In our devotions today my husband and I read about a king in Judah who began his reign following two very corrupt kings who had set up idols to pagan gods in the Temple and one had even sacrificed his son to Baal.
This godly king, Josiah, began his reign by ordering the priests and Levites to remove all the pagan idols from the Temple and began cleaning up the clutter that was there and to restore proper worship.
As the workers cleaned up the Temple they discovered a scroll. Looking at the scroll they realized it was the Book of the Law that Moses had given to the Israelites when they were set free from bondage in Egypt and given the land of Canaan for their inheritance.
The priest brought the book to the attention of the king and his court secretary read it to him. As he heard the Law of Moses apparently for the first time, he tore his clothes in despair. He realized how far from this book the nation had gone.
He immediately called for the nation’s leaders to come to Jerusalem and hear the Law and made plans to celebrate the Passover which they had not done in generations.
As I thought about this discovery, I wondered how long had the Book of the Law been missing. Had no one realized it was gone? Had no one searched for it? Did this generation even know such a book existed? Did anyone care?
Fast forward to today.
I have to wonder: How long has the Word of God been neglected in our homes, our churches, our families? Our children know the super heroes – Batman, Super Woman – do they know the heroes of the Bible – Joseph, Daniel, Stephen?
Many Christians today say we have made an idol out of the Bible. That it is Jesus we need to be concerned about, not the Bible.
But I have to ask: How would I know about Jesus if not for the Bible? Without John 3:16 I would never have known that God sent His son for me. Without the Sermon on the Mount, I would never know what being a part of God’s kingdom really looks like. Without Matthew 28 I would never know that Jesus commanded us to share the good news with the entire world.
Depending on what study you look at you will find that kids today spend 3 to 5 hours watching TV or on the internet. I realize that varies from home to home and many parents do limit their children’s screen time. Still, I wonder if in our Christian homes our children spend even one hour a week in God’s Word.
Do we really know what we believe and why we believe it? Do our children know?
The Psalmist said, “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
Apostle Paul said, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
The followers of Jesus in Berea were commended because “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”
The writer of Hebrews tells us that “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”
When Jesus was tempted by Satan he answered each temptation by quoting Scripture. In one instance he said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” Today we have many that claim to be speaking for God. To know whether or not what they say is true, we have to go back to the Word of God. That is our guide.
It is now four days since Christmas. I have my Christmas decorations all boxed up and downstairs in the storage room. Today I am dusting, vacuuming and doing whole house cleaning. Getting rid of the cookie crumbs in the carpet, the shiny tinsel that dropped from the tree ornaments as we took them off the tree. Giving my stove a good cleaning and getting rid of leftovers we did not eat
Many love to keep their Christmas decorations up until after the New Year. But I am not one of those. I love Christmas and look forward to putting up the tree and getting out my candles and angels. As soon as Thanksgiving day is over we decorate.
But to be honest, as much as I love the bright lights by the end of December I am ready to get back to more “normal.” Out goes the angels and snowmen and “Jesus is the reason for the season” and in comes the family photographs and winter decorations.
Although I know spring is still a long way off, now is when I start thinking of planting new flowers and longing for the first pop of daffodils in the spring. This year our daughter in North Carolina sent my husband some seeds from her own flower garden. We are really looking forward to having flowers from our daughter’s garden. Already thinking about where we will plant each packet of seeds.
For some there can be a little depression or feeling of loss after all the time spent shopping, decorating, baking and all the family gatherings and other Christmas events. For me, I feel a new sense of “let’s clean house and start planning for next year.”
But as the festivities of Christmas is over and we put up the decorations and move back to “normal” life, I wonder do we just as quickly put Jesus back in the box. We did our thing – we went to Christmas Eve service and sang “Silent Night.” Now we move on.
We often see signs at Christmas time that say “Keep Christ in Christmas.” I often wonder when people say that, what happens after Christmas. Should we not keep Christ in every day, every season, all the time?
As I try not to grumble about the cold and snow and look forward to planting my flower seeds in the spring, I want to keep Christ in each and every day.
Studying the Tabernacle in the Old Testament the past few months has been such an encouragement to me in my walk with God.
Earlier I posted why a Tabernacle and in the elaborate plans that God gave Moses for the Tabernacle – and in the Israelites response – we see how much God desires a relationship with us.
What really stood out to me was that there was only one gate – one way into the Tabernacle. I know it is not a popular thought today but it reminds me that Jesus said He was “the Way.”
