The Righteous Right Hand of God

We had a good day of worship yesterday, as pastor Joel Engle shared some of the new songs he has written for worship, and pastor Ben Carr gave us a message on why he loves his church, going along with our current “I ❤ My Church" campaign. The main point of his message was "I love my church because Jesus loves the church." And of course, the church is not a building or the staff or the things that we do. The church is us. The church is you (if you are a believer in Christ) and me. My worship experience was hindered, though, sadly. For the first service I sat at the very back, because I would be leaving early to come back home to pick up Stephanie for the second service. When I got back with her, I was recruited to run the video camera for the podcast in the second service because the guy who was doing that had to leave. So there I was at the very back again for the second service. The reason that this hinders my worship (I did worship, don't misunderstand me…worship is not dependent upon sound quality or anything like that) is that, sitting in the back, the intensity is not as strong. I like being up front with most of the other people behind me. That way, I'm encouraged by the sound of the other people singing, as well as the band's playing. The sound quality of the music was fine. But there is just something not right about being all the way in the back. I haven't been a "back row Baptist" for years. I like sitting close to the front. Now I know it sounds dangerously like I am attaching some condition to my ability to worship. That's not true at all. I can worship anywhere. It's just more intense when I'm in the middle of a group of people who are also worshiping. There is strength in numbers, and I believe that's one reason we are encouraged commanded to worship together, corporately.

Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Isaiah 41
The Lord encourages Israel in verses 8-10: But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. In the following verses, the Lord goes on to say that their enemies will be “put to shame and confounded.” Can we claim these promises for ourselves? This is one thing that I have been somewhat confused about for a long time. There are many promises in Scripture that seem to be exclusive to Israel. I have heard many over the years take these and “claim” them for us, saying that, since we are the “new Israel,” all of these promises apply to us. I have to say, I’m on the fence on this one. That being said, I have no problem proclaiming that the Lord is my strength and my helper. I believe that God will uphold me with his “righteous right hand.” I also believe that if I walk in his Spirit, he will “put to shame” and confound my enemies. I believe with all my heart when he says, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” (v. 13)

Verses 17-18 say, When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the LORD will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. We could certainly use some of that right now. I don’t remember when the last time it rained (significantly) in our area. Yeah, we got a couple of hours of a nice soft rain a couple of weeks ago, but that wasn’t nearly enough to put a stop to this drought. And it’s a beautiful 72 degrees in Fort Worth right now, with no highs over 100 predicted over the next 10 days. There is also zero percent chance of rain for the next 10 days! Father, we need rain desperately in our area! We pray that you would supernaturally bring an end to this drought. I say “supernaturally” because the forecast shows no chance of rain. It would be a miracle if it suddenly appeared. Verse 20 explains that, if this were to happen, people would see and know, may consider and understand together, that the hand of the LORD has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.

Matthew 24:1-28
There is much that is discussed and, possibly, misunderstood in Matthew 24 as Jesus talks to his disciples about the signs of his coming and the “close of the age.” But to me the most important lesson in this passage is not trying to understand what the “abomination of desolation” means or any of that. It is verses 26-28. So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. When Jesus comes back it will be unmistakable.

Father, I pray that we will not be led astray by false prophets as we anticipate the return of Jesus. Let us take the words of Christ, himself, to heart, as he tells us that his return will be like lightning flashing across the sky. It will be unmistakable. We will all see it, and there will be no denying it. Let us not listen to the ramblings of false teachers and preachers as the day approaches.
I take comfort in knowing that you are my helper and my strength. I pray that I will always avail myself of the resources that come from your hand as I live my life. Too often I find myself worrying or stressing over things, when I know in my heart that you have it all well in hand. You are sovereign, Lord, and you have all things under you control. Let us, the Church, never forget that!

I pray that, as we observe this holiday, we will be safe and have a restful day. I also, as already done above, pray for rain in our area. We are desperate, Lord.

If things look bad or out of control for you, remember who’s in charge. And it’s not “Charles.”

Grace and peace, friends.

Strength In Weakness

For my account of yesterday’s events follow THIS LINK.

