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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Why Sing?

        For the Lord, your God is living among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, He will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:17.
         We are created by the same Lord God, who rejoices over each of us with joyful songs!  We sing before we can talk! When I first read this statement I remembered when our toddler-aged son said something to me, I didn’t understand. I asked his older brother what he said.  He looked at me quizzically and repeated the exact same garbled utterance.  I thought, so much for an instant interpreter.
         We sing for many reasons. Celebrating a joyous occasion.  We sing underline the unity of a group. Music begins by listening to a lullaby sung by Mother with love. Happy Birthday is next! A brief melody with the joy of growing older while young!  It is a song of looking forward to ‘many more’! Jesus Loves Me was next.  This song is the foundation of our faith and trust in Jesus. One day I sang this song to my dear husband, and the words pierced my heart with truth.  Jesus loves me! He who died, Heaven’s gate to open wide; He will wash away my sin, Let His little child come in, Yes, Jesus loves me!...I saw the wonder of the love Jesus has for children. Is it any wonder that Jesus wants us to become as little children?  But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” Matthew 19:14.
         Through the wonder of technology, I attended the celebration of life for my little brother.  I listened to the hymns sung, Great is Thy Faithfulness, How Great Thou Art, and Blessed Assurance.  Such comfort and joy praising God for Who Jesus is.  In my heart, I heard my brother singing with joy the lyrics, across the veil that separates us.
         Why do we sing?  God commands it!  Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!  Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy. Psalm 100:1-2.   I like these verses -- Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.  Ephesians 6:5-6.  Consistency of our behavior is like faithfulness.  In everything and every – be faithful to God. Sing to the Lord with all our hearts.
            What would a wedding be without the Wedding March?  What would Graduation be without Pomp and Circumstance? What would Christmas be without Silent Night, Away in a Manger, O Holy Night, Joy to the World, and Noel?  There are many more songs to sing in praising God with a singing heart!
         Singing on key or making a joyful noise, we are commanded to praise Him Who gives us the reason to sing with joy. The harmony of voices comes from one purpose and one love.  This is the harmony that touches our hearts and our faith grows.  Jesus brings us the depth of love.
         What is a song? Ask Moses who sang a song celebrating the freedom from slavery in Egypt – Exodus 15:1.  Ask Deborah and Abinoam who sang praise to God for avenging Israel. Judges 5:1-4. Ask Paul and Silas who sang praises to God while imprisoned.  Acts 16:25. Ask the stars of heaven who sang together for joy. Job 38:7. And there are many who sang praises to God the Father through the ages.
         In life or death, a song is always the expression of our hearts.  Our prayers become the songs of praise of His greatness and goodness. Without the Lord God in our lives, we would not be here on earth. We depend on Him for every breath we take.  We depend on Him for Sustenance.  We depend on Him for Forgiveness.    
         Preparing for singing is more than keys and notes and enunciation – they come from Heart Praise.  When Jesus taught his disciples to pray – and Malotte put the words to music, this is more comfort than mumbling memorized words.
         Our Father, which art in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name.  Thy Kingdom come. Thy Will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
         It is always delightful to sing the Words of the Bible.  A song helps us remember God’s words written in The Holy Bible.  How often I recall words in a song that draw me back into His Word. Scripture is balm to the hurting heart, in celebration of joy in Christ Jesus, and food to renew our lives in Him.  Singing Praise to Jesus has a way of shutting out the distracting noise of the world. 
         We have so many instruments to create music as we worship. God has blessed us in worship here with the sound of the harp in our services. As the fingers glide over the strings, the sounds pull our hearts into worship. I remember David singing praises to God on a hillside watching his sheep. So many Psalms are recorded in Psalms, along with other writers, I see into the heart of David. He truly was a man of God’s heart.  As the crescendo of the Lord’s Prayer draws my attention, Jesus draws my heart to the foot of the cross.  There are times I long to write a hymn of joy to the Lord. Our lives and the way we live them are our songs of praise dedicated to our Lord.  I praise you, Lord!
         Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16
         Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! Psalm 47:6-7

         …Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:19-21


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Growing Season - SPRING!