When the Israelites would stop and camp, the 12 tribes of Israel each had their own assigned area to camp by the Tabernacle. Interesting the tribe of Judah was to be camped first next to the entrance to the Tabernacle.
The name “Judah” means “praised” or “let him be praised.” This reminded me of how important praise is in the life of a Christian.
Psalms 95:2 – Let us come to him with thanksgiving. Let us sing psalms of praise to him.
Psalm 100:4 – Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name.
Even in the New Testament we are admonished to praise God.
Hebrews 13:15 – Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name.
What does it mean to offer a “sacrifice” of praise. To us the word “sacrifice” sounds like offering something that is difficult or costly for us. While it can mean that, in the Old Testament a sacrifice was an offering to God. So first of all, our praise is an offering, something we give to God.
However, I think the writer speaking of a sacrifice of praise might mean to tell us our praise is not dependent on our feelings or our circumstances. When all is going well, it is easy to praise God. But in those times when all is well, how much of our praise is really directed to the awesomeness of God and how much just grateful because all is going well in our world.
Of course we should be grateful – but our praise must be more than that. Praise is the recognition that God is faithful and good. That we trust Him no matter our circumstances.
Worship is choosing to respond Biblically and responsibly despite the environment or circumstances. Somehow, we have come to accept an emotion-oriented approach to worship that says, “If I do not feel like expressing worship to God, it is hypocritical to do it!” In no other area of life do we accept this philosophy. Because it is the responsible thing to do, we go to work, pay our bills, restrain ourselves from saying certain things at certain times to certain people – although we feel differently inside. We say “I’m sorry” and “I forgive.” Do we always feel like being nice? Or forgiving? No! God never said, “If you feel like it, forgive. Or, if you are having a good day, love your enemies! And in leap years, on nights when there is a full moon, bless them that persecute you, and do good to them that spitefully use you!”…P. Douglas Small
In my own life I have experienced what praise can do in times of distress. At 33 my husband was killed in an accident and I was left with two small daughters to raise. There were times when I felt overwhelmed and afraid.
I remember one day in particular when I looked out my kitchen widow at the meadow below our home. We had purchased this property because it was a perfect place to raise our daughters in the country. There was enough acreage to have a couple of beef cows, some chickens and my daughters wanted a horse. It was Fall when we bought the home and now it was Spring. Lonnie died before we could fulfill those dreams.
As I looked at all the wild flowers in the meadow, I thought how much my husband would have enjoyed the view and began to cry that he never lived to see it. Suddenly I realized that he was probably seeing things far more beautiful than that meadow. And seeing them with two good eyes instead of looking at it with his one handicapped eye.
As I praised the Lord, those chains of worry and despair fell from me. Yes, sometimes they came back, but when that happened, I just began to praise the Lord again.
In our daily devotions my husband and I have been reading the book of Exodus. It was interesting to me to see that when the Israelites were delivered from bondage in Egypt God chose to not lead them directly to the land He had promised them. Rather, he led them into the wilderness.
When Pharoah finlly let the people go, God did ot lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine terriroty, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land….God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. Exodus 13:17-18.
There, in the wilderness, God gave them two things they needed to become the nation He desired.
The Tabernacle – unifying symbol of God’s presence with principles of worship
The Tablet (Ten Commandments) – principles of God for personal practices of a godly life reflected in our behavior
Since much of the Old Testament is devoted to the Tabernacle I have decided to take a closer look at this structure and what it meant to the Israelites, what it might mean to us in our understanding of the importance of worship of God.
First thing that caught my attention was the preparation to build the Tabernacle.
Materials required: gold, silver, bronze, blue, purple and scarlet thread, fine linen, gemstones and more. Exodus 25:3-7
Voluntary offering: it was not demanded but rather was to be given by those “whose hearts are moved to offer them.” Exodus 25:1-2
Both men and women were involved in the giving and preparation. Exodus 35:22; 35:25-26
The leaders set the example in giving. Exodus 35:27-28
The Holy Spirit was present and filled the workmen. Exodus 35:31-35
Looking at what was involved in the preparation to build the Tabernacle, I thought how that applied to our attempts to be involved in the church today.
As the materials required were things of great value, so should be our efforts for God. We should bring Him our best. Sadly, I fear we do not. Too often we spend our days working, playing, filling our time with our own needs/wants/desires. Then at the end of the day we fall into bed and quickly murmur a prayer to God. We often neglect gathering with the family of God to worship Him and encourage and be encouraged by others. We often give Him what is left of our time/talent/money after we have met all our wants/needs.
Yet our worship, our efforts for Him should never be done because it is demanded. It must come from a love of God.
