Do YOU sing to the Lord?

Singing.  We hear a lot of singing in our world.  I admit that when I was young, songs had decipherable words with tunes you could hum to even if you didn’t remember the words.  Today, there are still songs like that but there are other songs with screaming and sounds that bear little resemblance to the tunes of my youth.

Singing, whether it is soothing or drum-heavy, whether it is melodic or screaming, is an important part of life.

Indeed, scripture talks of singing often.  Consider these scripture references: 

Singing was part of the worship of God in the house of God.

They were all under the direction of their father in the music in the house of the LORD with cymbals, harps, and lyres for the service of the house of God. Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman were under the order of the king. The number of them along with their brothers, who were trained in singing to the LORD, all who were skillful, was 288.

1 Chronicles 15:6-7

When Ezra and Nehemiah reconstructed the demolished wall around Jerusalem, singing was part of the celebration upon its completion.

And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres.

Nehemiah 12:27

David admonishes us to sing before God!

Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!

Psalm 100:2

Paul told the Colossian Christians that they should sing and be thankful to God.

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

So we know that people are to praise God and sing of His glory.  But the scripture also makes note that nature, itself, will praise God and sing.  Consider these scriptures:

The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.

Song of Solomon 2:12

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God.

Isaiah 35:1-2

For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Isaiah 55:12

We hear the leaves on the trees as the wind blows through them, we see the trees wave their branches. We hear the birds call and sing their songs, praising God as they look over their domain from the trees.  We hear the ocean waves as they crash against the shore and then turn to hear the waves sliding along the sand at the beach.  We hear these things, but I suspect that God’s creation sings to Him in ways that we can only imagine. 

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

Psalm 95:1-2

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!

Psalm 98:4

A Psalm for giving thanks. Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!

Psalm 100:1

God’s creation is constantly praising Him.  What a shame that so many of His people feel that they cannot sing to Him.  While some of the singers in the Old Testament were trained to sing, scripture also tells us that we are to make a “joyful noise” to God.

Sing to the Lord – sing with gusto – sing out loud.  You will feel better for doing so and you will be praising the Lord, making His heart glad.

Celtic Thunder Heritage sang a song entitled “A Place in the Choir” in concert several years ago. This song in concert is shown at this YouTube link. 

The music and singing is wonderful.  The following link provides pictures of the various animals referenced and it might make the song more fun to hear, especially for the children and the young at heart!

Keep this quote from Henry Van Dyke in mind:  “Use the talent that you possess, for the woods would be silent if no birds sang but the best!”

Father, I praise You for giving me the ability to sing to You and to give praise and thanks to You for Your marvelous works to the children of men.  May I praise and glorify You throughout my days.

RECOLLECTIONS AND REJOICING

We have seen many old buildings, most of which were in horrible disrepair due to their age, harsh weather and lack of maintenance, on our travels through the U.S.   Some are not falling down [yet], just boarded up, no longer relevant to the modern era. 

DSC_1802
House with a history known to some but not to the passers-by on the highway.

When I see an old barn, house, store, whatever, I think about the people who lived there many years ago.

Old barn along interstate (C)
Barn along interstate with the roof missing at one end of the building.

In South Dakota we stopped at Fort Hays, outside Rapid City, and visited some buildings that were used in the movie Dances with Wolves.

Fort Hayes, South Dakota
Fort Hays near Rapid City, South Dakota, the Tin Shop
Fort Hayes stockade
Fort Hays – Stockade

Although this was a movie set, not the “real” old buildings, it still is a reminder of that way people lived in years past.  No matter the actual age of the structure, structures from the past are fascinating to me.  The stories that they could tell about what happened there and how people lived and acted within the structure. The past holds good and bad memories, recollections of good times that are often countered by remembrances of times that were not so good, possibly even horrible!

There are times that Satan throws our sin back in our face and we can get mired in the muck of self-pity, self-doubt, loathing, etc.  In short, if we get stuck in the past by recollecting the depravity of our ways,  we cannot live the abundant life God wants us to have in the present.

God is all knowing and all powerful, eternal and loving, holy and good.  Reformed theology teaches that even before creation existed, God knew us, He saw all our actions and knew the words we would speak, both those that were intended and careless. The plan of salvation existed before creation, because God knew we would sin and need a Savior.  Because of His love, He sent His Son to be that Savior for His children. 

