Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Following my shared message with JJ Sunday, it got me to thinking that it was time to revisit a subject of certain importance in relationship to worship. Our point/counterpoint message was shared in order to help us to consider and realize the big picture concerning worship and not to get caught up in meaningless arguments. A short excerpt from what JJ shared -- "after the last song of (a) service -- after we clapped during it -- our preacher got up and literally yelled at us, three teenagers, and told us that it was Biblically wrong. He was red faced, eyes bulged, sweating and literally making everyone uncomfortable. But this is how I was taught I was "doing something wrong." Another not-so-fine example of a person (preacher) taking down a mosquito with a bazooka...and completely missing the point...missing the big picture.
Unfortunately, this is not a unique experience, as I have another church leader friend who shared with me awhile back concerning an experience where people walked out of a baptism because some people applauded the baptism. The irony is that those who make such a big deal about things like clapping can't figure out why so many (of their) young people, when they get to be an age of accountability, leave the fellowship for other ones...or leave Christianity all together.
There is a similar message following... A message from Edward Fudge's gracE-mail and the wise answer he shares -- A concerned sister writes: "A teenager led a song at our church recently, and the teens and a few adults clapped during the chorus. Three families walked out in disapproval. My son does not understand why people cannot express themselves this way without others being offended."
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The Bible certainly talks about clapping the hands in worship. David exhorts: "Clap your hands, all peoples; shout to God with the voice of joy" (Psalm 47:1). The New Testament church used the Psalms in worship, including this one (1 Cor. 14:26; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). Several of us North American Christians have only recently learned to clap, although many Christians around the world have always done so when appropriate. In daily life, we typically clap to express joy and celebration, or we applaud to show someone honor. It would be sad indeed to think that anyone who knows the Lord can think of nothing to celebrate, and God is certainly worthy of all our honor. There is a time for quiet meditation and a time for joyful exhuberance.
It is unfortunate that people so easily confuse their personal preferences with God's desires. The Bible calls for a great diversity of expression and bodily postures in worship. We all would do well to remember that and not to think that our own familiar forms are the only ones permitted. Genuine worship which is spontaneous and high volume reaches God's ears in heaven, as do the prayers of those who kneel to pray and sincerely read their prayers from a book. According to the New Testament, God is far more interested in the devotion of the heart that expresses worship than he is in the externals by which that worship is expressed (John 4:19-24).
I am happy that teenagers want to attend worship meetings in the first place, and that they are excited about taking part. Wise church leaders will seek to encourage appropriate forms which constructively provide for the needs of all their members. Mature members will learn to focus on God regardless of worship style, and not limit their attention to their own personal comfort and satisfaction. Worship is about God -- not about us. Unless we keep that truth in mind, our own songs and prayers just might be bouncing back off the ceiling.
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Saturday, March 19, 2011
Look...up in the sky -- it's a bird, it's a plane...it's supermoon! (Sorry, I couldn't resist). This is a funny designation, but tonight will be the closest the moon has been to earth in 18 years, so it will appear closer (super) as it rises. The supermoon, which will appear up to 14% larger and 30% brighter than a typical full moon, welcomes vernal equinox...and warmer weather, which is welcome.Blessings, Don
Friday, March 18, 2011
Isaac and Rebekah had twin sons, Jacob and Esau. Esau was the first born of the two, yet his brother, Jacob, tricked him out of rights as first born and out of his blessing, as well. Jacob, then, had the greater share of the inheritance and the place of preeminence among his people. Esau was gullible and foolish for allowing himself to be deceived, and yet…he swore vengeance upon his brother for deceiving him. Jacob fled from the land of his family and was on his own for many years…but, God was with him. God worked on his heart and he would grow to become a leader of God’s people, as Israel.
In Genesis 33:1-17, Jacob has emerged from wrestling with God a better person with a mission from God, but to him, it may not matter as Esau and 400 men are coming to meet him. Jacob goes out first to meet him and arranges his family so that the best loved ones are in the rear for protection. Jacob, who had taken Esau’s birthright and blessing twenty years before did not know what to expect, but he prepared for the worst. Jacob approaches his brother with several tokens of submission and humility. He bows before him several times, refers to himself as Esau’s servant and to Esau as lord and master, and says that to see his face is like seeing God’s! Esau’s response is not altogether expected…like the father of the prodigal son, he “runs to meet” Jacob and “embraces him.” Esau lovingly addresses him as “my brother” and accepts his gifts only under protest. This meeting is a wonderful reconciliation.
All of the gifts and grace on Jacob’s part reveal the load that has been on Jacob’s conscience, as well as the sheer grace of Esau’s reply. For all of the difficulties and lost opportunities that Esau faced in his life, at least at this point in his life, his heart is made of gold. His love for Jacob is true evidence of God working in and through him. Esau suggests that he and his men escort Jacob and his household to Esau’s homeland of Seir. Even though he is unable to follow Esau back to his land, he is gracious in his refusal and in his need to strike out on his own. Like a bone that has been broken and then reset well, their relationship is able to be stronger than ever. Jacob is careful to cultivate the friendship so that in parting there would be no fear of mistrust. Even though Jacob struggles with his inner self, he has learned from his experience with his brother. He is father not only of his family, but over all the people of God. Esau leaves for Seir…Jacob brings his family to Succoth, to a place where he believes he needs to rest for some time, and he ends up staying there for a few years.
During the Revolutionary War, there lived in Pennsylvania a preacher named Peter Miller. Although Miller was greatly loved by everyone in the community, there was one man who lived near the church who persecuted him continually. This man was not only a hater of the church, but it also turned out that he was a traitor to his country. He was convicted of treason and sentenced to death. The trial was conducted in Philadelphia and no sooner did Peter Miller hear of it, then he set out on foot to visit General Washington and interceded for the man’s life. But Washington told him, “I’m sorry that I cannot grant your request for your friend.” “Friend?” said Miller “That man is the worst enemy I have.” “What?” said the General, “You have walked 60 miles to save the life of an enemy?” This puts the matter in a different light in my judgment…I will grant him a pardon for your sake.” The pardon was made out and signed by Washington and Miller proceeded at once on foot to a place 15 miles distant where the execution was scheduled to take place that afternoon. He arrived just as the man was being carried to the scaffold in order to be hanged. When he saw Peter Miller hurrying toward the place, he remarked, “There is old Peter Miller, come all the way here to have his revenge gratified.” Scarcely had he spoken the words when Miller pushed his way through to the condemned man and handed him the pardon that saved his life.
We all need reconciliation and forgiveness…with God and with one another. As the Word says, “How can a believer say he loves God and hate his brother?” It is not possible. Some people have the attitude that, “I will forgive them if they come apologize and ask for forgiveness.” This is to miss the point of forgiveness. Sometimes these elements just are not going to be there…some may not be as gracious as Jacob in seeking reconciliation, while others certainly not be as gracious as Esau in offering it! It is so often the little things -- like resentments -- that finally divide people. And the solution, of course, is to let them go. There is really nothing particularly profound about it. But for fulfilling and lasting relationships, letting them go is a must. If we refuse to carry around bitterness, we may be surprised at how much energy we have left for building bonds with those we love. If our speech and actions can approach the grace and love that Esau had to share and which Esau and Jacob shared with each other, then opportunity for restoration and growth is possible. If we humbly seek what is right in our relationships, they will be stronger and better than ever. This is love’s cover…the life of forgiveness.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
I am happy that baseball is just around the corner...hopefully it will help ease the pain of what is happening in the world of football. This message is a lament...or perhaps a rant (or both). Last Friday, the NFL Players Association decided that the NFL owners weren't doing enough to "build trust" between the groups by not opening up all of their financial books, so they chose to decertify as a union, thereby allowing the players leverage to sue the owners individually. The owners promptly "locked out" the players from being able to work as teams...no free agents can move, etc...not much can happen until all of this gets resolved. Oh...the draft will get to take place, but even this may be tarnished, as "the players" who are "no longer a union" are, nonetheless, encouraging the potential top draft picks to avoid (boycott) the draft. This all seems unseemly and spiteful...and is not going to help get the situation resolved.
I understand why "the system" is what it is, even though such labor disputes have been taking place for decades, but it could certainly use some tweaking. I don't know of many folks who are pleased that the millionaire players are feuding with billionaire owners over how to handle their business...but, as usual, it is us, "the fans," who are going to suffer. I am certain that many fans will walk away, as have those who once supported hockey and baseball. And, I am also equally certain that many of those same fans will be back when the NFL gets its business in order. We have come to expect it, I believe...and this is why people will come back and continue to pay huge sums of money to support the great American sporting pasttimes. Here is to hoping that a better way to solve and resolve such business issues can be found.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Below is a telling image of the size of the waves that were generated by the earthquake just off the northeast coast of Japan. As can be discerned by the scale in the lower right hand corner, the darker the color, the higher the waves and possibility for damage. It is amazing just how far reaching the impact is from this earthquake...it practically stretches around the world!
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
I remember that when I was younger, that I enjoyed playing basketball. It is a good team sport that requires productive teamwork in order to be successful. What I did not enjoy were the tryouts, because they often involved playing "one on one." I was pretty good at being a point guard on a team of five, but put me in a “one on one” situation? The results were usually not so good. Some of the great basketball television commercials have involved “one on one,” such as Jordan and Bird’s famous McDonalds commercial.
Contrary to my basketball experiences, when it comes to life, “one on one” is a great way to play. It is practical and responsible. We need to be able to share with one another – the joys, the sorrows, the frustrations, the surprises. Jesus encourages us to deal with struggles with one another “one on one.” There is tremendous wisdom behind this encouragement. It heads off all types of relationship difficulties, and allows for reconciliation, which is such an important spiritual principle! Another great value for spending time “one on one” is discipleship. This is a grand Biblical principle where stronger, more mature Christians mentor younger Christians and help them to grow in their Christian walk. It is important to encourage people to spend time “one on one.” I have shared over and over that I have no illusion to having all the answers to the Bible. Yet, if anyone would have questions for me following a sermon or a class -- come see me “one on one.” I have always been open to discussion and I always will be so.
One of my favorite people that I have known in my life is Bud Haynes. He would occasionally come to talk with me after a class with questions in order to clarify a point that I may not have made particularly clear. This would always lead to a welcome and excellent discussion that would help both of us to be better students and people. One of my favorite Bible passages is “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). This has proven to be true on countless occasions in my life, and for this, I am very thankful. It is great to have a good discussion. The Lord understood how important it is that we humans build relationships and that it needs to happen on an elementary level first – “one on one.”
Sunday, March 6, 2011
It has been a several days since I have done a sports message...not that there hasn't been a lot going on -- the NFL is working to avoid a labor stoppage...Nascar ended week three today...the conference finals for NCAA basketball are taking place...MLB spring training is well underway right now...golf is irrelevant without Tiger Woods playing well and...the haves and the have not are becoming more distinct in the NBA. It is this last point that troubles me, especially since the NFL seems to have a more relevant parity system where any of the the 32 teams have a chance to be good (or bad) in any given year. In the NBA, the Knicks are relevant once again thanks to trades for Amar'e Stoudamire, Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups in the past year. The Oklahoma City Thunder also are gaining strength, but...it going to be pretty hard to get excited about basketball in Cleveland, Sacramento, Washington or Charlotte anytime in the future, if ever, which is unfortunate. The NBA has allowed itself to be a personality driven league, rather than team or competition driven. Therefore, when superstars become free agents, they can go to any team that they want and build a little super power as the Lakers, Celtics, Heat, Bulls and now the Knicks have done. I understand that some people like the "super team system," but I believe it is ultimately going to lead to the demise of some of the weaker teams. Why will fans in some of the aforementioned places and other cities continue to shell out for teams that are never going to be above .500? MLB has a similar issue, but it is not pronounced. There are fewer cities who struggles, because baseball's revenue sharing and good management helps keep teams in smaller markets like Minneapolis, Oakland and Tampa relevant. So, all this to say -- come on NFL...pull it together! I don't think that I or any other die hard football fan is going to survive the Fall if there is a work stoppage. :-)
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Mike Collins shares this -- It's true: beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and as the adage goes, "The eyes are the window to the soul." Even Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 6:22-23 (Living Bible translation): "If your eye is pure, there will be sunshine in your soul. But if your eye is clouded with evil thoughts and desires, you are in deep spiritual darkness. And oh, how deep that darkness can be!" Spiritual vision is our capacity to see clearly what God wants to do in our lives. But this spiritual insight can be easily clouded by our thoughts and desires. Self-serving desires, interests, and goals block that vision and cause us to see things in a negative light. It hinders us from looking past the handicaps in order to see the beauty.
I think author Ed Rehbein said it best: "A 'clear' eye is healthy, whole, pure and unspotted. A person with a clear eye has a wholesome outlook…he sets his focus on that which is good. Consequently, he fills himself with light. 'Light' is a figure of speech describing things that are good in life such as truth, righteousness and purity -- even God and Jesus are called light (1 John 1:5 & John 1:4). So a clear eye opens the window of your soul to the sweet Light of Life."