"The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our Lord stands forever. Isaiah 40:8

30 November 2005

Handel's Messiah

With Christmas approaching I was reminded of the musical masterpiece, Handel’s Messiah. The Messiah is a oratorio consisting of three parts representing Christ’s birth, death and resurrection. All of the “lyrics” are directly from scripture – basically the bible put to music.

During my high school choir days, we would perform The Messiah every Christmas. Though at the time I was not a Christian and therefore didn’t appreciate the incredible beauty of having scripture put to music, I loved to sing the piece simply for it’s sound. Now I love it even more.

One of my favorite songs from The Messiah is “He Shall Feed His Flock Like a Shepherd”. It’s a wonderful solo consisting of a verse from Isaiah sung by an alto and then a verse from Matthew sung by a soprano:

“He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; and he shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.”
Isaiah 40:11

“Come unto [Him], all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and [He] shall give you rest. Take [his] yoke upon you, and learn of [Him]; for [he] is meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.“ Matthew 11:28-29 [third person substituted for first person in lyrics]

I think that verse from Matthew is one of my favorites. What a lovely picture of Christ!

This also reminded me once again why I love hymns so much (see my previous post). So many of the hymns incorporate the beautiful symbolism of Christ that you find in the scripture. I know, some of the contemporary songs incorporate symbolism also, but to me they just don’t pull it off as well as the hymns.

If you have not heard Handle’s Messiah, you must. Many churches put on a performance around Christmas, so go to a live performance if you can.

28 November 2005

Rock of Ages

In tribute of the great hymns of old, here is a classic. I have found that no matter how many times I have sung some of these tunes, reading the words straight out just blows me away.

Rock of Ages
Text: Augustus M. Toplady, 1740-1778
Music: Thomas Hastings, 1784-1872

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.

27 November 2005

The Beauty of Hymns

If you read through some of my older posts you’ll see that I would be considered a bit old-fashioned in many ways. Although I enjoy many contemporary Christian songs, I do have a special place in my heart for hymns. Yes, they are not as jazzy as the newer music. But I have yet to come across a contemporary song that has the theological depth of most hymns.

That said, we have chosen to attend a church that has a contemporary worship service. So I was happy today when our Pastor mentioned watching a program on hymn writers and noted the special qualities of hymns. How many of the writers had exceptional life stories or wrote a particular hymn of praise after experiencing an adverse advent (not necessarily a time when we think of praising God). Those hymns came from the heart as opposed to today’s music which is very commercialized, perhaps created for profit or to meet a deadline.

I know our church and other contemporary churches often sing some hymns, played in a more contemporary way. I hope that is a trend that continues. What a shame it would be for future generations not to be exposed to the beautiful poetry about our Lord that comes alive in music through hymns. I think I will post the lyrics of a hymn from time to time as a tribute.

19 November 2005

Read Your Bible!

I have a concern lately that Christian literature is starting to take the place of the Bible in some believer’s lives. I seem to meet more and more Christians who emphasize reading Christian books or who have book studies in their small groups. What happen to good old-fashioned Bible study groups?

In our search for a new church, I’ve been disappointed by the number of churches that don’t have Bible study groups. Some of the churches have small group meetings, but these seem to focus more around fellowship. Now don’t get me wrong, fellowship is important, but it seems to me that there should be more of an emphasis on reading the Word in our churches today. I’m worried that the popularity of Christian literature is detracting from daily Bible reading.

Not only is the Bible God’s Word to us (absent from any author’s slant) but it often speaks to us depending on our need. You could read the same one book from the bible over and over and each time something new will pop out at you - I know it happens to me all the time. Christians should be reading their bibles daily and only then supplementing with Christian literature in my opinion. As the Apostle Paul told Timothy:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2Tim 3:16

Knowing scripture is also very important to our evangelism efforts. I have found this out firsthand as I recently engaged with an unbeliever who was curious about my faith. I knew that there were certain scripture verses that would directly answer some of her pointed questions, and yet I could not remember the words exactly. I felt like a failure for I remembered this passage (but had to look it up):

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Heb 4:12

Don’t underestimate the power of scripture in your life. Christian literature has its place, but that place should never be in exchange for the Bible.