Sadly, for years many have restricted women from fulfilling their God-given call. Yet we see Jesus often ministering to the women. It was a woman who carried the message of the Messiah to the Samarian village. It was a woman who Jesus first appeared to after His resurrection.
I am thankful that in my church our pastor sets an example of selfless service to others. But sadly we have often see ministers who have set themselves above the rest of God’s family.
The Holy Spirit was present in these men to make furniture, to build the Tabernacle. Again, we have often made the work of the Spirit to mean something “supernatural.” God often uses us in “natural” gifts like baking a meal for a family suffering illness, fixing a car for a single mother, babysitting to give a couple a night out. God’s Spirit is given for more everyday, ordinary people and we need to recognize this.
Why did God tell them to build the Tabernacle? What was His purpose?
Have the people of Israel build me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them. Exodus 25:8
What a wonderful thought! God desired to live among them. Later when Jesus came John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus came to dwell among us. The Greek word used for dwell in John 1:14 is skenoo and literally means “to pitch a tent. This word is the very word used in the New Testament to refer to the tabernacle of God used by Israel in their early worship of God. Jesus came because God still desires to live among us.
Jesus told us that wherever two or three gathered in His name, He would be there. So when we come into church on Sunday, He is there. Do we realize that? How often we come in late, grabbing our coffee, looking around to see who is there, talking to the one next to us? Do we not realize we are entering the presence of God? He is there. Let our worship show we acknowledge that.
I will be writing more as I study this Old Testament Tabernacle. Hope you will follow me on this journey.
Recently I saw a church sign that invited people to come because their church was “simple and fun.”
That sounded great! Who would not want to go to a church that was “fun” and keeping things “simple” in the chaotic times we have been experiencing sounds like a good idea.
But is it? Is that the purpose of the church – to keep things fun and simple?
I grew up in a very legalistic church. The furthest thought then was for church to be fun. Often I joke when I wondered if some activity would be sin I just had to ask myself, “Would I have fun doing it?” If the answer was “yes” then clearly it would be sin.
Of course I am exaggerating a bit, but church was never simple. There were many man-made rules to follow. Those of us who questioned were considered in danger of losing our salvation.
So, believe me – I never want to go to a church that is not fun or that makes the message of the love of Jesus Christ complicated.
But seeing this sign that seemed to be attempting to appeal to people as a place that would be fun and simple, I could not help but wonder if we are moving too far away. Have we thrown the baby out with the bath water?
It seems churches, like political parties, social norms and fashion all move like a pendulum.
Webster defines pendulum as:
a body suspended from a fixed point so as to swing freely to and fro under the action of gravity and commonly used to regulate movements (as of clockwork); something (such as a state of affairs) that alternates between opposites.
As I have watched my church it seems like it started swinging away from the legalism that was so wrong toward a practice and teaching that was based more on the Word of God rather than man-made laws. That is good.
I cannot help but wonder if the pendulum is swinging too far in the opposite direction. In the desire to free us from the rules of man and to make the gospel of Jesus Christ appealing to others, are we moving too far once again from the Word of God – in a different direction – but still away?
On the one hand, the message of salvation through Christ is simple. Acts 16:31 sums it up very simply.
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.
However, any reading of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount would tell us that following Jesus Christ is anything but simple. Jesus called his followers to a much higher standard than any they had heard before. To be a true believer requires much more than a simple “I believe.” It calls for a change of heart. That is not easy or simple. On the one hand following Jesus can be fun. There is no greater joy than having a heart filled with God’s joy.
However, again I do not think the death of Jesus was meant for me to have fun. Listen to His words:
Matthew 16:24 – Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
Luke 14:28-30 – Don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’
Perhaps I am being too hard on this church sign, reading more into it than was meant. Still, I wonder – are we swinging too far away – are we more interested in what is “new” forgetting that while much of what was “old” should be discarded, there was much there of great value.
A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the Lord of hosts To you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’
“You offer defiled food on My altar, But say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the Lord is contemptible.’ And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?” Says the Lord of hosts.
Reading in the Old Testament book of Malachi this week I found a verse that made me stop and take a look at my own relationship with God.
The prophet Malachi was speaking to the priests (the religious leaders) of the nation of Israel. The Law of Moses had clearly stated that the animals used in the sacrificial worship were to be perfect specimens. They were to have no blemishes, to be healthy animals (Leviticus 22:17-33). It appears that instead of bringing the best of their flock or herd, they were bringing animals that were sick or lame and keeping the better animals for their own use.
