Tag Archives: psalms

Through the Generations

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“One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.”  Psalm 145:4

There’s another type of unity in the church we haven’t discussed yet, and that is the unity between the Church Triumphant (the saints in Heaven) and the Church Militant (those of us still fighting the battle here on Earth).  In case you are wondering, when Lutherans say “saint” it does not refer to certain particularly holy people:  we believe all Christians are both saint and sinner.

It is our responsibility to pass the faith on to the next generation.  In the founding documents of our church (St. Paul’s Free Lutheran of Leitersburg, Md) our forbears expressed the desire that their children would remain true to the evangelical faith and confessions of the church and would pass it on to succeeding generations in the community.  That’s been going on for 190 years now.  Those of us at St. Paul’s may not be physical descendants of those charter members, but we are certainly their spiritual descendants.  When I worship in our old sanctuary, my voice and my prayers are joined with theirs.  I can feel that unity.  Some Orthodox churches feature paintings of saints on the columns and ceiling of the church:  a reminder that those who went before are still with us.

In our Lutheran communion service we say “with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven we laud and magnify your name” …another important reminder that our fellowship includes those who have gone before us.  We may not think about it often, but we should.  It’s a source of peaceful strength.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:1-2

Who are your witnesses?  Who are you witnessing to?  Please send us your stories.

Dwelling In Unity

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“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

It is like the precious oil on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down the collar of his robes!

It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion!

For there the Lord has commanded the blessing. life forevermore.”

Psalm 133

I’ve always loved this Psalm.  It is one of the “Songs of Ascent”  thought to be sung as pilgrims ascended to the temple during Jewish festivals.  It rejoices in the blessings of God and family.

There is nothing that contributes more to our happiness than living contentedly with those around us;  and nothing more miserable than being surrounded by discord and disagreement.  This is so obvious that it astounds me to realize how often we spend our time (whoops, back to last month’s theme) being aggrieved and angry with people.

The Bible gives much good advice on getting along with one another.  We like to think that “those others” are just difficult, but guess what?  The burden of getting along  rests with you and me, and with controlling our own, often selfish, behavior.  In Romans, Paul tells us:

“If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all.”  Romans 12:18

Now comes what I call the YBH question (yes, but how?)  Well we can ….

“Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.”  Romans 12:15

“Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.  Never be conceited.”  Romans 12:16

“Outdo one another in showing honor.” Romans 12:9

“Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Romans 12:13

“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to what is honorable in the sight of all.”  Romans 12:17

Most of all,

“Let love be genuine …Love one another with brotherly affection.”  Romans 12:9-10

Whenever there is a lack of harmony, I need to ask myself, “what is my part in this?”  Do I love others, all others as children of God, and therefore my siblings? (or do I consider some of them not worthy of my interest, not as “good” as I am) Am I sincerely happy when things go well for them, and sad when they don’t (or am I secretly envious when they do well, and gloating when they fail?).  Do I try to build others up, giving them honor and credit? (or do I tear them down behind their backs?)  Do I bear patiently with the faults of others? (or do I lash out when they do something wrong?) Am I quick to offer help? (or do I want to keep my time and money for myself?)  Is my love for others genuine (or just lip service?)

Of course, admitting and working on my own faults is difficult–but the reward is peace with God and others.  Isn’t that worth the price?  What do you think, readers?

 

At All Times (Again)

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In a previous post, I blogged about how as friends, we are told to love “at all times” (Proverbs 17:17).  I happened to notice recently that that there are some other things the Bible instructs us to do all the time.

“I will bless the Lord at all times;  his praise shall continually be in my mouth.  My soul makes its boast in the Lord;  let the afflicted hear and be glad.”  Psalm 34:1-2

Hmm…I guess if I am constantly blessing God, I’ll remember that all of my gifts come from Him (I won’t be arrogant) and others will be comforted by the way I handle my problems and troubles.  Sounds pretty good.

“Trust in him at all times, O people;  pour out your heart before him;  God is a refuge for us.”  Psalm 62:8

It’s nice to know there is Someone who will always listen, Someone I can count on, if I just remember to trust and turn to Him whenever I need solace. This should keep me from worrying so much.  Another good idea.

“Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times.”  Psalm 106:3

The word “blessed”  means extraordinarily happy.  Doing what’s right, not only benefits those around me, I’ll be happier myself. I won’t get tangled up in deceit or be consumed with regret and guilt.

All of these verses from Psalms are summed up in the following New Testament passage:

Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances;  for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

In other words, spend your time with God.  Pray to Him, praise Him, lean on Him, listen to Him.  He loves you and is  waiting to be your friend, AT ALL TIMES.

 

 

In Hot Pursuit

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According to the dictionary, to pursue means to chase or run after something or someone.  We pursue the things we really want and are interested in. What are you chasing after in your life?  Is it money?  A beautiful home?  A prestigious job? An expensive car?  A certain someone who attracts you?  If we’re honest, we realize many (if not most) of the things we pursue have to do with worldly approval or success.

The Bible tells us to pursue a whole different set of things.  For example:

“Turn from evil and do good;  seek peace and pursue it.”  Psalm 34:14

Pursue is a verb, an action word.  This means I must not only think peace is a nice idea, I must do what I can to promote it.  Maybe this means compromise, or putting another person first.  Certainly it means caring more about the other person than winning or getting my own way.

Here’s another one:

Pursue love and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts…” 1 Corinthians 14:1

Pursuing love means behaving in a loving way to all of God’s children–not just the ones I care about or the ones who treat me well.  It means using my gifts to encourage and support others, not to promote only myself and my own interests.

Finally:

Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.”  1 Timothy 6:11b

Pursuing righteousness and godliness means going against my natural inclination by doing God’s will instead of my own.  Pursuing God’s way means trying to be selfless instead of selfish.

