the thousand-year reign hasn’t yet started. There is the post-millennial view that the thousand-year reign has already passed. And there is the amillennial view that the thousand years is a figurative timeframe instead of a literal one.
But the most important thing our pastor said during the whole sermon took up only six little words: “This is not a salvation issue.“
Whether you believe the rapture and tribulation are still to come, that the church is experiencing the tribulation now, or something else does not affect whether you have salvation in Christ. What matters is if you believe God came to this earth as Emmanuel and then died on a cross to pay for your sins.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NIV)
Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life
I am always amazed at the things people will believe and repost on Facebook. Here are just a few examples:
- Once again the “fact” that the coming month has 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays, and 5 Sundays, and that this won’t happen again for 823 years, has been going around. The shared post usually says that if you pass it on you will have good luck or come into some money. It’s fairly easy to debunk this claim by looking an online perpetual calendar, which will reveal that any 31 day month that starts on a Friday will have this 5 Friday, 5 Saturday, and 5 Sunday pattern. And yet people keep falling for this.
- A well-meaning warning has been circulating again of a new “trick” of car-jackers. The story is that the car-jackers put a piece of paper on the back window of a car in a mall parking lot and then lay in wait for the owner. When the owner gets in and starts the car, they notice the piece of paper in their back window, and jump out with the car running to see what it is. The would-be car-jacker then jumps in the car and drives off. There are apparently no reported cases of this actually happening in all the years it has been circulating via email and now on Facebook.
- During the recent election season a post about how members of Congress do not pay into Social Security and all draw salaries equal to their salaries in office for the rest of their lives regardless of how long they were in Congress. A simple search on www.snopes.com will reveal the truth about the retirement options of members of Congress. And yet people continue to repost this, calling for change.
- Since it is the Christmas season, the post attributing a long monologue to Ben Stein has been going around. The first few paragraphs are part of a commentary Stein gave on TV several years ago. But then tacked on the end are some blurbs about Madeleine O’Hare, prayer in schools, and several other topics about how our government is anti-Christian, all of which have been circulating in some form or another for years, and are not in any way attributable to Stein. The mere fact that these things have circulated forever should be enough to make anyone be skeptical. And yet people keep reposting it.
It seems that just because something is posted in a nicely formatted box or comes with a picture of a celebrity people are willing to believe and repost without checking the source of the information. People can be so gullible about the stupidest things.
And yet these same people will often refuse to believe the miracles of God. Even though we have eye-witness accounts of many of these miracles—from the shepherds telling of the angels announcing the birth of Jesus to the post-crucifixion appearance of the resurrected Christ to over 500—people refuse to believe. It is unfathomable that the One who created the world and all that is in it would come to us as the child of a virgin, would live His relatively short life mostly in obscurity, then would die a horrible and brutal death, and be raised from the dead to walk again among the living. It is unfathomable—unless one is willing to believe in the miracle of love and grace.
The apostle John summed up the eye-witness accounts of the authors of the New Testament when he wrote: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”
Some argue that the eye-witness testimony of the New Testament is not reliable because we can’t really know if the Bible as we currently know it is an accurate representation of what was originally written. However, both the quantity and quality of available early manuscripts of the New Testament books, as well as the short time span between the available manuscripts and the events they cover, all point to the reliability of the New Testament. As compared to other accepted writings of ancient philosophers, the New Testament is unparalleled in its reliability. Here is part of a chart from I’m Glad You Asked by Ken Boa and Larry Moody, pg. 93, comparing the New Testament to other writings:
||Number of Copies
||ca. 850 B.C.
||ca. 380 B.C.
||ca. A.D. 900
||Not enough copies to reconstruct original
||ca. 350 B.C.
||ca. A.D. 1100
||ca. 60 B.C.
||ca. A.D. 900
||ca. A.D. 100
||ca. A.D. 1100
||ca. A.D. 60
||ca. A.D. 130
The Bible makes some incredible claims about Jesus and the means of salvation. But when you check the source of this information, the reliability of its eye-witness accounts, and the internal consistency of the promises of God contained in this wonderful book, it doesn’t require gullibility to believe. It only requires an open mind to believe in miracles.
