I sometimes enjoy listening to classical music when the mood and work seem to be the right fit. When I have an opportunity to go to a symphony then the listening takes on a multi-sensory dimension that lifts my mind and heart. Beethoven always stands out in the classical world and of his many composing works, “Für Elise” is one of my favorites. This is a German word meaning, “For Elise,” yet no one really knows who “Elise” could have been. According to Wikipedia, it could have been transcribed wrong with the identity being a student of Beethoven’s named, Theresa. This song was not published until 40 years after the composer’s death and was so deaf he could not perform the song just a year after composing the work. In fact, he could not hear the applause of the audience after performing that someone would need to prompt him to turn around to the crowd. If you want to watch an orchestra perform the song then listen here.
As I watch such performances played today, I am always captivated by the interactions between the director and the orchestra. A well-directed work exhibits precise control of timing and emotion. The fine and grueling work of practice for discipline brings out the emotion in the song. The director has a big picture of how written notes on a page should sound like in life. He or she translates into experience what has only been written instructions and knows how to incorporate every instrument into the piece. It may be that a specific instrument is only played for one or two notes, yet without that instrument, the song fails to be formed correctly in reality.
I would present to you that every church is to be as a symphony directed by the Holy Spirit Himself. This director deity makes real in Knightdale what has only been written on pages. It is through obedience to the Holy Spirit that Jesus lives today in the lives of those around us. Each one of us has been gifted by the Holy Spirit so we can play our “instrument” in whatever role He directs. Our gifts are meant to be employed in concert with others to produce a “symphony,” a sounding together. At times we may experience the minor notes, but in a symphony not only do the minor notes make sense, they make the whole piece sound good together. Each church will bring the praise of Jesus in how we relate to one another and the world and give our praise to God, the Father. Our songs are not dedicated to an unknown person, but “Für Gott.” In our performance, may we be deaf to the crowd and turn around to the applause of God.
Do you remember the last time you felt completely lost? Maybe you were travelling out of town for the family vacation and driving with the utmost confidence that you knew exactly how to get there. Maybe you weren’t necessarily “lost” but admittedly you “just couldn’t find your way”. Maybe it was a time when you went on a hike through the woods in the mountains and somehow couldn’t remember exactly how to get back where you started. Or maybe it was a time when you walked out of the shopping mall, sports stadium or concert and looked out into a large mass of vehicles in the Parking Lot and couldn’t remember exactly where you parked your car. I can personally look back on times like these in my life with laughter. However, during those times of being lost, it is certainly not amusing at that moment. In fact, at times it can be very stressful, we can feel hopeless and even sometimes afraid depending on the circumstances.
We can also relate to this in day to day life can’t we? In daily life do you ever feel lost or maybe where you just don’t feel like you could find your way? Maybe you’re dealing with a certain situation with family, friends, your job, your health or many other things that life may bring your way. You’re searching for the reason, the right solution or the right direction but as much as you think about it and try to work it out on your own you continue to feel helpless, tired and all the other things that can come with self-dependence. You feel lost or maybe, your telling yourself you just can’t find your way.
It’s during those times that I am reminded that I have an Amazing Savior and Lord that wants to give me strength in my weakness, hope in my hopelessness and direction when I just can’t find my way. One of my favorite scriptures is Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths”. Notice the 3 commands in this passage. “Trust in the Lord”, “Do not lean on your own understanding” and “In all your ways acknowledge Him”. We often times put too much trust in ourselves when we are in the middle of our situations. It’s like those times when we are lost and just keep driving because we “just can’t find our way”. The longer we drive the more humility it will take to have to stop and ask for directions. You see, Trusting in the Lord calls us to Humility and an admittance that His way is better than our own. We often spend much time “thinking” but not much time “praying”. Godly wisdom comes through seeking the Lord in His word and through prayer. James 1:5 reminds us “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him”. As we receive God’s guidance through seeking Him in His word and prayer we begin to obey the last command, “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths”. As we acknowledge the Lord in all our ways He begins to show us what is most important, what our priorities should be and how He can be most glorified in our life through daily Trusting Him. So today, if you are lost or maybe you just can’t find your way, trust in the one who is able to give you direction. Trust in the one who is able to stand firm when you lean on Him. Trust in the one who is able to make your paths straight.
If you grew up attending church, then there was a pretty good chance you grew up quoting the Apostle’s Creed. This early summary of Christian belief is utilized in many churches both of Catholic and Protestant variety as part of worship and instruction. However, I grew up Baptist and we tend to reject much of liturgical worship for no other reason but that it is liturgical. So consequently, I never became familiar with this statement until I listened to Rich Mullin’s song “Creed” when I was in college. I instantly loved the song and learned to belt out the lyrics (for good or ill), not knowing the history of what I was singing.
The origin of one of the earliest creedal statements of our Christian faith dates back to the last half of the 2nd century in what is called the “Old Roman Version.” It used to be believed that the articles were written by the twelve apostles, but there is no compelling evidence for that. However, this would have been early enough for 3rd generation believers (the believers instructed by those who were taught by the apostles) to witness and give judgment over the statement. The statement was used as part of the confession of faith for those to be baptized as well as a tool for instruction in belief. By the sixth and seventh century, the creed had become part of a tool used in worship in both individual and corporate settings. As you read below, know that “catholic” back then refers to the “universal and orthodox” church and preceded what we know as the denomination of Roman Catholic church. As well, being in hell could have been understood as “death” and certainly separation from God, which does describe Jesus as he became our sin.
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
It’s a strange way to entice potential readers, but I wish I could bore you with some of the amazing scientific information that I have heard recently about our universe and God’s incomprehensible power and intelligence.
But doing that would mean primarily that I would be listing out incredibly huge numbers with dozens of zeroes, trying to explain how big something is, or how far something is. Or, there would be a decimal and a bunch of zeroes in the opposite direction, relating how tiny something is, or how intricate something is. Fortunately, at least for you, I did not write down nor can recall even a small portion of the litany of facts expressing God’s hand of design in the making of this vast expanse. But having the details escape my recollection does not mean the reality of their truth has lost its impact on me. Hearing how one scientific discovery after another further support God’s creation story in Genesis, debunking and discrediting the myth that is evolution, leaves a lasting and powerful impression.
What else could be the effect of repeatedly hearing of the unbounding wisdom and might of the Creator, coupled with His focus on redeeming the capstone of His creation to have a relationship with him? To think that there are thousands of galaxies like this one, and that one day, and forever, I’ll be able to sit at the feet of the One who made it all, is staggering. Or to consider that there are trillions of these little cells that make up my body, and that each cell contains a strand of DNA that contains the program for life, almost paralyzes me in awe.
But I said I would not bore you with science, and I shall stick to that commitment. But please hear this, that as I grow and learn and continue to mature, I am doing so only to the extent that I am realizing how much more awesome and astounding God is. My development does not produce in me the urge to stand up and be noticed, or to voice my opinion as worthy of note. On the contrary, I am overwhelmed by my insignificance and inabilities. It is in this juxtaposition of God’s prodigious enormity and my infinitesimal minuteness that I am compelled further to worship Him rather than question Him. I see a little more clearly the absurdity of trying to answer God’s questions to Job concerning creation and His counsel.
I don’t understand most of science, and much of life to be honest. But I am comforted in this rather than confounded, and I am moved more to devotion than ever before. “Have you ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east?” (Job 38:12) Then join me in worshipping the One who does so each day.
What are the reasons you are obedient to the laws and commands that are given to you by God? Of course, that question contains a major and incredible assumption that you obey God’s laws and commands. Sometimes you and I obey and sometimes we just don’t. My heart has manufactured multiple reasons for obedience that deviate from the gospel and actually become self-destructive. For example, I might obey out of ensuring a good fortune. As if I can manipulate God to create a positive environment for my personal desires to flourish. Somewhat akin to the animistic thought that by doing the right dance I can produce rain for my crops. This may be instinctive to my desire to control, but not gospel thinking.
Another example is obedience out of fear. This sounds good, for the Bible talks about fearing the Lord, but this misses the mark. It’s the thought that I better obey and pray or read the Bible or else God will give me a miserable day, job, or year. This tends to make obedience no more than a lucky rabbit foot, or religious icon. If we don’t obey than the angry God is just waiting to strike us down. From what I have read from the Bible, God had just cause to strike us down a long time ago before our latest disobedient act and any future submissive act will not compensate for my past disregard of God.
Lastly for our consideration is the blind obedience. You know the “just do what you are told because God said it.” We get this because we were told as children to obey for no other reason except Mommy/Daddy said to obey. This is close to Christian obedience but lacks an important component of gospel generated obedience. After all, which one of us claim to know the mind of God and fathom why He has commanded us to obey in such manner. Yet, when the focus is just God’s authority and sovereignty then the life is not different than Islam, which means “submit.” The Christian perspective is not the same as Islam, Mormonism, or animism, or paganism, or any other “ism”. The differences in what is revealed about the nature of God has an appropriate reflection in the obedience.
The Christian perspective is not the same as Islam, Mormonism, or animism, or paganism, or any other “ism”. The differences in what is revealed about the nature of God has an appropriate reflection in the obedience. Unique to the Christian gospel is a God who actually seeks us to know His love, His person, and enjoys this love in a reciprocating manner. This changes obedience in that the main motive is to know God and to put ourselves in a place where we can enjoy His person more.
In John 15 Jesus explained 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.15 No longer do I call you servants,[a] for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
Consider how Jesus responded to Satan’s temptations to Jesus, when he was focusing on obedience. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” “You shall not put the Lord thy God to the test,” and “You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.” With every response, Jesus was focused on seeking the right relationship with His father and it was the motive of his obedience. The more I read scripture and think about my life, the more I am settled on this one idea, My life motive is to seek my God in everything I do and endure, for He seeks me in all He has done for His Glory. To obey with this motive makes obedience distinctly “Christian.”
As a bit of history… the origins of Mother’s Day dates back to 1908. Anna Jarvis, 2yrs after losing her well-known mother and wishing to honor her, held a ceremony in Grafton, WV. The positive response from others caused Anna to begin a national campaign to honor all moms. Sadly, the holiday became so commercialized that by 1923, Ms. Jarvis filed a lawsuit to stop Mother’s Day celebrations, regretting she had ever brought up the idea. Mother’s Day remains the third top card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas and Valentine’s Day.
The typical Mother’s Day scripture reference comes from Proverbs 31:10-31
“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”
Like the Sermon on the Mount, this is an impossible standard to achieve, and for many moms on Mother’s Day, it can create more pressure for perfection than a sense of accomplishment and honor.
So, let’s take a step back to:
- Genesis 3:20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.
So many humanists try to expand this verse out of context to refer to the importance of ‘mother earth’. However, within its context, Scripture is speaking to moms and their children. Though childbearing was to be painful, it is the basis for all those who have, and will, worship our Lord and Savior for eternity.
How important does God see motherhood?
- Psalms 127:3a Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD
- Proverbs 17:6a Grandchildren are the crown of the aged.
- Mark 10:14b “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.
But with importance, comes responsibility.
- Proverbs 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.
This verse from Proverbs does not negate the role of dads within the household. But, it does express the significance of a mother’s love and nurture in the life of her children.
- Erma Bombeck was quoted as saying, “It is not until you become a mother that your judgment slowly turns to compassion and understanding.”
- Abraham Lincoln once said, “I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.
- Billy Sunday, the famous evangelist offered, “There is nothing in the world of art like the songs mother used to sing.”
- With questionable theology, even Milton Berle weighed in on the importance of moms by saying, “If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands?” Also, the well-know-writer Rudyard Kipling stated, “God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers.”
Did you know there was a book of the Bible which many (including John MacArthur) believe was written directly to women, about their children?
- 2 John 1:1,4 The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth… I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father.
The theme of the book is based on the important dependency between Love, Truth and God. In order to love God we need to love and follow His truths as found in his Word. One of the most important truths that is often neglected in our crazy lives is that we need to be in continuous prayer for our children, and grandchildren.
On Mother’s Day, as moms (and dads) think about the blessings of their children, prayer and petition need to be at the center of that blessing.
- Colossians 4:2 “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”
- Luke 18:1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.
What to Pray – children and grandchildren from Family Life Publications…
- They will know Christ as Savior early in life and desire a close relationship with You throughout their childhood, teen, and adult years (Mark 10:13-16; Luke 2:52; 2 Timothy 3:15).
- They will develop the discipline of prayer and the study of Your Word (Joshua 1:8; Daniel 6:10; Matthew 4:4; Philippians 4:6-7).
- You will bring into their lives godly adults and friends who will help them grow in godly living (Psalm 1:1-3; Philippians 1:27; Proverbs 27:17; I Corinthians 4:15).
- You will keep them pure and strengthen them against temptation (Job 17:9; Psalm 24:3-4; I Corinthians 6:18-20).
- They would develop discernment, wisdom, responsibility, and a strong conscience (I Kings 3:11-12; I Timothy 1:5; Daniel 6:3).
- They will be caught if they wander into cheating, lies or mischief (Psalm 119:71; Proverbs 20:30).
- They will see other people as You do, treating them with love and kindness (Matthew 25:35-40; Romans 12:10; Philippians 2:1-4).
- You will protect them from emotional, physical and spiritual danger (Psalm 28:7-9; Psalm 41; John 17:15; 2 Thessalonians 3:3).
- You will prepare them to be a godly, loving and faithful spouse or prepare them to glorify You in their singleness (I Corinthians 7:7-8); and that You also prepare their future spouse (2 Corinthians 6:14-15; Ephesians 5:21-33).
- They would leave home with an eternal perspective and Christ-like values (Matthew 28:18-20; Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:21).
- They will sense Your calling on their lives and their lives will count for Your kingdom (Psalm 78:1-8; 103:12-18; 2 Timothy 1:9).
The blessings of Mother’s Day stem from a celebration of children and grandchildren. It is important to keep God and prayer in the center of that celebration.
What is the stuff that fills your fantasies? How often are we living in fantasies? What are the common denominators when we find ourselves fantasizing? The answers to these questions may reveal more about us than we care to admit. Such answers provide a roadmap of desires and not just any desires. These objects of desire serve to relieve us from the doldrums of our everyday life. In a fashion, they rescue us from the undesirable situations in which we find ourselves.
All these questions and thoughts hit me as I was reading and praying this morning in the Bible.
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
According to this text, we are to focus our mind on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellence, and praiseworthy. All of these are descriptors of Jesus Christ who is worthy of being the object of our desires. I like how the Message translation states the verse as, “filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Thoughts matter and direct our desires, which in turn directs our attitudes and living. We can’t pretend that our daydreams are irrelevant to our living. What we direct our thinking upon will yield a return with interest in our lives. How does the stuff of our fantasies relate to Christ? Does it flow from Him and to Him? Or is opposed to Christ?
Why don’t we ever hear about Post-Easter depression like we do with Christmas? I have to admit I may be one of those rare few to be sad when the calendar rolls past Easter. Maybe it’s a pastor thing, but I console myself by reading about the 40 days of post-resurrection experiences Jesus had with his disciples. Today I was reading about Mary Magdalene’s deep sadness as she sought the body of Jesus in John 20:11-18. The words used are “weeping,” which is not the “pretty crying” but the ugly, red-faced kind of crying. Her sadness was mixed with mourning over Jesus, but also a frustration in trying to give honor to Jesus. Normally, such an act would be commended such as when Jesus praised the women who anointed the feet of Jesus before his death. Yet in this case, her attempt to honor the body of Jesus and all of her mourning was no longer appropriate. She even wanted to “help” Jesus by carrying off the body from wherever it was laid.
All of her “religion” of a dead Jewish teacher was insufficient in light of a risen Savior. Jesus came on the scene and spoke her name in a way she could connect the dots. Interestingly, Jesus asked, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” As if it was absurd to cry at that moment and look for bodies? Yet, if Jesus has risen than her religion no longer matters. The only thing that mattered at that second was her faith to believe that a resurrected Jesus was standing before her. That faith transformed her sorrow into joy. The encounter changed her mournful meander in a garden into a jubilant run to proclaim what she has heard. All of our efforts to “honor” God can become woefully inadequate when we are not focusing on a Jesus that is working in our life and around us. Do our demeanor and attitude reveal to the world that Jesus has risen from the dead?
For further post-resurrection reads look to John 20 -21, Matthew 28, Luke 24, Acts 1-2, 8:54-60, 9:1-19, and 1 Corinthians 15:1-19.
As we began Holy Week yesterday and look forward to Easter Sunday, may we approach each day leading up to this Resurrection Sunday with prayerful consideration of the Amazing Love that was shown by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are reminded in Isaiah 53:5 “But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed.” Not only did He take on our sins willfully and sacrificially, but Jesus alone was the only One capable of taking this burden as He conquered hell and the grave and arose from the tomb on the Third day.
The traditional hymn “Up from the Grave He Arose” comes to my mind as I think about Easter Sunday. “Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Savior, waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord! Up from the grave He arose; with a mighty triumph o’er his foes; He arose a victor from the dark domain, and He lives forever, with His saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose! We indeed serve a risen Savior who is mighty and triumphant!
For this Holy week, I’d like to share with you some devotional scripture readings and excerpts that are taken from John Pipers devotional book titled “Love to the Uttermost”. The challenge for us is to read each day prayerfully and allow the Lord to speak to our heart as we consider how He Loves us to the Uttermost:
Palm Sunday (Luke 12:32) “God’s joy, His desire, His want and wish and hope and pleasure and gladness and delight, is to give the kingdom to His flock.”
Monday (Luke 9:51-56) “Jesus, who was the very embodiment of His Father’s love for sinners, saw that the time had come and set His face to fulfill His mission: to die in Jerusalem for our sake.”
Tuesday (Romans 5:6-8) “The ultimate freedom is joy. He rejoiced to do His redeeming work for us.”
Wednesday (John 13:19) “Jesus took up the principle of John 13:19 and foretold numerous details of what was going to happen to Him so that we might believe when they happened.”
Maundy Thursday (John 13:34) “Let us see the greatest love in action on Maundy Thursday and tomorrow on Good Friday. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. He loved us to the uttermost.”
Good Friday (Hebrews 7:25) “He magnifies His mercy by giving us free access through His Son, in spite of our sin, to the one Reality that can satisfy us completely and forever, namely, himself.”
Saturday (Luke 22:63-65) “I felt that if the rage of God would spill over onto those soldiers and sweep me away, too, justice would have been done. I wasn’t there, but their sin was my sin…..I do not deserve to escape, for I know my own heart. But I trust Christ, and so I know the judgement will be turned to joy.”
Easter Sunday (John 10:17-18) “I am alive to show you that I really loved you. I freely loved you. Nobody forced me to it. And I am now alive to spend eternity loving you with omnipotent resurrection love forever and ever.”
A full copy of this free devotional eBook “Love to the Uttermost” can be downloaded by following this link at DesiringGod.org.