I know I’ll never completely stop pursuing the wrong things;  but staying close to God through study, worship and prayer will help me remind me of the things I really want.

“For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18b

Run after God.  Pursue the eternal.

 

 

 

Psalm 1–A Psalm of Obedience

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Image result for images of like a tree planted by streams of water

Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers;

but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his day they meditate day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither.  In all that they do, they prosper.

The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

The Road Map

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This is a continuation of the ideas in yesterday’s post about the Sunday sermon at St. Paul’s.

Joseph followed the directions God sent him orally, through the visitation of angels and in prophetic dreams.  Those sorts of occurrences were rare even in Bible times, so we can’t expect to rely strongly on them today to guide our decisions.  However, we do have an important road map for finding our way.

“Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105

The Bible is God’s word.  It enlightens us.  It informs us.  It guides us.  It’s hard to follow any path in darkness, but the verse above tells us that God’s word brings the light we need to follow Him.  Try imagining it like the luminaries that some churches put out on Christmas eve, along the street or sidewalk.

Of course, the Bible does not contain specific instructions for every situation.  It does have broad principles that can point us in the right direction.  It also contains the life stories of many of God’s people.  As we study them, we learn how to deal with similar challenges and temptations.  The book of Psalms is another great place to start.  In Psalms you will find every human emotion known to man.  The Psalms can teach us to cry out to God, in any situation.

You can come to church each week and hear God’s word.  Better yet, you can study it every day on your own or with others. What a great New Year’s resolution that would be!  Follow God’s road map and you will always walk in the light.

“All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”  1 Timothy 3:16

Pursue Peace

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Everybody longs for peace.  We tend to think of peace as something internal and passive:  a gift that God imparts to us simply because we are His people. Then we wonder why we don’t have it in our lives. However, the Bible tells us over and over again that peace is something we must actively seek. It doesn’t come naturally, even to Christians. Consider the following verses:

“Turn away from evil and do good;  seek peace and pursue it.”  Psalm 34:14

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.  So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”  Romans 14:17-19

“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.  Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies;  you know they breed quarrels.”  2 Timothy 2:22-23

“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God;  that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled …”Hebrews 12:14-15

Read the rest of this entry

Giving Thanks for God’s Mercy

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I thought it would be nice to close out the month with something from the Bible.  In Psalm 136 the psalmist gives thanks for God’s enduring love and mercy throughout history.

Psalm 136

136 O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever.

O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him who alone doeth great wonders: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him that by wisdom made the heavens: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him that stretched out the earth above the waters: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him that made great lights: for his mercy endureth for ever:

The sun to rule by day: for his mercy endureth for ever:

The moon and stars to rule by night: for his mercy endureth for ever.

10 To him that smote Egypt in their firstborn: for his mercy endureth for ever:

11 And brought out Israel from among them: for his mercy endureth for ever:

12 With a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm: for his mercy endureth for ever.

13 To him which divided the Red sea into parts: for his mercy endureth for ever:

14 And made Israel to pass through the midst of it: for his mercy endureth for ever:

15 But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea: for his mercy endureth for ever.

16 To him which led his people through the wilderness: for his mercy endureth for ever.

17 To him which smote great kings: for his mercy endureth for ever:

18 And slew famous kings: for his mercy endureth for ever:

19 Sihon king of the Amorites: for his mercy endureth for ever:

20 And Og the king of Bashan: for his mercy endureth for ever:

21 And gave their land for an heritage: for his mercy endureth for ever:

22 Even an heritage unto Israel his servant: for his mercy endureth for ever.

23 Who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endureth for ever:

24 And hath redeemed us from our enemies: for his mercy endureth for ever.

25 Who giveth food to all flesh: for his mercy endureth for ever.

26 O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever.

Why We Sing

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This article was originally published in The Lutheran Ambassador

Lutherans are known as “the singing church” and Martin Luther has been called “the father of congregational singing.” But why do we sing? Is it simply our tradition? Is it an appropriate way to express our emotions of gratitude and love toward God? Is it a biblically sanctioned part of worship (Psalm 66:1-2)? Does it help bind us together as a community? The answer is yes to all these questions about communal Christian singing in the Church. However, there is another excellent reason Lutherans sing: hymn singing is an important part of our Christian education.

Maybe you thought the children were just having fun singing all those Sunday School songs. They are having fun, but they are also learning about important people in the Bible (Father Abraham), the essentials of the faith (Jesus Loves Me), the proper response to God’s love (Praise Him, Praise Him, All You Little Children) and what it means to be part of the church (We Are the Church).

Setting words to music is an aid to memorization. Young people often learn the books of the Bible (in order no less) by singing a song. Adults who participate in a Lutheran liturgy discover they’ve memorized many Psalms and other portions of scripture by taking part in the worship service. Well chosen hymns also serve to reinforce the theme of the sermon and the readings of the day. And in times of crisis in our lives the comforting words of hymns bring the reminder of God’s eternal concern for His people to our minds and hearts.

Good hymns teach. They help us understand the different church seasons (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel). They prepare us for communion (Let Us Break Bread Together). They tell us about the attributes of God (A Mighty Fortress). They convict us of our sin (Amazing Grace). They explain theological concepts (The Church’s One Foundation) and give lessons in how to serve (Hark the Voice of Jesus Calling) and be more generous (We Give Thee But Thine Own). Some hymns are almost a sermon in themselves (Salvation Unto Us Has Come)!

Church music can touch our hearts and sink into our souls in a way that is hard to explain or understand. Church music can lift us up into the very realm of God’s presence. No wonder Luther called it “a fair and glorious gift of God.”