Posts Tagged ‘praise’

Deuteronomy 1:1-5

Introduction to Moses’ First Address

It is Thanksgiving Day in America today. It is a time of reflection. It is a time of looking back at the road that has led to this point in time. Sometimes you wonder why all the twists and turns have occurred. Why did you have to go through all the stuff to get where you are. Wouldn’t have been easier if we had just taken a straight line to where you are now. A lot of times, we say, “Man, if I only knew then what I know now, things would be so different!” When you think of the twists and turns of your life, man, it is right. If we knew then what we know now, we wouldn’t have made some of the choices that we made.

 

For example, with me, I think of some of the choices that I have made or the choices that were made for me. As many of you know, I grew up as a Methodist preacher’s kid. One of the most fateful decisions of my life was made for me as a result of being a Methodist preacher’s kid. The Methodist Church in South Carolina in its wisdom thought it was best to move my dad from his appointment as the Associate Pastor (the only time he was not the head pastor) at Trinity UMC in Anderson, SC to Travelers Rest & Jackson Grove United Methodist churches in Travelers Rest, SC back in 1976 when I was about to turn 14. What if? That one move of all the moves that we made when I was growing up affected the entire trajectory of my life. That was the most fateful move of the history of my life. That move. That move, everything hinges on it. I often wonder what if when it comes to that move. What if my dad had gotten moved somewhere else. I would have never met Lisa, who became my first wife, and would not have had to go through all the stuff that I went through with. With the marriage to her and her having a handicapped mother to care, we ended up staying in Greenville. There were opportunities to move away from the Greenville area that I had to turn down because of the whole situation with her mother. I would never had to suffer through her addictions and the pain and suffering that I had to go through because of that.

 

What if I had broken up with Lisa while were dating in high school? That would have changed everything. There was one girl, Mindy Walker, that I would have broken up with Lisa for but did not have quite the cuhanas to do it. I often wonder how that would have changed my life. Mindy wanted me to be her boyfriend but I was too, what amounts to being, scared of Lisa’s wrath to ever go through with it. Mindy was so much calmer and less volatile than Lisa. That was a missed opportunity that I wonder what would have happened to my life if I had taken that path – the Mindy project, the Mindy path. What would my life had been like. Where would I be right now?

 

What if I would have gone to Clemson University for college like I wanted to? Instead of staying home in Greenville and going to Furman University so that I could stay near Lisa. I know most likely if I had gone just an hour away from Greenville and went to Clemson that hour away would have changed everything. It most likely would have caused Lisa and me to drift apart. It would have become harder and harder to leave Tiger Town and come home every weekend because of the things I would have become involved in over at Clemson. Probably a fraternity. I would have met people that would have changed my life. Lisa and I would most likely have broken up over that hour away in Clemson. What would have my life have been like if I had gone to Clemson and met a Clemson girl? What would have my college experience been like? Where would I be now if I had met and married a Clemson girl? What would I be doing? Where would I be living?

 

What if I had never accepted that job at Dunlop Slazenger Corporation (DSC) where I met Trena. After all the drug addiction, drama, manipulativeness, and vindictiveness that I suffered through with Lisa, Trena was a breath of fresh air. A breath of sanity. A breath of normalness. I would have never met her if I had not accepted the job at DSC. I would have never fell madly in love with her and left Lisa. That marriage proved to be just as painful as the first. Trena hated anything to do with my past. I ended up cutting myself off from friends from my past and from my family. The whole my kids vs. your kids thing wound up destroying that marriage. What if I had more balls to stand up to her and say that I am going to do more than just what was legally necessary for my children. What if I had not been so addicted to access to female charms? What if? What if I had not met her? What if I had gone to work somewhere else and found someone else at a different place of employment. What would my life be like now? I would not have had to move away from Greenville finally after 28 years just to get away from my past and make more money because I was the only one funding my oldest daughther’s college experience at Clemson? Where would I be now?

 

The circuitous route of my life would be totally different if I had not moved to Travelers Rest. It would be totally different if I had gone to Clemson instead of Furman. The trajectory of my life would be totally different if I had not gone to work at Dunlop Slazenger Corporation. All the pain and suffering that I have gone through in my life may have not occurred if I had not met Lisa or met Trena. Things would be so different now. If I had only made different choices!

