Come, Let All Unite To Sing

The 95th psalm says, “O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms” (vs. 1 & 2).

God’s people have always been singers. In the Old Testament, David appointed Levites to sing and “raise sounds of joy” to the Lord. (1 Chron. 15:16), and another psalm says, “I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; As for me, I shall be glad in the LORD” (Ps. 104:33,34).

God’s people are still singing today. The churches were told to engage in “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with [our] heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19), and “sing with the spirit and the mind” (1 Cor. 14:15).

James said, “Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises.” (Jas. 5:13). In Jesus, we have so much to be cheerful and thankful for. So singing is the easiest instruction that God ever gave. As the prophet Zechariah said so long ago, “Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” declares the Lord.”

Interrupted By Greed

A man once interrupted Jesus because of his greed. In Luke 12 Jesus was talking about God’s wonderful care and provision for us, “Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? And yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows” (vs. 6,7).

Jesus went on to speak of God’s care even in the midst of persecution and how the Holy Spirit would help them. Just then, the greedy fellow spoke up, “And someone in the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me’” (vs. 13). Never mind what Jesus was teaching, he wanted the Savior to help him get his money. 

The worldly and carnal life is one of infinite dissatisfaction, always wanting more, and taking from or before others to get it. J.D. Rockefeller was once asked how much money it took to satisfy. He reportedly said, “Just a little more.” 

We should never consult our greed when considering what to do, what to take, what to buy, what to share, or what we think others should do for us. Greed is a terrible career counselor, family counselor, relationship coach, and pastor. So Jesus said, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (vs. 15).

Represent The Father Well

What a blessing to be identified with God.  John said, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him” (1 Jn. 3:1). 

The world does not understand Christians because they don’t know our Father. But when unbelievers see wrong in us, they'll think they know more than enough about us, and Him, already. 

The apostle Paul’s soberly warned that when you break the law, you dishonor God—and can cause unbelievers to speak ill of Him as well. Quoting Isa. 52:5, he says, “‘THE NAME OF GOD IS BLASPHEMED AMONG THE GENTILES BECAUSE OF YOU,” just as it is written” (Rom. 2:24). And Ezekiel said, “You have profaned My holy name among the nations where you have gone” (Ezek. 36:22).

Have ever you heard someone say, “If that’s Christianity, I want no part of it”? Believers face reproach enough in doing right in a wicked world. But doing wrong reflects especially poorly on our Father. Christian, if you are maligned, make sure it’s only for doing right. 

Sometimes, we need Nehemiah’s words again: “The thing which you are doing is not go

What Will You Do With Jesus?

A website devoted to Christian hymns (hymnary.org) lists more than 15 songs with “What Will You Do With Jesus?” as their title or the first line of their refrain. This echoes Pilate’s question when the Jews demanded Barabbas be freed instead of Jesus. “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” (Matt. 27:22). This is a good question for us all.

Jesus’ opponents did a lot with Him. They argued with Him, opposed Him, plotted against Him and crucified Him. These are bad ways to deal with Jesus.

His friends usually did better, as they listened to Him, worshipped, followed, thanked and loved Him. But they were also confused by Him, disappointed Him, argued with Him and they denied Him. 

When the gospel of Jesus was preached after His death and resurrection some still rejected Him and persecuted His followers. Others hesitated to make a decision about Him or tried to stay neutral. 

Those who believed became Christians and confessed and they obeyed Him. They proclaimed Him. They worshiped Him. Loved Him, adored Him and glorified Him. 

Our response to Jesus is largely an emotional one. Realizing that the son of God died to save us from our sins makes us choose between Him and our sins. So, what will you do with Jesus?

A Happy Man

A government official going home after a long trip is not usually how stories of great joy begin. But it’s how a happy story in Acts 8 does.

An Ethiopian official was traveling home reading the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. He read, “He was led as a sheep to slaughter; and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he does not open his mouth…His life is removed from the earth.” (Isa. 53:7,8). Like so many prophecies in Isaiah, it’s confusing and the official didn’t know who it was talking about.

He asked an evangelist named Philip whom God had sent to meet him, “How can I, understand unless someone guides me?”  

