Worship

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#20/20Vision#PureinHeart

Friday, September 16th, 2022

In 1982 a story circulated about a woman named Anne Mae Pennica, a 62-year old woman who had been blind from birth. At 47 she married a man she met in a Braille class, and for the first fifteen years of their marriage he did the seeing for both of them until he completely lost his vision to retinitis pigmentosa. Mrs. Pennica had never seen the green of spring or the blue of a winter sky. Yet because she had grown up in a loving, supportive family, she never felt resentful about her handicap.

Then in October of 1981 Dr. Thomas Petit of the Jules Stein Eye Institute of UCLA performed surgery to remove the rare congenital cataracts from the lens of her left eye-and Mrs. Pennice saw for the first time ever!The realization of colors and people were overwhelming but exciting.

What an incredible story! Think how wonderful it would have been for her to see her first sunrise and sunset; to see her husband and others whose voice she had only known. Imagine seeing colors for the first time.

What if we approached the Bible the same way, as if we had never heard or read it before! What an astounding awakening that would be. The truths of the Bible would “blow us away.”  What if we prayed for a renewed vision, a 20/20 vision, as we approach the Bible. What if we asked for new eyes to see new truths. I’m reminded of the old hymn:

“Open my eyes that I may/Glimpses of truth Thou has for me/Place in my hand the wonderful key/That shall unclasp and set me free/Silently now I wait for Thee/Ready my God, Thy will to see/Open my eyes, illumine me/Spirit Divine.”  (That old King James English sure trips me up! 🙂 )

Sunday’s sermon is a continuation of the series on the Beatitudes called Eight Cures. This Sunday, as you can probably gather is from Matthew 5:8- “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”  I invite you to join me as we study. We meet and also live stream at 9 and 10:45.

#Idolatry#Conviction

Friday, January 28th, 2022

Sometimes being a follower of Christ is a real bummer.

I can see your eyes open wider and your mouth even more.  But let me finish my thought.

Sometimes being a follower of Christ is a real bummer, especially if you are or have been conditioned to thinking or even believing that “coming to Jesus makes all things right.” The health/wealth/prosperity teachers fall into this heresy.  It is obviously a false teaching to say that coming to Jesus alleviates problems. Or all you have to do is speak the name of Jesus and all the dark clouds disappear and you will have a Mr. Rogers world.

To counter that thinking I have another question, one many people ask: Why does God allow us to be tempted? Why doesn’t He just step in and take all the temptations away.”  I mean, life would be so much easier and “funner” if temptation was not an issue for the Christ-follower.  Perhaps a good way to answer that is by comparing the difference between a test and a temptation. The devil tempts us to destroy us; God tests us to develop our faith. When trials come false faith withers. The opposite is also true: when trials come real faith stands strong.

Every child who ever attended Sunday School learned the story of the three Hebrew young men: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Or Rack, Shack and Bennie if you are were a Veggie Tales fan. 🙂  Their faith was tested when they  were called on to worship a false idol.  The consequences of not doing so were horrific. Well…if you know the story you know what they chose to do.

This Sunday my sermon is on Daniel 3.  It is a 5th Sunday so if we meet in person the elementary kids will be with their parents. I thought they might appreciate this story more than the one of Nebuchadnezzar’s vision and subsequent 7 years living in the fields as an animal.  My sincere hope is that we will meet in person this Sunday after taking last Sunday to just be virtual.  If we do then we will be in person and live streaming at 9 and 10:45.  If not we will live stream at 10. I will let you know. THIS JUST IN: We are meeting in person so will live stream both services.

Thanks for your prayers.

One more thing: when you read this we will be in Ohio. Jo’s birthday is Sunday so I thought a great birthday present would be to take her to see Braden (and Janna, his mom).  We will be coming back home Saturday.

#Singing!

Tuesday, December 14th, 2021

I posted this on my other blog, Living in the Shadow, and since it is not well read by a lot of people, I thought I would share it here.

I have always been a music person. Ever since I can remember (that might be a day or two) 🙂  I have always been a person who listens to music. I used to tell my folks I could study with music playing. Not true.  I have to admit that when I am studying or reading it has to be quiet or at least with background music I cannot know the lyrics to, i.e. classical.

Christmas is a time for songs, for singing. One of the best parts of this season is the songs-both old and new.  It doesn’t get much better than O Holy Night or Joy to the World.  The angels sang. Children sing. Adults sing. Young folks sing. Old folks sing. We can’t stop singing.

Chris Tomlin has written a (non-Christmas) song with the lyrics: “How can I stop from singing Your praise? How can I ever say enough, how amazing is Your love/How can I keep from shouting Your name. I know I am loved by the king and it makes my heart want to sing.”

This will be a different type of devotion today. I want to share some of my songs with you-those which have been meaningful to me this Christmas season. I hope it will give you something to sing. So here are a few of my favorite “new” Christmas songs. Enjoy.

https://youtu.be/5Vwu-t7QRaE

https://youtu.be/mt_xfOutfSQ

https://youtu.be/182xcb3GyOg

https://youtu.be/qmNDI4f8Wrw

If you want the lyrics (except for the last song which has them), hit CC and the lyrics will come on the screen. Enjoy the songs! May they lift your heart to heaven and put a spring in your step and a song in your heart today…and tomorrow…and the next day…(you get my drift).

#TrueWorship#TrueFaith

Friday, September 17th, 2021

I’m coming close to finishing my series on Mark-The Servant King. The final 5 sermons will cover chapters 11-16. This week’s message begins what is often called “Passion Week” found in chapter 11.

I’ve decided to divide this chapter into 2 sections: True Worship and True Faith.

The first includes Jesus as He rides into Jerusalem on a donkey. I’m going to include a quote from a man by the name of Steve Lambert which shows the difference between Jesus entering Jerusalem and Mohammad entering Mecca. Since it a bit long for this post, I’m going to begin next week with it. I hope you will make your way back here to see that quote.  Meanwhile, as Jesus rode into Jerusalem, the people were yelling Hosanna (which means “Save Now!”) and laying palm branches on the ground. Sadly, they were not praising Jesus because He was the Messiah. They were not pleading for salvation from sin but for blessing, prosperity, and deliverance from Roman rule.  I’ll let you make your own application to how that applies to today’s “religious” people.

The second is Jesus’ incident with the fig tree that had leaves but no fruit. It is not easily understood by many because it seems harsh. A tree with leaves but no figs. Why was it cursed to a life of never bearing fruit?  I hope to explain that during this part of the message.

Hudson Taylor, the great missionary of another time, once said,

God uses men who are weak and feeble enough to lean on Him.

May our faith always be the kind that trusts and forgives like Jesus did.  Check us out Sunday in person or online at 9 and 10:45. I’d love to have you visit with us. If not, please pray.

#OOPS#RePost#SheGetsIt

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021

My deepest apologies to all of you who tried to access the post yesterday and found a big, huge blank.  In order to correct my “technologically-challenged” abilities, (or maybe FB not allowing it to be reposted because it’s not “woke” enough. I’ve been reading Owen Strachan’s book Christianity and Wokeness and I have even less tolerance for that doctrine of the devil than before. I’d say I’m sorry about that comment but I’d be lying. What does that one commercial say: “Sorry but not sorry”? Yeah, that would be me at this point), I’ll give you a written version of what was said.

The picture was of Sydney McLaughlin with an American flag and flowers and a gold medal hanging around her neck. The following are the words written by her Coach William B:

“This 21 year old is now the only woman in history to run under 52 seconds in the women’s 400-meter hurdles and one of the preeminent faces of the new generation of track and field athletes. Sydney McLaughlin set a new world record and received the gold medal. Her words reflect her faith as she boldly said, “Records come and go, the glory of God is eternal.” And “I no longer run for self-recognition, but to reflect His perfect will that is already set in stone. I don’t deserve anything. But by grace, through faith, Jesus has given me everything.”

It is my understanding that she runs for the Gold against her chief rival tonight. May I suggest you Google her name? You will find out what you need to know about her there. She sounds like one phenomenal young lady.

From the previous post:

Now THIS is what it is all about. I, personally, have not watched one second of the Olympics because of all the political c_ _ p (you can fill in the word) that is going on. Kneeling before a soccer match. Turning a back during the National Anthem. Crossing the arms during a photo op. Sad that our world, and that games which were supposed to bring unity and sportsmanship,  have turned into political statements.  If the “O’s” continue like this, I will be hoping they go the way of the dodo bird. All this “woke” garbage is frying me. (You want to know how I really feel?)

#LetFreedomRing#GuestBlog

Monday, July 5th, 2021

I read the following blog this morning (Monday).  It is from the Church & Culture blog of James Emery White, Pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church.  I thought you might enjoy reading it. Meanwhile, you might to also check out his website where you will find other blogs. Here you go:

On the 4th of July, I’m always reminded of times I’ve traveled in countries where freedom is severely curtailed. Or where the people have been freshly freed from the chains of injustice, and the joy of their release was palpable.

I was in Johannesburg on the 10th anniversary of the end of apartheid.

I was in Korea when the border between North and South was electric with tension.

My most powerful memory came from Moscow, where I was teaching shortly after the fall of communism. 

One night a group of us went to the famed Bolshoi Ballet. It was a long, wonderful evening, and after we took the subway back to where we were staying, the students said, “Come and let us celebrate.” The other two professors with me were as tired as I was, but the students were so intent on our joining them, that we went. 

And then we found out what celebration meant to them. 

They wanted to gather in the dining room and sing hymns and worship God. And we did, late into the night, with more passion and sincerity than I have ever experienced. It didn’t matter that we didn’t know how to sing in Russian—we worshiped God together.

But I went to bed puzzled. I had never seen such passion for spontaneous and heart-filled worship. I was curious as to why they were so ready and eager to offer God love and honor. I received my answer the following Sunday when I was invited to speak at a church in North Moscow. A former underground church that met in secret (as so many churches had been), they were now meeting openly in a schoolhouse. I had been asked to bring a message that Sunday morning. 

I didn’t know that I was in for a bit of a wait.

The service lasted for nearly three hours. There were three sermons from three different speakers, with long periods of worship between each message. 

I was to go last. 

When it was over, I talked a bit with the pastor of the church. I was surprised at not only the length of the service, but the spirit and energy of the people. Throughout the entire three hours, they never let up. In spite of the length of time, they never seemed to tire. Even at the end, they didn’t seem to want to go home.

“In the States,” I said, “you’re doing well to go a single hour before every watch in the place starts beeping.” (This was before smart phones.) He didn’t get my weak attempt at humor, but he did say something that I will never forget.

“It was only a few years ago that we would have been put in prison for doing what we did today. We were never allowed to gather together as a community of faith and offer worship to God. And we are just so happy, and almost in a state of unbelief, that we can do this now – publicly, together – that we don’t want it to end. And not knowing what the future might hold for us here, we know that every week might just be our last. So we never want to stop. So we keep worshiping together, as long as we can.”

As I left, his words never left my mind. I thought to myself, “I will never think about worship the same again. I’ve been too casual about it, too laid back, taken it too much for granted. These people know what it’s about – really about – and because of that, they have been willing, and would be willing again, to suffer for it. To be imprisoned for it. To die for it. Because they’ve discovered that it holds that high of a yield for their life. It has that much meaning and payoff and significance. It matters that much.”

And it should matter that much to all of us.

Happy 4th of July.

James Emery White

Editor’s Note

This blog was originally published in 2013, and the Church & Culture Team thought you would enjoy reading it again.

#NewPost#FamiliarSongs

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

Over at my other blog I have written a devotion which will post tomorrow. But I know that many do not read it so I thought I would post it here a day earlier. In that post I talk about a song which plays over and over in one’s head.  Here is the rest of tomorrow’s devotion blog. By the way, I’d love to have you join me on a daily basis as I write a devotion that I pray helps my readers face the day.  The link to that blog is here.  And here is that post:

Did you ever have a song in your head and it gets stuck there and it keeps repeating and repeating?  Maybe it was one you heard just before bedtime and you woke up with that song playing over and over in your head. Or maybe you were in a “mood” and a song just struck you right. Or you heard a song that had you waxing nostalgic, reliving a scene from the past that song dredged up.

A few weeks ago I had a medical diagnosis hanging over my head that was cryptic at best. “You have a mass of suspicious origin so I want you to get an MRI. It just looks different.” Of course all sorts of things run through the mind. He wanted that MRI to get a closer and deeper look. Thankfully, it was gall stones (which he was able to go in and take out with a process called ECRP.  That led though to a gall bladder surgery this past Wednesday. I’m glad it is over and out. But the morning after those initial words I was driving to the office and a fairly new song to me was playing on my Spotify playlist-Holy is Your Name by Petra. I pulled into the parking spot and found myself overcome with emotion and wept. I just knew no matter the outcome, I was going to be okay. (Here is the link to that song).

One of my favorite worship songs was playing last night as I worked on a jigsaw puzzle. I have related here before how my relationship with my father was sketchy at best. No need to repeat it. But the song hit me last night and I became emotional. “You’re a good, good Father that’s who You are/And I’m love by You, it’s who I am, it’s who I am.” My earthly father loved me in his own way, I guess. But God!! There is no comparison. He is a good, good Father and I’m loved by Him.

Now…that’s a song to have stuck in my head and on repeat!! (Here is the link to that song).

“You are a good, good Father, Lord. I cannot thank You enough.”

#Worship#Religion

Friday, February 12th, 2021

Several years ago Victoria Osteen, the wife of entrepreneur, Joel Osteen, was recorded “preaching” and saying the following: “When we obey God, we’re not doing it for God…we’re doing it for ourselves because God takes pleasure when we’re happy…When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really, you’re doing it for yourself.”  I have seen that video clip and am still dumbfounded by it. What I have not seen since it was shared on social media is that clip of her saying that being paired with a scene from the film, Billy Madison where a man says, “What you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard.”

When we hear a religious figure say out loud that we do not worship God for God, we know that is patently absurd. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says the exact opposite of what Mrs. Osteen and others of her ilk say. It says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Sadly, much of contemporary Christianity has changed that to “God’s chief end is to glorify man and enjoy him forever.”

One pastor said, “It is possible to go to church and hear little about God and much about you.”

How can a person argue with that when it is staring us in the face?  “I didn’t get anything out of church today.” “What a waste of time today was. The music was too slow and the sermon didn’t touch me at all. I got nothing out of being in church.” What a difference it would make if we flipped that and asked, “What did I give God today? Did I give Him my full-on worship? Did I listen intently to the message as it was delivered from God’s Word? Was my heart into worship today?”

My sermon Sunday will tackle some of these thoughts as I use Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 to talk about Religion Investigated. I would love it if you would watch the live stream if you are unable to come.  If you are I look forward to seeing you in person.  And, as always, I appreciate your prayers.

#GreatDay!#PraiseSong

Monday, January 11th, 2021

As many of you know I have have Covid since before Christmas. I tested the Monday before (the 21st) and received a positive call on the 23rd. I stayed in jail, I mean quarantine, until Monday, the 4th, even though I was done on December 30th. Just wanted to be safe. It sapped all my strength. I slept more in one night than I think I had the previous year.  (Yeah…slight exaggeration but it sure felt like it).  Anyway, there are some symptoms that have “hung on” that have made life a bit uncomfortable at times. But Saturday I had had enough. I put my bike on my inside trainer and rode for 30 minutes. I think for the first time in weeks I felt alive.

It was during that ride that I ran across a song which literally rocked me. I was about 20 minutes into the ride when a song came on my Spotify playlist, one I had never heard before.  As I rode my bike tears flowed and my hands were raised to the Father in absolute wonder and praise. I though I would start your week off with a good song to fill your heart and mind with. Enjoy!

And here is the song:

#Unknowns#SimpleMen#WiseMen

Friday, December 4th, 2020

The title gives it away. There should be no question who my sermon will be about in my A Grand Production series. 🙂

Life is full of surprises as we all know. Christmas morning is full of surprises.  When I was growing, when I still believed in SC,  Christmas morning in the Grandi household was one big huge surprise. We went to bed with nothing except lights in the windows. No tree.  No gifts. No train. N.O.T.H.I.N.G. But when we woke up life was full of wonder and surprises. Our living room had been transformed into a Christmas wonderland.  A well-lit tree. Gifts under the tree. A running train (my dad’s pride and joy). Even up to the day she died mom had pictures which showed our surprise as we hit the top of the steps and then came down to see what wasn’t there when we went to bed. I now know-or should I say I no longer wonder-how mom and dad stayed up all day. Oh yeah…coffee.  Lots of it. I know they had to have stayed up late at night, maybe most of the night putting everything together to make a magical surprise.

I don’t imagine there could be anyone more surprised than the shepherds when the angel and the host of angels visited them on the hillside with an announcement which shook their world. And to see how the wise men followed the star which took them from their home in the east to Bethlehem by way of Herod’s court is the stuff of legends. Come to think of it both of them are the stuff of legends even though we know nothing more about them than what we are told in Luke and Matthew.

I am afraid we have sometimes lost our wonder. Like the young man in Polar Express,  we go through a crisis of belief and settle too easily for the mundane. Excitement awaits us if we follow Jesus.

I’d appreciate your prayers if you are able and would love to have you join us via live stream.