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Tell of God’s Goodness

By |2023-11-16T01:33:08-05:00November 16th, 2023|

Testimony time was the segment in our church service when people shared how God had been at work in their lives. Auntie—or Sister Langford as she was known by others in our church family—was known for packing lots of praise into her testimonies. On the occasions when she shared her personal conversion story, one could expect her to take up a good bit of the service. Her heart gushed with praise to God who had graciously changed her life!

Similarly, the testimony of the writer of Psalm 66 is packed with praise as he testifies about what God had done for His people. “Come and see what God has done, his awesome deeds for mankind!” (v. 5). His deeds included miraculous rescue (v. 6), preservation (v. 9), and testing and discipline that resulted in His people being brought to a better place (vv. 10–12). While there are God-experiences that we have in common with other believers in Jesus, there are also things unique to our individual journeys. Have there been times in your life when God has particularly made Himself known to you? Those are worth sharing with others who need to hear how He's worked in your life. “Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me” (v. 16).

Jesus’ Ultimate Victory

By |2023-11-09T01:33:05-05:00November 9th, 2023|

In the midst of some military camps across Europe during World War II, an unusual type of supply was air-dropped for homesick soldiers—upright pianos. These instruments were specially manufactured to contain only ten percent of the normal amount of metal, and they received special water-resistant glue and anti-insect treatments. The pianos were rugged and simple, without frills, but provided hours of spirit-lifting entertainment for soldiers who gathered around to sing familiar songs of home.

Singing—especially songs of praise—is one way that believers in Jesus can find peace in the battle too. King Jehoshaphat found this to be true when he faced vast invading armies (2 Chronicles 20). Terrified, the king called all the people together for prayer and fasting (vv. 3–4). In response, God told him to lead out soldiers to meet the enemy, promising that they would “not have to fight this battle” (v. 17). Jehoshaphat believed God and acted in faith. He appointed singers to go ahead of the soldiers and sing praise to God for the victory they believed they would see (v. 21). And as their music began, He miraculously defeated their enemies and saved His people (v. 22).

Victory doesn’t always come when and how we want it to. But we can always proclaim Jesus’ ultimate victory over sin and death that has already been won for us. We can choose to rest in a spirit of worship even in the middle of a war zone.

Everybody Worships

By |2023-11-02T02:33:10-04:00November 2nd, 2023|

I recently visited Athens, Greece. Walking round its Ancient Agora—the marketplace where philosophers taught and Athenians worshiped—I found altars to Apollo and Zeus, all in the shadow of the Acropolis, where a statue of the goddess Athena once stood.

We may not bow to Apollo or Zeus today, but society is no less religious. “Everybody worships,” novelist David Foster Wallace said, adding this warning: “If you worship money and things . . . then you will never have enough. . . . Worship your body and beauty. . . and you will always feel ugly. . . . Worship your intellect . . . [and] you will end up feeling stupid.” Our secular age has its own gods and they’re not benign.

“People of Athens!” Paul said while visiting the Agora, “I see that in every way you are very religious” (Acts 17:22). The apostle then described the one true God as the Creator of all (vv. 24–26) who wants to be known (v. 27) and who has revealed Himself through the resurrection of Jesus (v. 31). Unlike Apollo and Zeus, this God isn’t made by human hands. Unlike money, looks, or intelligence, worshiping Him won’t ruin us.

Our “god” is whatever we rely on to give us purpose and security. Thankfully, when every earthly god fails us, the one true God is ready to be found (v. 27).

Open the Eyes of My Heart

By |2023-10-11T02:33:33-04:00October 11th, 2023|

In 2001, a premature baby named Christopher Duffley surprised doctors by surviving. At five months old, he entered the foster care system until his aunt’s family adopted him. A teacher realized four-year-old Christopher, though blind and diagnosed with autism, had perfect pitch. Six years later at church, Christopher stood onstage and sang, “Open the Eyes of My Heart.” The video reached millions online. In 2020, Christopher shared his goals of serving as a disability advocate. He continues to prove that possibilities are limitless with the eyes of his heart open to God’s plan.

The apostle Paul commended the church in Ephesus for their bold faith (1:15–16). He asked God to give them “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation” so they would “know him better” (v. 17). He prayed that their eyes would be “enlightened,” or opened, so they would understand the hope and inheritance God promised His people (v. 18).

As we ask God to reveal Himself to us, we can know Him more and can declare His name, power, and authority with confidence (vv. 19–23). With faith in Jesus and love for all God’s people, we can live in ways that prove His limitless possibilities while asking Him to keep opening the eyes of our hearts.

Hope That Holds

By |2023-05-29T02:33:19-04:00May 29th, 2023|

I know Daddy’s coming home because he sent me flowers.” Those were my seven-year-old sister’s words to our mother when Dad was missing in action during wartime. Before Dad left for his mission, he preordered flowers for my sister’s birthday, and they arrived while he was missing. But she was right: Dad did come home—after a harrowing combat situation. And decades later she still keeps the vase that held the flowers as a reminder to always hold on to hope.

Sometimes holding on to hope isn’t easy in a broken, sinful world. Daddies don’t always come home, and children’s wishes sometimes go unfulfilled. But God gives hope in the most difficult circumstances. In another time of war, the prophet Habakkuk predicted the Babylonian invasion of Judah (Habakkuk 1:6; see 2 Kings 24) but still affirmed that God is always good (vv. 12–13). Remembering God’s kindness to His people in the past, Habakkuk proclaimed: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (3:17–18).  

Some commentators believe Habakkuk’s name means “to cling.” We can cling to God as our ultimate hope and joy even in trials because He holds on to us and will never let go.

Reasons to Rejoice

By |2022-10-19T02:33:12-04:00October 19th, 2022|

When Ms. Glenda walked into the church commons area, her infectious joy filled the room. She had just recovered from a difficult medical procedure. As she approached me for our usual after-church greeting, I thanked God for all the times over the years that she had wept with me, gently corrected me, and offered encouragement. She’d even asked for forgiveness when she thought she’d hurt my feelings. Whatever the situation, we always ended up praising the Lord.
Mama Glenda, as she lets me call her, wrapped me in a gentle hug. “Hi, Baby,” she said. We enjoyed a short conversation and prayed together before she left—humming and singing as always, looking for someone else to bless.

Mama Glenda always invites me to share my struggles honestly and reminds me that we have many reasons to praise God.

In Psalm 64, David boldly approaches God with his complaints and concerns (v. 1). He voices his frustrations about the wickedness he sees around him (vv. 2–6). He doesn’t lose confidence in God’s power or the reliability of His promises (vv. 7–8). He knows that one day, “The righteous will rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him, all the upright in heart will glory in him!” (v. 10).

As we wait for Jesus’ return, we’ll face tough times. But we’ll always have reasons to rejoice in every day God has made.

True Worshipers

By |2021-11-22T08:06:09-05:00November 22nd, 2021|

She finally had the chance to visit the church. Inside, in the deepest part of the basement, she reached the small cave or grotto. Candles filled the narrow space and hanging lamps illuminated a corner of the floor. There it was—a fourteen-pointed silver, covering a raised bit of the marble floor. Bethlehem’s Grotto of the Nativity—the place marking the spot where, according to tradition, Christ was born. Yet the writer Annie Dillard found herself less than impressed, realizing God was much bigger than that spot.   

Still, such places have always held great significance in our faith stories. Another such place is mentioned in the conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well—Mount Gerizim. It was sacred to the Samaritans, who contrasted it to the Jewish insistence that Jerusalem was where true worship occurred (John 4:20). However, Jesus declared the time had arrived when worship was no longer specific to a place, but a Person: “the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth” (v. 23). The woman declared her faith in the Messiah, but she didn’t realize she was talking to Him, “Then Jesus declared, ‘I, the one speaking to you—I am he’ ” (v. 26).

God isn’t limited to any mountain or physical space. He’s present with us everywhere. The true pilgrimage we make each day is to approach His throne as we boldly say, “Our Father,” and He is there.

Let Me Stay!

By |2021-11-16T12:11:36-05:00November 15th, 2021|

As they made their way toward their car, Zander escaped his mother’s arms and made a mad dash back toward the church doors. He didn’t want to leave! His mom ran after him and tried to lovingly wrangle her son so they could depart. When his mother finally scooped four-year-old Zander back into her embrace, he sobbed and reached longingly over her shoulder and toward the church as they walked away.

Zander may merely have enjoyed playing with friends at church, but his enthusiasm is a picture of David’s desire to worship God. Though he might have asked God to thwart his enemies for his own comfort and security, David wanted peace to prevail so that he could instead “gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple” (Psalm 27:4). His heart’s desire was to be with God—wherever He was—and to enjoy His presence. Israel’s greatest king and military hero intended to use peacetime to “sing and make music to the Lord” (v. 6).

We can freely worship God anywhere, for He now dwells within us through faith in the person of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 3:16). May we yearn to spend our days in His presence and to gather corporately to worship Him with other believers. In God—not the walls of a building—we find our safety and our greatest joy.

Sing Praise to God

By |2021-11-08T08:06:03-05:00November 8th, 2021|

The heat and humidity of the Midwestern summer closed in on us all week at the discipleship conference, but on the last day we welcomed a front of cooler air. Giving thanks for the break in weather and the amazing work God had done, hundreds joined voices to worship God. Many felt liberated to sing wholeheartedly before God, offering our hearts, souls, bodies, and minds to Him. As I think back to that day decades later, I’m reminded of the pure wonder and joy of praising God.

King David knew how to wholeheartedly worship God. He rejoiced when the ark of the covenant, which signified God’s presence, was placed in Jerusalem—by dancing, leaping, and celebrating (1 Chronicles 15:29). Even though his wife Michal observed his abandon and “despised him in her heart” (v. 29), David didn’t let her criticism stop him from worshiping the one true God. Even if he appeared undignified, he wanted to give thanks to the Lord for choosing him to lead the nation (see 2 Samuel 6:21–22).

David  “appointed Asaph and his associates to give praise to the Lord in this manner: Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts” (1 Chronicles 16:7–9). May we too give ourselves fully to worshiping God by pouring out our praise and adoration.

Ring the Bell

By |2021-11-01T09:06:03-04:00November 1st, 2021|

After an astounding thirty rounds of radiation treatments, Darla was finally pronounced cancer-free. As part of hospital tradition, she was eager to ring the “cancer-free bell” that marked the end of her treatment and celebrated her clean bill of health. Darla was so enthusiastic and vigorous in her celebratory ringing that the rope actually detached from the bell! Peals of joyous laughter ensued!

Darla’s story brings a smile to my face and gives me a sense of what the psalmist might have envisioned when he invited the Israelites to celebrate God’s work in their lives. The writer encouraged them to “clap their hands,” “shout to God,” and “sing praises” because God had routed their enemies and chosen them as His beloved people (Psalm 47:1, 6).  

God doesn’t always grant us victory over our struggles in this life, whether health-related or financial or relational. He’s worthy of our worship and praise in even those circumstances because we can trust that He’s still “seated on his holy throne” (v. 8). When He does bring us to a place of healing—at least in a way we recognize in this earthly life—it’s cause for great celebration. We may not have a physical bell to ring, but we can joyfully celebrate His goodness to us with the same kind of exuberance Darla showed.

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