 

But then I think. If I had not met Lisa (even with all the pain that relationship caused), I would not have my wonderful daughters, Meghan and Taylor. Sure, I would have children but they would not be Meghan and Taylor. Those unique, quirky, wonderful daughters that they are. If I had not met Trena, I would not appreciate the relationship that I have with my children now (because I almost lost total touch with my own kids during my marriage to Trena). If I had not met Trena, I would not know about the fact that I was giving up my soul because of access to sex. If I had not met Trena, I would have never known the pain and suffering of withdrawing from making a person your god. I would not know of the fact that I could actually make it on my own without a woman in my life. If I had not met Lisa and Trena, I would not have learned to be more frugal with money. While married to these ladies, I sold my credit rating down the river just to make them happy. If I had not met and married these ladies and lived in the places that I lived and lived the lifestyles that I lived with them, I would not have moved to Rock Hill, SC after 30 years in the Greenville, SC area. If I had not known the life that I lived in Greenville, I would have never been ready to met my wife that I have now, Elena.

 

For having the past that I had with my previous wives, I would not have such a great appreciation that I have a great friend, my best friend, in her. I would not appreciate that we have friendship that extends beyond the bedroom into the living room. I would not appreciate how we have worked so incredibly hard to restore my credit to the point that I don’t have to make exceptions for my credit anymore. We have worked hard to save and work toward living with less and less debt. We have worked hard to be in a position to be generous. We have been blessed so much through our obedience to God that He has generously blessed us in so many ways. I wonder what my life would be like if I had not met Elena. I shutter at the thought. With being married to her, I have learned about unconditional love from her. With Elena, she is my accountability partner when it comes to my relationship with the Lord. With Elena, I know of comfort and security. I praise God for the lack of drama in our marriage. She is my resting place. She is my high ground above the floods that were my life.

 

Without my past, I would not know of the peace and serenity of my present. Without my past, I could not really appreciate the soundness of my present. Without the missed turns and twists in the road of my life, I would not know of the easy stream that I am floating down now. I know that I am blessed right now. I know that I have it good right now. It is not an expectation. It is an appreciation. If I did not have my past, I could not appreciate my present. A good wife. A good life. A generous life. A blessed life. A life where I appreciate the joy of a grandchild. All of the roses of my life now would not smell so sweet if it were not for my past.

 

The thanksgiving for where I am today is what I thought of when I read today’s passage. That thanksgiving comes from seeing where you are after all you have been through is what I thought of. Let’s read it together:

 

1 These are the words Moses spoke to all Israel in the wilderness east of the Jordan—that is, in the Arabah—opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth and Dizahab. 2 (It takes eleven days to go from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea by the Mount Seir road.)

 

3 In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses proclaimed to the Israelites all that the Lord had commanded him concerning them. 4 This was after he had defeated Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon, and at Edrei had defeated Og king of Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth.

 

5 East of the Jordan in the territory of Moab, Moses began to expound this law, saying

 

The Israelites spend 40 years on a journey that should have lasted 11 days at the time. It wasn’t distance that stood between them and the Promised Land. It was the condition of their hearts. God’s purpose went deeper than simply transporting a large group of people from one place to another. He was preparing them to live in obedience to Him once they arrived. What good was the Promised Land if the Israelites were just as wicked as the people living there? The journey was a painful but necessary part of their preparation. Through it, God taught the Israelites who He is – the living God, the Leader of their Nation. He also taught them who they were: people who were fallen, sinful, prone to rebellion, and doubt. He have His rebellious people the law to help them understand, how to relate to God and other people.

 

For you and me, our spiritual journey may be lengthy and we may face pain, discouragement, and difficulties. But remember, God is not simply keeping you alive to experience these things. He is preparing you to live for service and devotion to Him. The roads we travel are not wasted. God is preparing us for what He has next for us. Nothing is random. Nothing is purposeless.

 

On this Thanksgiving Day, I thank God for the twists and turns of my life. It makes me who I am today. It makes me appreciate the calm waters upon which I sail right now. Without the wilderness of my past life, I could not truly appreciate the Promised Land in which I live now. Thank you Lord. I enter Your gates with thanksgiving and Your courts with praise. Thank you Lord for the wilderness. It has made me see your hand in my life. I am thankful for you placing me on the high ground. It is not lost on me that I am blessed beyond all that I could imagine or hope for.

 

Amen and Amen.

