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Showing posts from March, 2014

Day 23 - God, Our Help

The older I’ve gotten, the more I have felt vulnerable.  Nothing that has been there for several decades has gotten easier.  Physically the ability to do almost everything has become more difficult.  Now, does it mean it times for despair?  No, because in the physical changes there is also a greater wisdom of what is necessary versus what is absolute. The reason I began with this is because with age comes a reality check.  We’re not just getting older, we’re journeying towards a future where we need more help. That’s the nature of the journey of the pilgrim.  We need help.  The Psalms of Ascent, sung by the pilgrim on his journey “up” to Jerusalem knows it – he needs help and that help comes from one source. Psalm 124:1-8 1  If it had not been the LORD who was on our side— let Israel now say— 2  if it had not been the LORD who was on our side when people rose up against us, 3  then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us; 4  then

The Fourth Sunday in Lent - Worship

On this fourth Sunday in Lent, let’s think a bit about worship.  In most church services I’ve participated in, people think of worship as the singing and music portions.  When a person leads the music they are called the “worship leader”. Hmmm…interesting, if only for the realization that all of the other stuff, including the teaching, becomes the other-than-worship parts of the service.  Do we really believe that when we gather together to worship God that the only part of it that really counts is the music?  I know I don’t think it is so.   We must realize that worship encompasses everything and it’s not oriented to a place or the beauty of music. Here’s Jesus in a conversation with a woman that eventually gets to the issue of worship. John 4:4-24 4  And he had to pass through Samaria. 5  So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6  Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey,

Day 22 - Watching and Waiting

The journey of the pilgrim is towards, not away.  Towards the Destination Towards the Person to meet Towards the desired purpose – what do I hope by going on this journey? Several years ago I took a journey with my wife – an anniversary trip.  We went back to the place where we first lived 35 years before.  Even though 35 years had passed since we left, many things looked familiar.  But there was enough changes that at some point I couldn’t figure out where I was.  I stopped and asked the person at the station, “Where am I?”  He said to me, “Where do you want to go?” The journey of a pilgrim has those two parameters – where you are right now and where you want to go. The pilgrims walk towards Jerusalem in the Psalms of Ascent gives us something to think about in relation to this: Psalm 123:1-4 1  To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens! 2  Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to

Day 21 - Let Us Go To the House of the Lord

I confess, I don’t like the phrase, “go to church”.  There are reasons, and in short they are biblical and theological.  “Church” is not a place, but a people.  We don’t go to people, we come together to be with people.   OK, I know, I won’t get many who say “Amen, brother”, but it’s an important distinction.  We are called to relationships – with God and with His people – and that can happen in many different “places”. Now that I’ve shown my preferences, let me add that I’m a believer in “place”.  I love meeting together with other believers for worship, instruction, fellowship.  Place has it’s purpose and on Sunday I gather with a group of faithful believers in Church.  I love that people want to gather and don’t feel they are compelled by guilt or duty to “have to go to church”. Psalm 122 is the journey of the believer up to Jerusalem to meet with other believers to worship, and it’s obvious that he wants to go. Psalm 122:1-9 1  I was glad when they said to me, “L

Day 20 - My Help For the Journey

The Psalms of Ascent were written because faithful Jews returned to Jerusalem for the various festivals every year, and as they journeyed, they had to "walk up" to matter what the direction they came from.  They "ascended" to the city where the Temple stood and made their pilgrimage in stages. These Psalms marked their progress. Little by little as they walked along they prepared their hearts and souls for the reason they were going to Jerusalem. It was here that they would meet with God...offer their sacrifices...worship and pray...even though they did all of those things in their hometowns anyway. Jerusalem was the treasured city, the holy city, the city of David, the city of God. Imagine the journey, the pilgrim walk and let’s walk along with them on our Lenten journey.  As they walked through the land, they saw the beauty of God’s creation and it created within them a realization: One of the early Psalms, 121 says so beautifully:

Day 19 - A Psalm of Ascent, Ps. 120

It’s crucial to see that life is a Pilgrimage.  We are “sojourners” according to the scriptures.  What does it mean to be pilgrims?, sojourners?  It means we understand the brevity, temporary aspect of life – and the need to be alert, wide awake and aware of all that surrounds us. It's important to know that - that we are Pilgrims, not Tourists. Psalm 120 is the beginning of the Pilgrim’s journey towards Jerusalem.  It is the beginning of his walk towards the place of worship and celebration of all God is doing.  And to begin that journey, the Psalmist instructs this song…it may seem strange, but it is packed with meaning. Psalm 120:1-7 1  A song of Ascents.  In my distress I cried to the LORD, And He heard me. 2  Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips And from a deceitful tongue. 3  What shall be given to you, Or what shall be done to you, You false tongue? 4  Sharp arrows of the warrior, With coals of the broom tree! 5  Woe is me, that I dwell in Meshech,

Day 18 - The Journey of the Psalms of Ascent

The Hebrew scriptures are roughly divided into three sections: Torah – the first five books of the Old Testament which describes the creation of the nation and the giving of the law. Prophets – In general this is the historical sections (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Chronicles, etc…) and the corresponding Prophetic writings (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, etc…) that related to Jewish history. Writings – The Poetry of the Old Testament scriptures from Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs (Solomon), but also includes books like Ruth, Chronicles, and others. Among the Writings, this Poetry that was often turned into music, are the Psalms of Ascent.  Beginning in Psalm 120 thru Psalm 134, a series of songs became part of the journey of each pilgrim as they journeyed to Jerusalem for the seven major festivals God ordained in the law (see yesterday’s blog if you need to remember the different feasts God ordained). It might be difficult for us to imagine that people, families, wo

Day 17– The Jewish Festivals and Lent

Lent is a seasonal celebration.  It always occurs in the March/April period as the days counted off between Ash Wednesday and Easter.  Most of us don't relate to seasonal celebrations.  If were honest events that are outside our family (birthdays, anniversaries, weddings) usually just happen around us.  We all know that Easter is coming up, but most people don't have the slightest idea of when it occurs.  Hence, seasonal celebrations can serve us in incorporating into our lives the various Biblical events that mean much to our faith. God was the author of seasonal celebrations.   Leviticus 23:2  “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. These are the LORD ’s appointed festivals, which you are to proclaim as official days for holy assembly.  God called Israel’s faithful to come to Jerusalem seven times a year for prescribed week long celebrations – all of them with their own meaning.  Since these festivals are not well known by most people in the chu

The 3rd Sunday in Lent: The Word of God

On this, the third Sunday of Lent, I wanted to share something about The Word of God. I love God's word...have ever since discovering it around age 20.  I grew up around it for certain.  Heard it spoken, and even read some of it during various "religious" times.  But I never knew the beauty and the joy of reading the word of God for myself until I gave my life to Christ at age 20.   Within a year I read the Bible exhaustively and underlined, drew arrows, made notes in the sides, on the top, in the was a thrilling time of discovery. A few years later in Seminary, preparing for ministry, I had a Professor named Dr. Aubrey Martin.  Dr. Martin was blind, had been that way since around age 10.  Yet he was one of the best teachers I had.  Remarkably he had memorized all of the New Testament and about 95% of the Old Testament also.  That's right...Memorized it.  If we asked him about a verse he would quote it verbatim, and then add four or five more ref

Day 16 - A Simple Prayer

Psalm 70:1-5 (NLT) 1 Please, God, rescue me! Come quickly, LORD, and help me. 2 May those who try to kill me be humiliated and put to shame. May those who take delight in my trouble be turned back in disgrace. 3 Let them be horrified by their shame, for they said, “Aha! We’ve got him now!” 4 But may all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness in you. May those who love your salvation repeatedly shout, “God is great!” 5 But as for me, I am poor and needy; please hurry to my aid, O God. You are my helper and my savior; O LORD, do not delay. The psalm of David begins with that simple prayer. "Please God, rescue me! Come quickly, Lord, and help me." In our flesh we resist the urge to say the words.   Perhaps it’s simply that we don’t want to be dependent upon anyone.   But, we were designed by God to be dependent, not alone, not making it on our own.   This dependence is not a source of weakness, but rather of strength.   Think of all of things that others

Day 15: The Miracle of the Ordinary

Every day... Every day life... Get up, Clean up, coffee, read, news, car, drive, work, interactions, Then, Go back Home: Family, meals, TV,  bed, sleep, Start it all over again, Every day is filled with the Ordinary. Until God becomes part of our Everyday life! Reading:   Mark 6:1-6 1  He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him.  2  And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? 3  Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4  And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” 5  And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick