Friday, June 25, 2010

Sing A New Song!

Speaking of worship............isn't it something the power that music has? I remember the first time I heard Christmas Carols after I came to faith in Jesus. I wept. I couldn't believe the richness and beauty of the words. It was like hearing them for the first time. All those truths, set to such beautiful music. How had I missed it before?

Since then, I have gone through many "stages" of what kind of "Christian" music I enjoy. Gospel quartet, hymns, contemporary worship music, classical (such as Bach's St. Matthew's Passion), choruses, I like them all. But music doesn't have to be intentionally "Christian" to move my heart toward Him. A lot of classical music does that, simply in its beauty and complexity. Sitting at a concert by a very talented Spanish guitar player, I made up words (in my head) as I listened to the guitar; they were praise songs to God. The music was so beautiful, that I was inspired by it to do so.

Music is a wonderful element of praise and worship. How blessed we are to have it so available to us every day. I can listen to the radio, pop in a tape or cd, or bring along my MP3 player as I go for a walk, exercise, or do housework. It can lift my spirits when I am discouraged, and focus my heart and mind on the beauty of Christ. Truly it is a gift from Him!

But it's not only sounds made by man made instruments that can be praise to God. Something my granddaughter said once has stayed with me. As we walked along on a sunny morning, I remarked to her how happy the birds sounded. The air was filled with their song. "Maybe they are singing songs to God," she replied. "Yes", I said. "I'm sure they are." And in my heart, I am. They may not have the capacity to know God in the way that we can know Him, but I wonder if God has not somehow placed a "knowing" in them that means their songs can be a response to that instinctive knowledge. And what about the sound of the wind through the trees as you walk along a forest path? Or the sound of waves gently lapping against the rocks along a river's edge? Can't all of these things be understood as nature giving praise to God?

We were created to worship, to worship God. Sin entered, and ruptured our relationship with Him, and our natural desire to worship Him became warped. So we ever will worship other people and things, until that relationship is restored by the blood of the Lamb. And then He gives us a new song, a new desire, and new ways to worship.

"Sing to Him a new song;
Play skillfully with a shout of joy." (Psalm 33:3)

There is so much in the world, and in our everyday lives, that can distract us from the realities of "things above." I love this verse; it can be a remedy to all the noise and chaos that we are often confronted with:

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Col. 3:15)

I hope you are singing in your heart today, knowing the true Word, and letting Who He is inspire you to praise Him. Precious Jesus.

"Then" Is "Now" !!

I've been doing it again. The old "if only" game. "If only" I didn't have to work. "If only" I had more time. THEN I would do all these great and marvelous things. Like write a book, sew up a storm, have a huge garden and make preserves, visit all my friends, spend more time with my grandchildren..............the list goes on.

So, after wallowing around in the "if only" puddle for a while, I move on to the "then" game. OK, so I can't retire just yet. Won't likely be moving to that little house in the country for a few years. But when I retire, "then" I will begin to do those wonderful things. "Then" I will be content. "Then" I will accomplish great things for God. Right now, I can't. Oh really? Right now, I just don't have the time or the energy. Is that so? I will just have to tough it out, grit my teeth and plough through. I will just have to "sacrifice" my time to my job, knowing that it's only when I retire that I can get anything of value accomplished. "Then" it will all happen. Right?

The next stage in the process is this: I start listening to my thoughts, and taking a gander at my attitude, and say to myself, hold it. Wait a minute. Who do you think you are? God has all your days arranged for you. You were placed here for His glory. Don't you think He can squeeze some good, some lasting results out of each day, even when you aren't "living the dream" up in Bancroft? This is the point where I chide myself for ingratitude, and for questioning God's plan for my life. Why do I think that all should go according to my plans? How could I imagine that God is not present in everything, each day, and is at work, even though I can't see it?
I want to have an attitude of gratitude. I want to wake up every day, expecting great things of God, exited about what He might have in store for me. I don't want to waste precious time longing for something that might not even come to pass. I don't know the future. Only He does. My place, and your place, is to wait on Him, and be faithful, in the moment. In the "now", because the "then" might not show up. All we have is now, and He is in it.
Dear Lord, teach me to wait on You, to learn contentment. You have the wisest plan, and I am like an impatient child. Help me to see Your hand in the stuff of everyday, and remember that to you, a thousand years is like a day, and a day is like a thousand years. My times are in Your hand.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Worship Practice?

I have been thinking about worship a lot these days. Having been "away" from "church" for two years, I don't often get the opportunity to be with a large group of people, singing hymns and worship choruses. This past weekend, however, I was at Write Canada, a national conference for Christian Writers. We did have a time of prayer and "worship" each of the two mornings that I was there. It was a beautiful experience, singing those songs of praise with a guitar or piano accompanying.

Have you ever heard this description of a worship cd: "You will be ushered into the presence of God"? I have heard it, and others that claim to be the "most powerful worship music you have ever heard." We call church buildings "houses of worship". If you ask someone how the church service was, they might say "the message was powerful, but the worship wasn't very good." Once or twice a week, many "worship" bands and leaders get together to "practice" worship. Hmmm. Are we missing the point here?

Of course, we will all agree that worship isn't just about singing on a Sunday morning in a building. And I realize that musicians have to get together to practice their musical gifts, and be prepared for when they have to play in public. And yes, some songs or hymns, by their words and music, do help us to focus more intently on God, and affect our emotions so that we seem to "feel" His presence more. But oh, that can't be all there is to worshipping God!

Brother Lawrence was a monk in the 1600's who wrote a book titled "Practice of the Presence of God." In it he gives instructions and examples of how to have a continual realization and experience of God's presence. He knew that we are always in God's presence, and God is present in His children. He is so right in that. We don't have to conjure God's presence up. If He chooses to manifest His presence to us, then we are doubly blessed. But we have the opportunity, every moment of every day, to be intentionally mindful of God's presence. He is a whisper, a thought, a word away. He knows our every thought, and communicating with Him can be so natural, so real, when we simply believe that He is listening.

We don't have to wait for a Sunday service, we don't have to get the latest and greatest worship cd. Just sit quietly with your Bible open to the Psalms, or any one of hundreds of scriptures that can cause your heart to fill with adoration for our awesome God and Savior. Or when you are laying in bed at night, consider the many ways He has blessed and protected you that day. How He has caused the earth to keep turning for yet another day, breathed life into countless new babies, human and animal, and supported the whole universe, while billions of people were unaware.

We cheat ourselves, and we cheat God, if we limit our times of worship to those regularly scheduled events. Take some time today to be mindful of His presence, and find new ways to offer up a sacrifice of praise to Him.

"My heart is steadfast, O God;
I will sing, I will sing praises, even with my soul.
Awake, harp and lyre;
I will awaken the dawn!
I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the peoples,
And I will sing praises to You among the nations.
For Your lovingkindness is great above the heavens,
And Your truth reaches to the skies.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens,
And Your glory above all the earth."
Psalm 108:1-5

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Scraps of Life

I love to sew. I started when I was thirteen, and made all kinds of clothes. I made my wedding dress, and maternity clothes when I was expecting. When my kids were growing up, I sewed for them. Little rompers and jumpers, then shorts and Halloween costumes. I don't have much time to sew now, but just looking at this picture makes me want to get out my patterns and fabric.

Whenever I do have a sewing project, I keep the scraps that are left after cutting out the pattern. I always hate to throw them out. You never know when they will come in handy to make a little apron, or a rag doll, or that "someday" quilt I will make when I retire. I have heard of people making "memory quilts", where they use scraps from different items of clothing that they have worn or a loved one has owned. It's a lovely idea, isn't it?

For years I bought fabric at a store in my city called "The Uptown Silk Shop". It's gone now. I really miss it. Their third floor was filled with "remnants", those pieces of fabric that were too small to leave on a bolt. A couple of times a year they would mark them down to 75% off. Boy, did I have a good time then! I still have stacks of fabric from years ago. Of course I won't get rid of it. You never know when it will come in handy.

