- 2016Oct 20
"Then say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land." Ezekiel 37:21
Since I was a kid I have been fascinated with the idea of someday going to Israel, and actually seeing the places I have read so much about and standing in the very spots where Jesus stood. In a few days that becomes a reality as my wife and I will be starting off on the trip of a lifetime: visiting Israel!
We will be visiting places such as Capernaum, Nazereth, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem; places that live vividly in my mind from Scripture, historical accounts, movies, pictures, etc. But I never honestly thought I would see them firsthand.
It is still mind boggling to me, and everyone I know who has been before has expressed that it changes the way one reads Scripture. I am anxious to find out personally, and plan to share as much of it as I can with all the fine folks who read this blog.
I will write more in the coming days and am excited to share with you as much of the trip as I can via this blog.
On the Christmas front, be on the lookout for a Christmas album to be available for pre-order early next week. This is a collection of classic and original, vocal and instrumental, joyful and reflective, and I think this album just might join your list of favorites!
Keep watching this page, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for updates!
More to come soon!
- 2016Oct 06
A good worship pastor will be quick to tell you that worship is more than music. Music is the part we see on Sunday mornings, but there is a much deeper aspect to worship that runs throughout our lives every day of the week. In Romans 12:1-2, Paul addresses 'true and proper worship', and it has nothing to do with singing:
12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (NIV)
Paul's oxymoron "living sacrifice" is a profound statement which initially appears to be contradictory and is incredilbly profound. A sacrifice is something that is given up, or from the historical context in which Paul is writing, an animal that is killed as an act of temple worship. The word 'sacrifice' carries a connotation of death and of blood atonement, so for Paul to tell us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice is an astonishing concept.
This is why Paul says that we do this"in view of God's mercy". It is because of God's great mercy that we are free to accept the forgiveness of God and live a life in Christ. It is because of His mercy that we can trust Him and because of His mercy that we can be certain He is faithful as we follow HIm. This represents a shift in thinking from an Old Covenant and it's requirements of regular animal sacrifice that never completely cover our sin, to a New Covenant built on the all-encompassing-once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus on the cross that completely and forever covers our sin, and His resurrection to new life that holds a promise of our own eternal life with Him.
Jesus references the idea of a living sacrifice on several occasions:
- "For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it." Mark 8:35
- "Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." Matthew 16:24
- "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10
The beautiful thing is that when we seek to become a living sacrifice, we not only engage in true worship, but we find a life deeper, richer, and more fulfilling than anything else we could imagine. We become a living sacrifice by starting each day in the Word and in prayer.
We become a living sacrifice when we offer all that we are to God's service, no matter the cost.
We become a living sacrifice when we base our decisions on Godly counsel and not worldy wisdom.
We become a living sacrifice when we approach encounters with all people in grace and truth, not in fear and doubt.
We become a living sacrifice when we strive to be the hands and feet of Christ in a lost and hurting world.
We become a living sacrifice when we make difficult decisions to do things the right way and not take shortcuts.
We become a living sacrifice when we place the needs of others above our own.
We become a living sacrifice when we smile at people we don't know in a society where smiles are hard to find.
We become a living sacrifice when we love others in spite of their politics.
We become a living sacrifice when we suffer for doing good, but do it anyway, even if no one else knows why we do it.
We become a living sacrifice when over time, our first response to situations is a Godly response.
Being a sacrifice is not easy, and it was never meant to be. In fact, it is likely to be uncomfortable.
When we strive to become a living sacrifice, we echo the words of Paul in Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me".
This is true and proper worship.
- 2016Aug 03
As our nation finds itself in yet another highly divisive election season, our tendency can be to draw firm lines between ourselves based on which candidates we support, and that can in turn lead to personal dislike for one another, anger towards those who lead, and eventually division.
As Christians, we are to live in a fine balance; standing for that which is true while seeking unity amongst ourselves whenever possible, standing firm in the faith while showing grace to those who do not, holding our leaders accountable while praying for their wisdom and well-being.
We are to learn from the words of Ezekiel 22:30, "I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one."
We are to be those who stand in the gap, who lift up our nation with all it favors and faults before the throne of God, and pray that He continues to work in our midst.
Scriptures to Pray For Ourselves:
I Timothy 2:1-2 - I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
I Peter 2:17 - Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
>Romans 13:1 - Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
Jeremiah 29:7 - Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.
II Chronicles 7:14 - if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Scriptures to Pray for our Leaders:
>Psalms 2:10-11 - Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling.
>Proverbs 11:14 - For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.
>Proverbs 21:1 - The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.
>Job 12:23-25 - He makes nations great, and destroys them; he enlarges nations, and disperses them.
>Proverbs 2:1-8 - My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2) turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding— 3) indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4) and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5) then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. 6) For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7) He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, 8) for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.
May we be faithful, informed and thoughtful when praying and talking to others about our politics, and as we ask for God's wisdom and righteousness to be evident in our nation's policies and leaders.