Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
Praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels; Praise him, all his hosts! Let them praise the name of the Lord!
For he commanded and they were created. And he established them forever and ever;
he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away. Let them praise the name of the Lord,
For his name alone is exalted; His majesty is above the earth and heaven
GRACE & ASSURANCE — Psalm 113:4-6 The Lord is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens!
Who is like the Lord our God,
who is seated on high,
who looks far down
on the heavens and the earth?
Like most of you, hymns and worship songs mean a lot to me. At various times throughout the week, probably when I need their message, they pop into my mind. Sometimes other songs do too. I was reminded of a song this week that was one of those other songs from many years ago. I am sure in the past I have shared other songs by Keith Green. He was a popular Christian musician from a period about 40 years ago. He and his wife Melody wrote songs that seemed to dig to the heart of what believing in God, accepting Christ, and living for Him meant. Unfortunately he and two of his young children left their earthly lives in a plane crash when he was only 29. His wife carried on the ministry to the less fortunate that they had begun together.
The song that I would like to share speaks of the goal and attitude I would like to always bear in mind. I hope that it means the same for you. It also fits in precisely with the message of Philippians we have been studying. Please listen to “Make My Life a Prayer to You”:
PRAYER & CALL TO WORSHIP — Psalm 92:1-2, 4
It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night, For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
GRACE & ASSURANCE — James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
And let steadfastness have its full effect,
that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
As of the date I am writing this message, March 8, 2023, I am remembering my younger brother Jeff who passed from his earthly life 28 years ago today. In some ways we were alike. In other ways, very different. As young kids we were close. As we got older we drifted to our own groups of friends and didn’t hang around much together. When we reached our mid twenties I think we started to appreciate each other more. We both had an interest in photography. We were both involved in musical groups– me vocally, and Jeff as a bass and guitar player in a couple of bands (although he did sing harmony, he didn’t consider himself a singer). He had a great love of animals and had many pets, sometimes taking in one friends didn’t want any longer. Both of us loved to travel. The two years prior to his passing we took a vacation together in the summer. We went to Hawaii one year, and then to the Bahamas (Nassau/Paradise Island) the next. The year he died we were making plans to go to Aruba.
Jeff was a believer. He had struggles at different times with different aspects of life. He finally accepted that God would accept him the way he was–that he didn’t have to be perfect beforehand. Looking back, I wish I had spent more time with him when I had the chance. I wish I had gotten to know him better as an adult, and that we kept in touch better. I wish I had told him that I loved him more often. I believe he knows that I did love him, but I know I could have done much better.
This week’s encouragement is a bit different. We have family to love and people to appreciate for a period of time that is unknown to us. I would like to encourage you to make the most of your time with your family and loved ones. Get to know them and let them know that you love them. It is always tempting to think “I can do that tomorrow.” Sometimes you reach a point where you just can’t. Take advantage of the present.
I appreciate what Jeff taught me in life. I appreciate the experiences we shared–the laughter and the harder times. I appreciated having him to grow up with and be my brother. Hopefully my thoughts help you find renewed appreciation for your brothers, sisters, or others close to you.
I would like to share a song that I think of when I remember him. It helps remind me that where he is I will one day be, and that we will meet again.
PRAYER & CALL TO WORSHIP — Psalm 133:1, 3; 95:1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
life forevermore. Oh come, let us sing to the LORD;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our Salvation!
GRACE & ASSURANCE — John 15:13-17
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
What a Friend/You Are My All in All
Jesus Paid it All
“And the God of Peace Will be With You!” – Philippians 4:8-9
Why do we need Jesus? I believe we all know that the basic answer to that is simply—sin. This week I read a psalm of David that teaches us the answer without fully knowing it himself.
“Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.”
(Psalm 15, NIV)
David was living under the old covenant and was taught that the only way to please God was successfully living according to the Law. David is looking toward eternity here (“Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain?”). He answers according to his understanding in the next verse: “The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart;”.
I believe David’s answer was based on honest recognition of what God requires to be in His presence. He knew he needed to strive for that as a follower of God. The next few verses elaborate on behaviors that would be seen in a blameless, righteous, truthful person. I believe that without being able to realize it with his own knowledge, David pointed us to the reason we need Jesus. David could not live a life that was blameless, righteous, and truthful. Neither can we. Jesus was the only one who had a walk that was completely blameless, was truly righteous, and always spoke the truth from His heart. We have the benefit of knowing that God sent Him for us to meet the requirements that we simply cannot. Only because of His perfect life and sacrifice as a sinless offering will we be able to live with God in His tent on His holy mountain for eternity.
David was blessed as a king and leader for God. His heart was after God. We are blessed even more to see the fulfillment of God’s plan for our salvation. We are not perfect on our own, but Christ is more than perfect enough to stand for us!
PRAYER & CALL TO WORSHIP — Psalm 36:5-9 Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens,
Your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
Your judgments are like the great deep; How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. For with you is the fountain of life;
In your light do we see light.
GRACE & ASSURANCE — Psalm 32
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.
Therefore let everyone who is godly
offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
The picture you see above is the Harding Memorial, which contains the crypts of the 29th U.S. president, Warren G. Harding, and his wife Florence. It is in Marion, Ohio. His former home is also there and can be toured at certain times, along with a nearby museum. He was elected in 1920 with 60% of the popular vote, considered a landslide. Many historians believe his election was a reaction to the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, and a desire to set the country on a different path.
He was a conservative Republican and enacted many policies popular at the time. Taxes were reduced and wartime restrictions were lifted on business. He championed less government intervention in business. He was also known as a supporter of equal rights for women and racial minorities. He chose to govern by choosing strong cabinet members who were experts in their fields. Unfortunately, some of those cabinet members turned out to be self-serving and committed to their own wealth and status rather than that of the country. A few of them committed crimes that eventually led to their conviction and imprisonment. Harding died from a heart attack on a west coast trip in 1923. His legacy was that he was a man with good intentions, ideas, and attitude. He was also a man who lacked the backbone to stand up to his “friends” and appointees, who took advantage of his easygoing and generally hands-off management style. Their scandals came to light after his death.
For me he stands as a reminder that even though we might have the best intentions, we are human and we sin. We might know how to follow God properly, but sometimes lack the strength to always follow the best course. God can and will forgive our weaknesses if we have accepted Christ. I would like to conclude this week by providing 3 quotes from Mr. Harding, followed by a Proverb that supports their message:
“Inherent rights are from God, and the tragedies of the world originate in their attempted denial.”
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21)
“We must have a citizenship less concerned about what the government can do for it and more anxious about what it can do for the nation.”
“For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.” (Proverbs 11:14)
“I am not fit for this office and never should have been here.”
“The Lord mocks the mockers but is gracious to the humble.” (Proverbs 3:34)
Lord, we know we are weak and sinful. Help us stay dedicated to your purpose of having us spend eternity with You through belief in Jesus as our savior. Help us to be effective examples and spokespeople for You. We will never be perfect, but Jesus is.
Revelation 4:11, 5:11-13 Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing! To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
Yet I am always with you;
You hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
And my portion forever.
This past Sunday we shared in Paul’s message in Philippians 3 encouraging us to follow the correct examples of faith and behavior as believers. Paul reminds us of our ultimate reward at the very end of chapter 3 (“…the Lord Jesus Christ…will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body”). He then begins chapter 4 with a “Therefore…”, which always prompts us to ask what that word is there for. I believe chapter 4 is one of Paul’s greatest chapters in any letter. Somehow, I happened to think of a chapter from another of Paul’s letters that seems to directly parallel his thoughts in chapters 3 and 4. It also begins with “Therefore”:
“Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 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.” (Ephesians 4:1-4)
The consistency of the theme and language in these chapters is striking. Both Philippians 4 and Ephesians 4 are a call to believers for humility, gentleness, and unity in the faith. It is clear what Paul wants to teach believers—be unified in Christ and the Spirit, and work to strengthen each other. Believers have the same needs and should have the same focus in whatever place they happen to live. We have the same goal—to one day be united with Christ for eternity.
How can we become united? Paul tells us. Lead a life showing Christ’s traits by example. Be humble, gentle, and patient. Allow for each others’ faults. This recipe seems simple but can prove to be difficult for us to follow. We can sometimes be self-centered, rough, and impatient with others. It will take a consistent effort in trying to see our brothers and sisters in the same way that God sees us.
Along with Ephesians 4 a song I haven’t heard in a very long time came to mind. It was Amy Grant’s first very popular Christian song, from 1979. It reminds us how God sees us and proposes that we see others in the same way. Please listen to “My Father’s Eyes”: