Tag Archives: Worship

Worship – A Poem

The past two Sundays I have not attended church because we were out camping both weekends with family. I know that attending church is not necessary for my salvation, but I miss it terribly when I don’t go (even when I’m enjoying whatever I’m going instead, like spending time with family or reading a good Christian novel).

I know there are some denominations that believe that missing church on Sunday is a sin, but I’m not sure that is the most useful way to view missing worship services. I believe that the clergy do a disservice to the Gospel when they guilt their congregants into attending Sunday (or Saturday) services.

Sin is anything that separates us from God. It is an attitude of the heart, not the location of our body, on any given day that is important. Attending church services is a privilege, not a duty.

I do believe that the act of corporate worship is important when it strengthens our relationship with God and with one another. It is an essential part of the Christian life because the Christian life is one grounded in relationship. Habitual avoidance of church can certainly lead to a weakened faith and tendency towards sin and separation from God. But occasionally missing a church service does not preclude worship of the Almighty.

As I thought about this, and about how thankful I am that we enjoy the privilege of corporate worship without fear of reprisal in this country, this poem came to my mind.

Worship

Hands lifted high
Our voices rise in adoration
Songs for the King upon His throne
The One who died to save our souls
This is our act of worship

Head bowed down low
On bended knee in supplication
Prayers to the King who does listen
The One who cried for my lost soul
This is my act of worship

Feet on the move
Sharing His love in appreciation
Service of the King who loves deeply
The One who tried to redeem all souls
This is our act of worship

Sneaking through the night
Seeking others in congregation
To learn of the King who reigns eternal
The One who died to save their souls
This is their act of worship

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritualact of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2 (NIV).

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A Prayer of Praise

For the past few days instead of writing today’s post in my head I’ve been writing another post in my head. That other post is dated January 1, 2012. It’s the date on which I will have, God willing, successfully completed my pledge to post-a-day in 2011. The reason this post has been floating around in my head is because I have been quite busy lately and have had a hard time keeping up with posting every single day, especially since I generally schedule posts ahead of time to go live at 8:00 a.m. each morning. Obviously, I did not accomplish that today.

As I kneeled to pray this morning, feeling weary and out-of-sorts because I hadn’t posted today, an idea for today’s post came to me. But I didn’t have time to actually put it together until after getting home from work. It’s not much of an idea, but it’s what God gave me, so it’s what I’m going with today.

I just want to share how I start my prayers each morning, and that is with thanksgiving and praise. The first few lines, sometimes more, of my prayer always go something like this:

Heavenly Father, I praise You and worship You. I love You with all my heart. You are the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the Almighty. You are the Creator of all that is, both seen and unseen. I am nothing without You, I am but dust, and even the dust I am formed of would not exist if not for You. I have not words sufficient to describe You, and yet I offer what I have. You are merciful and forgiving, and I praise You for Your compassion and love for me. I thank You, Lord Jesus, for Your willing sacrifice on the cross to redeem me, to pay the ransom I could not pay. I thank You for Your Holy Spirit to guide me and give me strength and courage.

It is only after this introductory language of praise that I move into prayers of thanksgiving for specific blessings or answers to prayer, and then onto prayers for others and my own needs. On mornings when I am rushed, this introduction may be all I get to, followed by a brief “You know the people and the concerns that are on my heart, and I thank You in advance to the answers to those prayers.”

But the introductory praise is essential to my prayer life. It’s not that God is not aware of these things, or that He doesn’t know that I am aware of these things. The prayers of praise are really for me, to put me in a correct frame of mind and attitude for the remainder of my prayer time and for my whole day.

If you do not currently include such langauge of praise in your prayer time, I encourage you to borrow my prayer. Or develop your own prayer of praise to begin your daily prayers. Try it for just a week and see how it changes the rest of the day. It’s a habit worth cultivating.

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critical spirit, Holy Spirit – A Poem

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the critical spirit that can creep into our thinking about others and even about church. In particular, I have been pondering the presence of a critical spirit in worship services, which is manifested when we view a worship service in terms of what we like and what we want to get out of it, instead of focusing on Christ. As I prayed about it yesterday, asking God to reveal the critical spirit in the hearts of His people (including me) and replace it with His Holy Spirit, the framework for a poem came to me. As I sat down at the computer to write it, this is what I came up with.

critical spirit, Holy Spirit

choir was off key
r
eally prayer should be shorter
i
prefer the good old hymns
t
he sermon was too short, or long
i
couldn’t hear the scripture reading
c
ritical thoughts cloud my perception
a
ll those old hymns are like dirges
l
ove is a distant memory

savior, Jesus
p
rotect Your worship service
i
nhibit those who would do it wrong
r
estore what I know is right
i
desire perfection in church today
t
hat my righteousness would be known

Hallelujah
O
ur God is exalted
L
ove abounds and grace prevails
Y
ou, O Lord, are my focus

Savior, Jesus
P
ierce my heart today
I
nstill an attitude of awe and praise
R
estore a right Spirit in me
I
desire to worship You today
T
hat Your righteousness would be known

The next time you are in worship, remember to keep your focus on Jesus that He might be exalted. There is no right or wrong way to conduct worship services. As long as Jesus is lifted up and the glory of God revealed, as long as the focus of worship is on the Lord and not on the congregants, then the Lord is pleased. Remember, Michal was unhappy when David danced to the Lord in his tunic, but the Lord was pleased. David was called a man after God’s own heart, and Michal was left barren. (2 Samuel 6:16-22).

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”

John 4:19-26 (NIV).

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Dancing with Joy – My Tuesday Three

I was on vacation all last week and did not have any time to read blogs, not even my favorites. I managed to post every day only because most of those posts were written and scheduled before I left. So once again My Tuesday Three will not showcase three blog posts. I promise I will get back to that, but I am thankful for more flexibility in discerning My Tuesday Three.

Yesterday as I thought about what to write, I came across a post by my fellow blogger Pastor Bryan Lowe titled Just One More Dance to Go. It got me thinking about how much I love to dance, and how dancing for the Lord is the best dance of all. I know there are some Christian denominations that frown upon dancing, but the Bible clearly indicates that dancing with the right attitude towards God is a good thing.

King David is one of the great figures of the Old Testament, considered a man after God’s own heart. David loved the Lord and did what was right in His sight. Although David did sin, when confronted with his sin David repented and sought God’s forgiveness. Scripture has this to say about David and dancing:

David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart. 2 Samuel 6:14-16 (NIV).

I have always found it interesting that the Scriptures record Michal’s reaction to David’s dancing. As I read this passage, I see that God was pleased with David but not with Michal. To me, Michal represents those who don’t truly know the joy of the Lord as David did, and so despise and are jealous of those who have that joy and can express it outwardly as in dancing. Although dancing is an outward activity, it is the attitude of the heart that is most important.

David’s son Solomon was another great figure of the Old Testament. He prayed for wisdom and was granted his prayer and more. He shared much of his wisdom in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. One of the most well-known passages of Ecclesiastes also supports that dancing, at the appropriate time and with the right attitude, is a good thing.

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
   and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die,
   a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
   a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
   a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
   a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
   a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
   a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
   a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NIV).

Although I love to dance, I know that it is not always appropriate. One does not dance at a funeral or in a courtroom. One does not dance in history class or on the front lines of war. But when it is time to celebrate the blessings of the Lord such as a wedding or the birth of a child or the offer of a new job, then it is appropriate to dance. Even during a worship service in church I believe it can be appropriate to praise the Lord with dance. There is nothing cuter than to see a small child dancing in the aisle during an upbeat song at church.

Someday dancing before the Lord will be appropriate for all as we celebrate the blessings of the new heaven and new earth. The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah wrote of a time when the Lord would return all of His people to Him, a time that is still yet to come.

