PRAYER & CALL TO WORSHIP — from 1 Chronicles 16
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come before him! Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice,
and let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!”
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!
GRACE & ASSURANCE — From Psalm 73 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.
A few weeks ago I shared a hymn that was written as a prayer- “Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us.” For some reason I have had musical prayers coming to mind lately. Another one stopped to visit today. Many years ago when I was young one of the Christian groups that I heard a great deal of music from was Petra. The style of their songs was varied, with some being mellow and beautiful, while others were more of a driving rock style. The style of their music would not be considered as hymn or worship music. Regardless, some of their songs carried some of the strongest personal messages about Scripture and your personal journey of faith that I have heard. If you want to listen to songs that will really make you look inwardly, listen to their songs “Judas’ Kiss,” or “Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows.” Others like “Road to Zion” are calming and reassuring. The Petra song about prayer that came to mind is appropriately and simply titled “Prayer.” The song was based on teachings from 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18, Ephesians 6:18-19, and Matthew 6:9-13. Following are a couple of the verses:
First, I want to thank You, Lord
For being who You are
For coming to the rescue
Of a man who’s drifted far
For calling me to be Your son
And calling me to serve
Lord, the way You’ve blessed my life
Is more than I deserve
Keep the ones I love so dearly
Fill their emptiness while I am gone
And fill the loneliness in me, in me
Let me be the evidence
Of what Your grace can do
To a generation struggling
To find themselves in You
May they come to know the love of God
May their eyes be made to see
Give me the opportunity to share
The truth that sets them free
And may unity in all things
Be the banner of Your church
And let revival’s fire begin to burn
Begin to burn
These, another verse, and the chorus of the song are all the types of prayers that I would like to make– honest reflection of where I once was, where I am, and how God can use me. I am glad there are different types of music to reach me, and all of us. I think we all learn when we hear Scriptural truth and Godly reflection coming from unexpected places. I know I am spiritually richer for it. Please watch and listen to Petra sing “Prayer.”
PRAYER & CALL TO WORSHIP — Psalm 47:1-2, 6-7 Clap your hands, all peoples!
Shout to God with loud songs of joy! For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth. Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm!
GRACE & ASSURANCE — Romans 8:37-39 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers,
nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The day before Easter I was able to visit Lake View Cemetery to see Daffodil Hill in bloom. I have known about it and seen pictures and video of the scene for many years, but never remembered to visit when the daffodils were in bloom. I was not the only one who visited that day. There were many people walking around it and taking pictures of family and friends among the flowers. Besides the beauty of the flowers, I noticed that the scene and the atmosphere really seemed to put people into a good mood. They were happy to see the outward signs of spring and warmer, brighter weather.
Daffodils and early spring blossoming bulbs have always been seen as harbingers of awakening and new life. Hope and growth rises from what previously looked to be cold, desolate ground. This image has been common for thousands of years. As Isaiah describes:
“Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days.
The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses.
Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers
and singing and joy!
The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon,
as lovely as Mount Carmel or the plain of Sharon.
There the Lord will display his glory,
the splendor of our God.”
(Isaiah 35:1-2, NLT)
The word translated as “crocus” in verse 1 is translated in other versions as “narcissus,” “lily” or even “rose.” The type of flower isn’t clear, but the image of them signaling rebirth and renewal is clear. It might seem like you have been living in a desert wasteland, but that will change. “Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.” (Isaiah 35:4)
Although Isaiah was dealing with God’s people at a difficult point in history it is clear that his message reached far ahead to a future time.
“And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind
and unplug the ears of the deaf.
The lame will leap like a deer,
and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!”
When Jesus was approached by disciples of John the Baptist in Galilee and was asked if He was the Messiah that John spoke of, “Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.’“ (Matthew 11:4-6)
It sounds like He had Isaiah’s words in Isaiah 35 in mind, doesn’t it? I believe He did, even though it isn’t a full direct quote. The remainder of Matthew 11 presents a strong parallel theme to Isaiah 34 and 35. The unrepentant, those against God, will end up facing destruction. “Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.” (Isaiah 35:10). As believers we have been ransomed by the Lord through His payment of Jesus for our sins. May we all take Jesus’ message in Matthew 11:28-30 to heart: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
PRAYER & CALL TO WORSHIP — Psalm 29:1-2, 10-11 Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness. The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as king forever. May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!
May you be rooted and established in the love of Christ—
So that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints,
what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,
so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
PRAYER & CALL TO WORSHIP — Psalm 118:19-27
Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it. I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation. This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it. Save us, we pray, O Lord!
O Lord, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
We bless you from the house of the Lord. The Lord is God,
and he has made his light to shine upon us.
GRACE & ASSURANCE — Philippians 2:5-11 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness,
and being found in appearance as a man,
He humbled himself and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.