Singing Saints

“Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name” Psalm 30:4

Lutherans have been called “the singing church” and it’s true.  I can’t imagine worship without singing.  One visitor to our church told me, “you have a lot of audience participation!”  Well, we’re not meant to be an audience because worship isn’t a performance and yes, it’s all about participation.  The word liturgy literally means “work of the people.”  Songs of praise are part of that work, and it’s a privilege and joy to worship the One who loves and saves us.

The Bible is full of saints who sang.  There was David, of course, author of many of the Psalms (the hymn book of the Old Testament).  Miriam sang after the people crossed the Red Sea, and Deborah sang a victory after defeating the Canaanites.  Mary sang after her meeting with the angel who announced the birth of God’s son, and Simeon sang after seeing that same babe who had been promised.

There are many reasons saints sing, but most often their songs flow out of the joy and happiness of life with God.  One Christian song that comes to my mind as I write this is His Eye Is On the Sparrow.  Here’s the story of how that hymn by Civilla Martin  came to be written:

                                                                                                            “Early in the spring of 1905, my husband and I were sojourning in Elmira, New York. We contracted a deep friendship for a couple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle—true saints of God. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for nigh twenty years. Her husband was an incurable cripple who had to propel himself to and from his business in a wheelchair. Despite their afflictions, they lived happy Christian lives, bringing inspiration and comfort to all who knew them. One day while we were visiting with the Doolittles, my husband commented on their bright hopefulness and asked them for the secret of it. Mrs. Doolittle’s response was simple: ‘His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.’ The beauty of this simple expression of boundless faith gripped the hearts and fired the imagination of Dr. Martin and me. The hymn ‘His Eye Is on the Sparrow’ was the outcome of that experience.”

The next day she mailed the poem to composer, Charles Gabriel, who wrote the tune for it.  Sing along with this beautiful piece because you’re happy to be a child of the King.

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Cloud of Saints

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

Since nobody else has posted about the great cloud of witnesses this month yet, I will.  This reading from Hebrews is what I consider my “life verse” and it never fails to inspire and encourage me.  The witnesses are all the saints, past and present.  My question to you today is, who’s in your crowd of witnesses?

I’ve told you about some of my Biblical favorites — Nicodemus, Mary and Martha.  Then there are people who have gone before me, who are now in the presence of God — my grandfather, the lady who picked me up every Sunday when I was a child and took me to church and Sunday School, my good friend, Paul and others.  There are the living saints who have cheered me on and encouraged me in my Christian walk — my old Pastor, Dave; my college roommate, Nancy;  my prayer buddy, Karen;  many of my fellow congregation members;  Via de Cristo and Marriage Encounter friends, and more.

Most of all, there’s Jesus.  He’s the one on whom we’re meant to particularly focus.  As a man, He endured all the same temptations and sufferings that we do — yet He did not sin.  He loves us and prays for us;  He promises He will never leave us — what an encouragement that is!

We’re still running the race, but we’re not alone.  We’re in the company of saints.  Persevere ladies!

Hopeful Saints

This past Sunday I was on vacation visiting my younger daughter and her husband in South Carolina, so I got to attend a different church and hear a different pastor preach.  I always enjoy this — seeing what other saints are doing and how they are thinking.  The message was a good one, a reminder that as saints we can be hopeful.

Many people today are fearful — they are afraid of their own death, and they are afraid that the world will end through some man-created catastrophe — global warming, nuclear war, an unstoppable plague etc..  These fears have always been around, and so far it hasn’t happened.  The Bible actually tells us that although the world as we know it will come to an end, it’s not our job to predict or worry about how it will happen. When that day comes, it will be like a thief in the night — something we probably aren’t expecting at all.

The best news that as Christians, we know that the end of our life or even the end of  the world will actually be a blessing.  Why?  Well, when that happens all God’s saints will be:

  • Raised
  • Reunited
  • Restored
  • Rewarded

The Bible tells us that our bodies will be resurrected.  We will be ourselves, but without the aches and pains, the sinful desires, the anxiety and depression that we experience now.  We will be reunited, with Christian friends and family members who have gone before us.  We will get a chance to meet some of the great cloud of witnesses–saints of the Bible or from history that we admire.  What would you like to ask Martin Luther?  or Mother Teresa?  or the apostle Paul?  The world itself will be restored to it’s pre-fall condition.  I guess that means no disease, no destructive weather, no failed crops.  The most beautiful scenery we have ever seen will be surpassed by the beauty of God’s world in that day.  Finally, we’ll be rewarded by the continuing presence of our Lord.  What could be better than that?

As saints, we have nothing to fear.  We can be hopeful.  God will never leave us or forsake us.

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”[a] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:1-4

 

 

The Attitude of This Saint

Recently, it has come to my attention that I need an attitude check.  Yeah, we use that on teenagers, or at least, I used that on mine.  You see, I’ve been walking around with these thoughts that I should quit certain activities because I didn’t like the way they were being led.  I didn’t want to be a part of that, it’s taking up too much of my time, etc.

Then there is my work.  I’m an older lady that just got a new boss that is the same age as my YOUNGEST son.  Yup, there is a clash there.  I could handle it if he seemed a bit more mature, but he is such a millennial!! But he is my boss….

In my quiet time I read this in Ephesians 4:

22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds;24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

The NIV uses the word attitude; the ESV uses the word Spirit.  I like the one with the word attitude.  I’ve been shown that I need to change my attitude about these events and I’m sure I’ll be at this for awhile.  I should have the activities and my boss in my prayers and drop the self-righteous attitude, because that’s what it is.  Believe me the self righteousness just crept up on me and I didn’t realize that is really what this was until recently.

So, be careful out there, saints!!!  We may be saints but we shouldn’t be self righteous!!

Thankful Saints

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thess. 5:18

We’ve adopted a new routine in our adult Sunday School class.  Each week before we begin the lesson, we try to answer this question:  Where have you seen God at work this week?  Most of the time, we see God at work in the good things that happen to us — someone recovers from illness;  we enjoy a beautiful day;  a friend encourages us;  and so on.   Today I’m reminding myself that God is at work in our difficulties also.

Our lesson last week was the story of Joseph.  Things just seemed to get worse and worse for him.  He’s sold into slavery, accused of rape, cast into prison.  It would be easy to feel that God had forgotten him.  Yet this was far from the truth!  God was at work.  He had a plan to bring good out of all the bad.  We all know that in the end, Joseph is becomes a respected advisor to the Pharoah, and is able to save his family and others from famine because of his God-given ability to interpret dreams.

The verse above tells us that, as saints,  we should give thanks in all circumstances.  God has a plan, and He’s working things out in ways that will ultimately benefit us and others.  We just have to trust Him.  I admit this is hard for me.  I’m sure it’s hard for you as well.  Keep this verse in your heart today as you give thanks.  Thank God for the good things, and also for the bad things He will use to bless you and others in His good time.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Have a blessed Thanksgiving.  God loves you and so do I!

 

Becoming More Saintly

How Come It’s Taking Me So Long to Get Better? By Lane Adams—Book Review

This book was recommended by our Fanning the Flame coach, so I decided to read and review it. Although I have some theological differences with the author (mainly along the lines of people “accepting” Christ, altar calls and the like), overall this is an excellent resource on the topic of sanctification – which we might also call growing more saintly.

Lane Adams begins by explaining that we often expect too much of other Christians, even ourselves; sanctification, or maturing in the faith, is a process. Instead of showing patience, we believe that becoming Christians means that we will stop sinning; that our personal lives will match our professed ideals. We become disappointed and dismayed when this fails to happen. To illustrate, Adams uses the example of the Apostle Paul. We remember Paul’s conversion experience on the Damascus Road and then immediately jump forward to his missionary trips, his theological letters, his imprisonment in Rome and so on. In actuality, Paul spent three years in the desert (presumably studying and meditating) and then about ten years in Tarsus (probably pastoring a church, before he grows into the hero of faith we admire. Reading carefully reveals Paul was not always successful either: remember his poignant lament:

Adams likens the Christian life to warfare – once we become a Christian, Christ has established a beachhead within us, but there are many more battles to be fought! Some of these are things we are not even aware of at the beginning of the journey.

He also touches on topics such as legalism, religious experiences, our testimonies, spiritual gifts and marriage. Most Lutherans would agree with his explanation and take on these important issues in the walk of faith.

VERDICT: I liked this book very much, and have recommended it to my husband as a resource for training Elders and other church leaders. It is not too long, or technical and will encourage serious thought and discussion as well as help in relating to other Christians who are at different points in their walk.

Saints Gathering Together

In church last Sunday we sang this well-known “Thanksgiving” hymn which speaks to me about the strength we find in gathering together as saints of God.  You may be surprised to learn something about its’ history!  It is actually of Dutch origin and refers religious persecution which occurred long before the first Thanksgiving.  The melody can be traced back to 1597.  It began as a folk song but was transformed into a hymn dealing with overcoming religious persecution on January 24th 1597.  That was the date of the Battle of Turnhout, in which Prince Maurice of Orange defeated the Spanish occupiers of a town in what is now the Netherlands.  At this point, the Dutch Protestants, who were prohibited from worshiping under the Spanish king, Phillip II, celebrated the victory by borrowing the familiar folk melody and giving it new words.  “We Gather Together” connoted a heretofore forbidden act—Dutch Protestants gathering together for worship.  It first appeared in print in a 1626 collection of Dutch patriotic songs.  Listen to the words and give thanks for the blessings we receive when we gather together.