Last night we admired that beautiful big orange moon. And again this morning as I sat on the deck and gazed up in amazement at the giant trees lining the back yard, my knees almost felt shaky. Gazing at our awesome God and His incredible artwork brings a thrill far beyond anything else in the world. Then I opened my Bible to Psalm 8:
When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
the moon and the stars you set in place—
what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
human beings that you should care for them? …
O LORD, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!
Then, in response, this song wells up in my heart:
Who am I that a King would bleed and die for?
Who am I that He would pray, “Not my will, Thine,” for?
The answer I may never know
Why He ever loved me so
That to that old rugged cross He’d go
For who am I? (by Charles Goodman)
I was sitting in a church in a remote part of the world where offerings included not only money but also whatever the members had to give. A live chicken that was tied to the altar managed to get away in the middle of the service, to the delight of some little boys who ran to retrieve it. Another Sunday in another church, a very recently caught fish on the altar.startled the congregation by actually jumping off the altar. These “living sacrifices” were obviously not committed!
These events brought to mind Romans 12:1 and the saying I’ve heard somewhere: “The problem with a living sacrifice is that it’s always crawling off the altar.”
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Romans 12:1
I confess that often I need to examine myself to see if I’m still on the altar. Do I still demand or expect to determine my own way, my own choices in life? Am I joyfully committed to whatever God has for me today?
What kind of song does God prefer? “Worship wars” have waged long and hot over the style of songs God’s people prefer. Maybe we should be asking what kind of songs God himself prefers.
In the hymnbook of the Old Testament, the Psalms, one song appears over and over again:
“Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for His faithful love endures forever.” (Psalm 86:5; 100:5; 106:1; 136; and many more.)
This was the song sung on these notable occasions:
–The dedication of Solomon’s temple (2 Corinthians 5:13)
–The choir leading God’s people out meet attacking armies. What a story! As soon as they started to sing, God cause the enemies to attack one another, leaving only a sea of dead bodies and booty for the Israelites to clean up when they reached the scene. (2 Chronicles 20:21-26)
–When the foundation of the second temple was laid after God’s people returned from exile (Ezra 3:11)
–When God brings His people back from exile and restores their fortunes and their land. (Jeremiah 33:11)
This song is based on God’s self-description to Moses on the mountain, and it’s echoed also throughout the Bible:
The LORD passed in front of Moses, calling out,
“Yahweh! The LORD!
The God of compassion and mercy!
I am slow to anger
and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.
I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.
But I do not excuse the guilty…. (Exodus 34:6-7a)
Whatever tune or instrumentation they may have used, God loved their song!
Our grandson’s group violin recital this week was a treat. It opened with beautiful music from the advanced students. Then I admired the cute, earnest beginners. And as the music continued under the cross in the front of the church where the event was held, I realized how these details symbolize the beauty, diversity and unity of the Body of Christ.
–A wide variety of ages and abilities were represented, but as the beginners played along with more advanced students for certain pieces, they ALL sounded good.
–The variety extended to the race of the students—Asian, Black, Caucasian, and Indian.
–Just one teacher is teaching them all.
–All the violins were tuned to exactly the same pitch (by the teacher) before the recital.
–Students are learning leadership skills as they took turns leading the others in various pieces.
–The students are being trained to keep their eyes on the leader so they can all make beautiful music together.
Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all. However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ. …He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. (Ephesians 4:3-7, 16 NLT)
I’m still reveling in the joy and beauty of the other evening with our son and his young family. A neighbor had brought over a new picnic table for the deck, so we all went out and sat around —six children and seven adults, including the “other” grandparents, our very sick granddaughter and her nurse.
We basked in the perfect temperature and prolonged light as the sun prepared to set behind the trees. The birdsongs were extraordinary. Before us lay the yard with its lush lawn and colorful garden. The kids entertained us with creative tricks on the swing set. We savored yummy mini cheesecakes that another neighbor had brought. We enjoyed one another’s company as we chatted and then gathered the kids back on the deck for “Bible time” from a book for children about heaven, which is much on our minds these days. But this evening was a foretaste of heaven, and I will always cherish its memory.
Thank you, Father, for these feasts for the senses, mind, soul, and spirit. You are so good!
People say, “It’s my own body. No one can tell me what to do with it.”
But for God’s children, here’s the real deal:
But you can’t say that our bodies were made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies…Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:13, 19-20 NLT)
I beg you to offer your bodies to him as a living sacrifice, pure and pleasing. That’s the most sensible way to serve God. Don’t be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think. Then you will know how to do everything that is good and pleasing to him. (Romans 12:1-2 CEV)
And when we remember that God is loving, wise, and powerful, it’s pure joy to give ourselves to Him unreservedly, knowing that His plan for us will lead to ultimate joy and fulfillment.
A few days ago I watched what might be my first-ever Memorial Day parade. It was pretty solemn at first as the reminders of our heroes passed by—both those who gave their lives for our freedom and those who lived on. Then the bands came with stirring anthems of the “home of the brave,” “land of the noble free.” Truly these are beautiful sentiments, but are we brave? Are we noble? Do we really value our freedom? Are we willing to be the kind of people who have the courage and determination to maintain our freedom?
We are still watching the DVD series on World War II, and I continue to be amazed at the commitment of the commitment of those who fought to maintain and regain freedom for their own loved ones and others. Would we be willing to pay the cost today, or would we rather give in and be ruled by tyrants?
God have mercy on our nation! Give us courage and commitment to believe, support, and do what is right and true!