Paul told this truth to the Ephesians so long ago:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ, (by grace you have been saved;)”

Ephesians 2:4-5 

This certainly is not something that I can explain, it is a matter of faith.  I can, however, thank Him for the grace and mercy extended to me in the forgiveness of my sins.  The Psalmist says:

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”

Psalm 103:11-12 

Matthew Henry comments on these verses, in part, as follows:

As the heaven is high above the earth (so high that the earth is but a point to the vast expanse), so God’s mercy is above the merits of those that fear him most, so much above and beyond them that there is no proportion at all between them; the greatest performances of man’s duty cannot demand the least tokens of God’s favour as a debt, …  Observe, God’s mercy is thus great towards those that fear him, not towards those that trifle with him.  We must fear the Lord and his goodness.

As far as the east is from the west … so far has he removed our transgressions from us, so that they shall never be laid to our charge, nor rise up in judgment against us.  The sins of believers shall be remembered no more, shall not be mentioned unto them; they shall be sought for, and not found.  If we thoroughly forsake them, God will thoroughly forgive them. [Emphasis mine]

The difference between God and man is referenced by the prophet Isaiah where God is speaking and says:

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:9

God’s ways and His thoughts are fundamentally different from ours.  When He forgives, He wipe the slate clean.  There is no remnant of the sin to remind Him that we deserve punishment.  Rather, He has cleaned our sin ledger with the blood of His Son and there is no longer any record of our sin before God. 

So, when you begin to focus on the sins of the past, surprise Satan and tell him to take a hike.  Turn your eyes to Jesus, the lover of your soul and the One who bought you with a price, His sinless blood.  Don’t let your past eliminate the present.  Look to Jesus and worship Him, then rejoice!

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

Isaiah 61:10 

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

Philippians 4:4

For the Christian, the antidote to living in the miserable part of your past is to rejoice for the glorious love of your Redeemer in the present and to think about the joy we will have when we see our Redeemer in the future and for all eternity to come.  For the one who does not believe in Jesus Christ as his/her personal Savior, there is no escape from your past until you call upon Him and claim Him as your Savior.  Do so today!

Father, Thank You for the truth of your Word and for the Holy Spirit who enables us to live a victorious life as a testimony of your marvelous, steadfast love and mercy.  Forgive us when we focus on the past, when You have already erased it from our account, when You have already credited us with Jesus righteousness because of His death and resurrection, as we have come to the cross in faith and believed on Him as our Savior.

ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – OMNISCIENCE

We have thought about two of the “omni” attributes of God, omnipotence and omnipresence.  The third such attribute is omniscience.

Like the first two we studied, “omni” means “all”.  According to Merriam Webster, “science” is “the state of knowing: knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding.”  So, “omniscience” means that God knows all that there is to know. There is nothing anywhere that is outside the scope of His conception, understanding or attention.

“Great is our Lord, and abundant in power [that’s “omnipotent”]: his understanding is beyond measure [that’s [omniscience”]”

Psalm 147:5 [with bracketed information added by me]

reading to grandchildren
Papa reading to young grandsons.

We have to study, read and learn lessons; in short, when we are born, we don’t automatically come equipped with all knowledge of our world, culture, society.  Much to the chagrin of our children, we have to be taught either by home schooling or in a school outside the home.

Evans Day 041
Learning sometimes involves detailed investigation!

Not so with God.  He does not study or learn for one simple reason – omniscience.  One cannot increase a knowledge that is already insurmountable.  God knows everything, period. 

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”

Romans 11:33

Further, with God there is no “maybe”.  Probability does not exist for God.  While we may consider rolling the dice as being an act of chance, such is not the case for God. 

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”

Proverbs 16:33

This verse in The Message reads:

“Make your motions and cast your votes, but God has the final say.”

God is omniscient.  There is one reality and God knows it in its entirety, as it exists by, through, and for Him.

“And the Spirit of the LORD fell upon me, and he said to me, “Say, Thus says the LORD: So you think, O house of Israel. For I know the things that come into your mind.

Ezekiel 11:5

God is neither surprised by the way the world works itself out, nor shocked by the choices we make.

“And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

Hebrews 4:13

Because God is omniscient, God can work out His predetermined purpose and plan and His sovereignty will effect that plan.    

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.”

Proverbs 21:1

Beloved, the attribute of omniscience is a source of security, strength and of faith, of comfort and of joy.  God knows everything about everyone, everywhere. He will not be surprised by anything that we do because He knows all things.

Such wisdom and knowledge is too much for us to understand or comprehend. Even as I write this post, I am amazed and in awe of our God, and I cannot fully understand or appreciate how vast His nature and knowledge is.  Like the attributes that we have considered previously, the very speaking of the word “omniscience” reveals the incredible majesty of our God, His infinite being and His holiness.  It also demonstrates the vast difference between our God and us. 

Isaiah spoke God’s words which eloquently illustrate this reality:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.”

Isaiah 55:8

Praise Him for His omniscience.  His love is extended to us every moment of every day.  His omniscience results in God’s executing His providence which will accomplish His fore-ordained plan, including His working all things to the benefit of His children.

The hymn “These Great Things” as sung on the album Glory to the Holy One, captures the marvelous response to God’s wondrous ways toward His children.  In speaking about this hymn, Randall Van Meggelen said the following in an article entitled “For the Church: Singing These Great Things,” dated May 28, 2015:

Occasionally the sheer grandeur and incomprehensibility of God’s wondrous ways leaves the believer in almost speechless awe. “These Great Things,” from Glory to the Holy One, expresses such a state. In pondering “How can it be,” the hymn momentarily hints at the opening textual and musical motifs of the beginning of Charles Wesley’s magnificent hymn, “And Can It Be.” Both hymns assert believing submission in the truth of God’s glorious Word and humble wonder at the “mystery sublime” of God’s great works.

“These Great Things” contemplates Paul’s glorious indicative that, for the called, “all things by His grand design work good for us by love” (Romans 8:28). “No tragedy shall win, no curse for those He calls His friends.” Our good, accomplished through God’s perfect means, is to be called “His friends” and “conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29) to the end that we would glorify and enjoy God in eternal communion (Westminster Shorter Catechism 1).

Here are the lyrics to this beautiful hymn.  I pray that you would let the words and wonder fill your heart as you listen and read the lyrics.

How can it be, this truth divine,
Declared by God above
That all things by His grand design
Work good for us by love

Called by our lord in purposed ends
No tragedy shall win
No curse for those He calls His friends
He saved us from our sins

Refrain

What shall we say to these great things?
Of mystery sublime
That if He is for us we can sing
Now and for all time

Foreknown by Him with
Hearts made new
To His Son we conform
No pow’r on earth can this undo
For those He’s made reborn

Refrain

First He did choose, and called He then
To surely justify
For those of the faith beyond our ken
He soon will glorify

Refrain

Father, I come to You and praise You for Your lovingkindness.  Through Your omniscience, You know me fully, and such knowledge is too wonderful and amazing for me to comprehend.  Your power and majesty is above all persons or powers, and yet You stoop to consider and love me.  Thank You Father.

SIGNS AND DIRECTIONS

 When we were in England, we saw several “roundabouts” which delineated the proper route to take at, what we in the United States would call, an intersection.

Road signs in England with two roundabouts
Road sign in England showing connected Roundabouts.

It is important to follow the signs, and this one was one of the more clear-cut signs that we encountered. 

Society sets out these signs to dictate to us how to travel, how to negotiate from one place to another, how to get us where we want to go via the safest route available. 

It is clear that the land planners have concluded that it is appropriate for the proper flow of traffic that vehicles on the highway move in one direction on that part of the road, the vehicles exiting where appropriate to continue with their trip.  While some people may find it offensive to have their direction of travel dictated by “the government”, there can be no real opposition to the concept that the direction of travel at that spot on the highway must conform to the roundabout’s directive or there will be serious mishaps with property damage and potential loss of life. 

Steven Wright, the erudite American scientist and humorist described travel in this way:

“When everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.”

While this is certainly true on the highway, his statement could also be speaking of a wider application, such as a consideration of whether your positions and opinions are in the mainstream or in opposition to society.

In thinking about the Christian life, I would submit that Mr. Wright’s comment is spot on.  If we are following the crowd, if we are following the dictates of the culture, if we are joining in with society’s standards, values and positions, everything might be coming our way, but we are in the wrong lane – we are not on the road to righteousness, and we are not on the path of a life with Christ that leads to eternal life. 

Rather than following the crowd, the Christian would do well to remember what God says in Isaiah 55:8-9:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

In other words, as Christians we must not presuppose that our culture’s standards, ethics, values and morals are those of the Almighty God.  He is above our finite world and His ways are very different than ours. 

Mark Twain expressed this thought:

“When you find yourself on the side of the majority it’s time to pause and reflect.”

Jesus talked about the majority position and its popularity when He said:

Enter by the narrow gate.  For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Matthew 7:13-14.

The fact that our ways are not those of God is highlighted by Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus provides a glimpse into what God blesses, and illustrates that God’s ways are counter-cultural to be sure.  Here are just a few of the Beatitudes as found in Matthew 5, and I am using the Amplified Bible for this quotation:

Blessed [spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired] are the poor in spirit [those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever] [Luke 6:20-23]. 

Blessed [forgiven, refreshed by God’s grace] are those who mourn [over their sins and repent], for they shall be comforted [when the burden of sin is lifted]. [Isaiah 61:2]    

Blessed [inwardly peaceful, spiritually secure, worthy of respect] are the meek (or humble, gentle) [the kind-hearted, the sweet-spirited, the self-controlled], for they shall inherit the earth. [Psalm 37:11] 

Blessed [joyful, nourished by God’s goodness] are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [those who actively seek right standing with God], for they shall be [completely] satisfied.

Matthew 5:3-6.

So, what direction are you going?  What path are you following? 

Be counter—cultural.  Follow Jesus.  Take the roundabout that leads to the narrow path, and you will be blessed.  Jesus said it, so you can believe it.

Father, help me to follow You as I live in this world.  May my walk reflect Your ways even if that means it runs totally counter to society’s mandate.  May I have the strength and will to follow You, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

 

THE MIGHTY RUSHING WIND – PART 1

We have had a number of significant storms in the past month, with very heavy rains, some hail, and extreme, sustained, wind.

Our yard is quite wooded, and we can see the wind even when we can’t hear it because of the trees swaying in the breeze.  When strong winds come, though, it is as if the trees are doing a stationary dance in praise to God, while bending and swaying to the will of His Hand.

“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Isaiah 55:12 ESV

 

When you watch the tree branches swaying in the wind, it is not difficult to imagine that they are clapping their hands in praise and glory of their Creator, the Almighty God. 

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

John 3:8 ESV

Jesus said these words when He was telling to Nicodemus that he must be born again to see the Kingdom of God. 

We know that the wind is present when we see the trees swaying.  Then, too, we hear the sound of the leaves as they are driven in all directions when the wind increases and its force is felt by even the strongest of trees.   

When I hear the wind like this, I recall Scripture telling us that the Apostles heard the Spirit of God at Pentecost, and the sound was like a mighty rushing Wind.

“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.”

Acts 2:1-5 ESV

God’s Spirit is characterized as a mighty wind in this Scripture text.  The Greek word used for “wind” is transliterated as pnoe, and it means “breath, breath of life”.  So Luke is saying that the breath of life that comes from God filled the house … it was His Spirit. 

In Acts, the Holy Spirit gave the apostles the ability to speak in languages that they had never learned, languages that the people from “from every nation under heaven” who were in Jerusalem would understand.  The apostles were given this ability so that they could effectively witness to the foreigners of Jesus, the Messiah, the One who rose from the dead and who lives in heaven, the One who could cleanse them from sin and who would give them life eternal.

The apostles’ message that day accomplished something that transformed the known world – it made the Gospel of Christ known worldwide.  An example of this is found in the fact that Epaphras (Colossians 1:7) was the pastor for the church in Colosse, a church to which Paul addressed the letter to the Colossians, but there is no record that Paul ever visited this church.  The people who traveled from Jerusalem to other cities and regions started churches and spread the witness for Jesus Christ throughout the known world.

The application for us? 

Have you been touched by the Spirit of God?  Has He breathed life into your heart so that you can receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior and King?  Have you committed your life to Him?  If so, then you have the power of the Holy Spirit resident within you and you can use that power to witness to the miraculous works that Jesus has performed in your life.

Next time you feel the wind blowing in your face, or the next time you see the wind blowing the trees around, or the next time you hear the sound of the mighty rushing wind, think of your God and His Spirit that came to this earth to take up residence in your heart and in mine.

Let the wonder of God’s creation remind us to give praise to Him for His wonderful works to the children of men.  Psalm 107.

 

Father, thank You for caring so much for us that You gave us Your Spirit.  Thank You for blowing Your breath on us so that we can then breathe out Your love to those around us, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  We praise Your holy name and may we give glory to You in all that we do.