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Luke 24:50-53 — Here we are at the end of the Gospel of Luke. The end of another book of the Bible, another book of the New Testament. But it is not the end. The gospels are only the beginning. At the end of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus’ true majesty is revealed and we see the beginnings of His church. This passage is open ended even though it is the conclusion of Luke. The ascension is not the end of the story. It is only the beginning. It is like leaving the movie when the credits roll and missing the outtakes. With its open ended ending, it is like these movies today that beg for a sequel by how they don’t really wrap up and resolve everything at the end of the movie. That’s the beauty of it all. This story is nowhere near over yet.

The first thing that you will notice here in the concluding passage of Luke’s gospel is that Jesus blesses them. He gives them benediction, a good word with which to be sent forth. Jesus lifted his hands to heaven to bless them. He was calling upon the glory of heaven to be marshalled into his blessing of these men that, though sometimes cowardly and clueless, had risked it all to be with Him for three years. It reminds me that Jesus will bless our obedience to His call. Many of us are overcome by fear and do not follow the call that Jesus has on our lives. We are not willing to make the sacrifices necessary. We are not willing to leave our comfort zone. Regardless of their failures, though, Jesus’ disciples had risked it all for the man they loved and admired and the man they believed to be the promised One. They had followed Him. They had worked with Him. They had spent nights sitting by campfires with Him. During their time with Him, they had seen the miracles. They had seen the evidence of God’s power and provision. For all their inadequacies and lack of formal theological education, they had risked it all to follow their call. And, here, we see Jesus blessing them. God blesses those who have a greater love for Him than they do for their own comfort. Are you following God’s call on your life? Have you made excuses for why you cannot? Have the trust of the disciples, my friend. Somehow they knew and trusted through Jesus that God would provide for them and their families. The Lord will provide and He will bless your humble obedience to His call. He will make a way for you. You simply must trust Him and follow. He will bless you.

The second thing that you will notice in this final passage of the Gospel of Luke is that Jesus returns to His glory in heaven. As Dr. Ralph Wilson says at http://www.jesuswalk.org about this passage,

“As Jesus ascends from the earth into heaven, he is ascending directly into the presence of the Almighty Father. As the Son of Man he appears before the Ancient of Days to receive an unshakable Kingdom (Daniel 7:13-14), reinstatement of his former glory (John 17:5), of which he had voluntarily “emptied himself” (Philippians 2:7). Now it is fully restored.”

His ascension reminds us that He was and is of the same and one essence with the Father. He is one and the same with the Father. Now, consider this, Jesus walked the earth as a man and had set aside His full glory while here and lived as we lived. He felt things we feel. He experienced everything we experience. He lived the human existence. But now He is returning to His mighty glory. The combination of these two things is what make me love Jesus all the more. He is God and all that it entails. He is ageless, timeless, the Creator of all things, the possessor of all knowledge, the ruler of the universe. But at the same time, I know that He understands what its like to live every aspect of the human existence. I know that He is my advocate in Heaven. He knows what it is like to be in human flesh. He knows what it is like. He understands. Him returning to His glory equipped with His human experiences gives me confidence that when I fail and when I disappoint and when I need His comfort and His advice and His direction, He knows. He knows what it is like to live in my human flesh. He is all powerful and yet He knows.

The final thing that we notice here as we conclude Luke, the story is not over. It is not the end. Luke’s story seems open ended and begging for a sequel, much like many of the serial movie franchises that are out right now like the Hunger Games and Twilight. The ending of the movie sets up the hunger for the next installment. Here the story is not over. They returned to Jerusalem with joyful worship. The story is not over. It is just beginning. There is no sadness at Jesus’ ascension. He empowered them to go forth. They are ready and awaiting the next step. The final two words of Luke’s gospel are “praising God.” How fitting is that. The final verb is present tense. That means this is not over. They are praising. That is the point of everything to be in the present and praising God. The job is ahead of us and the point of it all is praising God. God is the point of it. Jesus was God in the flesh. Jesus came to earth to be with us, live among us, experience what we experience, and to be the sacrifice for our sins and is now our advocate in Heaven. Is there no wonder the disciples were joyfully worshiping and praising God. They have got the good news and they will spread it. The story is not over. It is our turn in our time to be joyful worshipers, praising God, spreading the good news. The story is not over.

Luke 1:46-56 — This passage has come to be called the Magnificat because in the Latin translation of the Bible, Mary’s opening words are “Magnificat anima mea Dominum” (or in English, “My soul magnifies the Lord”). Of course, Mary spoke neither Latin nor English, but that’s beside the point. It is a song of praise in any language. There are two things to notice here in Mary’s beautiful song of praise.

Mary was not being proud, as some might suggest. Mary is not being a political revolutionary, as some have suggested. She is simply praising the Lord. She is in awe of what God has chosen to do through her. Instead of thinking of her words as pride, “and from now on all generations will call me blessed,” it should be seen as the voice of a young teenager who knows she doesn’t deserve the honor that she has been given. She admits right before this statement that the Lord has recognized his lowly servant girl. She knows that she is an unusual choice, probably an undeserving choice by human standards, for this honor. My soul, my soul magnifies the Lord. She is overcome by joy at being chosen for this deed that is now known through the generations. Certainly, Mary in the humility of this statement would be the first to disagree with how some in our faith grant her status equivalent with Jesus. This passage is evidence that she is blown away by the honor. I imagine Mary felt just as we do when we realize that Christ died for our sins and we have been given a new lease on eternity when we accept Him as our Savior. We are so undeserving of this favor shown by God. Though we are undeserving of any merit from God, we rejoice in that we have received favor. Think about it. On our own, we do not deserve to be in the presence of God, but through Christ we have been given a honor that we do not deserve. This is how Mary feels. If she wasn’t pregnant, she would be doing cartwheels. She would be a flyer in a cheerleading stunt. She would be doing that victory dance that we do when our favorite college team wins an important game. Mary had no special talents that we know of. Mary was not a self-aware, mature beyond her years political revolutionary. She was a 12-14 year old girl who was trying to figure out this crazy, mixed up world. She was just a kid. It was not that she had accomplished any great thing to deserve this. She had not earned it. She was just a girl in love with the Lord. Her song of praise is simply a recognition that God grants us gifts that we don’t deserve in so many ways. In thanksgiving, our souls should magnify the Lord for the undeserved gifts He grants us daily. He grants them. We do not deserve them. We should be thankful and joyful and singing praises at what God has done for us and in us through our faith in His Son.

The second thing that Mary’s Song of Praise is shows us is that Mary recognizes that God is faithful to His promises. Kingdoms may come and go. Princes may raise and fall. The rich cannot sustain their wealth in eternity. All of humanities promises are temporary. All of our accomplishments are temporary. There has yet to be a man-made kingdom that has lasted more than a millenium. All of man’s deeds, promises, and actions are temporary. The one thing that remains is the eternal promises of God. Mary praises God for this. There were those who doubted God would ever fulfill His promise to Abraham. Mary is stating emphatically here that God’s promises are eternal and they have now been fulfilled in the child she carries. She praises God in faith and in trust that He never fails. He does keep His promises. He may not answer them when we as temporary, fleeting humans want them answered but He does keep His promises. What joy Mary has in this. Her faith is vindicated. He is bringing forth the Messiah that He promised. Mary’s praise should be our praise. God is faithful. He is faithful always. When all the things of this temporary human life have disappointed or failed to keep promises over the long haul, we have God’s promises. He never fails. His love never fails. Take hold of that my friends. Even when we are in the depths of despair, God is working. He will keep His promises to those who are faithfull in His due time. When we are down and out and think we have nothing to cling to, cling to the Eternal King. He is faithful. He keeps His promises. We must have faith in this. Satan wants you to distrust and turn away from God. God will keep His promises. He always has. He always will. Mary is doing metaphorical cartwheels over this. She is doing the cabbage patch dance over this fact. She is doing the moon walk over this. She is doing the electric slide over this. Sorry, for the digression into various dance moves, but you get the picture. Mary is magnifying the Lord in her soul. She is shouting from the mountaintops for the promise kept! This lowly teenage girl we can learn much from! We whine and complain about what we don’t have, about the fact that God seemingly doesn’t hear us. Mary says, you fool, God is God. He is eternal. He does what He says—according to His Sovereign timetable not ours!

Father, help me to remember to have some Mary joy about the fact that though I did not deserve salvation you gave me this great gift, this great honor. To be among your chosen ones because of grace through faith in Jesus Christ. That was all it took. No deserving acts. No deeds. Just faith. Help to remember like Mary that she did not deserve the honor bestowed upon her. May my soul continue and always leap for joy for my salvation, for my undeserved honor. Also, help me to remember the promises that you make are kept. Your answers to my prayers that are alignment with yours will come when You decide. You will keep your promises to your faithful ones. You always have. You always will. You are eternal. Our promises as humans are only temporary. You are eternal. You keep your word. Let me rejoice in that trust! Amen.