Singing, Drumming, and Dancing

Good morning. Today is Friday, the twenty-sixth of November, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,269

Twenty-nine days until Christmas!

Speaking of Christmas, this coming Sunday, November 28, is the first Sunday of Advent.

We had a most lovely day, yesterday. All of the preparations went very well, and we had a nice, safe trip to Grandma’s house in Mineral Wells. We had a great lunch together, and a nice visit, just sitting around talking (several of us may or may not have fallen asleep). After divvying up the leftovers, we headed back to Fort Worth, stopping for sodas just outside of MW at a convenience store that happened to be open.

This morning, C is back in the kitchen, prepping for today’s lunch with her sister, brother-in-law, niece, and niece’s boyfriend. They are, I believe, supposed to be arriving around 1:00 PM. Ish.

The library is closed today, so I have a second day off for the holiday.

We took some pictures, yesterday.

Mama, me, S, and C
Mama and me

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Open, Lord, my eyes that I may see.
Open, Lord, my ears that I may hear.
Open, Lord, my heart and my mind that I may understand.
So shall I turn to You and be healed."
(Traditional)

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights
with whom there is no variation
or shadow due to change.
(James 1:17 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for every good and perfect gift
2. for a great Thanksgiving holiday
3. that You are the "Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change"
4. for the things that I can learn from Jesus
5. for the ability to praise You with music, singing, and dancing

. . . whatever good anyone does,
this he will receive back from the Lord . . .
(Ephesians 6:8 ESV)

Come to me,
all who labor and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you,
and learn from me,
for I am gentle and lowly in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy,
and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)(emphasis mine)

As I look at this Matthew passage, this morning, one that is so very familiar, I’m seeing something “new.” Notice the italics that I added. All of them are pronouns, which Jesus used to refer to Himself.

Jesus is the key to so much in life. It’s cliché and easy to say, “Jesus is the answer to everything.” That’s easy to say. It’s not so easy to live out. But just look at His words. “Come to me,” He says. “I will give you rest.” Who doesn’t labor? Who isn’t weary? Jesus promises rest, if we only come to Him. And only Him.

He tells us to take His yoke and learn from Him. So what is so new and different about this, that I’m seeing today, for the first time? It is this: Jesus tells us to learn from HIM. He does not tell us to learn from anyone else.

While there may be great value (and most certainly is) in learning from other humans, it is from Jesus, Himself, that we are to learn. I can surely learn from reading and studying great writers and great Christian minds, such as C.S. Lewis and Eugene Peterson. But I should be spending the most time and energy learning from Jesus.

He is the one who will give me rest. His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.

No one else can say that.

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
(Psalms 90:12 ESV)

Rejoice always,
pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV)

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

LAST WEEK OF ORDINARY TIME – DAY SIX

INVITATION

Our God says,
“Calm down,
and learn that I am God!
All nations on earth will honor me.”
(Psalms 46:10 CEV)

As I pause on this quite morning, I reflect on all the good and perfect gifts in my life, which have come down from the “Father of lights.” There is no shadow or variation in Him; He is constant and consistent. He does not change.

BIBLE SONG

Praise the LORD.

Sing to the LORD a new song,
his praise in the assembly of his faithful people.
Let Israel rejoice in their Maker;
let the people of Zion be glad in their King.
Let them praise his name with dancing
and make music to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD takes delight in his people;
he crowns the humble with victory.
Let his faithful people rejoice in this honor
and sing for joy on their beds.
May the praise of God be in their mouths
and a double-edged sword in their hands,
to inflict vengeance on the nations
and punishment on the peoples,
to bind their kings with fetters,
their nobles with shackles of iron,
to carry out the sentence written against them—
this is the glory of all his faithful people.

Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 149:1-9 NIV)

BIBLE READING

“My people, what have I done to you?
How have I burdened you? Answer me.
I brought you up out of Egypt
and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you,
also Aaron and Miriam.”
(Micah 6:3-4 NIV)

With what shall I come before the LORD
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
(Micah 6:6-8 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, perhaps even out loud, I look for ways in which God’s Word has moved me. I ponder and meditate upon what has moved my heart or mind. I pray these things to God, including any questions that I might have. I turn my thoughts to Him and quietly enjoy His presence.

Part of Psalm 149 does, indeed, cause me to have questions. But I’ll get to that in a minute. First, I want to focus on the music. We are commanded/encouraged/admonished (I can’t say for sure which word is applicable when we are dealing with poetry/songs) to sing and make music in praise to God.

First, we are told to sing His praise “in the assembly of His faithful people.” So we are to sing praises together. Whenever I see this, I am reminded of the opinion of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, that all congregational singing should be in unison. That’s only an opinion, of course, and only one man’s opinion. But he has a good point. Here is the quote from Life Together:

“There are some destroyers of unison singing in the fellowship that must be rigorously eliminated. There is no place in the service of worship where vanity and bad taste can so intrude as in the singing. There is, first, the improvised second part which one hears almost everywhere. It attempts to give the necessary background, the missing fullness to the soaring unison tone, and thus kills both the words and the tone. There is the bass or the alto who must call everybody’s attention to his astonishing range and therefore sings every hymn an octave lower. There is the solo voice that goes swaggering, swelling, blaring, and tremulant from a full chest and drowns out everything else to the glory of its own fine organ. There are the less dangerous foes of congregational singing, the ‘unmusical,’ who cannot sing, of whom there are far fewer than we are led to believe, and finally, there are often those also who because of some mood will not join in the singing and thus disturb the fellowship.”

I don’t necessarily agree with brother Bonhoeffer, here, but, as I said, he makes some good points. When we sing “in the assembly of His faithful people,” there really is no place for calling attention to ourselves, and I can’t think of any other reason to sing harmony in that setting. Of course, this makes me wonder, as well, how loudly I should sing in a congregational setting. I have a tendency to “belt it out,” which also tends to call attention to me.

I guess the key element in all of this is motive. Why am I singing harmony? Why am I singing loudly? If the song is a Chris Tomlin song (he has an unnaturally high voice for a man), most people can’t sing in that octave, and may need to sing it an octave lower. I once knew a man who believed his singing voice to be inferior, so he whistled the hymns.

We are then told, in Psalm 149, to praise Him with (gasp) DANCING! Oh, dear. I grew up Baptist. With a preacher who declared, from the pulpit, mind you, that “a dancing foot never grew off of a praying knee.” Well, the Bible tells us to dance, and that’s all I’m going to say about that. Except to say that context is very important in these matters.

We are also told to praise Him with the timbrel and harp. What’s a “timbrel?” All educated guesses seem to indicate something akin to a tambourine. So, a percussion instrument. A harp is a stringed instrument. It stands to reason, then, at least to me, that it’s okay to praise the Lord with a guitar and some drums. And dancing.

But then, in verse 5, we are even told to sing for joy on our beds! The last thing we should do every night is praise Him!

Why all this vigorous praising, singing, and dancing? Verse 4: “For the LORD takes delight in His people.” Simple answer.

I think it’s pretty awesome to think about God taking delight in us. The definition of delight is “great pleasure.” The Lord takes great pleasure in us, and I believe that Scripture tells us that this pleasure, this delight, is magnified when we are praising Him, whether it be by singing, dancing, playing a drum, or even whistling.

I did mention questions, and those come into play in the second half of this psalm, in all those bits about “double-edged swords,” “fetters,” and “shackles of irons.” It is not my intention to delve into those meanings, this morning. Today, I’m all about the praise and the great delight.

The only thing I want to say about the Micah passage involves the somewhat rhetorical questions issued in verses 6-8. Do we come before Him with offerings, calves, thousands of rams, or ten thousand rivers of oil? Do we need to be so extreme as to offer our firstborn children to Him?

I love to quote Micah 6:8, because it is major truth. God has shown us what He desires, even demands, from us. “To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” That’s it.

Father, I praise You, this morning. I have praised You with guitars, pianos, keyboards, trombones, and singing. I may have even praised You with a tambourine, occasionally. I don’t know about dancing. I’m not very good at that, but I know I have “moved to the music,” sometimes. My heart’s desire is to know You more and to praise You more, so I pray that You will always put it in my heart to continue to praise You. I also pray that I will act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before and with You. I praise You and thank You for Your presence with me, this morning, and every morning, and every minute of every day. I celebrate Your presence, and I rest and draw refreshment from Your presence.

I pray that You will increase our wonder when we consider the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I also pray that You will increase our capacity to suffer with others, at least to have empathy with those who suffer through either poverty or injustice. And may You give strength to all who suffer persecution for their faith.

"Father,
I expend so much energy wondering what Your will is for my life.
Could You make it any clearer?
Give me a gospel-motivated resolve to carry out Your clear and good purposes -
living justly,
loving mercy,
and walking humbly with You.
In Jesus' name,
amen."

BLESSING

God will bless you,
if you don’t give up
when your faith is being tested.
He will reward you
with a glorious life,
just as he rewards everyone who loves him.
(James 1:12 CEV)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, you heavenly hosts;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
(Traditional Doxology)

Grace and peace, friends.

Nothing Can Separate Us

Today is Sunday, December 1, 2019. Peace be with you!

Welcome to December!

Day 22,543

24 days until Christmas!

Today is the first Sunday of Advent!

Yesterday was a nice day. After finishing my blog, I went to pick up our grocery order, then picked up some Sonic for C and S. Then I loaded up my mother’s stuff and we headed for Mineral Wells. She and I had lunch at Taqueria La Estrella, a charming little Mexican restaurant close to her house. We have been there several times, now, and it has always been good. It’s our new favorite place in Mineral Wells, I think.

Afterward taking Mama home, I had a nice drive back home, and spent the rest of the day chilling and playing on the PS4. Oh. Except for the part where we put up the Christmas tree. That went very well, last night, and S was a good helper, as well.

Today, I believe C’s niece and her boyfriend are coming back over to help C put Christmas lights up on the house.

We are getting ready for our worship time, this morning. This week, we are “scattered,” and for the first time, truly scattered, as three groups will be meeting in three separate house churches today. I am leading ours, which will be at 7117 Payte Lane, in North Richland Hills (or Fort Worth . . . I’m not sure which one it technically is). Our meeting begins at 10:15, this morning, and anyone is welcome to come join us as we devote ourselves to “the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. 
Psalm 111.1

Today I am grateful:
1. For another opportunity to worship with my brothers and sisters in Christ.
2. For the official beginning of our house churches.
3. That God is for us, so who can be against us.
4. That nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus!
5. For the beautiful weather forecast for today.

that they may know that you alone, whose name is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth.
Psalm 83.18
But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.
Psalm 71.14
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
Psalm 118.22
For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 
For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 
and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

Matthew 24.37-39
Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son! 
May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice! 
Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness! 
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor! 
May they fear you while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations! 
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth! 
In his days may the righteous flourish, and peace abound, till the moon be no more! 
May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth! 

Psalm 71.1-8

“Almighty God, give all of us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours)

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Romans 8.31

In this most wonderful passage of Scripture, Paul reminds us that God is for us, and if God is for us, who can be against us? He then runs off a list of several things that tend to be pretty bad.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
Romans 8.35

In the face of these things, if we are in Christ, we are “more than conquerors” (verse 37).

Then comes the finale.

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.

Romans 8.38.39

Nothing can separate us!

Father, thank you for this truth! I praise you that there is nothing in all of creation that can successfully separate me from your love. I don’t have enough words to adequately thank you for this!
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

Grace and peace, friends.

Advent

“People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.”~~Abraham Lincoln

Today’s word of the day, from Word Think, is futile. “Incapable of producing any useful result; pointless.” As in, “We are Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.”

Today is Giving Tuesday. This day is set aside on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving, to get the “giving season” started. It also serves to try to remind us that there is “more to holidays than consumerism and commercialization.”

It was tough getting back into the swing of things, yesterday, after a four day weekend. And, as expected, we pretty much got a double hit of packages from UPS, since they don’t observe a holiday on the Friday after Thanksgiving. We made a pretty good dent in it, though, and I stayed an extra hour before heading to Southlake for band practice.

It was there that I made a nice discovery. Our regular band director was not there last night, so we had a substitute. He is the only sub I’ve seen, so far, another one of the Southlake band directors. I only know his first name, which is Jay. Hah! Google is a wonderful thing. I just learned that his last name is Bach. Anyway, what I learned is that he did graduate work with Neill Humfeld at East Texas State University in the mid eighties! It was so cool to meet another student of Dr. Humfeld!

Today is Tuesday. Not much else about it. We might get our Christmas tree up tonight. Or we might get back to the gym. Christi put out some of our home decorations while I was at band practice last night. The house looks so beautiful! I love our home during Christmas!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From Solid Joys)

Today’s reading is “Prepare the Way.”

And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.
Luke 1:16-17

We have entered into a season known as “Advent.” It is the weeks leading up to the day we celebrate as Christmas on December 25. The quoted scripture verses refer to John the Baptist and his preparation for the arrival of Jesus. Advent can do the same for us, today.

Let us not enter into the Christmas season unprepared. Spiritually unprepared, that is. First, we should meditate on the fact that we need a savior. “Christmas is an indictment before it becomes a delight. It will not have its intended effect until we feel desperately the need for a Savior.” Yes, the Christmas story is beautiful and warm. However, we must consider why there was a need for the story to begin with.

Second, we should engage in “sober self-examination.” John Piper compares Advent to what Lent is for Easter. Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24) One of the favorite Christmas hymns says, “Let every heart prepare him room . . .”

Third, we should have “God-centered anticipation,” expectation, and excitement in our homes. As we put up the decorations, let us converse about what they mean and why we put them up. Let us expect Jesus Christ to invade our homes and hearts this season.

Finally, we should search the Scriptures, and even memorize great passages. Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:29) “Gather ’round that fire this Advent season. It is warm. It is sparkling with colors of grace. It is healing for a thousand hurts. It is light for dark nights.”

Father, as we prepare for Christmas, this year, let it be something magical, made so by your Holy Spirit, as we anticipate what Jesus can do in our lives this season. Let us not approach it unprepared, or even worse, in a blase fashion. Give us excitement and anticipation as we go through Advent, this season.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.