14 November 2005

Struggling with Sin

It’s difficult to say which of my sins I struggle with the most. There are more than I care to admit, but I do feel as I’ve gotten better over the years. Of course, any improvement I’ve made has been simply through the Lord’s grace and mercy.

But my biggest struggle lately has been being a good Christian at work. I’m sure I could improve at a few areas at home also, but I worry that I’m not being a good witness by my behavior at work. Not that I’m awful, but I’m certainly not anywhere close to Christ-like.

I’m very opinionated, judgmental (about how things are done), gossipy, and prideful. I really try to behave the way the Lord expects me to behave, but I just can’t seem to conquer my sinful ways. I pray about it, I read the Word and feel convicted about particular attitudes, and yet I continue. I thank the Lord constantly for his never-ending mercy because I know I’m rotten and yet the Lord doesn’t drop the hammer on me.

Will it ever get better? I hope so. I know that the Lord has made miraculous changes in my heart already, but is my heart hardened in this area? I feel like I’ve come such a long way in my walk with the Lord, but yet this failure makes me question the fullness of my faith. If I had the love for others, the servitude, and the humbleness that my Savior spoke of, then having the proper “Christian attitude” wouldn’t be a problem.

I know I can’t will myself to be good, the goodness has to come from the love of Christ in me. I hope I get there soon.

10 November 2005

Animals or Humans - Which is More Important?

In the news today is an article about an attempt to ban Foie gras (goose or duck liver) in the Chicago area. Apparently the fowl’s livers are fattened by tube feedings to create the large livers that are ultimately served up in many fine restaurants. The animal rights people have decided that this practice is cruel and are trying to put a stop to it as quoted on ABCnews.com:

“ ’Force-feeding birds to have livers up to 10 times their size is appalling and most citizens are shocked to learn this,’ said Gene Bauston, president of the animal rights group Farm Sanctuary, which is part of a worldwide movement against foie gras.”

Isn’t it amazing that an animal rights group could get a ban on this supposedly cruel practice yet as a nation we continue to murder our own children through abortion! Why aren’t citizens shocked by that? When are people going to realize that human life is more important than an animal’s life? Are there more animal rights people out there than pro-life supporters, or are the animal rights people just more vocal? I don’t get it!

I wonder, are the people that are into animal rights also pro-life? Somehow I doubt it. And yet I would guess that they are speaking out against animal cruelty because the animals can’t speak for themselves. How about all the unborn children that can’t speak for themselves. Aren’t they worth speaking out for?

In fact, according to PETA’s (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) website, they support stem cell research because it has the potential to reduce animal research in the long run. So, one of the largest animal rights groups in the nation supports the use of tissue from aborted babies in medical research because it could ultimately save animal lives.

It seems the insanity of the world will never end.

08 November 2005

Christian Parents Wake Up!

Okay, as I’ve said before I am a conservative. I’m a political conservative and a conservative Christian. That seems to translate nowadays to old-fashioned, but that’s fine with me. I don’t want to be hip. I’m a new creation in Christ. I’m salt and light. I’m not to conform to this world.

Now what I want to discuss isn’t really outlined biblically, but it’s an issue that bothers my “old-fashioned ways”. It’s the new trend of children calling adults by their first names. And I’m not just talking about secular people, I know a lot of Christian parents who have fallen into this trend. And frankly, I’m baffled.

Yeah, yeah, on the surface calling adults by their first names rather than by “Mr. __” or “Mrs. __” sounds pretty trivial. But to me it’s a symptom of the larger disease of a blurred line between children and adults. Children are no longer taught to have a basic respect for adults. By calling adults by their first names, I believe we’re saying to children that we’re all on the same level. Again, this alone isn’t leading to a general lack of respect by children for adults, but our encouragement of this practice is a sign of the failure of many parents today to teach their kids about respect for authority.

