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Singing with the King (85) – I Love You (1/2)

The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him… the love of the LORD remains forever with those who fear him. (Psalm 103:13,17)

Father and SonThe earliest childhood memory I have with my Dad was laying on his chest, as he sat in his recliner, with both of us eating out of a can of peanuts, watching Rassling (long before it became so dramatic and overproduced). I still remember his arms wrapped around me.

But, it took me 27 years to hear my Dad say “I love you”. Don’t get me wrong, I knew he loved me. (As testified by the above story.) He worked on big yellow things with wheels, tracks, etc., for as long as I could remember (a master mechanic), but he still had time to go to his son’s games and meets; band and choir concerts. And even if it meant skipping a day of weekend overtime to see his son run or sing, he was there.

When I was in college I read a book on prayer by a Jesuit theologian. It changed my life. Up to that point I had thanked God, praised God, worshiped God, rejoiced in God, and made my prayers and petitions known to Him (in Jesus’ name). But I had never told my Heavenly Father that I loved Him. After reading the book, I made sure that in all my prayers, to tell my Heavenly Father I love Him, to this day. And for the people who I loved, I made sure to tell them I loved them.

So it was probably around my early twenties that I noticed my Dad’s typical response to my “I love you.” It was either “Ditto” or “You too.” It became my mission in life was to hear those three words from him, whether over the phone on in person. It happened the summer of my 27th year. I was back on the West Coast, visiting my parents, with the usual hugs were going around. While squeezing my mom I told her that I loved her, and she responded as she always did: “I love you.” Dad and I grappled in our usual bear hug, and I told him I loved him and he grunted or something. But later in that week, I told him I loved him, and he said…”I love you too, son.” And I cried (maybe Dad even got a little teary). From that day on until he died 9 years later, the “I love yous” abounded.

Now why do I share this ancient history with you? Well, if you’re a parent, have you told your _20161125_125039kids you love them today? They need to hear it; and they need to see it and feel it. And for you Dads, loving your kids is going to give them a great glimpse into the love of their Heavenly Father.

What about the rest of the family? Maybe  you’re distant (emotionally or geographically). Or estranged. Maybe there are wounds, scars, whatever. Love them. Tell them. Because, Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)

Now there are certain traumas and griefs we go through which may loosen your tongue, but don’t wait for that. A funeral and the loss of a loved one can pry those three words out of you, especially for those us who have been left behind. Cancer or heart disease can get your attention. It did for me and my family. But I don’t want to go through that again—so don’t wait.

What about those in the Family of God. Have you told them you loved them? Maybe they’re alone, or their family’s a complete disaster. Did God bring you into their lives to love them? Tell them. Don’t wait for disaster to strike, because maybe you—or they—end up in the presence of Jesus. Tell them… now.

Please understand that this tirade is for those who may be challenged verbally and emotionally—especially us guys. Who knows, if you speak these three words, with God’s help, you may be able to begin living them. But if you’re more at ease speaking, don’t allow those three words to become some glib motto. Rather, Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.  (1 Peter 1:22)

Singing with the King (84) – Fans, Yelling and Gentleness

He trains my hands for battle,  so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.  You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, and Your right hand upholds me; and Your gentleness makes me great. (Psalm 18:34-35)

Kid Soccer2It’s a beautiful, warm Saturday morning, and the soccer fields are jammed with little kids swarming around a soccer ball trying to make headway—one way or another. Surrounding the field are the onlookers: parents, family, friends; yelling and jumping, waving and screaming, urging the tide to turn toward one goal or the other.

But as I watched less and listened more, I heard some voices—which I thought were enthusiastic—but were actually more angry. And other voices I thought were encouraging, were demanding. Now here are these precious little ones learning cooperation and coordination, following directions and team play. Meanwhile highly invested and motivated parents have moved from building up to tearing down in their verbal and visual salvos.soccer parents

So what does all this have to do with King David? This part of Psalm 18 has to do with David going into battle, and I’ve always found it intriguing that it was the LORD’s gentleness that made him great in battle. You see, gentleness has nothing to do with tactics. It has everything to do with character. And if you want your child to be great in the classroom or the war room, the board room or the court room, it’s their character that will make them great.

Kid SoccerWe all want our kids to be great, but that means loving them, and living out before them the character of Christ. Things like gentleness and humility are not typically sought out, but consider there two passages:

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29)

Think the same way that Christ Jesus thought:£ Christ was truly God.  But he did not try to remain equal with God. Instead he gave up everything and became a slave, when he became like one of us. Christ was humble. He obeyed God and even died on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)

Have you ever thought that were it not for Christ’s humility, you’d still be stuck in your sins?

ShhhOf course being humble and gentle like Christ is going to have more that an impact on your kids. It will change your life.

Usually it takes as much time to find a song that speaks to what I have written about, as it does to write it. But God laid this song on my heart by Steven Curtis Chapman, and it goes far beyond the point of yelling at your kids (or your wife, or your husband). What if that anger was the last thing that was said, that was seen, and then you lost them?

Whatever field your on with your child, celebrate their successes, encourage them in the failures. Be gentle. Love them with the love of Christ.

Singing with the King (83) – Identity

O Lord, I am your servant; yes, I am your servant, born into your household; you have freed me from my chains. (Psalm 116:16)

vanity-plateSo I’m driving along the other day, and a guy in a BMW pulls up alongside me, and I notice his license plate: iPhone1. Interesting license plate. Also, my wife and I have been watching The Voice lately, and there was an artist who shared that he was gay, but also a singer. Then there are Harley owners. Bikes, gear, leathers, everything—it’s all about the brand.

This license plate, and these disparate identities got me to thinking. What’s your identity? Is it in your sexual orientation? Your stock with Apple? The size of your V-Twin? The size of your house? Your socioeconomic status? False gods? For many of us men, our identity is wrapped up in our work. With whom or what do you identify? Where do you get your identity? What do you need to be freed from?

You can probably tell from the verse above, where this is going. We must get our identity from the LORD. In this case, the psalm writer tells us that he is the LORD’s servant. This psalm doesn’t tell us whether or not it was written by King David, but if it was, it’s kind of remarkable statement for a king to say that he’s a servant. And yet, time and time again, in the headings of many of the Psalms that David wrote, he did confess that he was the LORD’s servant.

Hmm. King… Servant. Tough call. David did not get hung up in what he did. Rather, he was committed to Whom he belonged. Now if being a servant seems a little tough, consider these roles, or relationships we have with the LORD.

“And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” says the Lord Almighty. (2 Corinthians 6:18)

The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. (Romans 8:16-17)

Children, heirs, fellow-heirs. But remember it’s not about title, it’s the relationship. Because when you identify with Him, then you will be made like Him:

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. (Romans 8:29)

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter1:14-16)

God has called us to be conformed to His Son, and not with things in this world that will pass away. Shouldn’t you desire to have an identity that is eternal and everlasting; not something that will rust away and be gone—forever?

Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. (Matthew 6:19-21)

The most amazing thing however, is that your relationship with The Most High God is not just that we are identified with Him; but rather, He is willing to be identified with us.

Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

Don’t get sidetracked or distracted. Find your freedom and identity in Christ alone—then live it!

 

Singing with the King (82) – Make a Choice

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 42:11)

which-oneYou may recognize this Psalm from it’s opening verse: As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. Three times the Psalmist asks the above question, and comes to the same decision, twice in this Psalm and once in Psalm 43.

He answers these questions in these two psalms. Here is a list of why he is discouraged and sad:

  • He is unable to go and stand before the LORD.
  • Day and night I have only tears for food
  • His enemies continually taunt him
  • His heart is breaking
  • He remembers how it used to be, but not how it is now.
  • The raging seas, waves and surging tides of God sweep over him
  • “Why have you forgotten me?”
  • “Why must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies?”
  • Their taunts break his bones.
  • They scoff, “Where is this God of yours?”
  • Why have you tossed me aside?
  • Why must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies?

There are certainly enough reasons to be discouraged and sad. Now there are some verses in the midst of these complaints which offer hope and light, but he still ends each Psalm with the same questions and answers:  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.

At the end of this self-diagnosis of despair and sadness, he makes a choice: I WILL put my hope in God. I WILL praise Him again. We all know life can be filled with despair and discouragement; with sadness. But there comes a choice: whether you let your emotions, your biochemistry, your mood, your ‘tude, your feelings, your circumstance, your situation, your whatever, impact your relationship with your Heavenly Father. You must not. You MUST choose Jesus.

choose-jesus-banner

Paul writes of a similar theme in Romans 5: And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;   and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (v. 3-5)

Whatever you’re facing, whatever you’re feeling, choose to put your hope in God. Choose to praise Him again. He will not disappoint.

 

Singing with the King (81) – Missed the Point

He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. (Psalm 121:3-4)

Sit Alone2I picked this passage because it kind of deals with the song, and that’s what I want to talk about. Music is powerful, and it is a gift from God. But like all gifts, we have the ability to twist, contort, and misuse. Now I’m not talking about rappers or shock rock, or worse. I’m talking about bands that play in Sunday morning in Church.

I was at a conference a couple years back, and the “praise” band was singing Everlasting God. You know it. The opening of the song goes like this:

Strength will arise as we wait upon the Lord, wait upon the Lord, we will wait upon the Lord.

 I need go no farther. Unless you are deaf and blind, you can see (and hear) the song focuses on us WAITING ON THE LORD. But what did this so-called praise band do? The sang Strength will arise… Strength will arise… Strength will arise… Strength will arise, over and over and over, and over and… well, you get the idea.

 They missed the entire POINT of the whole first verse. It’s NOT about strength, it’s about waiting. And that’s painfully obvious. But their performance was not about worship—or Biblical and lyrical faithfulness. No, they were whipping the congregation up into a frenzy.

 The song is based upon Isaiah 40:29-31 – He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. Even here you can see it’s not about the strength, it’s about the waiting.

 Of course when you wait, you could very well end up with a whole lot more than strength. You could be overwhelmed by His Presence, by His mercy, by His grace, by His holiness, and by His love—to name a few.

The band, the congregation, they missed the point. And that’s a tragedy. Music is a gift. It is something to be cherished.  Leave the frenzy for the conventions.

 When you see your song leader/worship pastor this weekend, thank him or her. And the singers and the band. And thank the song writer if you have one in your midst.

May they remain faithful to the Message, and may they focus on Him. Allow the LORD to approach you and anoint you as He chooses. You may discover that He’s always watching over you, that He never slumbers nor sleeps. And you may experience something unexpected and utterly wondrous.

Singing with the King (80) – Like a Child

O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things too difficult for me. Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever. (Psalm 137)

Mom and Child SleepingThis is the first time I have used an entire Psalm as an opening. But then it is only 3 verses long. I first ran across this Psalm as a psalm I learned at a Bible study in grad school. The music was written by some monks know as the St. Louis Jesuits. The music was hauntingly beautiful. Here’s an example of their music:

Back to Psalm 137. It was winter in Chicago in the early 90’s, and my wife and I has just suffered our third and final miscarriage. So grieving the loss of this child, I tried to compose and quiet my soul. I tried to think what it would be like for a child to rest safe and secure against his mother. And after great stretches of tears, my Loving Heavenly Father brought me comfort, as He held me in His arms.

This Psalm brought me great comfort, but it wasn’t just this song. Michael Card had just released his third and final album of His trilogy, The Life, and he had this incredible song entitled Joseph’s Song. And coincidentally it was a song about Joseph holding Jesus, his first born. I sat in the dark, repeating this on track over and over. The song begins:

How could it be this baby in my arms
Sleeping now, so peacefully
The Son of God, the angel said
How could it be
Lord I know He’s not my own
Not of my flesh, not of my bone
Still Father let this baby be
The son of my love.
Father show me where I fit into this plan of yours
How can a man be father to the Son of God
Lord for all my life I’ve been a simple carpenter
How can I raise a king? How can I raise a king?

Like Joseph, I didn’t understand the plan; but Joseph did raise a king; and he held a king—the King of kings. And I? I was the Dad who was held by my Father.

Years later, this song still stirs the loss and His overwhelming comfort. And there are still things I do not understand, but then I don’t have to. I trust Him.

Whatever you grief, whatever your loss, may you rest in the arms of The Most High.

Singing with the King (79) – Call to Worship

Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship. (Psalm 89:15)

Worship2Do you remember the old Anne Murray song from 1983, A Little Good News? She lists off a litany of woes: fighting in the Middle East, bad economy, hostages, hijacked plane—and more. Hard to believe it was written over 30 years ago. She then moves into some wishful thinking, how things could change if we just… well like I said, wishful thinking. That’s why it is worth reading that verse again: Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship.

The word happy is usually translated as blessed. But happy is good, because blessed wreaks of ancient rituals and religious artifacts. And when you look at most people in the Church, for those looking from the outside, they don’t see a lot of happiness, and they may wonder if blessedness looks like something you need to endure.

Now the word joyful sound can be translated as that, or as a battle cry. But I’m going to go with a call to worship, which would be the sound of joy, not the sound of war.

So who is sounding this joyful call to worship? Could it be joyous worshipers who are calling us to join in? That could very well be, since the remainder of the verse says: “For they will walk in the light of your presence, LORD.” It’s kinda tough not to be joyful, when you’re walking in the presence of the LORD. And it should be difficult to ignore when there is light all round you—especially when we live in such a dark world.

But the first call to worship is from the LORD Himself.Jesus Reaching Down

But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! (Isaiah 43:1)

He called you to salvation when we told you the Good News; now you can share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 2:14)

If your worship has turned into ashes, remember He has called you to Himself, to walk in His light, and to share in the glory of His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ. With all that, how can you be anything else but happy. And for those who are looking in, may they see your joy!

Singing with the King (78) – An Awful Waste of Space

An Awful Waste of Space

night sky

 

From Contact (1997)
Young Ellie:  Dad, do you think there’s people on other planets?
Ted Arroway:  I don’t know, Sparks. But I guess I’d say if it is just us… seems like an awful waste of space.

Well, I got to admit, this is different for me. Starting with a quote from a movie rather than one from the Bible. But, it’s a great way to illustrate how small our thinking really is.

You see, the purpose of the universe is not some place for countless numbers of creatures to hang their hats and call home. No, the purpose of the universe is to declare the glory of God.

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. (Psalm 19:1)

Current speculation on the size of the observable universe is some 91 billion light years. As far as what’s beyond, best guess.

But God…

He is Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent. He is Everlasting, without beginning or end. That pretty much makes Him beyond even the unseen stretches of the universe.

One might think those sort of attributes put Him beyond our finite experience and understanding. But that is not the case, for at least two reasons (there are countless more but I desire to keep this short).

We have been made in His image (Imago Dei) we have also been given the ability to know Him.

Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. (Genesis 1:26)

And Christ came to show us that what God looks like up close and personal; and that we can not only know Him, but have a relationship with Him.

Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-11)

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.(John 10:27-30)

Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me.  Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do. (John 14:9-11)

So, God is big, and God is close. The universe is there to show how great His glory is; and we are here to show how close His love is.

 

SInging with the King (77) – It’s Only a Song

It’s Only a Song…

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 42:5)

Singing AloneThis verse appears three times, twice in this one and once is Psalm 43. When you read these Psalms together, you realize that this phrase (v. 5, 11, and v. 5 in the second psalm) fills the function of a refrain or chorus. Now the purpose of a chorus (except for those who aren’t very good with lyrics and need to say things over and over) is to repeat lines both thematically and musically to ensure it sticks, and that we don’t miss whatever it is being said (sung). So what precedes this chorus?

Verse 1 . (musically speaking) Apparently the Psalmist is no longer near the Temple, is missing the  worship and the fellowship, and is taunted by his enemies about the very existence of his God.

We should remember the passage from Hebrews:  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. (Hebrews 10:25)

If for some reason the writer found himself alone, then worship and encouragement would have been is short supply.

Verse 2. More isolation; more taunting and oppression.

But in the midst of this second verse, the Psalmist sings: But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life. (42:8) Now I’ve got to ask: if God is pouring out His unfailing love each day, and he’s singing and praying every night—what’s wrong with his heart?

Verse 3. The oppression continues, as well as false claims against him.

Here he prays for God’s deliverance and guidance.  Then the chorus appears for the last time.

So the question still stands: what’s wrong with his heart? It is not for me to question, for clearly there is something troubling this saint. Within these two psalms, we’ve seen plenty of reasons for sorrow. But we’ve also seen God’s provision. So is sorrow winning over God’s grace?

I suppose it can, if we leave ourselves to it, and surrender to the sadness. Then depression an discouragement can set in. But all throughout this psalm, this songwriter examines his surroundings, his emotions, and his relations. And his decision? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God! I will, he says. And he chooses action over inaction. He chooses worship over weeping.

One more thing.  The last phrase is: my Savior and my God. And the Hebrew word for Savior is Yeshua, which is Jesus. So if you’re experiencing this sorrow, remember: Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)

Choose the Savior over sorrow.

Singing with the King (76) – How Merciful is God?

goldencalfThat is why the Lord’s anger burned against his people, and he abhorred his own special possession. He handed them over to pagan nations, and they were ruled by those who hated them. Their enemies crushed them and brought them under their cruel power.  Again and again he rescued them, but they chose to rebel against him, and they were finally destroyed by their sin.  Even so, he pitied them in their distress and listened to their cries. (Psalm 106:40-44)

Let me list off a few of Israel’s disobedient actions is found in Psalm 106, that brought the wrath of God upon them:

  • They became envious of God’s chosen leaders.
  • They made a graven image, and worshiped it.
  • They forgot how God saved them from Egypt, and the miracles He did on their behalf.
  • They despised the promised land.
  • They do not believe His Word.
  • They joined themselves to false God, and offered sacrifices to the dead.
  • They served other idols.
  • They co-mingled with other nations.
  • They even sacrificed their sons and daughters to demons.

Now remember, this is just some of the abominable acts done by Israel, just mentioned in ONE Psalm. And that is why He handed them over, to the pagan nations. Yet, even after Israel doing all those things, you read the above few verses, how He rescued them again and again, He pitied them, and heard their cries.

Have you ever felt abandoned; or maybe been suffering some pretty serious consequences of your sins. And you wonder if God will ever hear you again. But even in this dark time in Israel’s history, it says that He listened to their cries. And He will listen to you—He did listen to you. Why? Because Jesus died for your sins. In fact He heard you, long before you even spoke: He paid for you with the precious life blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him for this purpose long before the world began, but now in these final days, He was sent to the earth for all to see. And He did this for you. (1 Peter 1:18-19)

Let me be even more plain, borrowing from the words of the apostle Paul: For I’m convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Take a line from the psalmist who wrote Psalm 106: Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the nations, to give thanks to Your holy name and glory in Your praise. (v.47) Call upon him. He will hear you, and he will save you.