Can You Relate?

I heard a well-known parent say the other day that one of the joys and fascinations of having kids is that you get to reproduce someone that you can relate to. So, let’s try that on for size:

My oldest is into politics and the investment of funds, big time. And though I want our country to thrive and I’d like to have more money, neither one of these arenas comes close to making my radar.

My next child, also a son, lives and breathes being outside and doing and making things with his hands. He would rather you throw him off the top of my office building than make him sit in front of a computer all day as I do.

My eldest daughter loves to dance, as evidenced by the six or eight dance classes she takes. To say I’m uncomfortable on the dance floor is to say that the surface of the sun is a tad warm.

My next daughter loves competitive cheerleading. To me, it looks like the small girls like her get tossed around like sacks of potatoes and the bigger girls are lifting weights and getting stepped on. Hmm.

My third daughter sings with the voice of an angel. I can perhaps carry a tune, and certainly love to sing along to whatever I’m listening to, but she has a natural gift that seems foreign to my DNA.

And my youngest girl is a fearless gymnast and consummate performer. She prefers to get from here to there via cartwheel, and if she can put on a show or make a video along the way, all the better. I’ve never tumbled, at least not intentionally, and the limelight is no place for me.

Conclusion? My kids are a chip off the ole block, but that block is far more complex than the simpleton that I am. And so, God is greatly to be praised for how He has woven various parts of me and my wife, intensifying some and muting others, to create six children who are intended to relate most and best to their Heavenly Father.

I love each of them so deeply it sometimes hurts within me, and I love trying to figure them out and enjoy them as they become who they will be. But God is who they are most intended to relate to, just as you and I are. He is our life, our salvation, and our purpose. However you are and whatever you are like, your greatest gift is that you are made to relate to your Creator, the Lord God Almighty. And I hope that in that relating, you will let Him shape you and remake you into the redeemed child that you are. I hope that you want to be like Jesus. I hope that that is something you can relate to.

Rich Holt

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Sing! . . . with Heart and Mind, part 4

Selections from Keith and Kristyn Getty’s book Sing! How Worship transforms Your Life, Family, and Church.  People say you are what you eat. Well, songs are food for the soul. What you sing, and don’t sing, changes you.  The lyrics of the songs we sing in our churches and repeat in our hearts find their way into shaping our priorities, our behavior, our loves . . . into the quiet space (or not so quiet, if you have kids) of the car journey on a Monday morning, into the language of our prayers as we fall asleep, into the answers we give “for the hope that we have” (1 Peter 3:15).

  1. Singing takes Sunday’s truths into Monday.  Most of us sing at times in our week or hum a tune that reminds us of its lyrics.  be singing what you sang on Sunday, be singing the gospel.  Christ-filled songs can help motivate us into a day when we would rather stay in bed than get up and face the chore or meeting or project.  They help us remember scripture. They keep uprooting weeds of worry and fear that tangle our feet and trip us up.
  2. Singing sustains you in every season of life.  If we are to be prepared to live for Christ in the whole of life, we need to be singing about the whole of life.  In this question, God has given us a guide in the book of Psalms as a hymnal of songs to God, about God, sung in community with the people of God.  The Psalms give us a vast vision of who God is.  As we read through these Biblical songs see God’s character displayed with different emphasis according to our needs in life.  He is the judge, shepherd, holy God, King of all the earth, the creator, and the defender of the widow and fatherless.  We introduced to His voice, tears, glorious achievements for his people in the past and future.  The Psalms show us how to deal with real life.  In the Psalms, there is the full emotional spectrum of prayers to God moving from laments (Ps. 13:1) to rejoicing (Ps. 16:9-10).  These are songs that know the singer with the heavy heart and doesn’t glibly ignore the realities of life.  We sing, as the Psalms train us, to help us bring all of our lives, failures, successes, losses, gains, dreams, and ambitions into gospel perspective.
  3. Singing reminds you of what God has done in your life. As you remember God’s faithfulness in your past, so often etched in your hearts through a song, you are inspired and equipped to face the ups and downs of the week.
  4. Singing keeps your mind on eternity.   We need to sing those songs now that we want to grow old with – songs that will lift our hearts and sights to eternity and our eternal Lord when earthly life begins to slip from our hands.   We need to sing with others in our churches, that they, too, may look to eternity every day, including their last day.  May we fall asleep with gospel songs on our lips and awake to the sounds of heaven singing.

In light of this post, consider listening to this song, “Jesus my Living Hope” This is the song we have sung the last couple of Sundays.  Now try singing it on a weekday and consider the gospel expressed in song.

Jarrod Scott

Sing Part 3

Selections from chapter 3 of Sing! How Worship Transforms Your life, Family, and Church
by Keith and Kristy Getty

We are a singing people because the gospel of the Lord Jesus compels us to sing.  It’s what we do.

Alistar Begg says you can tell when someone who is on the sidelines of Faith has embraced their faith when you see them with full eyes and fully engaged in the singing.  Saved people are singing people.

God’s love for us inspires our response of love for Him and calls forth songs of joy from our lips.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:14-14.
“For Christ’s Love compels us, because we have concluded this: One has died for all, therefore all have died; And he died for all that those who might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised again.”

Our Motivation to sing comes from so much more than ourselves, our likes, our comfort levels, our musical taste and preferences.  Intrinsically, it’s driven by the one who died and was raised.

I sing because I’m free to run from all that tore me apart and to run to all that makes me whole.  Romans 8:15 says: “The spirit you received does not make you slaves so that you live in fear again: Rather, the spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.  And by him we cry Abba, Father”

If I know this is true of me, in my heart as well as my head…..well, It opens my mouth.

The truth is we praise what we love.

Singing gives voice to a heart that deeply knows the gospel of grace.  It’s the overflow of a heart captivated by the gospel.  In as many voices that join together to sing, there are as many hearts that are called to know Christ as Lord and Savior.  From that place there is a genuine and rich overflow of praise.  This should reassure us, no matter how you are feeling, nor how good or bad a week you’ve had, you can lift your eyes to Jesus with relief, for He has washed you clean, and so you can sing wherever your life is at and whatever you are facing.

We will spend our eternity singing, for the gospel compels us to sing.  And we are a people who, as we reflect on the gospel, cannot help but sing.  We do not sing because we have to, we sing because we love to.

Enjoy your week and go ahead and SING, you have a lot be happy about!

Chris Best

Sing!, pt. 2

Selections from chapter 2 of Sing! How Worship Transforms Your life, Family, and Church by Keith and Kristy Getty

“Christian singing is far more than doing our duty, but it is never less.  We are commanded to, ‘Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints.'” (Ps. 149:1)  There are more than four hundred references to singing in the Bible and at least fifty direct commands.  We are not to disregard the command because we don’t like the music or the personnel or are not in the mood.

We are commanded to sing in “the assembly of the saints.”  Since we are one in the assembly there will be songs you may not have chose and will be willing to lay down your own tastes for the good of the wider assembly.

Colossians 3:16 “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.” So we are to sing about God specifically as revealed in Christ and in His work upon the cross.  This passage also instructs us to sing with thankfulness and with heart.  This scripture is not instructing just mere lip service of song. Does our singing reveal what is truly important to us?

Have you considered that we have a singing savior in Jesus Christ?  Matthew 26 informs us that on the night he was betrayed and before He died for us he was singing with his friends.  Can you imagine his song as he knowingly was approaching his darkest hour?

Sing!

Did you know that people have died because they sang congregationally in praise of the Lord?  One in a list of accusations against Bohemian Jan Huss was martyred for speaking the “heresy of congregational singing.”  In fact, part of Martin Luther’s reformation was bringing congregational singing with his hymns.  If a town heard a congregation singing, then they knew that people had departed the Catholic church and were under the influence of Protestantism.

“Melodies matter. Words matter. Our songs always say something. We have been created to use language. to reflect and meditate on His words, to remember over and over again His voice.  Singing together organizes notes and words in beautiful ways to shine God’s dazzling truths into the relativistic grays of our culture”.
(pg. 8-9)

“As we sing to God and about God together with the people of God, we reflect the truth that we were designed for community, both with God and with each other”.

When we sing as God’s people, it brings us into line with the whole of the rest of creation:

 

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
    break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
    with the lyre and the sound of melody!
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
    make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who dwell in it!
Let the rivers clap their hands;
let the hills sing for joy together
before the Lord, for he comes
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity. Psalm 98

“God is the ultimate musician. His music transforms your life.  The notes of redemption rearrange your heart and restore your life.  His songs of forgiveness, grace, reconciliation, truth, hope, sovereignty, and love give you back your humanity and restore your identity”.

Pastor Jarrod Scott

Missionaries – At Home and Abroad

Out of town this past Sunday, Judy and I attended Auke Bay Bible Church for worship.

Two reflections…

First, the service revolved around a missionary couple who had just returned from serving in Venezuela  for the past 20 years. In their mid 40’s the husband felt called by God to retire early from a promising career. They went to a very remote village to support a couple who were spending their lives translating the Bible into the local dialect. Their two kids, in middle school, were put in a boarding school, a 3.5hr flight away. We can second guess their priorities (family vs. foreign missions) but not their commitment to Christian service. Story after story of hardships, dangers and the confirmation of God’s grace, they were a testimony of one couple’s lives devoted to the Lord. Now deep into their 60’s and in poor health, returning “home” with humble spirits and, I suspect, though never said, little in the way of financial reserves. It reminds me, with some trepidation, of the verses in Matthew 6 and Philippians 3 that our treasures and our citizenship are not of this earth, but reside eternally in Heaven.

Second, the worship leader asked for prayer for his step-sister who does not have a personal relationship with Christ. Standing two seats down from me was a guest who I know believes good deeds are the ticket to heaven. Ignoring the Bible, it would seem so logical that if heaven exists, good folks would be the ones going. But His ways are above our ways (Isaiah 55) and we are ALL sinners and fall short of Heaven (Romans 3:23), regardless of how good we may appear.  It also reminded me that week after next I will be spending a couple of days alone with a confessed atheist, working on a project. He is such a nice, kind-hearted guy but, in God’s infinite wisdom, currently destined for an eternity in Hell. My prayer is to have an opportunity to share the Three Circles (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynABoGMoxgc) with him.

Some food for thought.

Blessings,
Jeff Hilles

“Let it be”

I recently was listening to an interview with Paul McCartney as he detailed some of the stories and contexts of songs he has written for the Beatles.  One of his more popular ballads is the song, “Let it be.”  I was intrigued to know that the reference to “mother Mary” was to his actual mother, named Mary, whom he did dream about and her words to him in his turmoil was “let it be.”   I had just assumed he was appealing to the Catholic teaching of praying to the mother Mary, which surely didn’t hinder sales.  McCartney shared how the dream brought comfort to him in a rocky season of his life and consequently the song comforted many in a troubled time of history not only in the late 60’s and early 70’s but also after 9/11.

As I listened to the lyrics again in light of this new information, I couldn’t help but hear the hope for redemption.   This redemption hope was the basis for peace and form the underpinnings for optimism in the midst of darkness and broken hearts.

And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom
Let it be

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom
Let it be

And when the broken-hearted people
Living in the world agree
There will be an answer
Let it be

For though they may be parted there is
Still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer
Let it be

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom
Let it be

And when the night is cloudy
There is still a light that shines on me
Shine until tomorrow
Let it be

Yet the song falls short in explaining our confidence that we can “Let it be.”  The assumption is that there is a wise power who is engaged, sufficiently powerful, and working on our behalf.  Yet we don’t have to live in assumption but in revelation.  Perhaps this next song makes explicit what is implicit.

There is coming a day,
When no heart aches shall come,
No more clouds in the sky,
No more tears to dim the eye,
All is peace forever more,
On that happy golden shore,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

What a day that will be,
When my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand,
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

There’ll be no sorrow there,
No more burdens to bear,
No more sickness, no pain,
No more parting over there;
And forever I will be,
With the One who died for me,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

 

What a day that will be when the broken-hearted people living in the world will see The One who saved them by His grace; When He takes them by the hand, and leads them through the Promised land, What a day, glorious day that will be.

Jarrod Scott

Bigger Than Huge

There are two huge events taking place this summer.  One is the World Cup.  This international soccer championship, which began on June 14 and concludes July 15, takes place every four years and is the most popular sporting event in the world.  I don’t want to bore you with too many statistics, but since 1 billion people watched the previous World Cup final in 2014, apparently there are a few soccer fans on the planet.

The first official World Cup in 1930 was won by Uruguay.  In total, 77 different nations have played in at least one World Cup, but only eight have won it.  Brazil has five titles, while Germany and Italy have four.  In 2014, teams from 207 nations participated in the qualification tournaments, seeking to be one of the 32 teams to play for the championship.  In 1950, when Uruguay beat Brazil for its second title, there were 171,772 people in attendance at the match in Rio de Janeiro, the most ever for a World Cup event.  Some studies have indicated that the World Cup has an increased effect on the number of heart attacks in nations whose teams are competing in the event.  Sadly, death threats and worse have been known to occur when one’s team gets eliminated from the tournament.

The other huge summer event going on is Vacation Bible School.  Driving around town, you would be hard-pressed not to see a banner on church grounds promoting that church’s VBS.  Though not as internationally recognized as soccer, VBS has been a part of our nation’s churches, especially Baptist churches, for over 100 years.  Ms. Walker Hawes, the wife of a doctor specializing in medical ministry to kids, noticed that the children of New York City who visited her husband’s clinic received injuries while playing in the streets of New York.  She determined they needed a safe place to play and occupy their time.  So in 1898, she rented a beer hall in New York’s East Side in which to conduct her Everyday Bible School.  In 1901, the New York City Baptist Mission Society took the lead role in the school, and by 1903 there were 17 different schools being conducted for the kids.

Eventually, in the 1920’s, VBS began to gain popularity in the South.  In 1926, approximately 300 vacation bible schools were conducted in Southern Baptist churches.  By 1950, the number had surpassed 20,000.  In 2009, the enrollment for Southern Baptist Vacation Bible School was around 3 million people.  And approximately 10 percent of those identified themselves as unchurched.

This week is our church’s VBS.  By God’s magnificent grace, we will host many more kids than the total attendance of our church on Sundays.  And just as VBS has always done, ours will reach dozens who do not attend church or follow Jesus.  I have a special memory of VBS from my childhood, and our hope is that these kids will have wonderful memories, too, that will lead them to worship the Savior who loves them so much.  So, thank you to Ms. Hawes, for reaching the kids on the streets of New York right where they were.  And thank you if you’ve served in or prayed for VBS.  The next generation needs King Jesus more than ever.

Rich Holt

Puerto Rico

Jeremiah 33:2-6unnamed “Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the LORD who formed it to establish it, the Lord is His name,  Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know. For thus says the LORD God of Israel concerning the houses of this city, and concerning the houses of the kings of Judah which are broken down . . . Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them, and I will reveal to them an abundance of peace and truth.”

This morning I was reading this verse as part of our F260 Bible reading plan and thinking about my recent Puerto Rico trip.  The picture above is the home that an 89-year-old man put together from the remains of his home destroyed by hurricane Maria eleven months ago.  It is a home that one of the World Changers teams will be rebuilding in the next two weeks. It is just one home of many blue-tarped homes through the island that is lacking power and an adequate shelter.  The island still is struggling with power and numerous schools are closing because thousands are people leaving the territory.  This community feels neglected by the U. S. government to whom the island belongs as a territory.  There is a feeling of isolation and abandonment and impending fear as the hurricane season cranks up again.

These same feelings were being felt by the people of Judah as they were exiles in Babylon.  God gave the above passage to let the people know they were not forgotten or forsaken, but the broken state would be temporary.  Restoration would occur and the end result would be better than the original state, not just despite, but because of the current brokenness.  As Puerto Rico reminded me, we are still in a very broken world, but God still has His promises of redemption.  In fact, until the Lord returns, those with Christ in their lives, are to be vessels of His redemption.  In Puerto Rico, I didn’t see much activity of FEMA but I did see God’s people at work.  What is broken around you? Pray for God to lead us in ways to show and bring restoration.  Don’t be surprised when the path of restoration comes at a sacrifice to you, that is the way of Christ, it is the way of the cross.  Do you feel abandoned and forgotten?  You are not! Wait on the Lord who died and rose again for you.

Jarrod Scott

When God Judges

As I have been reading the F260 material from the Old Testament, it has struck me that much of Scripture speaks of God’s favorable/unfavorable view of Israel, or the Jewish people, as a nation. The lives of individuals such as the prophets and important characters like Ruth, David, Samson, etc. are detailed. However, when God speaks of favor for those who follow and punishment for those who don’t, it is very often outlined in broad terms. In the past I have reflected on the inequity of these broad brush strokes of God, deciding in my own shallow and sin-stained mind that “surely the remnant of faithful followers received better treatment” , or in times of repentance, “those who continued to turn away from God must have been held accountable for their individual actions”.

This morning I was reading the last two chapters of Malachi (the last book in the Old Testament, before 400 years of silence from God). Chapter 3 begins and ends as follows:

“”Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts…….. “Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.”

Generalizations are often full of exceptions, and what I am about to suggest is no different. But it seems to me that part of God’s story for humankind begins with individuals (Adam & Eve), transitions to a chosen people (Israel – OT), and then ends (will end) with a one-on-one judgement (Great White Throne / Bema Seat). Two things in all this stand out to me.

First, what happened to individual Jews in the Old Testament, or what may happen to each of us today, may seem fair or unfair, depending on our faith and trust in God (Prov. 3:5). Cancer or starvation vs. perfect health or fortune would seem to us as very different life experiences. However, what we so easily pass up  is that peace and joy come from a relationship (with Christ), not from physical conditions. The more we (and the Israelites) can (could) accept what God offers recognizing it will ultimately be in our best interest, (Matt. 6:26)  the better we will be.

Second, if the Prosperity Gospel is truly false (which it is) and yet God is the perfect judge (which He is) then this short earthly life is almost exclusively about His will, and not the place where the scales of right and wrong, sin and Christian sacrifice are weighted and apportioned (Rom. 9:14-18). If the saved (redeemed and forgiven) and the lost (sinners in the hands of an angry God) can be rich or poor, sick or healthy in this life, then it should only make eternity more compelling for some and more terrifying for the rest.  Each of us needs to reflect on the question of all questions…. Is our name written in the Lambs Book of Life?

Jeff Hilles