I don’t think too many would disagree that children today don’t respect authority the way most of us did as children. Talk to any school teacher and you’ll hear plenty of stories to support this. Watch any talk show and you’ll want to weep at the coverage of children engaging in adult behaviors at very young ages. I personally have to struggle to think of more than a handful of parents who are actually parenting their children and not trying to be their friends.

And as I said, Christians are not immune. Most children of Christian parents that I know call me by my first name, even though I never gave them permission to use my first name. And then there is the inappropriate dress by some Christian girls which I’ve discussed before. Why are Christian parents allowing their daughters to wear clothes that expose so much skin? What is going on!

Well, I could probably rant for a few more paragraphs, but I’ll leave it at this. My children are still quite young and maybe they’ll turn out just as rotten as can be. But I for one plan to go down fighting. I won’t scale back in fear that “they’ll rebel” or because “the other kids are doing it” or because “I did it as a kid” or “you have to pick your battles” or “what can you do”. I intend to teach my children the ways of the Lord, nothing less. But for now, my children will start by learning to respect adults and call them by their last name!

06 November 2005

Finding a Church Home

My husband and I have spent the last 2 months looking for a new church home. We left a church that we loved behind when we moved to our new home in another state. I’ve been unhappily surprised at how difficult it has been to find a church that is a good fit for us.

See, we tend to like small churches where you eventually get to know everyone. However, since we now have two small children, it’s important to us that we find a church that has a good children’s ministry which basically means - big church. We are also a bit old-fashioned and prefer more traditional worship styles. Hey, what can I say, we like hymns. However, most of the non-denominational churches with people our age tend to have contemporary worship.

Finally, we are what some people may call “conservative Christians”. We go strictly by scripture and believe Christians should act and dress appropriately. It seems there are a lot of churches popping up that are what they call “seeker-sensitive” and it appears to me that the message of salvation is getting watered down in those kind of churches. Why do I think that? Because these churches look too much like the world - the messages are kind of wimpy and light-hearted, and people often dress in a way that is inappropriate for believers (see How Shalt We Dress?).

I was starting to feel rather discouraged. We had already visited about 8 different churches and none had really appealed to us. How many more would it take? When would we finally feel “plugged back in”?

Well, I’m happy to report that we went to a church today that we liked. It wasn’t perfect, but by far the best we’ve seen. The biggest drawback is that it isn’t very close to our home. We’re still going to look at some more churches that are nearby, but at least I have some hope now. Although, I am saddened and concerned to learn that there are so many churches that don’t seem to be equipping their people properly and are following the world’s example. Something new to pray about, I guess.

”You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” James 4:4

04 November 2005

Amazing Love!

Well, I had good intentions when I started this blog of writing a little each day. But of course, after just a few days, I’ve let the whole week get away from me. I’ve been so busy at work that I just haven’t had too much on my mind.

One thing that was bothering me this week was the amount of evil in the world. I think the ability to access news from all over the world either by TV, newspaper, or online just makes it hard not to have evil staring back at you every day.

It started with a coworker of mine who told me of her father who grew up in Ireland. He became an orphan around the age of three along with his three siblings and lived out his life in an orphanage. His “school” was run by priests while his sister’s went to a type of convent run by nuns. Apparently the children in these schools suffered horrible abuses, some dying from starvation or beatings, all while under the care of “Christians”. Very sad stories that are just so hard to even try and comprehend.

Then I was reading about the autopsies done on the bodies from the nursing home after Hurricane Katrina. How the bodies are too decomposed to determine the actual cause of death. Thirty-four elderly people left to die. It’s just sickening.

There were more stories but I don’t even remember them now. And I don’t want to remember. So much evil, and yet Jesus came to die for us anyway.

Amazing love! how can it be
that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
(Hymn – And Can it Be)

That really is amazing.

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