Category Archives: worship

If We Could Only Comprehend!

This morning, as I preach from the third chapter of Ephesians, my prayer for you (and myself) will be the same as what the apostle Paul prayed…

I pray that he may grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:16-19 CSB

Oh, that we might comprehend the the width, the length, the height, and the depth of God’s love through Jesus Christ! If we could only even slightly comprehend the vast, expansive spread before us, mercy and grace for every need; the never-ending, eternal, infinite promise of his love and care; the heights to which we are raised, far above the lowly, humble truth of our natural condition and state; and the the depths of Christ’s love – humble depths to which the love of God had to reach down in order to pluck us from the pit of sin… If we could only even slightly comprehend them!

Yet, through His strength (v. 16), and being rooted and grounded in His love (v. 17), it is possible! Hallelujah! Because He “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according the power that works in us! (v. 20 NKJV)

This morning, and every morning, to God the Father be all glory in the church by Christ Jesus, to all generations, wherever they may be, forever and ever, “world without end” (v. 20).

And all the people said… “AMEN!!” 

 

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Filed under Bible Study, Christianity, Church, Faith, God, Love of God, Preaching, worship

“First” Conviction

Since I first – no pun intended – heard the song “First” by Lauren Daigle, I can’t open my eyes in the morning without the lyrics popping into my head.

Before I bring my need
I will bring my heart
Before I lift my cares
I will lift my arms
I wanna know You
I wanna find You
In every season
In every moment
Before I bring my need
I will bring my heart
And seek You

(chorus)
First
I want to seek You
I want to seek You
First
I want to keep You
I want to keep You
First
More than anything I want, I want You
First

Believe it or not, these very lyrics convict me like crazy. They have affected me so much I’ve even re-ordered the order of service on Sunday mornings at the church where I pastor. And speaking of pastoring, or preaching, read the words to the second verse…

Before I speak a word
Let me hear Your voice
And in the midst of pain
Let me feel Your joy
I wanna know You
I wanna find You
In every season
In every moment
Before I speak a word
I will bring my heart
And seek You

I wake up each morning, no joke, hearing Lauren Daigle’s powerful, Spirit-empowered voice exploding out the first word of the chorus… “First!”

This morning was no different, and that is why I am sharing this with you. Are you putting God first in your life? Are you putting Him first every day, every moment, before your own desires or needs? Are we not commanded by Him to “Seek ye first…?”

I don’t want to wake up each morning with guilt, but so often the first things on my mind are  coffee, checking my messages, going to the bathroom, letting the dog out, or hitting the snooze button one more time. I need to work a little more – as in working out my salvation – on growing my love for and dependence on the One who should take priority in every area of life.

It might be easier on a Sunday morning, but what about Monday? What about the next holiday morning? What about when you’re running late, or want to sleep in?

We talk about putting “first things first” all the time, but will you strive along with me to put the Lord first, before everything?

He is worthy. 

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Imperfect Me

Are any of you perfect? You might think you are, but I’d bet you’re not. I know I’m not. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty messed up.

Just today I was reminded how flawed I am. I’ve screwed up so much it ain’t even funny.

For one, I got into a heated argument with my wife which led me to say things in anger, things I wish I’d not said. Two, it was made obvious that I’ve made some poor decisions in parenting, some of which will haunt me till the day I die. Third, I’ve made some bad decisions in my past, and tonight I wish I could roll back time (cue the Cher music).

On top of all the above, I’m facing issues for which I have no good answers, and I’m not even sure there are any. Do you know how helpless that can make one feel?

Wednesday night I shared an impromptu sermon based on something I had written earlier in the day, and today I was reminded of it. I had been to the church parsonage and seen the work being done, took a picture, and wrote the following.

This a blessing to behold, and further confirmation that God is not only doing something now, but will be doing something more in the future to bring glory to the wonderful name of Jesus.

And to be honest, I’m as clueless as anyone to what plans the Lord has for this little old church, but plans He has. We are just going to be faithful, prayerful, worshipful, and hopeful (not with an earthly hope, but one that rests in His promises that never fail)!”

Faithful. Just keep doing what’s right, even when it’s hard. Don’t be like the one who gets inpatient and steps out in his own strength to accomplish what is not in God’s timing. The results of faithless action never produce a positive outcome. See Proverbs 28:20.

Prayerful. If Dory had been a Christian fish, she might have said, “Just keep praying, praying, praying.” Pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17).

Worshipful. God deserves our worship. But not only that, some of the Israelite’s greatests battles were won when, instead of swords and spears, the first line of offence – their Spec Ops Choir – carried trumpets and lyrics into combat.

Hopeful. Why be worshipful? Why praise? Because we have a hope that is different from the world’s kind, the kind that is more like wishful thinking – like, “Now that I’ve picked the numbers, I HOPE I win the lottery.” No, we can be hopeful in fact, because God’s promises, when made, are as good as done – actually, they’re already done – in Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20)!

I’m not perfect. I’m not a source of unfailing wisdom. I’m not the best husband, father, preacher, pastor, or anything. I have no clue how God is going to get glory from what He has planned to accomplish in my life, but I’ve read the first chapter of Ephesians, and one promise is that I’m going to bring him glory and praise (v. 12). It’s as good as done!

And, even though I feel pretty weak and helpless, He wants me to understand that what’s going to be accomplished will not be determined by my own ability, but His “exceeding greatness and power” which raised Jesus from the dead (Ephesians 1:18-20)!

So, even though I’m not perfect (which is an understatement), my faith is in One who is, and He keeps his promises (Prov. 22:6; Isaiah 55:11; Matt. 16:18).

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Depression, Life Lessons, Parenting, Relationships and Family, self-worth, worship

Tongues and the Church Today


A Guest Post by: David Fuller (Non-Cessationist)

 

The gift of tongues in Acts is always associated with the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The promise of the Father, baptism with the Holy Spirit, filled with the Spirit, and references to the Holy Ghost being poured out or falling upon believers are terms used interchangeably in Scripture with one exception which R. A. Torrey notes: Baptized with the Holy Spirit, is nowhere used in the Bible of any experience but the first and suggests an initial or initiatory experience.(65) He suggests we therefore use this term only to describe the initial filling of the believer with the Holy Spirit.

This point is generally agreed upon even by those who reject tongues, since the New Testament clearly and repeatedly admonishes believers to be filled with the Spirit. The points of contention are whether the initial filling necessarily happens to every Christian at the moment of regeneration, and whether or not tongues should still be expected as a necessary sign of it. This debate necessarily narrows down to the purpose of speaking in tongues. Given Luke’s relatively cursory mention of this gift, one could ask what his purpose is in mentioning it at all?

Luke’s purpose in writing, as stated by himself in Luke 1:1-4, was to set down an orderly account of those prophesies concerning the Messiah and His church which had been fulfilled before their very eyes, in order to strengthen the faith of Theophilus. In Acts, he shows how the church fulfilled not only O.T. prophecy, but Christ’s commission as well. Since Jesus Himself, in referring to the enduement with power as the promise of the Father, as well as Peter in Acts 2 and Paul in 1 Cor. 14:21, each indicate that the gift of tongues is a fulfillment of O.T. prophecy concerning the church and the last days, Luke includes it in his account; documenting its part in the fulfillment of Christs commission as well. Thus, the fulfillment of prophecy and of Christs commission are the only two purposes for tongues with which Luke is concerned, since this is the focus of his writing. An extensive treatment of the purpose of tongues in collective worship or the spiritual life of the average believer of that day would be a departure from his point.

Also, since he is writing for Theophilus, not for us, he naturally would have excluded extensive information about subjects with which Theophilus would undoubtedly have been all-to-familiar, such as the structure and events of a typical early-church worship service.

We know from Paul’s testimony in 1 Cor. that apparently quite a number of the believers in Corinth spoke with tongues, as did Paul himself. That the Ephesian believers spoke with tongues is indicated by his admonition that they should pray in the Spirit (Eph. 6:18 cf. 1 Cor. 14:15). The fact that Luke mentions only three major instances of tongues, and relates them to the spread of the gospel to the major people groups, while neglecting their mention in ch.8 and the many other salvation accounts, does not mean they did not occur in these instances. Luke may have just been avoiding redundancy (especially in light of that days paper costs) and sticking to his purpose, which was to chronicle the fulfillment of prophecy and Christs commission.

Luke also chooses not to teach us of the Eucharist in Acts, so we base our understanding of it on Christs command and Paul’s teaching on the meaning of and procedure for observing it, given to the Corinthians because of their abuse of this ritual. Likewise, we must look elsewhere for detailed treatment of the gift of tongues; and we find it from the same sources. In Mark 16:17, Jesus states that tongues are a sign that will be manifested in those who believe. Luke leaves us wishing for the testimony of one who was there as to what part, if any, tongues played in the individuals spiritual life and collective worship at that time. Paul gives us exactly this, and again his most detailed treatment is directed toward those who were abusing it. Thank God for the Corinthians! Is it not comforting to see how God can use even our shortcomings to the benefit of His church?

What does Paul tell the Corinthians (and us) about the correct purpose and use of the gift of tongues? Citing Isaiah 28:11, he says that tongues function as a sign. Just as the strange tongue of the Assyrians was to be a sign to Ephraim of Gods judgment, so the gift of tongues in the N.T. served as a sign to the Jews of Gods involvement in those events as well. There is, however, a further purpose for tongues. Paul says the gift, when properly used, is intended to edify the individual and, when interpreted, the church body.

But how is this accomplished? What is the point, after all, of speaking a language even you yourself cannot understand? Paul answers this question in 1 Cor. 14:2, For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God. In verse 14, he states, For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth (emphasis mine) and continues in verse 15 with, I will pray with the spirit and, I will sing with the spirit. In verses 16 and 17 Paul indicates that tongues are used to bless and give thanks to God. Instead of being in the form of a message directed toward the church, which is always the case with prophecy, it is intended to be a form of worship and prayer. This worship and prayer interpreted generates participation on the part of other members of the body, and thus it becomes a means of edification equal to prophecy, In prophecy the edification springs from the Spirit-quickened Word, while in tongues and interpretation the edification springs from Spirit-quickened worship and prayer.(Brandt, 55).

The speakers in tongues in Acts 2:11 were proclaiming the wonderful works of God. In the house of Cornelius, they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.(Acts 10:46). In Acts 19:6, who were the speakers in tongues addressing? Paul, who witnessed the event, tells us that he that speaks in an unknown tongue speaks not unto men, but unto God. Furthermore, he encourages the Ephesians to pray in the Spirit(6:18), and Jude likewise tells us to build ourselves up in our faith by praying in the Holy Spirit.

According , then, to both the record of Luke and Paul’s teaching, the gift of tongues serves two primary functions. It is a sign to the unbeliever of Divine presence and activity, and a means of building up the believer and the church through Spirit-inspired prayer and worship.

Although some contend that the gift of tongues was meant only for the early church, Scripture nowhere states that this is so. In fact, there are two quite strong statements to the contrary: Paul’s command in 1 Cor. 14:39 to forbid not to speak in tongues, and Peters statement in Acts 2:39, For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call (emphasis mine). Taken together with Christs statement in Mark 16:17, as well as the various admonitions to pray in the spirit throughout the N.T. , I see no scriptural reason for believing the gift tongues is not meant for believers throughout this church age.

Works Cited

Brandt, R.L. Tongues, the Greatest Gift?; Bridge Publishing, c.1981

Torrey, R.A. Baptism With The Holy Spirit; Revell, c.1897

Link to R. A. Torrey

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Filed under Christianity, Church, Guest Posts, Prayer, worship

Walking or Riding?