        On a new carpet of grass, perky robins hip-hop.  Breezes ruffle the new leaves as they appear on tall, proud trees. The raindrops softly tiptoe through the sleeping rows of budding flowers. White clouds lazily float in the hammock of the sky. Crops in the fields spring to life to feed God’s children in His Time.
         No one else could create the mystery and wonder of the season, called spring, but our Lord God! By believing and trusting our Savior Jesus Christ, a new kind of Spring grows within each heart with shimmering Grace.
         Spring, the season of growth begins when we believe, are buried and raised in baptismal waters.  Faith and trust stretch into a life of holiness and perfect beauty.  We drink in His Living Water in the refreshing sweetness of His Word. We worship constantly as we breathe.  Our Lord of Love, with gentleness, goodness, and kindness surrounds us. We praise Him with constant Faithfulness.
         We grow in patience in moments of stress and misfortune.  For we know a promise that brings the greatest joy, throughout our growing season.  This growing season will bring us to a place that is heaven, a place of beauty and love.  Heaven is where we can seek the utter beauty of our Lord and Savior, face to face.
         Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things.  Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both. Ecclesiastes 11:5-6
            Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.  Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Ephesians 4:14-16
         God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.  I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. Philippians 4:8-10
         May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ gives you grace and peace. Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing.  We proudly tell God’s other churches about your endurance and faithfulness in all the persecutions and hardships you are suffering. 2 Thessalonians 1:2-4
         May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus, our Lord.  By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know Him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.  And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.  2 Peter 1:2-4
         New parents exult in each new inch of growth of their newborn baby.  They rejoice in new learning. Our Lord God rejoices in us as we learn to follow God’s Way through Christ Jesus.  We toddle along in faith in Him. We take baby steps before strides and sprints in loving others. It is baby steps in learning to trust God.
         Each bruise and scrape along the way remind us of our Sovereign Lord’s forever kindness and goodness; He is the One who created us.  Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!  For who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice? Romans 11:33-34.  Who is this Sovereign God? But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do. Psalm 73:28
         To some, our body seems to grow old and our physical strength shrivels with weakness.  While we are in the bloom of youth, such a thought is unthinkable.  Our bones gradually weaken and our stamina grows shorter like the blossoms of flowers fade and the leaves of trees begin to fall.  What then?  What is left?  Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13:13.  The greatest of these is Love!
         Our growing season in Christ Jesus is a lifetime of learning to follow Him in all things, revel in His love, and delight in His goodness. There are no senior citizens on earth when Jesus fills our hearts and all our senses in awareness of the One who loves us so.  We are in our growing season until the last breath.
         Visiting my husband in Memory Care, we listen to this hymn – these words penetrate memory loss and he understands.  Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee, How great Thou art, how great Thou art.  Tears come as we talk about the blessings of our God. I ask what he will do when he stops breathing, he said, “I will say, Here I am, Lord, please let me in.”  My husband may not remember me, but he remembers the Lord.  We hold hands and praise God together and continue to grow, for this is part of our growing season.  Our hearts are filled with the Joy of Heavenly Spring, just around the corner. 


Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Hem Me In...

        I can still see my Mother’s dreamy eyes as she shared her dream of living in a little house with a white picket fence!  This was her dream of peace.  Indeed, we had a white picket fence that surrounded our little house and our love for each other, until I was six years old. We moved to the ‘brown house’ and soon it had a fence of safety.  In the ‘little house’, we were safe from passersby from the outside world. Our yard cocooned us and contained a children’s paradise.  A roofed sand pile, a baby goat, and a Dad-engineered steering wheel swing.  On the rich green grass, Dad taught us to do somersaults and cartwheels. We took turns feeding the goat with a bottle of milk.
         Mother often quoted this verse - You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Psalm 139:5. (NIV)  We are hemmed in God’s safety net, a retreat from the world and its influences leading us away from the safety of God’s ‘picket fence’ of security.  When I heard the reference to being hemmed in, I pictured the nimble fingers of Mom, hemming a garment. Often, that hem was stitched in with tiny stitches, and the material was folded tightly, ready to receive the stitches.
         Another version says He goes before and behind us…there are no stragglers. I led a group of first graders down the hall, and wondered, should I lead or make sure no one wandered away.  When we respond to God’s gift, we are safely His.
         From the time we are born, we long for security – We want and need belonging and love first.  Our physical needs are unending – hunger, thirst and being comfortably ‘dry’.  We never outgrow these needs. Our parents provide these earthly needs and teach us how to love like Jesus. They also teach us to live in this world of doubts and fear with the courage of faith.  When our parents are called Home, we are ready to ‘solo’ in this life without their faith and guidance. 
         It is then we remember little comments and little acts of kindness we have seen in their lives.  These things replay in our hearts – and begin to have an eternal import.  It is then that we realize with certainty that our personal faith in God, trusting Him and believing His Son becomes our ‘white picket fence’ of security! 
         Why do I write? Recently, I realized how Mother coped with her grief after my Dad died.  She wrote a year of sermons, fifty-two in number. She sought God in her grief.  When I visited, there was a celebration of Dad’s life and celebration of the love of God.  I still have her journals to ‘Dear Papa’ she wrote through each day.  Jesus was her security and strength. She sought God each day…to guard her faith.  Each morning she prayed God’s blessing on her day, and glorify Him by sharing Jesus and be a blessing to someone in Jesus’ Name.  Her faith in Jesus became her ‘white picket fence’ purpose provided joy each day. 
         What is the first step? Believe and trust!  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Matthew 6:33-34. 
         Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48.  We may not be perfectly perfect, but in Jesus Christ, we can be forgiven! 
         Guard your love, your innocence, your faith, and your love for others by loving, protecting, believing, and loving one another.  Welcome the opportunity to bless others by listening to them.  It is a gift!  It is hospitable.  It is healing.
         Begin the day with praise for Jesus and His Love.  Give your love to others freely.  Follow Jesus’ example of living and loving! 
         Read the following scriptures and see how often we are to guard our hearts!  Build a spiritual ‘white picket fence’ around your heart!
         Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23
         Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine. Psalm 16:6
         Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips. Psalm 141:3
         He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to him. Proverbs 2:8
         For the angel of the Lord is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him. Psalm 34:7
         Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. I Corinthians 16:13
         Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed. 2 Corinthians 3:23
         Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:7-8
            For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night. So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded. 1 Thessalonians 5:6-7
         Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls. I Peter 2:25
         You already know these things, dear friends. So be on guard; then you will not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people and lose your own secure footing.  Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3:17-18
            The city wall was broad and high, with twelve gates guarded by twelve angels. And the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were written on the gates.  There were three gates on each side—east, north, south, and west. Revelation 21:12-13