Monthly Archives: July 2014

Psalm 47, 48, 49; Acts 26

Clap your hands, all peoples!

Shout to God with loud songs of joy!

For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared,

a great king over all the earth.

He subdued peoples under us,

and nations under our feet.

He chose our heritage for us,

the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah

God has gone up with a shout,

the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.

Sing praises to God, sing praises!

Sing praises to our King, sing praises!

For God is the King of all the earth;

sing praises with a psalm!

God reigns over the nations;

God sits on his holy throne.

The princes of the peoples gather

as the people of the God of Abraham.

For the shields of the earth belong to God;

he is highly exalted! Psalm 47

 

I have been to many churches in my journey as a missionary, to share the gospel and also to share testimonies of the things that God has done and is currently doing in the churches in our area of South India.

One of the things that always strikes me when I visit a church is the many different styles of worship. Some worship in different languages, praise in the native tongue of the worshippers. Some worship in a very traditional way, singing hymns written centuries ago. Some sing the various Maranatha-type choruses that were popular in the 80’s and 90’s. And, some worship with modern songs with the style of prophetic worship. Some churches stand, some clap and lift their hands to the heavens, some play tambourines or shofars, some dance, some wave flags, and some paint pictures.

Despite the style of worship, one thing remains the same…each person, each church is lifting their voices to praise the One True God, offering a part of themselves to the body of Christ, just like David did. Together we are all joined together in gratitude for all He has done – from creating us, to choosing us, to sending His Son to be a sacrifice on our behalf, to each specific thing He does every day for every one of His children.

I truly love corporate worship; it’s a chance to come together with other brothers and sisters in Christ and remember together God’s goodness and His faithfulness. There is something amazing that happens in my spirit when I hear many voices lifted in songs of praise and see figures worshipping through creative movement. It can usher me into His presence in such a way that it almost feels like I took an escalator into heaven. It has the potential to ready my heart for His healing touch, speaking into the places that feel dry and reminding me that He is always there.

I think that the hardest part of being a mom is that it has become a very rare occurrence for me to be able to fully participate in times of worship, either by myself or corporately. It seems as if when a song begins, that is precisely the moment when one of my little ones needs a drink, a snack, a diaper change, a referee… At this point in my motherhood journey, I haven’t yet figured out how to balance kids versus entering into worship. I haven’t yet figured out how to draw my children into the ‘adult’ worship effectively.

As a start, I am teaching them children’s songs, the ones I grew up on, like “Jesus Loves Me”, “Jesus Loves the Little Children”, and “This is the Day”. They also both really enjoy waving flags and making a joyful noise on toy instruments, but right now I realize that it is more about the fun than the praise. I hope as they grow their heart for worship grows too as they begin to feel God’s presence in the worship.

I know that this is a season, a time of learning for all of us, a chance to practice gratitude for God in many different ways. I know that each of us, over time, will move into new seasons of worship, and I look forward to the time when we can come together as a family to exult His name and honor our King.

 

Blessings – Julie (writing from the U.S.A.)

 

 

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Psalms 44-46; Acts 25

I want to make Paul into some kind of super hero and believe that outside our faith in Jesus Christ, we share very little in common.  If I follow that logic, then I am not responsible to live as Paul did. He was a radical who according to the worldly powers, didn’t know his place. If he would have just kept quiet, they would have left him alone. But he didn’t and he wouldn’t go away.

It was a simple little note on Acts 23:5  that changed my mind about Paul and I. Paul failed to recognize that it was the High Priest addressing him; the commentary indicated that it was widely believed that Paul had poor vision. I understand how it feels to be terribly nearsighted; I have been most of my life. It’s been a significant limitation at times.  So Paul was a frail human being with strengths and weaknesses like me.  So how did he get up everyday and face such physical, emotional and spiritual opposition?

As I meditated on the story of Paul’s beatings, imprisonment and trials in Jerusalem, I had this mental picture of Jesus standing by Paul…Jesus behind Paul as he stood before the violent crowd, Jesus shoulder to shoulder with Paul as he faced the Sanhedrin, Jesus right by Paul as he stood trial. No matter who or what Paul faced, he would not deny the one who would never leave him, Jesus. The same is true for me. Paul’s strength wasn’t found in the force of his personality (although that probably helped); it was found in Jesus- the one who would never leave or turn away from him. Suddenly, Saint Patrick’s prayer makes sense and becomes mine:

Christ be beside me, Christ be before me,  Christ be behind me, King of my heart;                                                        Christ be within me, Christ be below me, Christ be above me, never to part.   

Christ on my right hand, Christ on my left hand, Christ all around me, shield in the strife.                                                    Christ in my sleeping Christ in my sitting, Christ in my rising, light of my life.

Christ be beside me, Christ be before me, Christ be behind me, King of my heart;                                                        Christ be within me, Christ be below me, Christ be above me, never to part.

Saint Patrick’s Breastplate

                                                                                                                                                    

klueh

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Psalm 41-43; Acts 24

Paul is brought before the governor with the charges against him. He is put in prison where he is given the opportunity to share the Gospel.

He is there for two years.
27 After two years went by in this way, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And because Felix wanted to gain favor with the Jewish people, he left Paul in prison. Acts 24:27, NLT.
What’s your prison?
For one friend, it’s his body and a two-year fight against cancer. He is in a situation he doesn’t want, but he is fully aware that God is working through him. Though he may not live, he lives to glorify the Lord through his struggle.
For another, it’s a union of heartache that pummels her resolve. She is weary. So weary.
I’ve felt stuck–in jobs, in thoughts, in relationships, in commitments. Some of these situations lasted years. Some I couldn’t fathom the reason or see the out. Some I prayed for rescue (daily). Some I looked (desperately) for his hand in the details.
I write bullets in psalms.
  • false friends who gather in gossip
  • hate whispers
  • even a bestie (who shared his food!) turns against him
  • day and night, tears for food
  • heart is breaking
  • discouraged
  • forgotten
  • wandering in grief
The psalmist asks and declares:
Why am I discouraged?
    Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
    I will praise him again—
    my Savior and my God! Psalm 43:5, NLT

He says it frequently–I will put my hope in God. I will praise him again. His words are a battle of what his now looks like, and who his God is. It’s what clinging to God looks like.
Lord, the hardest places are the biggest reminders I have nothing without you. It was through the toughest battles I learned the most about you, saw you in action, sought you in the waiting. You are the God who sees me. You are the one who catches tears. You are the one who saves.
Courtney (66books365)

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Psalm 38-40; Acts 23:12-35

I don’t think about death that often. Probably a habit of an emotionally stable person. I just don’t. My own mortality doesn’t come up on the radar too frequently.

A few weeks ago I was caught in a heavy down pour coming home from work. I was cruising around 65 when my car started swerving dramatically from left to right. My speed dropped. My pulse went up. And I managed to regain control of the vehicle. I came to an overpass and put my car in park to avoid the rain. And let the fear churning in my gut pass. 

At any conscious or unconscious level, based on that event, I don’t think I’m ready to face my demise. At 24, I think theres a few more milestones I’d like to hit. Henri Nouwen in his book on spiritual formation, comments on his [more serious] brush with death; that his grasp on life was based on a conviction that he had “unfinished work” to attend to.

I’m sure there are a thousand reasons to want to live rather than die. It’s our natural desire to want to survive. And it’s true, God himself must want us to live. That’s why we’re living. At the same time, He also foreknows our death. The issue of dying, the afterlife, and embracing it’s inevitability is unavoidable in scripture:

O Lord, make me know my end

and what is the measure of my days;

let me know how fleeting I am!

Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,

and my lifetime is as nothing before you.

Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!

Surely a man goes about as a shadow! (Ps. 29:4-5)

I don’t think the idea here is to live in morbid fixation on death. I do think, however, that a healthy awareness of our days as numbered will improve the purpose of our days through a sense of urgency.

Nouwen adds in his comment, “I have a deep sense that if we could move from denying to befriending our death before we die, if we could relate to death as a familiar quest instead of a threatening enemy, we would be freer of fear, guilt, and resentment.” 

Jesus,

May my resolve be that of David. That “I am a sojourner with you,
a guest, like all my fathers.” My journey begins and ends with You. I was born of love and I will die into love. Help me to live with a healthy awareness with my days as numbered that I may put them to good use for Your kingdom. When that day comes, may I enter joyfully in knowing that I have arrived home.

 

– C

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Psalm 36-37; Acts 23:1-11

I never imagined how this event would mark my life. When the Lord put it on our hearts to move, it was supposed to be a happy time. Wow, I don’t know how many times I’ve said that–it was supposed to be happy. What we took as a step of faith actually was the tipping block for a domino effect of loss, betrayal and wounding. It is three years later, and I often refer to life as before and after.

There’s a familiarity in psalm 37, verses that call out specifically and full of detail. When I read them, my heart responds.

23 The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
    He delights in every detail of their lives.
24 Though they stumble, they will never fall,
    for the Lord holds them by the hand. Psalm 37:23-24, NLT

I feel his delight in every detail of my life: from the captain’s bell, a fence and trees for my kids to climb, berries along the perimeter of the yard, to the crazy-amazing scent of the field when I cut the grasses, the lush sound of wind through treetops, the woodland song of owls, crows, hawks.

photo collage ps 37

It is not lost on me that he would use a garden as a place for healing.

I’ve had to let go of a lot of things in these years, but God has filled me up with new things. New friendships, new experiences, new opportunities. I read these verses today with a grateful heart–grateful for a God who holds my hand, even when I stumble. And he will not let go.

Courtney (66books365)

Listening to Phillips, Craig and Dean Tell Your Heart to Beat Again.

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