A Familiar Story

If you are familiar with the Bible, you probably remember the story of Jesus walking on the water. And if you remember that, you may also recall that the apostle Peter was the one who walked on the water with Jesus – until he began to look around.

But if you don’t remember the story, here it is as found in the NIV version of Matthew 14:25-33.

During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified.

“It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Familiar Pictures

Now that you are familiar with the story, have you ever seen paintings or illustrations depicting this passage of Scripture? Of all the ones I have ever seen, Jesus is usually portrayed as a calm, sad-looking, and often effeminate water-stroller. Peter is always some scruffy-looking, heavy-as-stone fraidy-cat.

Then what about those waves? In all the depictions of this story, how high are the waves? Usually they are no more than just a few inches high around the Lord and his bobbing disciple, Peter.

Well, I am here to challenge the common perception based on these fallacious (that means stupidly wrong) paintings.

The Waves

I am not a seafaring man like my friend David Welford, but I would bet even he would say that 6-8 inch waves would have been NO problem for some experienced fishermen. What ever frightened Peter, once he looked around, had to have been more than a ripple on the surface.

Consider how the Bible described what was happening to the boat in Matthew 14:24: “But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.” Do kiddie pool waves toss a boat? No, but real waves do.

In stead of tossed, other translations use words like buffeted, beaten, and battered. The New Living Translation says that “a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves.” It would seem to me that the disciples were facing a life-or-death struggle, not inconvenient weather.

The Wacky Request

People often belittle Peter for his “lack of faith.” They think less of him because he took his eyes off of Jesus and began to sink. But who on this earth that is not currently on anti-psychotic medication would actually ask a UWG (Unidentified Walking Ghost), “If it is you, compel me to do something totally irrational and dangerous, OK?” What kind of crazy question was that?

I believe there is more to this story than we have been told. Why didn’t Peter just ask Jesus to come a little closer? Why not just ask Him to get in the boat and take a load off? What would have caused Peter to think of leaving the boat?

Maybe, just maybe, what Jesus was doing looked like fun.

Wave Riding

The next time you look out over a stormy sea capable of sinking a boat, try to find the smooth spots. The paintings that show the Savior walking delicately over glassy H2o in the middle of a gale are unrealistic.

My guess is that Jesus was doing more than simply walking. He was having fun! He was probably surfing without a board. It is possible that He was going up and down…up and down…up and down…smiling the whole time. That’s when Peter said, “If it is you, Lord, tell me to come out there with you…that looks like fun!”

Seriously, just stop and think about it. Here was a storm that was beating up a boat and wearing out the crew; waves that were anything but small; a boat full of panicking people; and a Man walking on water. Peter must have concluded that if there was going to be any place to be, it was with Jesus, riding the waves.

With Jesus

We can’t help the fact that storms come. But if there is any lesson to be learned from this story it is that the worst possible place to be can be the safest and most peaceful, as long as our eyes are on Jesus and we are walking with Him.

Does it make sense? No. Is it irrational? Maybe. But as long as we have faith in Jesus, we can ride atop the tallest tsunami, admiring the view.

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Giving God’s Way (Not What You Think)

A Guest Post by: J. David Peever


I know the first thing that comes to mind with a title like Giving God’s Way is, “here we go again.” If you have attended church for any length of time you have heard, “giving God’s way” used as code for “we can’t make budget so we need to make people give more.” Take a deep breath, this is not going to be one of those times. This isn’t about money, it’s about the way we follow Christ.

Giving Up

If something is not going to work, giving up is the most likely choice. Consequences are unavoidable and outcome is out of our control and there is no way to accomplish what we want.

Giving In

If something meets with continuous resistance, giving in will eventually happen. Unlike giving up, the consequences are carefully considered and the outcome weighed leading us to conclude that what we want can be achieved because what we want has now become very similar to what the one who resists, wants.

Giving Over

In some things God meets our standard of trustworthiness so we give over these things, especially the ones that are too hard or meet with continual resistance. If our trust becomes stronger we become more confident in God, if we become more confident in God, we will give over more and more of our lives.

Which type of giving does God do?

God does not give up. Jesus’ death is proof of that. God does not give up on saving us even though He knows not everyone will accept salvation.

God does not give in. You can beg, you can plead and you can even try to present a logical argument but God cannot be persuaded to give into the continuous resistance we put up when we think He should see things our way.

God does give over. If we continually refuse His offers of salvation while pleading our case for Him to agree with our human way of living, God will give us over to our evil desires and the consequences of a life separated from Him.

Which type of giving do Christ followers do?

I don’t know about you but I do all three! Maybe you have this Christ following thing down pat but I am still in the not so perfect stage of my faith.

There are times I give up. I just can’t see it working out so I figure God will have to do something.

There are times I give in because my way meets with continuous resistance from God and finally I conclude that what I want can be achieved because what I want has now become very similar to what He wants.

What I really need to do is give over. As I learn to trust God, I learn to give over the things that are too hard or meet with continual resistance long before I give up or give in. This is only the beginning. I want to get to the point where I trust Him and have so much confidence in Him that I am willing to give over every part of my life.

God’s plan – God’s way – God’s timing – God’s chosen resources

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The Day After Father’s Day

Please forgive me if there are any grammatical or spelling errors in this post, but I am talking into my iPhone as I’m walking around in the rain (The seven can handle that kind of stuff, thankfully), waiting while a bus driver trainee is taking his test at the DMV. I had to bring a school bus down for him to test own, so I’m on the clock and writing a post at the same time. What do you think about that?

Anyway, today is the day after Father’s Day, and I wanted to share with you a thought or two that I had as I was standing in the rain.

Yesterday was a wonderful day, and I enjoyed preaching a great message that was very convicting for all men present, including myself. And I also enjoyed spending time with my daughters who I love very much. 

One of our daughters lives in Charleston South Carolina, so she’s not able to be here. But the other two were in church with me yesterday, and then later for a lunch which a church member graciously provided the money for. 

Last night we ate dinner at home, late, and that is when my two younger girls gave me the presents that they purchased (with their own money!). I have included a picture below.


My youngest daughter, Haley, procured for me the complete box sets of the first two seasons of the television program called “The Unit.” And by the way, that was a fantastic series of which I think they should have never canceled.

The other daughter, Katie, brought back something very unique from Norway. She found a wallet made from the skin of the Nordic moose! I don’t know how much she paid for it, but I know it had to cost more than something I would’ve gotten at Walmart.

After both presents had been opened, Haley asked a question which was very difficult, if not impossible to answer. She asked, “Which one is your favorite?” Now, I don’t know if she was being facetious, or if she was being serious, but my wife quickly answered for me: “That’s like asking which one of you he loves the most; he loves you the same, just differently.” 

This morning as I was thinking about the gifts my daughters got me, and the question Haley asked, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Cain and Abel. I couldn’t help but think of Sunday morning and our worship. I couldn’t help but think of how so often we wonder if God loves us more or less than someone else, simply because of what we have to offer. I thought about what it must be like to be God the Father – our Abba – after a Sunday has passed. 

One of those gifts cost a lot of money (relatively speaking), while the others probably cost a lot less. However, based on the means of each daughter, both were a sacrifice. In the same way, when we go to church to worship God, the gifts and offerings we bring may cost one person a lot more than it cost another. But who are we to judge whether or not those gifts that were given were sacrificial? We don’t know the heart of the child, nor do we know the heart of the Father. All we can surely know is that if the gifts were given out of love, then they are of equal value. More so, if the Father truly loves his children, which He does, there’s nothing that can compare to those gifts given by the children who love Him.

So, in conclusion, this is not only the day after Father’s Day, this is the day after Sunday. What gifts of love did you give your Father in heaven yesterday? I have no doubt they are giving him a smile today.

Happy day after Father’s Day!

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