God sees this action as “despising His name.” He suggests they invite the governor and serve him a meal with a sick or blemished animal for the main course. Certainly they would not do that. They would want to serve the governor the very best they had.
Malachi tells them that their very attitude toward their worship of God is apathetic and worse than no worship at all.
You also say, ‘Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it,” Says the Lord of hosts. “And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?” Says the Lord.
Today our worship does not consist of bringing an animal sacrifice. Still, I wonder, how my worship can sometimes be just like theirs. Bringing God my “leftovers.”
Giving him a few minutes of devotion after hours spent watching TV, shopping, posting on FB.
Giving a few dollars to support the work of my church or a charity after spending much on my own entertainment.
Giving a few minutes to write a card to someone after spending hours doing my own thing.
Walking into church for worship five or ten minutes late, coming in and distracting those who are trying to praise God. Casually entering into the song without any real thought of what worship really means.
Coming to worship now and then when I don’t have other events scheduled that are more important than being in God’s house.
I am reminded of a poem by Frederick Ohler that says it so well:
Great and holy God awe and reverence fear and trembling do not come easily to us
for we are not Old Testament Jews or Moses or mystics or sensitive enough.
Forgive us for slouching into Your presence with little expectation and less awe
than we would eagerly give a visiting dignitary.
We need neither Jehovah nor a buddy—neither “the Great and powerful Oz” nor “the man upstairs.”
Help us to want what we need…You God
and may the altar of our hearts tremble with delight at Your visitation
I wrote this three years ago – but wondering again this year – after all the decorations are put up, after all the Christmas songs are put away until next year, after we have posted all our pictures on FB, has the baby made a difference in your life for 2021?
Brrrrr! It’s so cold outside. So today while staying snug inside I read and thought one more time on the Christmas story which we have just observed. Now it’s time to move forward and begin thinking about spring and about the resurrection story.
But one writer I read during the Christmas season still speaks to me.
…the Christmas story is not just for observing, but for participating. A long time ago, Jesus Christ was born. But today, Christ is born in us. And so we would be wise to spend some time wondering with the sheep and the shepherds, how does this baby change my life?
Continuing my posts on the old gospel songs we used to sing, today I remember the first song I ever performed in public.
As a young girl I took piano lessons and when my father, who was a minister, had speaking engagements he often would have me play and sing something before he spoke. Although I was shy, I think this experience gave me confidence in appearing before an audience that helped me later as I became a speaker for women’s events and a pastor’s wife.
Just how good my voice and piano playing was remains open to question, but with my red hair in banana curls, I was a hit.
The first song I learned to play was an old song born in the slave fields of the southern states. Although the original author of the spiritual is unknown, it is acknowledged that the song arose from the oral tradition of songs passed from person to person and generation to generation among the plantations of the South.
Imagine being a slave and totally at the mercy of the slave owner. What kind of life could it be when you were forced to work from dawn to sunset? When you could be beaten or sold to another slave owner without a chance to even say goodbye to your family? No promise of freedom – how easy it would be to despair of life.
But somewhere in that life of sorrow and pain many slaves found hope in God. In spite of their circumstances they clung to the belief that God was in control and they found courage in that belief.
He’s got the whole world in His hands He’s got the whole world in His hands He’s got the whole world in His hands He’s got the whole world in His hands
The song was first published in 1927 in the hymnal Spirituals Triumphant, Old and New. Later it was introduced in the USA and became popular with the folk song crowd in the 30’s and 40’s.
Laurie London, a young British singer, released the song in 1957. It quickly became #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Since then many artists have made recordings of the song, but perhaps one of the most famous (and my favorite) is Mahalia Jackson’s version.
The verses have changed depending on who was singing the song but this verse was not in my version of the song. ♥
He’s got the gamblin’ man in His hands
He’s got the sinner man in His hands
He’s got the gamblin’ man in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands
As I grew up and became more proficient in my music, I left that song behind. But recently as I have played for the residents of assisted living facilities and nursing homes, I have added it back to my selection of songs.
While they sit and listen to the songs I play – when I play this one I am guaranteed that many will join in with me and smiles will be in abundance.
Since I began singing this song again, I added my own verse for the senior citizens.
He’s got all us old folks in His hands He’s got all us old folks in His hands He’s got all us old folks in His hands He’s got the whole world in His hands
The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Psalms 19:1
“Surely My hand founded the earth, And My right hand spread out the heavens. Isaiah 48:13
But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand. Isaiah 64:8
Check out the other gospel songs I have written about here: