Worship


A relatively new marvel of modern technology is a device called a Fitbit. I received one as a gift for Christmas, and it continues to amaze me. A small watch-like apparatus strapped around the wrist is able to understand and interpret human motion (or activity). By analyzing acceleration data, the details about frequency, duration, intensity, patterns of movement, number of steps, stairs, distance traveled, calories burned, and sleep patterns are all made available for wearers to review. Mine revealed the quality of my sleep habits as if I had been to a polysomnography clinic. I continue to be literally blown away!

With all of that, this small gadget would show me something more. In a matter of days, an email message came to my inbox from the Fitbit monitoring system alerting me of a matter I had actually neglected to notice. The message read: “Your Charge battery level is low. Charge your battery as soon as possible.” I looked at the device and as sure as the message was real, the battery indeed needed to be charged. The Fitbit is only designed to run for about a week before it needs to be recharged.

Technology is incredible. In all actuality, these advances are really not new. And to the surprise of many, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are not the creators of such brilliance. Since the beginning of creation, God made us with an even more advanced kind of genius. The Psalter noted that humanity is “…fearfully and wonderfully made…” (Psalm 139:14) Perhaps one might consider ours a “Faithbit”—a parallel kind of technology (namely, spirituality) designed to help us with a variety of daily motions and maneuvers no matter what we face in life. By faith, we can get up when we fall; overcome great difficulties; traverse great distances amidst the darkest nights, and so much more.

Faith is so amazing that along with it comes an alert system that apprises every believer whenever the battery—that essential power—is low and needs recharging. One might ask, how does one know? Great question! Here are a few hints! A bad attitude or quick temper is an alert that signals your battery is low. A negative spirit or some unhealthy (bad) habits surely indicate your battery is low. Weakness and ungodliness are certain notices that your battery is low. The paralysis of fear and exaggerated worry are no doubt tell-tell signs your batter is low.

If any of these or other similar indicators are the case with you, it could be that your faith-bit battery is low and needs to be recharged immediately. Simply plug it in—that is, pray, fast, spend quality private time with God, read your Bible, worship), and allow God to give you the strength you need to make it a little while longer. In case you don’t have one (a “faith-bit”), it only requires you to take the time to sign up. The only way any of the Fitbit data would be at my disposal obliged me to register online to allow the advocates to keep me informed. You can sign up, too; and you don’t even need a computer. Simply approach the Father in prayer, and confess your sins, and accept the terms (Jesus) for your salvation and justification. He is faithful still to cleanse and forgive you of all your sins if you’ll only ask Him.

Some time ago, I was driving through Nashville and heard an abnormal noise from the left rear side of my car.  Quickly, I decelerated (as safely as I could) and maneuvered to the right side of the interstate right past Exit 215; and turned on my flashers.  Sure enough, I had a flat, so I immediately dialed my insurance company as I was on my way to an engagement in eastern Tennessee.  They indicated they would dispatch a wrecker to come and repair the tire within an hour.  In a matter of minutes, a huge lime yellow truck pulled up behind me with the tag on the side which read, “Tennessee Highway Incident Response Unit.”  A rather tall gentleman exited the vehicle and came to greet me.  I concluded he was not sent from my insurer, and asked him how did he know I was there.  He calmly pointed to the overpass behind us over a half mile away, and said, “Our monitors saw you when you pulled over, and I was sent (radioed) to come and assist you.”  I strained my eyes to see, and in the distance, I noticed surveillance cameras strategically mounted on the interstate bridge that had us in view at that very moment.  I waved, and was amazed and grateful at the same time.

 

In an ancient culture and in quite a different world than the one in which we live, the Psalmist—without the advantages of technology and electronics—yet knew something very similar about God.  In the 46th Number, it was declared, “God is my refuge and my strength, a very present help in the time of trouble…” (verse 1).  No matter where you are and what you may be going through, this reality remains indisputable.  Our God sees all, our God knows all, and ONLY our God is yet able to do ANYTHING; but fail.  If you’ll wait on Him, He’ll come see about you.  Sometimes He sends angels, sometimes He sends others (believers), and then sometimes, He just shows Himself!  Ain’t that good news!!!!!

 

You may not have had an “accident” or perhaps some other major “incident;” even if you’ve only had a flat, God can still fix it!!

 

Fate has a way of introducing situations into our lives that challenge us at the deepest levels. From debt, difficulty, disaster, divorce, death, and beyond, these have a way of putting-the-squeeze on us in ways we would prefer to avoid. Never does God intend for these things to depress or destroy us. To the contrary, He uses these to develop us into power-broking people who can endure trials and prevail at any time, in any place, and under any circumstance. Settle with the fact that some realities just won’t change. Loved ones do age and may become ill. Grown children will eventually leave home; whether at a time we are ready for them to go, or earlier should they decide to take the plunge. Employers may make hard choices that cost us substantially. In short, we will continue to experience losses no matter who were are or what we have attained. We cannot change these!

You should know, though, you have options! You can either fight it—that is, try hard to deny the reality as if it does not exist—or you can face it. You can either take it lying down, or you can stand up in the midst of it and be a victor, and not the victim. When life issues you a lemon, you can actually make lemonade. God gives believers the power to take stumbling blocks, and successfully turn them into stepping stones. Regardless of how painful the dilemma is, we can make it, because it’s not the end of the world. That is, yet! Want to know how? Here’s an approach:

First, thank God for the test (trial). Really, that’s all it is. It’s a test of your faith. I don’t know anyone who tries to intentionally fail a test. There are some Christians, however, who would prefer to simply “not take the test.” Don’t trip! Thank God for it. It’s only a test! Second, ask God to help you learn from it. There is so much to learn in every experience. Turn that trial or challenge into a learning module. God will show you areas where you are much stronger/wiser than you realized, and ways (and places) where you need improvement. No matter what, learn from the experience! Third, be positive! The matter of faith is a “living” reality. Therein lies a power at our disposal to handle and overcome any adversity if we would simply appropriate it. Sing songs of praise and be joyful. Do all you can to celebrate God’s goodness even in the dark places! Make God larger than the problem. Fourth, trust His word (Him) through it! Remind yourself of the promises of God. He alone declares never to leave nor forsake us. He alone has the power to defeat death, hell, and the grave. Read and remember His word.

Daniel had fasted and was praying for three full weeks anticipating a breakthrough and some needed relief for the people of Israel (Chapter 9). While still praying, the angel of the Lord came and told him what he needed to hear. Amazingly, the angel confessed he departed heaven to come to Daniel’s aid a full three weeks earlier, but had been strangely detained by demonic forces (see Chapter 10:13). Even more amazing was the fact Daniel never lost hope. I wondered why! I pondered how we might equally be resilient as we wait on God’s timely intervention into our situations today. Two things came to mind:

(1) God always gives assurance in spite of the appearance. When things appear they are not changing and you find yourself getting a bit weary, pay close attention to how God mysteriously provides assurance even in spite of the appearance. Things are not always as they seem.
(2) Trust the revelation instead of the manifestation. As you read His word, hold fast to what God has said rather than what you see. His word alone can kindle a fire in your heart and give to you the comfort you need to make it through. I am a witness He will!

Dear brothers and sisters; roll up your sleeves and tell the devil “He’s a liar; and the truth is not in him!” Trust God! You can and will make it!

Continental Flight 1734 was the carrier on which I was to be flying through Houston on my way to the east coast for a conference. At 7:00 a.m. on the day planned, we pushed away from the gate at Omaha’s Eppley Airfield, and taxied as scheduled toward the runway. Approved for take-off, the jumbo jet quickly began accelerating. Our bodies were automatically welded to our seatbacks with our seat belts fastened as instructed; anticipating lift in only a few seconds. Suddenly, the aircraft noticeably decelerated and it was quite obvious ours was not to be a successful takeoff after this try. In a matter of moments, the captain related the aircraft had experienced power failure with the right engine, and it would need to be fixed before we could re-board for Houston.

After more than an hour delay, another announcement declared the flight was being cancelled due to a mechanical failure, and the gate agents would need to re-book us. Some passengers were concerned as they had appointments they were scheduled to meet. A few were outright angry at the inconvenience. I got in line and waited to be re-booked on another aircraft. Two hours later and the last person standing, when I reached the desk the flight attendant announced our original plane was finally repaired. We would be re-boarding within ten minutes. For me, there was only one problem—I was scheduled to be in Richmond by mid-afternoon to attend the opening ceremony at our annual convocation. The delay was surely going to cause me to miss worship.

I related my conflict, and in a matter of moments, new arrangements were found and secured for me on another airline. I was on my way to my destination with the reasonable assurance I would be there well in advance of the evening’s event. I guess you know I made it.

Church troubles are like mechanical failures and technical difficulties. Of course, they happen in this Christian journey, and sometimes they can delay you (your development, that is). Often times, they may deter you, even discourage your journey. The good thing about it is yours (that is, the church you attend) is not the only carrier to get you to your destination. It’s really not that serious. Sadly, some churches are just plagued with problems. It doesn’t mean the people are not Christian or they will wind up in hell. It means they are simply having a hard time getting off the ground, and just can’t seem to make any headway, and there’s nothing you can do to help them.

You may consider this: If you pray and trust God, He very well may provide for you another carrier that will equally help you reach your destination. So, do what you need to do, my brothers and sisters. Keep the goal in mind. After all, you don’t want to miss “worship.” It will be okay!

God favored me in a most refreshing and remarkable way the other day. After years of searching (and simply refusing to give up), I was able to reconnect with a dear friend I met over 30 years ago while we both were serving as young officers in the United States Army at Fort Benning, Georgia. Reassigned to a new installation in 1981, I moved on and we simply lost contact. We had not spoken since.

Finding him was not easy. It took time and effort, and the closer I got (it seemed), the more challenging the search became. When finally we spoke, the excitement in our voices was both unmistakable and indescribable. We laughed and cried as we talked. I was especially moved as he told of his painful path over the years. Injuries, sickness, difficulties, and even the shadow of death were all a part of his peculiar journey. On several occasions he shared how he almost lost his life in a few accidents during overseas maneuvers. His story brought me to more tears, but I was (and am) so happy to discover he was alive and well.

Of all the things he shared, his voice was strongest when he told me about how God alone had kept him and had brought him safely through. Confidently, he reported he held faithful membership with Eastern Star Baptist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, where Reverend Jeffrey Johnson serves as pastor. He cited their motto there is the church “Where Jesus is exalted and the Word is explained.” What he said next shook me to the core. He said, “Reg, you know I’m not a preacher and I may not be able to explain the word like many others; but I can assure you of one thing; can’t nobody beat me exalting Him. Believe that!” There was even more joy!

In His own mysterious way, God granted me another measure of His grace by allowing me to reunite with a dear friend and brother who I have not seen in three decades. Incredibly, and perhaps equally as long he was also looking for me.

In case you haven’t already figured it out, I’m really excited about this reunion. I have only heard his voice, but I’m still glad about it. I have yet to see his face or even shake his hand, but I still have joy about it. Just the prospects of seeing him in the near future give me great encouragement, and each time I tell of this experience, my joy excites others.

I should tell you there is a Great reunion scheduled! In these days of economic challenge and personal difficulty, keep pursuing this Friend–the Lord—while He may be found. You, too, will find joy unspeakable and full of glory. In fact, you will be surprised to learn some good news in your search. This Friend has also been looking for you!

Never have I felt as helpless being a parent as I did when a severe thunderstorm found its way into our community. My children were quite small and I was quietly attending to some work in my basement office at home. The Midwestern skies suddenly turned dark, and I heard small feet scurrying down the stairs. Lightening began flashing across the canopy of the skies and the heavens thundered in a series of bellowing roars. Soon, all three of them peeked around the office door as I sat at my desk. With blankets and pillows in tow, one spoke up and asked if they could come downstairs with me. Of course, I said, “Sure!” As they nestled in and sat calmly in the adjoining room, I thought how powerless I was in the situation. Had the storm become a tornado, there was nothing I could do to save them or myself. Even still, in spite of my vulnerability there yet was a strange peace that prevailed among them as they found sanctuary near me. I heard God speak in the particularity of it all.

So many times in life we will find ourselves in similar circumstances and there is literally nothing we can do to change it. Three small toddlers taught me a lesson I have never forgotten. Every last one of us can do exactly what they did. As soon as the storm began, they (1) immediately stopped what they were doing, (2) took cover and began paying keen attention to the developments, and (3) found sanctuary near their father. Oh, if we would but do likewise. Bless His holy name!

If there is a storm brewing in your life, try the above child-like strategies, and let the Father give you a peace that will surpass all comprehension.

Believe me; unlike the rest of us, God is not helpless under any circumstances!

A rather cavalier regard for the things of God prevails in our society today. Few have distinguished themselves as even possessing the “zeal for God” that Israel had in the first century (read Romans 10:2). One would have to laud them at least for having passion—a rare commodity in the twenty-first century church. Post modern spirituality (and especially the “gosperity message”) has sadly reduced God to nothing more than a Cosmic Valet and Heavenly Paramedic or convenient EMS. As a result, many have no need for God except in an emergency.

Clearly many lack authentic spiritual passion. So called church goers are more content just to “have a good time,” than to have a transformative encounter with God that would result in active engagement of ministry. If this malady were a medical problem, some drug conglomerate would have already manufactured a remedy. How I wish it were that simple!

For today’s commentary, I have only one (rhetorical) question: Is there an impotency drug for the church? Too many believers desperately need help with impotence and dysfunctionality!

Quite honestly, there is a prescription. Solomon said God prescribed a simple remedy for this condition—being spiritually impotent and dysfunctional. In fact, the Great Physician included a sure guarantee—His promise. Here it is: “If my people who are called by my name would humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Sounds like there is medicine available for our ills! All we need do is take it.

Take the medication, my dear friends, and be blessed today!

Los Angeles area residents awakened Friday morning to see their local newspaper headlines stating, “They Finally Showed Up.” It reflected the series-long wait of many a Lakers’ fan who had watched their home team struggle against Denver for five grueling games during the Western Conference Finals. When game six was done, LA came through in a convincing manner and defeated the Nuggets by nearly a 30-point margin. They, at last, executed like they were able—with both confidence and competenceto bring their team to victory. For the players, it was a major sigh of relief.

I suspect the failure of Christians to demonstratively overcome evil in our world keeps unbelievers wondering in a similar fashion, “When will the church show up?” Think about it. We claim to know and love Jesus Christ! We say our lives have been miraculously changed! We even build huge monuments (churches) and create grand gatherings as evidence of our true devotion to Him! We assemble weekly to meet with others, receive a bulletin; may even recite a litany, and listen to some songs and a sermon; yet, often we fail to take part in those opportunities excitedly to signify we are truly grateful for having experienced the grace and mercy of God.


I am convinced it’s time for the church to show up! For when the church shows up, miracles happen! When the church shows up, lives are significantly changed! When the church shows up, something unmistakable takes place that clearly reveals that God is at work; and His people will be blessed! There are certainly other examples, but when Paul and Silas were imprisoned in Philippi (after having been beaten and bound and left bleeding in jail), the Bible says they “…sang and prayed.” In a real sense, the church “showed up,” and new souls were added to their fellowship (read Acts 16:25-31).


Two battered, bruised, and abused men brought their A-game! They authentically worshiped and praised God even under duress. Plainly, the lives of a first-century government employee and his entire family (and household) were never again the same. All this occurred because “the church showed up!”


Next time you gather with the saints, don’t neglect to do your part to makes sure the church shows up! Bring your A-game; truly worship and watch God work a miracle!  You talk about real joy!!!!!

A subtle and perhaps even satanic shift is transpiring in today’s Christian culture.  It is the ever-so-clever transition from ministry to industry.  The Adversary has so skewed (blurred) the lines of worship that it is difficult to distinguish our sacred engagement from secular entertainment.  Commonly, some who lead us into and through these hallowed experiences are more consumed with making a horizontal appeal than a vertical one.  They plainly prefer to emotionalize the pew rather than to mobilize people into meaningful and effective Christian service.  Our Holy God is supposed to be the Ultimate and unambiguous Audience of our worship.  When He is not, our privilege to praise is nothing more than a pitiable performance.