Philip told him the prophecy was about Jesus. So, “Beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.” (Acts 8:35) Learning that Jesus was the lamb of God who was slain, but was risen again, the official asked what else he need to do before being baptized. The preacher told him he could if he believed. So,“He ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch; and he baptized him. And then they came up out of the water, …he went on his way rejoicing” (vss. 38,39).

Here is the joy of the baptized believer, united with Christ and forgiven of sin. No wonder he went home rejoicing. 

Joy in Jesus is still found by learning about Him in the scripture, believing in Him and being baptized. Happiness in Christ is a blessing made new in every believer who heeds the gospel call.

Come, Let All Unite To Sing

The 95th psalm says, “O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.” (vs. 1 & 2)

God’s people have always been singers. In the Old Testament, David appointed Levites to sing and “raise sounds of joy” to the Lord. (1 Chron. 15:16), and another psalm says, “I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; As for me, I shall be glad in the LORD.”  (Ps. 104:33,34)

God’s people are still singing today. The churches were told to engage in “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with [our] heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19), and “sing with the spirit and the mind” (1 Cor. 14:15).

James said, “Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises.” (Jas. 5:13) In Jesus we have so much to be cheerful and thankful for. So singing is the easiest instruction that God ever gave. As the prophet Zechariah said so long ago, “Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” declares the Lord.”

We invite you to our congregational hymn singing this Friday, July 13, at 7:30 pm, at the Pix Community Center in downtown Mulvane. 

The Gospel: The Good News We Need

The good news: God made you in His image, dearly loves you, wants you to be reconciled to Him, to live a life of spiritual peace and joy, and to be saved eternally. 

The bad news: If you need to be reconciled, and saved, that means the state of man is alienation, loss, and condemnation. This is the result of sin. 

Back to the good news: Jesus is the cure for sin and the only way back to God. He made our reconciliation with God—and with others—His business. To do this, He made Himself the sacrifice for our sin. Through belief in Him, repentance of sin, baptism to wash away sin, and faithfulness to Him, salvation is promised. 

Be Resilient

Claiming that “somebody was mean to me first,” seems to be today’s “get out of jail free card.” Even the father of the latest school shooter excused his son’s actions saying, “My son, to me, is not a criminal, he’s a victim,” because he was “bullied.” 

While being sympathetic to people in the aftermath of tragedy, we cannot excuse evil because other wrongs might have preceded it. If we did, we’d excuse every sin.

Christians are called to good in the face of evil. Beginning with “turning the other cheek,” (Matt. 5:39) moving on to “love your enemies, and do good,” (Luke 6:35) and then even “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone… Never take your own revenge… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good,” (Rom. 12:17-21). 

This takes great faith and resiliency because we have strong desires to strike back. But Jesus left us an example of not kicking and cussing at people and problems. As it says, “While being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously,” (1 Pet. 2:23). Only determined efforts to be Christ-like and truly selfless, which He alone empowers us to do, will succeed. But this life has great rewards. 

As it was prophesied of Him long ago. “A bruised reed He will not break, And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not be disheartened or crushed,” (Isa. 41:2,3). This is our model for dealing with others.

The Gospel: Good News We Need

The good news: God made you in His image, dearly loves you, wants you to be reconciled to Him, to live a life of spiritual peace and joy, and to be saved eternally. 

The bad news: If you need to be reconciled, and saved, that means the state of man is alienation, loss, and condemnation. This is the result of sin. 

Back to the good news. Jesus is the cure for sin and the only way back to God. He made our reconciliation with God—and with others—His business. To do this, He made Himself the sacrifice for our sin. Through belief in Him, repentance of sin, baptism to wash away sin, and faithfulness to Him, salvation is promised. 

Today, If You Hear His Voice…

Nearly two thousand years ago, the writer of the book of Hebrews implored his readers to listen to God’s voice today, “lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God.” (Heb. 3:12) This message is nearly 2,000 years old. The writer was quoting Psalm. 95:7,8, a text nearly a thousand years old in his day, saying “Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, “TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS“ (Heb. 3:,7)

For over 3,000 years, God has been pleading with people to listen to Him and not reject His call. These texts emphasize “Today.” Hear, listen, give heed: “Today.” Gods’ voice still speaks the same thing: “Hear Him today.” Tomorrow we don’t know what our situation will be, if we will be in the mood or mind to listen, or if we’ll even have the ability. 

Does hearing God’s word convict you, causing guilt and shame? That’s  His call to repentance. Does His word stir up anger? That’s truth striking a soft spot in your heart that you’re fighting against. These are all good and gracious acts of God to move you away from sin by causing repentance. Hear His voice. Don’t harden your heart anymore. 

Make today the day you turn your heart back to Him. While it’s today, it’s never too late. Paul told the Corinthians, “We urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain…behold, now is ‘THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,’ behold, now is ‘THE DAY OF SALVATION’” (2 Cor. 6:1,2). 

As the Hebrew writer exhorted: “See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking” (Heb. 12:25).

Forgiveness Makes Us Joyful

Sin weighed down and torn up David’s soul. In Psalm 32. he told the joyful story salvation, shouting the blessedness of forgiveness. 

1    How joyful [blessed] is the one

    whose transgression is forgiven,

    whose sin is covered!

2     How joyful [blessed] is a person whom

    the Lord does not charge with iniquity

    and in whose spirit is no deceit!

Forgiveness makes the soul sing. This is in terrible contrast to what sin does to us. 

3     When I kept silent, my bones became brittle

    from my groaning all day long.

4     For day and night your hand was heavy on me;

    my strength was drained

    as in the summer’s heat.

Forgiveness makes the soul sing because sin crushes it. Sin grinds us up making us weary like the worst, driest, hottest day of summer. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way. David continued: 

5     Then I acknowledged my sin to you

    and did not conceal my iniquity.

    I said,“I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”

    and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

The blessedness of forgiveness comes after we confess our sin. Denying our sin before God leaves us outside His shelter, under the oppression of guilt and sin. So let us confess and seek for God.  

6     Therefore let everyone who is faithful pray to you immediately.

    When great floodwaters come,

    they will not reach him.

7    You are my hiding place;

    you protect me from trouble.

    You surround me with joyful shouts of deliverance.

In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul quoted this psalm to explain salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. God “Justifies the ungodly, [and] his faith is reckoned as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: ‘BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED.’” (Romans 4:5-7) 

In Christ, we are forgiven and our faith in Him is counted as righteousness. Like David, this forgiveness makes the soul of all believers sing.

The Epic Story

The Bible tells the truest, most amazing and dramatic story ever conceived—much grander than the imaginings of the comic book universes and the large-scale sci-fi and fantasy worlds that move so many today—the stirring story of the Bible isn’t just based on reality, it’s the true story of reality and our part in it. 

Beginning in the ancient days, the Bible tells the creation and fall of humanity, our subjection to mortality, universal corruption, and judgment by flood, the salvation of one family on a boat. Then the call of one man to follow God, and the great nation, led by prophets, and priests, and kings that came from Him. These are the great stories in the Bible. 

“And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong…(men of whom the world was not worthy)…And all these, having gained approval through their faith…” (Hebrews 11:32ff)

Then an even greater part of the story began, the story of Jesus. God in the flesh, Emmanuel—God with us, born of a virgin, sinless lamb of God, who died for our sins, rose from the dead, offering forgiveness to those who believe in Him and repent, and making all who did so to be His own family. 

So we tell the great story of what God did—and is still doing—for us.  

The Greatest Story Ever Told

In the mid-1960s, Hollywood gave the gospel its full cinematic treatment complete with an all-star cast, thousands of extras, and stunning scenery shot in ultra-widescreen “Cinerama” on large format 70mm film complete with multi-track sound. Over 6 million feet of film were used to make a 4:20 film. Ultimately edited down to just 2:17, the movie “The Greatest Story Ever Told” was a massive commercial failure. But God’s word has never needed tinsel-town and the silver screen to tell its story. 

God’s story is always best told by those who believe it most. His inspiration gave us the message. And His providence and the faithfulness of His people have preserved it so that it’s the most readily available book in the most of the world—and the most suppressed in the rest. 

Today we are blessed (maybe cursed?) to live in the information age. We are awash in words, stories, pictures and sound. When every story is available, the effect is to diminish the value of them all. But we still have the most infinitely valuable one of all to tell. 

To those hungry and thirsty, let us tell of the bread and water of life. 

To those lost and struggling with sin, let us tell of the great redeemer.

To those disheartened and weary, let us tell of Him who gives us rest. 

To those lonely and discouraged, let us tell of Emmanuel, God with us. 

To those bereaved and grieving, let us tell of Him who lives again. 

Believers we ask, do we love to tell the story? Are you telling it to others regularly?

 

In The Image Of A Moral God

At some point, some injury or insult, some violation of custom, standard, or law will occur and that will cause us to lose our cool and our righteous indignation will burst forth like a volcano. This is universal. We differ on when happens because of own values and priorities. But everyone’s got that point because we are creatures of moral judgment. We can’t deny it. We really were made that way. 

God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). And so He did. “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27). He made us with a deep moral sense. He made us as makers and keepers of standards, even if we are deeply imperfect at it.

We use this sense every time we praise what we approve and condemn what we don’t—whether audibly, or with a nod, or even with an eye roll. We wrestle within ourselves dealing with our conscience as it “accuses or excuses” us (Rom. 2:15) for what we did or didn’t do. All this reflects the moral nature of God who made us like Him. 

This moral quality gives us the choice to do good or ill. Even though our choices are not always informed, or are diminished and constrained by prior choices and circumstances, they're still our choices that we must reason through and deal with. And we know our decisions often have long-lasting consequences. Let us use the moral reasoning that God gave us for His glory and for our good, choosing the way the prophet Amos said, “Let justice roll down like waters, And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).

An Outpost Of Heaven

The Philippians weren’t like the people around them. They were Romans in Macedonia, the rugged area that produced Alexander the Great, in a town named for his father. Located on a Roman military highway connecting Rome to its eastern territories, Philippi was the site of significant fighting in several Roman wars and was strategically important. Home to a large population of Roman veterans, Philippi had special legal status as a Roman colony.

Like any outpost, the Philippians faced constant danger. They might get cut off or surrounded by enemy forces. Their outpost might fall to trickery and subterfuge. Or most insidiously, they might “go native” and become too much like the locals to be of any use to those that sent them.

On his second missionary journey, the apostle Paul preached the gospel in Philippi and baptized those who believed (Acts 16). Paul taught them how believers are to act. “As citizens of heaven, live your life worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, in one accord, contending together for the faith of the gospel” (CSB, Phil. 1:27). So live honorably, stand firm, and fight as a unit, whether or not I’m there. 

The Christians there needed this kind of discipline because these believers still manned an outpost — but now it was one of heaven’s. They were to hold it in a faithful, worthy and expectant manner, knowing“Our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:16,17).

Here We Are But Straying Pilgrims

Oh, how many times can we feel like we don’t belong. This feeling can hit us both often and surprisingly deeply because we have within us a profoundly spiritual longing for a better elsewhere. We can feel it even in our own hometowns, in the communities where we’ve lived in for years, sometimes even in our own homes while surrounded by our family. 

Artists: the poets, authors, movie makers and especially songwriters, so effectively call this to mind that it can become like an aching in our bones. Their mastery of emotion didn’t create this longing in us. They just skillfully remind us of it, tapping into something already deep within us. 

Yes, we deeply yearn for the comforts that home is supposed to provide: peace, security, provision, belonging, acceptance. But even if we had stable and loving childhoods, secure and prosperous upbringings—or if we’re now the ones striving to give that to others—we know deep within us, that this can’t it. This can't be all. And yet how many of us are successful at even providing that? There must be more. We want, we need, more. There must be more. 

We’ve been wanderers since God drove Adam and Eve out of His presence and from His garden due to their sins, and we’ve been sinfully and selfishly ruining every place we’ve been since. 

Only in God, through Christ, can we find that which we truly lack. Jesus invites us saying, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest,” Yes, “YOU SHALL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS” (Matt. 11:28,29). So in Christ, we can sing both “This World Is Not My Home” and “Anywhere Is Home” and be correct in each.

Enough Crowns For All

There are shortages in every earthly thing. Economic reality places limits on all resources. Even time, attention and concern are limited. Solomon lamented, “I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind. What is crooked cannot be straightened, and what is lacking cannot be counted.” (Eccl 1:14,15)

But in the realm of heaven and its economy, there will be no shortages of any kind—not even of precious things like crowns. While few on earth get to wear a crown, the apostle Paul, though he was nearing death, looked forward to brighter days, saying, “In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8). 

In a similar way, the book of James (1:12) tells us, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

For those who love the Lord, heaven has crowns for all: a crown of righteousness, a crown of life. And for this victory crown, my getting one, or your getting one, will not crowd anyone else out or take their crown away. These awards are not presented on a medal stand for only a few who have beaten out and conquered their rivals, or who have bested their friends, so they can get a reward that few are able to obtain. 

Indeed, there’s no need of, nor any place for, rivalry and competition—rather think of these as being given at a family gathering where our loving Father has made room and reward for all.

Yes, For Our Sake It Was Written

“You shall not muzzle the ox when he is threshing.” God taught that the working animal gets to eat while it’s working to bring in your harvest. Does that sound like such an important thing that it should be in both the Old and New Testaments? Well, it is. 

In the Old Testament, this teaching is right after the instruction to not degrade or humiliate a guilty brother in his punishment (Deut. 25:1-4). 

In the New Testament, it's quoted in a lesson about paying those who do spiritual work:  

“For it is written in the Law of Moses, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He? Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops” (1 Cor. 9:9,10).

We know that how you treat animals is a good indicator of how you’ll treat people. God is somewhat concerned for the animals—after all, not one falls to the ground without His knowledge (Matt. 10:20)—but what He really cares about is people. 

He wants you to learn to share the same concern. In this case, the lesson is everyone gets to eat, the plowman, the thresher and the oxen too. The apostle then applied it to teachers as well. But, beyond that, apply the lesson of universal concern universally—love your neighbor. 

All of them. 

Always.

Lest Your Brother Be Degraded In Your Eyes

Because of the Law of Moses, the Jews had a number of peculiar customs. One such custom dealt with criminal punishment: the guilty couldn’t be lashed more than forty times. To make sure they didn’t go over this, ancient Jews would always do one less, no matter how guilty the offender. The apostle Paul referred to this in 2 Cor. 11:24, saying, “I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes,” also translated as “forty stripes save one.”

Humane treatment of the guilty was directly from the law of God. In Deuteronomy 25:3, after the judge finds a man guilty, “He may beat him forty times but no more, lest he beat him with many more stripes than these, and your brother be degraded in your eyes.”

All believers should give serious thought to whether our society properly considers this principle today regarding the guilty. But even if the worldly treat others oppressively and with contempt, those instructed by the law of God must not. 

Since the Law of Moses protected even the guilty from degradation and humiliation in their brethren’s eyes, how much more should the gracious law of Christ teach us to generously treat each another? D

Does this only apply to those guilty of breaking laws? Does it not also apply to those who have crossed us, disappointed us, or that we might for some reason view as beneath us? There is no place in the gospel system for humiliating and degrading treatment of anyone, guilty or not.

“They All Began To Make Excuses”

Jesus told of people who received an invitation to a great feast—but no one came. Instead, they “all began to make excuses” saying, “I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it,” or “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out.” Or even, “I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come” (Luke 14:18-20).

Those all seem like decent enough reasons to me. But whom am I to judge? As the apostle Paul taught, “Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls” (Rom. 14:4). The excuse makers all fell even if I might have thought myself generous by not condemning them. 

The Lord alone can condemn or justify while we cannot because “the Lord weighs the hearts” (Prov. 21:2 and 24:12). Only He is able to “judge the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12) 

There is only one heart that I can fully judge: my own. I often don't like what I find when I look at it fully and truly. It is really easy to then project and figure that other folks must be in the same sorry shape is me—and uncharitably, I decide that most of them must be even worse. But that is conjecture, not knowledge, and certainly not righteous judgment. 

So on that day when all around “begin to make excuse,” I must make sure that I'm not doing it too. This alone is what I can control. And may I repent and ask the Lord to forgive me for when I have made excuses and may He keep me from doing it again.