People who sound like hell

“Cast out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30).

“In thy presence there is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

If the atmosphere of heaven is joy and praise, then the noxious fumes of hell must be saturated with  equal parts anger, complaining, bitterness and blaming.

Scriptures keep telling us that the atmosphere around the throne of Heaven is praise and joy and gratitude. In other words, worship.

–There is Psalm 16:11 (above) which is as good as we could ask for.

–In John’s vision of Heaven which we call Revelation,  he tells us that near the throne stood “four living creatures, each having six wings…. Day and night they do not cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God, The Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come’” (Revelation 4:8).  Around the throne, the praise is continuous.

Continue reading

7 reasons Heaven requires new songs

“And they sang a new song, saying, ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain and have redeemed us to God by Your blood…” (Revelation 5:9).

John was surely fascinated by the sights and the sounds of that heavenly vision.

First, a quartet…

At first, John was treated to a heavenly quartet. The four angelic beings–were they seraphim?–of Revelation 4:7-8 burst into song, calling out, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty. Who was and is and is to come!”

Eat your heart out, Bill Gaither.  No quartet ever sounded so heavenly.

And then we read, “They do not rest day or night, saying (this)” (verse 8).

Imagine that. An endless song.

Either seraphim must be amazing singers or the Lord’s patience is boundless to enjoy the same song over and over, forever.

Continue reading

And one more thing: “Don’t forget to worship!”

IN TIMES OF GREAT STRESS–AND THE PRESENT  WORLDWIDE  PANDEMIC IS THE VERY DEFINITION OF STRESS–WORSHIP IS THE ONE ESSENTIAL.

This week, with the assistance of a few hundred Facebook friends, I made a poster “10 things not to do in times of worldwide crises.”  You can find the poster on my Facebook page, but here it what it said…

WHAT NOT TO DO IN A WORLDWIDE CRISIS–

  1. Do not believe everything you read on social media.
  2. Do not hoard.  Love thy neighbor.  Share with others.
  3. Do not watch the news 24/7.  That’s a sure-fire recipe for stress and anxiety.
  4. Do not fall for scams and gimmicks.  Con men come out of the woodwork during these times.
  5. Do not look for someone to blame–God, government, China.  Conspiracy theorists abound.
  6. Do not ignore guidelines meant to stop the spread and save lives.
  7. Do not interpret this as the judgment of God.  It might be, but you do not know.
  8. Do not interpret this as a sign of the end of the world.  It may be, but chances are it isn’t.
  9. Do not stop doing the things that keep you healthy, sane, happy, interested, productive.
  10. Don’t forget to worship.  Your soul needs this.

Originally, after the first nine, I was left with too many candidates for the tenth slot and left it blank for a time.  On Facebook I posted a photo of the incomplete poster and asked, “What’s number ten?”  A hundred answers came in. However, on the back deck with my morning coffee talking with the Lord, I felt Him giving me the tenth.  Don’t forget to worship.  Those four words came with such force and clarity, I knew this was from Him.  Not only that, but…

Continue reading

Seven things I learned in choir rehearsal

“Sing unto the Lord a new song.”  (Psalm 96:1) 

“Come before Him with joyful singing” (Psalm 100:2).

Rehearsals are work.

During the time I sang with the choir at our church, I loved singing for the worship service, but had to make myself go to rehearsal.

I sang in the choir during my college years, and eventually noticed some patterns forming. In time, those impressions coalesced into life-lessons that have remained with me through the years.

1) I do not like new songs.

The minister of music would say, “Joyce, pass out the new music,” and I would cringe. I did not read music and did not do well trying to negotiate my way around these clothes-lines of blackbirds.  The piano is picking out the melody of the song and I’m working to get it.  This is no fun.  It’s work.

But a funny thing happened.

Continue reading

The “Depart from me, O Lord; I am a sinful man” syndrome

The goodness of the Lord leads to repentance.  (Romans 2:4)

I sit on my back deck in the early mornings with my coffee and I worship the Lord.  Some fifteen years before I bought it, the Lord had someone build this house for me.  It is so right, everything about it–including the wonderful lady who shares it with me.  She’s a gift from Him too.

I am so blessed that Heaven may take some getting used-to.

I sit out there taking in the birdsong, the sweet air moving gently across the pond, the ever-changing colors of the sunrise, and I think.  I think of the Lord who made this.  I see that clump of reeds at the edge of the pond and think, “If just that was found on Mars today, it would be front page news across the world tomorrow.”  And yet we rarely think of the richness of Earth and the legion of gifts that are ours as a result. God is so good.

Continue reading

Loving Jesus here, having Him feel it there

If you love me, keep my commandments (John 14:15).  He who has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves me (John 14:21).  If anyone loves me, he will keep my word (John 14:23).  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love (John 15:10).  You are my friends if you do whatever I command you (John 15:14).

Anyone see a trend in these verses? He wants us to love Him and tells us how: Obedience. 

With that in mind, the question before us is this: Is it possible to do something so loving, so affectionate, so Christ-honoring here on earth that Jesus will feel it in Heaven’s Throneroom?

Can I do something loving for Jesus here and have Him feel the love there?

Yes.  Absolutely.

We direct your attention to the woman of Luke 7:36ff.

Continue reading

Worship: the ultimate DIY project

Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil.  — Ecclesiastes 5:1

Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High.  Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall glorify Me.  –Psalm 50:14-15

If your primary worship takes place on Sunday morning at church, you are doing it all wrong and in all likelihood endlessly frustrated.

If the main worship you do takes place on Sunday morning at church, you’re putting too heavy a burden on your church’s worship leaders.  They cannot do for you in one hour what you should be doing for yourself seven days a week.

If the only worship you do takes place on Sunday morning at church, even at the best you are anemic and undernourished and will often find yourself faltering during the week.

Continue reading

The one question we would have for Jesus

Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him…. And he questioned Him with many words…. (Luke 23:8-9).

Someone asked Larry King, the legendary television interviewer, if he could sit across the table and interview one person in all of history, who would it be.  “Jesus Christ,” said this man who is Jewish.

“And what would you ask him?”

“I would like to ask Him  if He was indeed virgin-born.  The answer to that question would define history for me.”

To be sure. That answer could change everything.  As it  has for many a person.

So with the resurrection.  Answer that in the affirmative and everything else falls into place.

Continue reading

What praise is and what it does

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His name.  Bless the Lord O my soul, and forget none of His benefits….  Bless the Lord, O my soul” (Psalm 103:1-2,22).

Again and again throughout Holy Writ, we are enjoined, instructed, commanded and reminded to praise the Lord. To bless His name.  To burst forth in worship during which we say things like “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessings” (Revelation 5:12).

How come?  What good does this do to tell the Lord and Master of the universe that He is Lord and Master of the universe?  Sure He already knows who He is (see John 13:1-4).  Being complete within Himself, God does not need our praise.

So, what’s this all about?

It’s a fair question and one that has been asked and answered by disciples far better than this poor child.

As a new believer, C. S. Lewis had trouble with the question.  “I found a stumbling block in the demand so clamorously made by all religious people that we should ‘praise’ God; still more in the suggestion that God Himself demanded it.”  (Reflections on the Psalms)

This being my blog, and Psalm 103 having been dealt with on these pages in recent days, it now falls to me to make an attempt to answer the question:  What is it to bless the Lord and what good is it?  (Again, I’m grateful to Dr. Lewis whom I shall quote below.)

Continue reading

What she said at the start of the worship service changed everything.

Recently, as my wife and I settled into our favorite pew a few minutes before the morning worship service, we greeted the people around us.  The woman to our right was waiting for her husband, she said, and would not be remaining in that pew.  A couple of minutes later he arrived.

Before she left, the woman leaned over and said to my wife, “This is going to be a very difficult service.”  When Bertha asked why, she said, “I’m not at liberty to say.  But you’ll see.”

That changed everything for me in that service.

Our church is pastorless at the moment, so I knew we were not going to be hit with a resignation of our shepherd. Those are always tough. The staff is fairly depleted these days, and we have an interim pastor who flies in on weekends from another state.  We’re in the early stages of raising several million dollars for renovation, but that seems to be moving seamlessly.

I had no clue.

Continue reading