 

We alas may be dangerously guilty of an irresponsible “commercialization” of a spiritual enterprise.  Lately, the endowments for holy worship have been reduced to just another worldly competition; and fully programmed with earthly judges.  Too many—praisers and preachers alike—are already viewed as “entertainers” (performers; pretenders) rather than God-ordered edifiers expressly gifted to encourage and strengthen His people.  This sacrilegious swing, I contend, must not continue. 

 

I wish to offer the following reminders for every true servant of the Most High God:

 

1.  The aims of industry should never eclipse the purpose of ministry.

2.  No “celebrity” should dare confiscate (hijack) or complicate (hinder) a spiritual “celebration.”

3.  Truly anointed leaders of worship ought to remain committed to serving rather than being served.

4.  Sincere ministers only want to be a blessing; and never a burden to worship or to God’s people.

 

If we forsake these (and there certainly may be others), our highly energetic displays will tragically marginalize God and dangerously usurp His glory.  This may be considered as a wise warning.  Last I checked, He doesn’t take that too lightly; and actually won’t have it! In Isaiah 42:8 God declares, “I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.” (NIV)

 

America may have as many teenage idols as she can produce, but in the ministry of Jesus Christ, there is no room for any; absolutely none!  It’s not about us!  This is the Lord’s business!  For He is truly Sunday’s Best; Monday’s Best; Tuesday’s Best; Wednesday’s Best; and so on!

 

I pray we never forget it!

Today is election day! An interesting email came to my inbox recently about what is considered acceptable celebrations and behaviors should a certain candidate become our next President of these United States of America. Why all the fuss over ones’ expressions of joy? This is particularly clear in the sports world.  Olympics host Bob Costas and former Olympic sprinter Ato Boldon criticized Usain Bolt’s celebrating before he finished the 100m dash in the 2008 games in Beijing. While he still broke the world record, unfortunately (for some), the way Bolt finished the 100-meter dash (by celebrating, yelling and slapping his chest before crossing the finish line) caused commentators and critics much consternation. Reports promised his actions won’t soon be forgotten either. Costas called Bolt’s displays disrespectful to his competitors, to the Olympic Games and to the fans who deserved to see Bolt at his best. His best? I’m confused!

Though the email I received was intended to be humorous, it seems a great deal of time and energy is being spent on “re-programming” a culture of people on suitably expressing genuine joy and excitement when something good happens. Who is the current authority on authentic celebration? Who is the credentialing agency for said group? The pop culture of the sixties had only one rule: “…be true to yourself and cause no harm to others or the planet.” To this end, they wore exotic garments and hairdos, put on loud lipstick and rouge (both men and women), and the world (especially the media) thought it was funny, acceptable, newsworthy, and okay. Few are upset when grown men pull off their shirts during a Packers game in sub-zero weather in the frozen tundra. What about annually televised New Year’s Eve festivities? At the stroke of midnight in many major cities, cameras reveal people all over the country literally going ballistic; and it’s never a problem! Why only a few days ago, the Phillies won their city’s first World Series in over twenty-eight years. To date, the celebrations continue, and there is not one reported hint of national frustration with their understandable responses.

All I’m saying is no one can tell others how to contain themselves when a legitimate occasion for genuine joy and excitement unfolds. Our Lord Jesus had something to say about this. As He made His triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem, the disciples were outdone and sought to quiet the apparent out-of-control mob. They even begged the Christ to make the people shut up. His reply was classic and quite timely even today: “If these hold their peace, the very rocks will cry out.” (see Luke 19:40-41).

We’ve come a long way in this country. For some it is difficult to identify having not felt the pain of many of our experiences. From dogs to drinking fountains, to segregation and separate entrances; from the back of the bus to just beaten for being, it has been a long hard road. Who would ever have thought we’d be here to behold an opportunity like this? Regardless of the outcome of today’s election, undoubtedly, there is cause for celebration. I don’t know about you, but I’m ‘bout to shout now! So if you feel like it, go for it, because if you don’t shout, the rocks may do it for you!

Trust me when I tell you, no rock will shout for me!

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