For the LORD will ransom Jacob
   and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they.
They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion;
   they will rejoice in the bounty of the LORD—
the grain, the new wine and the oil,
   the young of the flocks and herds.
They will be like a well-watered garden,
   and they will sorrow no more.
Then maidens will dance and be glad,
   young men and old as well.
I will turn their mourning into gladness;
   I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.
Jeremiah 31:11-13 (NIV).

The Lord Jesus has already come to ransom Jacob (Israel). The time will come when all the children of Abraham, including the Gentiles who have been grafted in, will be gathered to the Lord. All “will dance and be glad.” Oh, what a dance that will be, filled with the joy of the Lord, when sorrow will be no more. That is the dance Pastor Bryan looks forward to in his post. It is the dance I look forward to as well. In the meantime, I’ll keep dancing with joy to celebrate the blessings of our God.

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Celebrating Freedom Reminds Me of Those Who Aren’t Free

Happy Fourth of July! It is a beautiful day in the Pacific Northwest. We are celebrating and enjoying the freedoms of our wonderful country. One freedom that I particularly appreciate is our religious freedom. Because I live in the United States I am free to worship Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I am free to own multiple copies of the Bible, the Word of God. I am free to write this blog in which I can express my belief that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that there is no other name by which people can be saved. I am free to attend church and my church is free to hold worship services any time we want.

But as I joyfully celebrate these freedoms, I am reminded that not everyone in the world is so blessed to live in a country that offers them religious freedom. So I decided to share a “Prisoner Alert” that I received via email from Voice of the Martyrs just the other day. The following is copied from their website. If you want to help, Voice of the Martyrs provides ways to help persecuted Christians throughout the world.

Location: Iran (Islamic Republic of)
Arrested: October 2009

Youcef Nadarkhani, a 34-year-old pastor from Rasht, about 750 miles northwest of Tehran, was arrested in October 2009 after he protested a government policy that required children, including his 8- and 9-year-old sons, to study the Quran in school. Youcef told school officials that the Iranian constitution allows for freedom of religious practice. As a result of his protest, secret police called him before a political tribunal and arrested him for protesting. The charges were later amended to apostasy and evangelism of Muslims. Youcef was tried on Sept. 21–22, 2010 by the 1st Court of the Revolutionary Tribunal and sentenced to death on Nov. 13 for apostasy.

The pastor is imprisoned in Lakan prison, where authorities have used various methods, including medication, to convert him back to Islam.

After Youcef refused to convert to Islam, his wife was arrested, put on trial without an attorney and sentenced to life in prison. She was later released after an attorney appealed her sentence. The Nadarkhanis’ children were cared for by a relative while they were both in prison.

Death Sentence Upheld
The Iranian Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence of Pastor Youcef. He has been in prison since October 2009, and the appeal of his death sentence was rejected by the Iranian Supreme Court on June 28, 2011. He is to be executed by hanging. If the death sentence is carried out, it will be the first court-ordered execution of a Christian in Iran in 20 years.

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Psalm 22 – The Rest of the Story

For Easter, I thought it would be appropriate to post the rest of Psalm 22, the rest of the story. After the crucifixion, God did not turn His back on Jesus but listened to His cries for help. He was raised from the dead. As the pastor says in Lutheran churches on this wonderful resurrection day, “He is risen!” And the whole congregation responds, “He is risen, indeed!”

Because He is risen, we will praise Him in the great assembly. The whole earth will acknowledge the Lord Jesus and will return to God because of what He has done. He will be worshipped by whole families and His righteous acts will be shared from generation to generation. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!

Psalm 22

For the choir director: A psalm of David, to be sung to the tune “Doe of the Dawn.”

22 I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters.
      I will praise you among your assembled people.
 23 Praise the Lord, all you who fear him!
      Honor him, all you descendants of Jacob!
      Show him reverence, all you descendants of Israel!
 24 For he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy.
      He has not turned his back on them,
      but has listened to their cries for help.