I love to knit as well. So naturally, I have bits and balls of leftover yarn. All colors, all weights. I would hate to throw something out that could be turned into a pair of mittens or a scarf. It would be such a waste.

There is just something about taking leftover scraps, even from the refrigerator, and creating something beautiful and useful. Bits and pieces that might otherwise end up in the garbage can become something to keep you warm, or dress you up, or fill your stomach. I guess I have a frugal streak in me, though I can waste other things, like money and time.

When it comes to our lives, we all have scraps, pieces that we cut out or off, bits that didn't turn out or seem needed at the time. Things that we would rather not keep around, but the memory of them remains. Sad things, shameful things, regrets and mistakes. Some things aren't bad, we just wish we had made a different decision, or gone in another direction. To us, these scraps are wasted. But in God's economy, they never are. I think of Him keeping a neat little "scrap pile" for each of us. He takes those odds and ends of our lives and turns them into things we would never have imagined. He sews and knits them together and back into our lives, creating that perfect tapestry that contains the designs of His purposes for us.

So next time you are tempted to despair and discouragement, to regret and remorse, take that bit of your life that looks like a useless scrap, and hand it over to Him. If it is dirty, He will cleanse it with His blood. And He will keep it until He can use it for good. You see, He never wastes a thing.

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good, to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What Would You Do?

I went to the grocery store today. As I pulled into a parking spot, a young man approached my car and knocked on the driver's side window. As I rolled down the window, he began to assure me that he wasn't some nut, he was in some trouble and needed help. I listened as he told me his story. He was from out of town, and had come into the city for a dentist appointment. He showed me his prescription that he had just picked up for antibiotics. His manner was that of desperation. Explaining that he was a single dad with a young daughter, he then told me that his daughter would be at that time getting off the school bus, expecting him to pick her up. He had tried to reach a neighbour to see to his daughter, but was unable to.

His main problem was that he was going to take a cab home, as he had missed his ride, and the cab company insisted on having the fare upfront. He had money at home, but did not have enough on him at the time. As he continued to reassure me that it was all up front, I told him it was ok, I would help him.

His relief was obvious. I believed him. I didn't see any reason not to. He got in the car and we drove to a bank machine, where I took out the money that he needed. He promised to repay the money, and I gave him my name and address so he could mail a cheque. I gave him a card with my name, email and blog address. He was in obvious pain from the dentist visit, and explained that his tooth was infected and he would have to wait until the infection cleared, and then he could have it pulled. I asked if he had anything for pain, but he explained that he was a recovering drug addict and did not take any pain meds, even plain tylenol. As we waited for a red light, I asked him if I could pray for him. He agreed without hesitation.The right side of his face was quite swollen, and I gently placed my hand on it and asked Jesus to please heal him and take away his pain.

I dropped him off where he could catch his taxi, and he again thanked me profusely. Now, I know that many people would think I had taken a terrible risk, but I did not hesitate to help him. His plight was real, and my heart went out to him, a single dad trying to make it after escaping a life of drug addiction. Later I wished that I had driven him home myself.

So Adam, if you read this, please let me know how you made out. I hope your daughter was ok. Leave a comment, or send me an email. I will be praying for you, and it was a pleasure to meet you and give you a helping hand.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Being Joined to Christ

(T.Austin Sparks)

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5).

I have not been the least of those who have striven, and agonised, and strained, and pressed and reached out for all that the Lord would have, all that is possible. It is possible to wear yourself right out, and kill yourself in a spiritual quest, and the Lord at last says to our hearts: "If you only know Me, things will happen; it will all come to pass without any of your strain, struggle and agony. I am going to bear this fruit. I will bear it through you by way of union and fellowship. Remember that the holy, blessed secret of fellowship is just resting in Me, abiding in Me."

If you saw all the branches of the vine every day groaning and agonising, and writhing in order to bear their fruit, you would see something which is altogether unnatural. As a matter of fact you will see nothing of the kind. You will see them abiding there and bearing fruit. It is what we often speak of as the rest of faith. What is behind the rest of faith? It is not bringing yourself to a passive state, when you inwardly sink down and say, I am just going to rest. It is knowing the Lord, God in Christ; for the way in which God has joined Himself to us is in Christ, not apart, and the way in which we have been joined to God is in Christ, not apart. The answer to every need is knowing Him in this way.
From: Knowing God in Christ - Chapter 1

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Be Still..................

"God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God.

The holy dwelling places of the most High.
God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered;
He raised His voice, the earth melted.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold.

Come, behold the works of the LORD,
Who has wrought desolations in the earth.
He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.

'Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.'

The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold."
(Psalm 46)

I love this Psalm. It paints such a powerful picture of God, explaining His works, and His sovereign activity in the earth. He has "wrought desolations", ended wars, and His voice melted the earth.

And this one statement that He makes, telling us to "cease striving" (or "be still" in other versions) is like a reassurance from Him. As though He is saying, "don't worry, I am God Almighty. Be assured of this, there is no other, there is none like Me. I do all these things and more, and every nation in the earth will come to acknowledge Me."

I have to say that the more I learn of Him, both in His word and in personal experience of Him, the more I am feeling like this little girl (my grand daughter) in the picture. She sleeps so sweetly, oblivious to all the activity around her. Not a worry or a care, she trusts me enough and knows me enough to settle on my lap and let sleep overtake her. She knows I am much bigger, older and stronger than she is. She depends on me for all kinds of things, and believes I will give her all the protection and care that she needs. This is not unlike my trust in God.

There is one difference, however. As she grows and matures, my grand daughter will come to realize that I have limitations. She will see me make mistakes, be afraid, and disappoint her. Not so with our Father. The longer we know Him, the more we will see His power and perfections. He is limitless in all His attritubtes, so far above our way of thinking and comprehension. We never have to worry that one day we will realize He has abandoned us, or lied to us, or forgotten a promise.

In my Bible (NASV), in the sidebar is written "let go, relax" as an alternate translation for "cease striving". Be still. Don't worry about anything, just know and trust that I am Who I say I am. I will do all that I have said I will do.

If we are His, we have the greatest refuge, the deepest comfort, the sweetest rest. Though all powerful and all sovereign, He cares for us with the attention of a loving father. I hope you will rest in Him today!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Word of Caution

I have had some interesting interactions here and on another blog regarding the need for solid "doctrine" from the scriptures. My conviction is that we do need it. It seems that for a lot of folks who have left the church system, the importance of the Bible and correct doctrine has slipped down the scale a few notches. In their "release" from the constraints of organized religion, they have embraced a freer, less "dogmatic" understanding of who God is, and how He relates to us. There is a move toward letting subjective experience be the guiding rule in what we believe about Him. Put another way, it is a trend toward letting personal experience and interpretation of that experience define our theology.

One thing that always sets off alarm bells for me is reading or hearing people gush over a certain book, stating that it changed their life, or gave them a brand new revelation of God. Whoa.....what's wrong with the "old" revelation of God? The one that Jesus Christ gave us, through the Scriptures? Yes, I know that "church" has done a number on some folks, in that it has emphasized particular doctrines over others, and in some cases given false information about God. But we are only going from the frying pan into the fire when we turn our back on solid biblical truths and listen instead to the personal opinions and interpretation of men instead. God left us the Bible for a reason. It was written by men who were inspired by the Holy Spirit. It was written by men who had direct contact with Jesus, and men that God chose to pen the revelation of Himself and His Son. The books that are being written now are not God breathed.

It disturbs me to see so many following after authors and teachers, seemingly preferring their "version" of God to what has already been revealed to us. I fear it has the potential to lead many into something that may lose all Scriptural validity.

Here are some examples of what can happen when men begin to veer away from essential truths of Scripture.

Jehovah's Witnesses

Charles Taze Russell (February 16, 1852 – October 31, 1916), or Pastor Russell, was a prominent early 20th century Christian Restorationist minister from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA and founder of what is now known as the Bible Student movement,[1] from which Jehovah's Witnesses and numerous independent Bible Student groups emerged.
Beginning in July, 1879 he began publishing a monthly religious journal Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence. The magazine is now published semi-monthly under the name, The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah's Kingdom. In 1881, he co-founded Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society and in 1884 the corporation was officially registered, with Russell as president. Russell was a prolific writer, producing many articles, books, pamphlets and sermons, totalling 50,000 printed pages, with almost 20 million copies of his books printed and distributed around the world.[2] From 1886 to 1904, he published a six-part series entitled The Millennial Dawn, which later became known as Studies in the Scriptures. (A seventh volume was published in 1917 after Russell's death.)
Russell was a charismatic figure, but claimed no special revelation or vision for his teachings and no special authority on his own behalf.[3] He claimed that he had not sought to found a new denomination, but that he instead intended merely to gather together and teach his Bible Students.[4] He wrote that the "clear unfolding of truth" within his teachings was due to "the simple fact that God's due time has come; and if I did not speak, and no other agent could be found, the very stones would cry out."[5] He viewed himself—and all other Christians anointed with the Holy Spirit—as "God's mouthpiece" and an ambassador of Christ.[5] Later in his career he accepted without protest that many Bible Students viewed him as the "faithful and wise servant" of Matthew 24:45,[6] and was described by the Watch Tower after his death as having been made "ruler of all the Lord's goods".[6]
After Russell's death, a leadership crisis arose surrounding the new president of the Society, Joseph Rutherford, resulting in a schism. As many as three-quarters of the Bible Students who had been associating in 1917 had left by 1931,[7] resulting in the formation of several groups that retained variations on the name Bible Students. Those who maintained fellowship with the Watch Tower Society adopted the name Jehovah's witnesses in July, 1931. Several denominations later formed around, or adopted some style of, Russell's views, among them the Worldwide Church of God, the Concordant Publishing Concern and the Assemblies of Yahweh. Off-shoot groups of the Bible Student movement include the Pastoral Bible Institute, the Free Bible Students and the Layman's Home Missionary Movement.

Some of his teachings:

Following his analytical examination of the Bible, Russell and other Bible Students came to believe that Christian creeds and traditions were harmful errors, believing they had restored Christianity to the purity held in the first century. Such views and conclusions were viewed as heresy by many Church leaders and scholars in his day. Russell agreed with other Protestants on the primacy of the Bible, and justification by faith alone, but thought that errors had been introduced in interpretation. Russell agreed with many 19th century Protestants, including Millerites, in the concept of a Great Apostasy that began in the first century AD. He also agreed with many other contemporary Protestants in belief in the imminent Second Coming of Christ, and Armageddon. Some of the areas in which his Scriptural interpretations differed from those of Catholics, and many Protestants, include the following:

The Chart of the Ages
Hell. He maintained that there was a heavenly resurrection of 144,000 righteous, as well as a "great multitude", but believed that the remainder of mankind slept in death, awaiting an earthly resurrection.
The Trinity. Russell believed in the divinity of Christ, but differed from orthodoxy by teaching Jesus had received that divinity as a gift from the Father, after dying on the cross. He also taught that the Holy Spirit is not a person, but the manifestation of God's power.
Christ's Second Coming. Russell believe that Christ had returned invisibly in 1874, and that he had been ruling from the heavens since that date. He predicted that a period known as the "Gentile Times" would end in 1914, and that Christ would take power of Earth's affairs at that time. He interpreted the outbreak of World War I as the beginning of Armageddon, which he viewed to be both a gradual deterioration of civilized society, and a climactic multi-national attack on a restored Israel accompanied by worldwide anarchy.
From Wikipedia:


Joseph Smith, Jr. (December 23, 1805 – June 27, 1844) was the founder and prophet of the Latter Day Saint movement. In the late 1820s, Smith announced that an angel had given him a book of golden plates engraved with a religious chronicle of ancient American peoples in an unknown language. He also said he had received a pair of seer stones in which he could see the translation, which he published in 1830 as the Book of Mormon. On the basis of this book and other revelations, he founded a church in western New York, claiming it to be a restoration of primitive Christianity.
Moving the church in 1831 to Kirtland, Ohio, Smith attracted hundreds of converts, who came to be called Latter Day Saints. Some of these he sent to establish a holy city of "Zion" in Jackson County, Missouri. In 1833, Missouri settlers expelled the Saints from Zion, and a paramilitary expedition Smith led to recover the land was unsuccessful. Fleeing an arrest warrant in the aftermath of a Kirtland financial crisis, Smith joined the remaining Saints in Far West, Missouri. However, tensions escalated into a violent conflict in 1838 with the old Missouri settlers. Believing the Saints to be in insurrection, the governor ordered their expulsion from Missouri, and Smith was imprisoned on capital charges.
After escaping state custody in 1839, Smith led the Saints to build the city of Nauvoo, Illinois on Mississippi River swampland, where he became mayor and commanded a large militia. In early 1844, he announced his candidacy for President of the United States. That summer, after the Nauvoo Expositor criticized his power and new doctrines, such as plural marriage, Smith and the Nauvoo city council ordered the destruction of the newspaper as a nuisance. In a futile attempt to check public outrage, Smith first declared martial law, then surrendered to the governor of Illinois. He was killed by a mob while awaiting trial in Carthage, Illinois.
Smith's followers believe he was a great prophet who saw God and angels, and they regard his revelations as scripture. His teachings include unique views on the nature of godhood, cosmology, family structures, political organization, and religious collectivism. His legacy includes several religious denominations, which collectively claim a growing membership of nearly 14 million worldwide.[1]
Some of His Teachings:

Smith taught that all existence was material,[310] including a world of "spirit matter" so fine that it was invisible to all but the purest mortal eyes.[311] Matter, in Smith's view, could neither be created nor destroyed;[312] the creation involved only the reorganization of existing matter.[313] Like matter, "intelligence" was co-eternal with God, and human spirits had been drawn from a pre-existent pool of eternal intelligences.[314] Nevertheless, spirits were incapable of experiencing a "fulness of joy" unless joined with corporeal bodies.[315] Embodiment, therefore, was the purpose of earth life.[231] The work and glory of God, the supreme intelligence,[316] was to create worlds across the cosmos where inferior intelligences could be embodied.[317]
Though Smith at first taught that God the Father was a spirit,[318] he eventually viewed God as an advanced and glorified man,[319] embodied within time and space[320] with a throne situated near a star or planet named Kolob, and measuring time at the rate of a thousand years per Kolob day.[321] Both God the Father and Jesus were distinct beings with physical bodies, but the Holy Spirit was a "personage of Spirit."[322] Through the gradual acquisition of knowledge,[323] those who were sealed to their exaltation could eventually become coequal with God.[324] The ability of humans to progress to godhood implied a vast hierarchy of gods.[325] Each of these gods, in turn, would rule a kingdom of inferior intelligences, and so forth in an eternal hierarchy.[326]
The opportunity to achieve godhood extended to all humanity; those who died with no opportunity to accept Latter Day Saint theology could achieve godhood by accepting its benefit in the afterlife through baptism for the dead.[327] Children who died in their innocence were guaranteed to rise at the resurrection and rule as gods without maturing to adulthood.[328] Apart from those who committed the eternal sin, Smith taught that even the wicked and disbelieving would achieve a degree of glory in the afterlife,[329] where they would serve those who had achieved godhood.[330]

From Wikipedia:,_Jr.#Distinctive_views_and_teachings

What is frightening is that each of these cults started out with one man and his own personal "revelation" of truth. Today their members number in the millions. We might sit back and wonder how so many could be duped. I can give the answer: they believed a lie from a man rather than truth from God. They preferred a different god than the one found in Scripture. How many today are following that same path?