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It’s All His

Yesterday at church, we sang one of my favorite songs, “Great Are You Lord” by All Sons and Daughters.  It’s a very simple song to play, and as such, it’s one that I can get beyond worrying what chords I’m playing and focus on what I’m singing a little more.  The chorus is so simple, yet so incredibly profound:

“It’s Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise, we pour out our praise to You only”

As we sang that together, as we lifted our voices, several hundred of us all singing the same thing, it hit me that this, this simple act of worship, just taking in a breath, filling our lungs, and then pushing it out as praise, is completely, totally, and utterly dependent on God’s grace and goodness.  We sing it, “It’s YOUR breath in our lungs” but do we really get it?

The fact that I can take a breath is His goodness to me.  The fact is, I woke up this morning and drew a breath, and His mercies were new again, regardless of my deserving them.  Or that my heart and lungs and brain all worked together through the night to keep me alive, with no effort on my part…grace.

Or that my ears could hear the notes of the music we were playing, and could then help me to sing along on key (mostly)…all Him.

Or that my vocal chords could work together to utter the right words as my breath pushed through them…all His grace!

Or that my legs worked, and I could tap my foot along to the groove of the song…His grace again!  My hands and fingers worked to play the chords, no matter how simple they might be…IT’S HIS!

You see, it’s not just that His breath is in my lungs.  Genesis 2:7 says “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.  My whole LIFE is His.  Everything I am, it’s His! Psalm 139 says “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb” (vs. 13) and then “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.  And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.” 

Everything I am, everything I have, every breath I breathe and every song I play…they are His.  He gave them to me in the first place.

What else could I do but return them to Him in praise?

(If you’re interested in the song, you can find it on itunes here)

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See that guitar pick?  My bride got it for me on Father’s Day,  found a frame for it and put it on my nightstand.  Every morning when I wake up, I see that pick.  Every night when I lay down, it’s there, reminding me that this lovely lady believes what it says:  “I’d pick you every time.”

There’s no way you could know how much that means to me.  When I see that, I’m reminded of all the times when she has, in fact, chosen me, over and over again.

She had her pick of beaus back in the day…and she picked me.

Early in our marriage, when the only kid she had to worry about was me, when I put her through a LOT…she picked me.  When the world would have told her to drop me like a sack of potatoes…she picked me again.

On the days when I’ve not been the lovable, wonderful chap you all know..she still picks me.

When I’m depressed, discourage, down and out, she picks me.  When I’m not much help around here, or stuck in a cocoon of self..she pics me.

When I’m at my worst…she still picks me.

And I can’t tell you how glad I am that she does!

Proverbs 18:22 says “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord.”

Then in Proverbs 31:10: “Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.” 

Me!!! This guy!  I DID!

And I am so grateful and thankful for her.  She picked me!

Letting the Light Shine

Candle

Last night our Men’s Ministry kicked off the Fall session with a cookout at a local park.  Very cool to see over a hundred men, from teenagers on up, gather together to fellowship, chow down, worship and hear the Word of God.  Even cooler to do it out at a public place!  God gave us a beautiful (if a touch humid) night, and we had a great time together.

As I was getting ready to start worship, I had a song in mind that I thought I had with me.  It’s a song that has really come to be a favorite of the men of our church, and I thought it would be cool to kick off with it.  Well, I searched and searched, but couldn’t find it.  I know the song by heart, but the words of the verses can get a little tricky, so I didn’t want to chance it without being sure myself!

Seemingly unrelated occurrence: As we waited to start worship, I checked on a post I made online  in response to a question someone had about music in the church (not ours, just in general).  It was on a forum where talk of “religion and politics” is not allowed.  Well, I responded, and sure enough, within a few minutes, my post was pulled down by the moderators.  Unbelievable. Amazing how many things are allowed to be spoken of in this country EXCEPT for the Christian.

As I chewed on that, I looked out at the men of our church, and looked around at the people out walking their dogs, playing with their kids, enjoying the night at the park and I thought “we need to sing a song that lifts up the Name of Jesus, the Name above every names!”  So I pulled out one of our favorite songs, by Chris Tomlin, Jesus Messiah.  Our church has been singing this long before my time, and I knew the guys would know it.

So out at the park, in the twilight of a beautiful late summer North Carolina day, 100 plus voices sang out, at the top of their lungs:

Jesus Messiah, Name above all names…Blessed Redeemer, Emmanuel

The rescue for sinners, and the ransom from Heaven

Jesus Messiah….Lord of all

What a privilege to sing it with my brothers last night, and what a good reminder!  That’s the Gospel!  That’s the hope that we have!  That’s the message we need to be proclaiming, as often as we can, to all who will hear!

Those two seemingly unrelated events, an internet post censored and a time of worship, really played in my head all night long. Jesus said, in John 9:4 “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.” The days are coming when will not be able to publicly, and freely, worship the Lord Jesus.  We need to hold up the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as long as it is day, as long as we can, and as loudly as we can!  Amen?