We experienced another great worship service at The Exchange yesterday morning. The worship was intense and invigorating, and the message was amazing. Thank you, Joel, for that word! His message was on “Spiritual Burnout,” and he used the familiar passage in 1 Kings when Elijah ran from Jezebel right after defeating the 400+ prophets of Baal. His main point was that, “Even when we are burned out, God never gives up on us.” Believe me, I have seen that truth in my life. I have experienced “spiritual burnout” more than once in my life, and I know that God has not given up on me. I have received evidence of that fact at least twice in the last six weeks, as I have heard two different messages now in which I believe God told me that my original calling from him is still valid! It is very reassuring to hear that.

Later yesterday evening, we went back for a “Night of Worship.” It was a good time of worship and prayer, as we sang some worship songs, and prayed together, both individually, and in groups. We prayed for ourselves, individually, then prayed for the church, the community, and our country as we gathered in groups. It was a very meaningful time. We didn’t know several of the songs, so that had a slight effect on our worship time, but it was still good.

Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
2 Corinthians 11:16-33
16 I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. 17 What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not with the Lord’s authority but as a fool. 18 Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast.
2Co 11:19 For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! 20 For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. 21 To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!
But whatever anyone else dares to boast of–I am speaking as a fool–I also dare to boast of that. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one–I am talking like a madman–with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?
30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, 33 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands.

Paul is resorting, momentarily, to the same tactics used by the false apostles that the Corinthians were listening to. “Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast,” he says. He says several times in the passage that he is speaking as a fool, or as a madman. He goes through this incredible list of trials that he has been through for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And at the end of all those, he adds the “daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” So not only is he suffering beatings and imprisonments, he is also experiencing a high anxiety for the churches in the area. Nevertheless, at the end, he says he really only wants to boast of the things that make him appear weak. Because, as he has said elsewhere, when he is weak, the Lord is shown to be strong.

Joel 3

This is a passage of future judgment on the nations. After he has restored the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, the Lord says he will gather the nations of the world to the “Valley of Jehoshaphat.” Later in the chapter, that place is called the “valley of decision.” Its location is unknown. But in this place, he will punish the nations of the world, bringing judgment upon them for their treatment of Israel and the Lord. The are called out for war, and he says “the sun and moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining.” (v. 15) The Lord is seen as “roaring from Zion,” but as a “refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel.” The last few verses speak of a glorious future for Jerusalem. It will be holy and “strangers shall never again pass through it.” (v. 17) The ensuing description sound a lot like heaven to me. If that is the case, then “Israel” in these verses equals the “new Israel,” which is the Church, the body of Christ.

Psalm 146
1 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul!
2 I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
3 Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
4 When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.
5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God,
6 who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever;
7 who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free;
8 the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.
9 The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
10 The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD!

The last few of the Psalms are glorious praise Psalms, singing of praise to the Lord, and his trustworthiness as he is our strength, our fortress, and our refuge. This one admonishes us to not trust in men, because even the richest of princes cannot provide us with salvation. Salvation is in the Lord alone. The Lord’s benefits are listed in verses 8-9.

Father, I thank you for the great worship we sent up to you yesterday, and the great message that was brought down to us. I thank you that you do not give up on us, no matter what we are experiencing. I did not choose this race. You chose it for me. And the beauty in that is that, in that choosing, you also provided me with everything that I need to finish this race. It is simply up to me to avail myself of these resources. I do not trust in any man for my salvation, Lord. I do not trust in men for my provision. I do not trust in men for my protection. I trust in you alone! As we move forward, Father, I ask that you make us even more aware of your presence in our lives, your influence in our lives and family, and your protection over all of us. I ask for your holy arm to make itself known in all the branches of our family, from this house to Rachel and Justin, to Carol and Don, to my parents, and even to members of Christi’s step families. You are sovereign Lord, and you control all things. Let it be known, Lord. Let your great name be known in all the world!

I pray, as always, as this week starts, that it will be a good one. Let it be stress-free for Christi, Lord. I pray that her week will go smoothly. They have a big project going live this next weekend, and I pray that you help her keep her head through all that goes on. I pray for success for the project, and that her company might prosper. I also pray for success for my work, during this week, and that we might prosper as well. Finally, I pray for the nation, Lord, that you would show our leaders the right paths to take.

If we must boast, let us boast in the Lord, and how he is made strong in our weaknesses.

Grace and peace, friends.