 25 I will praise you in the great assembly.
      I will fulfill my vows in the presence of those who worship you.
 26 The poor will eat and be satisfied.
      All who seek the Lord will praise him.
      Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy.
 27 The whole earth will acknowledge the Lord and return to him.
      All the families of the nations will bow down before him.
 28 For royal power belongs to the Lord.
      He rules all the nations.

 29 Let the rich of the earth feast and worship.
      Bow before him, all who are mortal,
      all whose lives will end as dust.
 30 Our children will also serve him.
      Future generations will hear about the wonders of the Lord.
 31 His righteous acts will be told to those not yet born.
      They will hear about everything he has done.

(NLT)

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Worshipping Christ in Music

The Rock and Worship Roadshow in Portland was awesome! And for the most part, very loud!

The evening started with a wonderfully intimate session with Jars of Clay. Because we had VIP tickets, we were treated to an acoustic performance and a question & answer session in a small room below the Memorial Coliseum. There weren’t more than 60 people in the room. It was almost like we were just hanging out at a friends. The harmonies of this band are amazing. This was, by far, the best part of the evening.

One of the songs that they sang during this acoustic session was “Boys (Lesson One)” from their CD The Long Fall Back to Earth. Lead singer Dan Haseltine told the story behind the song, and it was very touching.

Then, because of our VIP tickets, we were in a reserved section on the floor for the main concert, and were in the second section from the stage. This is probably one of the reasons the concert was so loud where we were, since it had to also get to the people who stood in line for $10 nosebleed tickets in the back of the Coliseum.

The first band was an up-and-coming group called Anthem Lights. They actually played before the official start time of the concert and we missed part of their performance. But what we heard was very good, especially the song “Can’t Get Over You.” It was a catchy song that was easy to sing along to, and it was worshipful since the “You” that the song is talking about is Jesus.

The second band was The Afters. These guys were great! The lead singer told a great story about how Jesus has impacted his life and the lives of his family, especially his brother who was delivered from drug addiction through his faith. My favorite song that they played was “Light Up the Sky” with the chorus:

You light, light, light up the sky
You light up the sky to show me, You are with me
And I, I, I can’t deny
No I can’t deny that You are right here with me
You’ve opened my eyes so I can see You all around me
You light, light, light up the sky
You light up the sky to show me, You are with me

Next up was Matt Maher, who lead the whole crowd in some great standard praise and worship songs, though I must confess I don’t recall exactly what we sang.

So up to this point, it was kinda loud, but not too bad. Then Thousand Foot Krutch took the stage, and if I didn’t know better I might have thought I was at a Metallica concert or some other hard rock or heavy metal concert. But I know they are a Christian band, and I was wishing I knew the lyrics because you really couldn’t understand much what they were singing because it was so loud. I did catch the line in “Welcome to the Masquerade” that was “I’m not afraid, I’m not ashamed” and I’m pretty sure they were talking about the Gospel. Now, I actually like hard rock and heavy metal as a musical genre if the lyrics are good. So I decided by the end of their set that I wanted to check out their CDs and maybe get some of their music for my car and iPod.

Next up was Lecrae, a hip hop band. They were not only loud, that had that deep hip hop bass thing going on that made the floor vibrate. This is definitely not my style of music. But their message was awesome.

Finally, Jars of Clay took the stage. Their set was terrific, and they started with my favorite song “Two Hands.” But when they were done I found myself feeling even happier that we had experienced their acoustic set before the concert because it was such a different side of the band.

Throughout the concert, Bart Millard, the lead singer for MercyMe had taken the stage for various introductions and to talk about Compassion International child sponsorship. He seems so ordinary when he is up on stage just talking. Then MercyMe took the stage for their long-anticipated set. By this time it was 8:40 and technically there was only supposed to be 20 more minutes of the concert. But the band did not disappoint and played until just after 9:30. The best part of their set was when they sang “God With Us” and the whole Coliseum sang along:

 All that is within me cries
For You alone be glorified
Emmanuel
God with us

My heart sings a brand new song
The debt is paid these chains are gone
Emmanuel
God with us

MercyMe played quite a few of the songs off The Generous Mr. Lovewell (though sadly not the title track), as well as some older favorites. Before singing “Beautiful,” Bart talked about how important it is for parents to make sure their kids, especially young girls, know that they are loved. At one point I was wishing he would stop talking and start singing, because I knew what song was coming; but then I realized that there might be someone in the Coliseum who needed to hear what he had to say.

One thing that I took away from this awesome night of rock and worship is that performers and fans can worship Christ through a wide variety of types of music. Whether it be mellow praise music, hip hop, heavy metal, or something in between, if the lyrics lift up Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords, then it is worship music. Though one or more of these types of music may not be my preference, they may be just the music style that is needed to reach someone for Christ.

The other thing I took away was the reminder of how many believers there are and how awesome it is to be together with brothers and sisters in Christ whom we might not know personally, but we are all connected nonetheless because we worship One God!

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Worship Turned Upside Down

Last Sunday my Pastor Gary Englert talked about the heart of worship. I have been pondering his message and wanted to share my thoughts on what he said.

Pastor Gary said that in our culture we have been taught to be consumers. Watch just 15 minutes of television, open any magazine, or check out the side of a public transit bus, and you will see that it is true. We are bombarded with advertising telling us that what we want we really need, and that we ought to get it “right now.”

That consumer mentality often spills over into our worship services. We leave church on Sunday asking questions like these:

  • Was I fed by the message today? Did the pastor go too long? Was what he said relevant to me today? Did I like his speaking style?
  • Did I enjoy the songs? Were there enough hymns or contemporary songs for me? Was I pleased by the instruments the worship team used?
  • Did the service end on time so I could get home in time for that game I want to see?
  • Was there more liturgy than I like? Was there not enough liturgy and structure to suit me?
  • Was the worship team dressed appropriately according to what I think is appropriate?

Do you notice how all of these questions have “I” or “me” in them? But not one of them includes “God” or “Jesus”?

Worship should not be about you or me. It should be about God, the only One who is worthy of worship. Speaking of the Pharisees who put their own traditions and desires before the desires of God, Jesus said:

“These people honor me with their lips,
      but their hearts are far from me. 
 They worship me in vain;
      their teachings are but rules taught by men.” Matthew 15:8-9 (quoting Isaiah 29:13).

Do we worship Jesus in vain when we put our own desires for how we think a worship service should be run, what kinds of songs should be sung, and how the Word should be preached, ahead of heartfelt adoration of God? Do we forget that worship is about serving God, being in awe of the majesty of God, and giving our whole heart to God, when we focus on “I” and “me” questions?

I am reminded of the song “The Heart of Worship” by Matt Redman, which starts out like this:

When the music fades
And all is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that’s of worth
That will bless your heart

I’ll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the ways things appear
You’re looking into my heart

I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about You
All about You, Jesus
I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about You
It’s all about You Jesus

Worship is not about us, it is about Jesus. A worship service should not be designed with what we want in mind, it should be led by the Holy Spirit. Worship style is not important. A heart of worship is all that matters. Whether we plan, run, or just participate in worship services, our eye should always be only on Jesus and we should want worship to be such that it encourages everyone present to focus on Him alone.

[Speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well,] Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:21-24.

Are you worshipping in spirit and in truth? Is your Sunday morning focus on God? Do your worship habits point towards Him or towards your own needs? When you leave church on Sunday morning, do you ask a series of “I” and “me” questions, or do you ask, “Was God glorified by the awe and reverence we all felt in our hearts today?”

As consumers, we’ve turned worship upside down. I think it is time we asked God to set it and our hearts right side up again.

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How Much Does God Love Us?

As part of my Bible-in-a-year schedule I’ve been going through the Old Testament again. As I read, I am reminded of the relationship between God and the nation of Israel. One thing that has occurred to me is that Israel in the Old Testament as an archetype of the present day believer. The whole story of Israel’s relationship with God has several important characteristics:

  • Israel becomes God’s own people and they follow God beginning with Abraham and his descendants
  • God watches over Israel by providing for them in Egypt when famine comes to their land
  • Israel is rescued by God and delivered from Egypt after the Egyptians enslave them
  • Israel turns away from God and worships a golden calf of their own making when they feel lost and don’t know what happened to Moses
  • God chastises them through Moses and they repent and return to God
  • Israel complains about their lot in the desert and say they were better off in Egypt
  • God provide them with food and water in the desert, but because of their grumbling their time in the desert is longer
  • God finally brings them into the promised land and they have an abundant life where they worship God
  • Israel enjoys prosperity and wealth in the land the Lord gave to them
  • Israel, under the rule of various kings, strays from God and begins to worship the pagan gods of the nations around them
  • God becomes angry and punishes them with defeat by their enemies and eventually exile from the promised land
  • Israel returns to the worship of the One True God and God brings them back from exile and restores them to the land they were promised

It is a  recurring theme of Israel straying from God in both good times and bad, then God would chastise and punish them, but then they would repent and He would save them. Through it all, Israel never ceased to be His people. He never ceased to love Israel. The prophet Hosea recorded the word of the Lord regarding His anger towards unfaithful Israel and His undying love for her:

Hosea 2

 13 I will punish her for all those times
      when she burned incense to her images of Baal,
   when she put on her earrings and jewels
      and went out to look for her lovers
   but forgot all about me,”
      says the Lord.

The Lord’s Love for Unfaithful Israel

 14 “But then I will win her back once again.
      I will lead her into the desert
      and speak tenderly to her there.
 15 I will return her vineyards to her
      and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope.
   She will give herself to me there,
      as she did long ago when she was young,
      when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt.
16 “In that day,” declares the LORD,
       “you will call me ‘my husband’;
       you will no longer call me ‘my master. ‘
17 I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips;
       no longer will their names be invoked.

  23 I will plant her for myself in the land;
       I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one. ‘
       I will say to those called ‘Not my people, ‘ ‘You are my people’;
       and they will say, ‘You are my God.’ “

So how is this like the present day believer? There is a point in the life of each believer when we first accept Christ as our Lord and Savior. But as time goes on, we forget the initial joy we had when God saved us from the state we were in. We might encounter trouble and complain that God is not there for us. We turn away from God and seek our own answers, our own gods to worship such as power or money. Then God will somehow show us the error of our ways as those other gods truly fail us and we repent and are restored in our relationship with Him.

At other times, we may be prosperous and living a life that is going better than we ever imagined. We may forget God’s hand in our prosperity and pride may cause us to turn from God and worship our own abilities and strength. But because He loves us and is more concerned about our relationship with Him and our eternal destiny, God may not allow the prosperity to last as a means to bring us back to Him.

For some believers, this may happen several times throughout our lives as we, like Israel, forget what God has done for us and how much He loves us.

But once sealed with the Holy Spirit we will remain God’s chosen ones, we will remain His beloved people. As Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus:

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14.

Just as He did with Israel in the Old Testament, God will do whatever it takes to bring us back to Him because He loves us even when we are unfaithful, because “if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13. He has given us His Holy Spirit to teach us and convict us of sin so that we will return to Him when we stray. Israel had only the law to keep them in line with God’s will, but we have the Holy Spirit and the power of His grace to keep us safe and in His will.

Do you know how much God loves you? Do you continue to worship and love Him only in good times and bad? Do you hear His Holy Spirit say to you “you are My people” and will you always respond “You are my God”?

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Loving the Imperfect

I know it sounds a bit cliché, but the Third Day concert was awesome last Saturday night! I had a great time with two good friends. The day and evening were not perfect, but I truly enjoyed it nonetheless.

“So what was not perfect about it?” you might ask. First off, we had VIP tickets and were scheduled to attend a Q&A session with the band starting at 4:30. We got in the VIP line about 4:20, standing in the hot sun, and waited. And waited. And waited. We finally were allowed into the air-conditioned building at 5:15 or so, but no one told us why the long wait. It was definitely a lesson is patience.