Not That Guy Anymore

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Recently, though the marvel of social media, I was taken on a trip down memory lane to a time that I haven’t thought about in years.  It was during my B.C. days (that’s “before Christ” for those of you who’ve been “educated” in the modern era).  I gotta admit, I wasn’t thrilled about the trip.  And, no, it wasn’t because of the hair.  Well, not just because of the hair, although, that’s bad enough.

I wasn’t thrilled about it because…quite honestly, I didn’t want to remember “that guy.”  “That guy” was a schmuck.  I don’t want to think about the things I did, the messes I made…the people I hurt, the things that could never be undone.  “That guy” weighed on me quite a bit.

Fast forward from memory lane to this Sunday, our pastor was teaching on 1 Corinthians 1:26-31.  Four little words stuck with me like white on rice:  “But God has chosen…” Who?  Who has God chosen?  Well, “that guy,” for one!  ME!  God chose a foolish, selfish, messed up, sinful and downright goofy-looking kid…God chose ME?!  Yes, unbelievably so…He chose me.

Paul says it this way:

“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.” (I Cor. 1:27-29)

I sat there in church, tears in my eyes, humbled anew by the grace and goodness of God.  I was a fool, weak, base, despised, a NOT…and yet God chose me.  He saved me from my sin.  He set me free from the chains of sin.  He took what was dead and brought it to LIFE.  He called me.  ME!!!  

And why did He call me?  To make something of me?  To puff me up?  No, he called me to bring glory to Himself.  He called me that His glory should shine though and in me.  He called me so that, as John the Baptist said of Jesus, He would increase and I would decrease.  

And as if to hammer home that point, on my way home from church yesterday, my niece starts texting me old pictures she’s found, of which the pic above is one.  Wowza….

But now, when I see those pics and think of “that guy”, I’m not embarrassed, or depressed.  (Well, maybe a little embarrassed…good Lord what was I thinking with the hair???) Instead I’m reminded that God loves “that guy” so much that He gave His only Son, so that “that guy” should not perish, but have everlasting life.

And it’s not just “that guy”, not just me…but you, too!  That’s the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!  God so loved “the world” that He gave His Son, for us all…that “whosoever will” could come and experience life eternal with Him!  That whoever desires to be loosed of the chains of sin would be free!  Listen, if “that guy” can be saved, trust me, God wants to save you, too!

So, come!

Unless you live in a hole, I’d imagine you’re aware of the general unrest, unease, discontent, and over all agitation of the “church” these days.  There are no shortage of topics to get one “up in arms” about, to get one tweeting and pinning and Facebooking up a storm about the latest issue or “problem.”

Amidst all of it, one of the familiar prayers heard is from 2 Chronicles 7:14:

“If My people who are called by My name will humbled themselves, and pay and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 

Yes, and amen!

However, often when this verse is quoted, it is in such a way as looking out at our nation, as if everyone therein were “My people” or “called by My name.”  Friends, that’s not so.  This verse was written to the children of Israel, God’s chosen people, and thanks be to Jesus and the promises of the New Covenant, those of us who have been grafted into that vine by the grace of God, through faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross!  Amen?

What’s the point, you ask?  The point is this:  we pray for change, we pray for revival even, and yet even as we do so, we are looking at everyone around us, instead of looking at ourselves!  The verse quoted above clearly says “If MY people…” Before you start pointing the finger at everyone else, maybe we should take a good hard look in the mirror.

In Psalm 80, titled in my Bible as “An Appeal for Israel’s Repentance”, we read:

“Hear, O My people, and I will admonish you!  O Israel, if you will listen to Me!  There shall be no foreign god among you; nor shall you worship any foreign god.  I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt; open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” 

I fear that there are many “foreign gods” in the temple of our hearts, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.  Search your heart.  You know the little idols that abide there.  And yet we sit in judgment of the lost?  In judgment of those who do not know the Truth of the Gospel, all the while we bow the knee to our little gods?

Forgive us, Lord!

Christian…beliver…follower of Jesus…it’s time to quit playing church, to quit going through the motions on Sunday and Wednesday, all the while living in a way that is no different from the world.  WE must return to the Lord!  WE must repent of our sin, our complacency, our love for this world.  We must ask the Lord to purify our hearts first!  

Yes, pray for revival!  Pray for a fresh move of the Holy Spirit in our land!  Pray for God to come and “do it again, Lord!” But pray that it would begin with us!  Pray that He would begin with our hearts!  Our homes!  Our churches!  Our towns!

Let’s get on our knees and off our soapboxes.

Building for Keeps

IMG_6408“And in the eleventh year…the house was finished in all its details and according to all its plans.  So he was seven years building it.  But Solomon took thirteen years to build his own house…”  (I Kings 6:38, 7:1)

Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived.  He was ruler of the tribes of Israel after his father David, and the writer of over 3000 proverbs and 1005 songs (1 Kings 4:32).

He spent 7 years building the first temple, that magnificent house of worship for the Lord God.  But…

There’s always a but…

But he spent 13 years building his own house.

Man, that stopped me in my tracks when I read it today.  Think about it…he took nearly twice the time to work on his own digs as he did to work on the place  where worship would take place, where the glory of God would dwell, where the presence of God Most High would be. 

But before we cast stones at Solomon…how about you?

In 1 Corinthians, Paul asked the Corinthian saints this question:  “Do you not know that YOU are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16)

Put those two things together…YOU, believer in Jesus, are the Temple of God.  The Holy Spirit, third person of the Trinity, dwells within YOU.  Just as the presence of God would abide in the temple of Solomon, He now abides in YOU.

Question for us:  how much time do we spend on God’s dwelling place?  How much more time do we spend on other things?  Be honest.  I read that about Solomon and thought “wow, look at his priorities!”  Then the mirror of the Word was held up to my face and I thought “Ok…how about your priorities?”

We all have things we must do.  We all have jobs.  Many of us have families.  We have responsibilities.  I’m not saying shirk those.  However, if our lives were spread out before us, what would they say about what matters most to us?  How much of our time is spent building with straw, hay, and stubble (things that do not matter and won’t endure) versus gold, silver and precious stones, or things that will endure?  (see 1 Cor. 3:12)

It makes me thing about building methods.  A friend recently visited the “Old World”, and saw some of the castles there.  These places have endured for centuries.  Then I think about my own home, just a few years old.  I doubt it’s still standing in 50 years, much less 500.  They just don’t build them like they used to.

But are we building track homes, spiritually speaking, rather than cathedrals and castles?

With each passing day, I am more and more convinced of the need to spend more time in God’s presence, to spend more time on the things that matter, to spend more time focusing on God’s Word and His kingdom, than on anything else.  I’m more and more convinced of the need to build for keeps, to last, to endure.

After all, Jesus said “Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matt 6:33)

What are you seeking?  What are you spending time on? We’re all building.  We’ll all leave a legacy of something behind us.

Are you building for keeps?

IMG_0353“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”  James 5:16

My grandfather, on my dad’s side, loved the Lord.  (This statement is also true of my mom’s dad, but we’ll cover him another time!). When he gave his life to the Lord as a young man, he was radically changed and took off on a path that would see him pastor several churches in the foothills of Virginia, over the course of many years, as well as preach at many, many others.

He was a godly man, a man that sought to live his life in obedience to God’s Word and God’s call on his life, and as such, he was also a man of prayer.  I can’t remember any sermons that I heard my grandpa give, but I can most definitely remember his prayers.  And the prayers I remember most were not the ones he prayed from the pulpit (or while presiding over communion in all the weddings of me and my siblings).  No, the prayers I remember most were the humble, quiet ones he prayed prior to eating his breakfast every day.

My papa would sit down with his glass of grapefruit juice and his bowl of grape nuts (at least, that’s what I remember…I’m sure there were cow brains and eggs in there at some point, but I choose not to remember that part!), bow his head, and begin to thank God for all his blessings and for His goodness.

And then he would pray for his children, and his grandchildren, and his great grandchildren.

By name.

Each one.

Every day.

I come from a pretty good size family.  This was not a short list.  Yet, everyday, he prayed.  For us.  By name.

I must admit that, at the time, I didn’t get it.  I mean, I thought it was cool, but I didn’t get  it.

But I do now.

You see, I get it because I see the answers to those prayers every time I look at my family.

I see it in my own life, and how the long-haired, hippie kid who was just going through the motions, faking it until he made it, no real knowledge of the goodness and mercy of God, would one day humble himself and give his life to God because that very goodness and mercy led him to repentance.

I see it in the godly wife that I have been blessed with, the one who has stood by me through thick and thin, who has encouraged me, prayed for me, endured with me, loved me.  Who has truly been my helper, my gift, my living sacrament of grace.

I see it in my kids, who are now the 4th generation since my grandfather gave his life to Christ.  I see it in how his prayers are bearing fruit in our lives, and thus in my kids’ lives.

I see it in my parents, who have raised 5 kids of their own through many trials, blessings, ups and downs, and have remained steadfast in their faith, and in their love for one another.  I see God’s faithfulness to them, and I rise up and call them blessed as a result.

I see it in the lives of my brother and sisters, their marriages.  How faithful God has been.  How good he has been.

I now I see the answer to those prayers in my nieces and nephews, the great-grandchildren who were but babies when my grandpa lifted their names up to God.  Half of them are grown and beginning their own families, careers, lives.   I see God working in their lives.  I see hearts that are changed, given over to God.  I see another generation rising to praise God, to bless Him, to serve Him.

I see the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man availing much.  Not because my grandpa was holy in his own right.  No, he was flawed and broken, just like the rest of us.  But he knew the faithful God who sent His Holy, Righteous Son to take my grandpa’s sin, and my parent’s sin, and my sin, and my brother’s sin, and my sisters’ sin, and my nieces’ and nephews’ sin, and my kids sin…and your sin…so that we could be made forgiven, redeemed, purchased, set free…saved.

And because my grandpa knew Jesus, I write this today, just one more example of those prayers from long ago still bearing fruit in the hearts and lives of my family.

So parents, grandparents, great-grandparents…don’t give up.  Pray up.  Lift up your family to the Lord.  And trust Him with the family He’s given you.

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