If you are interested in exploring the reliability of this Good News further, I highly recommend Boa and Moody’s book.
The election is finally over! My hope is now that the insulting posts on Facebook will cease just as the political ads will. I don’t think I posted a single political cartoon or joke on Facebook during this election season, and I was very disheartened by how many of my friends did, on both sides of the aisle. Here are just two representative posts shared by some of my Facebook friends yesterday:
As I was reading my Bible this morning before my prayer time, I came across this verse in which Paul is instructing the church in Ephesus how they should conduct themselves: “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” Ephesians 5:4 (NIV). Unfortunately, this has not been heeded this election season (and it’s been a long season!).
The type of coarse joking and foolish talk represented by these two posts is not Godly and it is not helpful for those who post or those who read. This type of rhetoric serves only to divide and belittle. It reduces serious issues to often inaccurate sound bites. Republicans, as a general rule, are not in favor of rape because they are pro-life; Democrats, as a general rule, are not unemployed freeloaders. But those are the messages these posts send and I personally find them incredibly insulting.
My hope and prayer is that going forward we can set aside the extreme rhetoric and work towards the common goals of freedom and justice that this country was founded on. My saving grace is that in spite of it all Jesus is still my King.
Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life
As this contentious election season draws to a close and I have my ballot filled out and ready to drop off today, I thought I would share a song that I heard this morning while I was getting ready for work because it reminded me of what is truly important. The wonder of God’s grace will never cease, no matter who wins this election. Both presidential candidates offer hope, but true hope is found in Jesus.
Third Day’s new album Miracle comes out tomorrow, and I will likely be sharing some songs from that album in the coming weeks. But today I want to share one of my old Third Day favorites, May Your Wonders Never Cease.
This morning in church we had the founder of Global Eye Mission speak about his experiences as a medical missionary and how he has seen the provision of medical care to those in need open doors to share the gospel where it would never have been received otherwise. He told the story of when he was called to be part of a mission team in Tanzania.
He went to a predominantly Muslim village where evangelists of the Gospel regularly had stones thrown at them and where a Muslim converting to Christianity would typically experience death threats often carried out. His role was as an ophthalmologist who performed numerous cataract surgeries that restored sight to people who had been blind for years.
After several days of providing this much-needed medical aid, he attended a gathering at which the evangelist in the group presented a bold statement of the Gospel of grace. He remembered thinking that surely this was going to cause a riot and some stones being thrown. But instead, when asked if they would like to learn more about Christ, dozens of Muslims in the audience raised their hands.
Last week we had another missionary give our sermon message. He and his wife were involved full time with Eastern European Missions. His emotional and moving story of how this organization brings light into a world darkened by three generations of communism and atheism was incredible.
He shared how this whole mission had been started by a church in a small town in northern Minnesota that invited some teachers and students from Russia to visit them. By showing these people love and care, they were able to pave the way for the Gospel to be shared where it was illegal for so many years.
These missionaries are examples of people who have given up a comfortable life here in the United States to go out to a world in need of both creature comforts and the message of salvation through Jesus Christ. It is a challenging life, to be sure. But when you hear missionaries like this speak it is easy to see that the reward they receive is well worth the sacrifice.
As I listened to the Global Eye Mission speaker this morning, I wondered to myself why it is so hard for me to share with those close to me what these missionaries travel halfway around the world to share. They show incredible courage as they face possible persecution and death at every turn, going into places violently hostile to the Gospel. Why then do I lack the courage to share the love of Christ and His offer of forgiveness of sins with my own family and friends who don’t know Him?
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
Isaiah 6:8 (NIV).
Today is Reformation Sunday, and so of course we sang Martin Luther’s famous hymn A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. I found this great video of it on YouTube and so decided I would share.
Martin Luther was passionate about God’s people trusting in faith alone in the grace of God alone as revealed by His Word alone. I am thankful for his service.