Once we got into the Q&A, we sat until almost 6:00 listening to the ramblings of the DJ who was tasked with keeping us happy until the band arrived. (I learned later that the band had bus trouble in Medford and that is why they were late.) We were in the front row, and I had my sign with me.

Oh, did I forget to mention the sign? It said “Third Day Rocks 4 Jesus” on one side and “Please Play ‘I Deserve?’ and ‘Innocent’” on the other side. The DJ commented that it was the best sign in the house, and was definitely true.

Finally at almost 6:00 the band came out and took seats on the stage. I had several great questions planned. The DJ came over with the microphone and I asked my first question: “I read on your Facebook page that if I made a sign with a song request you would play it. I brought my sign.” And I held up the sign. Mac Powell said, “You have to pick one.” I picked “I Deserve?” and he said they’d try to play it. Tai Anderson commented that it was the only one of the two they probably could play. Then I was suddenly as giddy as a school girl and forgot all my other great questions, like:

  • What’s the deal with the hidden track after “Love Song” on the Offerings CD? Who is singing and why is there no info about it on the CD sleeve?
  • How did David Carr learn to drum. My son likes to drum, but it’s hard to find someone to give lessons for drumming. What would he recommend?
  • Is the band name Third Day based on the fact that Jesus was resurrected on the third day? And did you know of the other references to things happening on the third day in the Old Testament?
  • Do you guys spend time in regular Bible study or have any other structured devotional or prayer time?
  • Is there anything we, as your fans, can remember in our prayers for you?

Of course, I never expected to ask all of those questions, but asking just one more would have been nice. Anyway, the Q&A was cut a bit short because the concert was supposed to start at 7:00. But before they left the stage I was able to hand Mac Powell a booklet of all my blog entries that mention Third Day or were inspired by Third Day lyrics. I don’t know if he will read it, but I hope he will appreciate that the band’s music has been such a wonderful influence.

After the Q&A, my friends and I left the concert venue for some dinner. It’s not that we have anything against the opening act Hawk Nelson, but his style is a bit louder and crazier, more for the younger kids. In fact, Mac made a comment / joke that his kids LOVE Hawk Nelson, and Hawk Nelson’s mom LOVES Third Day. Funny as it was it was a pretty accurate comment.

We got back towards the end of Hawk Nelson’s set and took our seats in the front row. We couldn’t really hear the singer because the bass drum was so loud. But they did sing a cute acoustic number with a ukulele. We enjoyed that.

When Third Day finally took the stage, I was ready to rock, praise, and worship. They sang some of my favorites, including “Thief.” That is the best Third Day song ever! The bass drum was still too loud where we were, but I didn’t care because it was just cool to be so close to the stage.

In the middle of the concert Mac said they would take requests. So I held up my sign. He pointed at me said something like, “Yeah I know about you. We forgot to practice that, maybe we’ll try it a bit later.” They then sang bits and pieces of a few other requests, including “King of Glory,” an awesome praise song. Finally, they started to play “I Deserve?” but Mac couldn’t remember all the words. He looked at me and said, “You gotta sing.” Well, I can’t sing, at least not in a way that anyone wants to hear. Anyway, they played some snippets of this great “old school song” and some others. Then went back to their regular set list.

When it was all over, and we walked back to the car, I had no voice left. But it was worth it. I sang and yelled. I raised my hands above my head in praise of my Lord, spurred on by the worshipful music of this great band. (That may not sound like much, but because of my neck pain I usually can’t hold my hands above my head. But I felt no pain. Praise the Lord!)

The night wasn’t perfect. The band was late, I forgot to ask my questions, the band didn’t play all of the songs I wanted to hear, and the bass was too loud. But it didn’t matter. Even though it wasn’t perfect, I loved every minute of it. In the same way, we are not perfect, but God loves every one of us anyway, every minute of every day. Sometimes I suspect we are a lesson in patience for God, but thankfully He has that patience, forgiveness, and love thing down to a T.

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