Friday, July 29, 2016
My taste in music is eclectic. My car CD’s include everything from country to classical. Music is emotional for me. It calms, it inspires, it excites.
Barbara Streisand first appeared on my radar when I saw her on Broadway in Funny Girl. She knows how to bring passion out of her music. She has been doing it for fifty years. Yes, she milks it, but it is oh so good!
Have you seen that coaster, “Your brain thinks in words – your soul thinks in music”? Innately, I am moved by music. Most of us are left-brained, practical and logical. Music pushes our right-brained, artistic, intuitive nature. Worship always includes the emphasis on The Word, and also the praise of God through music. The Psalms were put to music. They are a model for us. If the sermon is inferior, my prayer is that the music will be superior. Music is part of our offering to God of our very best. After Sunday worship, I often catch myself humming something of the music I heard earlier that day in contemporary worship or traditional worship.
The ministry of the Word and the ministry of music should be complementary. Part of the glue for worship is the music. It too points me beyond my own agenda to God. No wonder people use worship music while waiting, traveling, working out, eating and commuting to stay centered on the Risen Christ.
Friday, July 22, 2016
I know it is dated but the material is still relevant. Robert Putnam had a best-seller several years ago entitled, Bowling Alone. I still recall the impact his insights had on me. The subtitle says it all; The Collapse and Revival of American Community.
Putnam targets the emptiness that many people are experiencing in our culture. There is a social void. How many close friends do you have? Are you in touch with your extended family? Social media has contributed to this isolation that people feel.
Whatever happened to community? We know something about proximity – at work, at home, at school, at church, at workouts, at entertainment, and at neighborhood functions. Proximity must not be confused with community. Too many of us live life alone.
The Body of Christ knows something about community. In the Church, we are united and on equal ground because we are all sinners in need of God’s grace. Our unity is in Jesus Christ. However, that should not be confused with uniformity. As disciples of Christ, we cannot live faithfully by ourselves. We need each other for affirmation, confession, discipline and direction. In the Church, the individual is not prioritized; the community of faith is prioritized.
We are, as the T-shirt suggests, “Made for more than just me.” That is a distinguishing characteristic of the Christian community. I know that, “Resentment and aggression are pervasive.” As Christians we do not have to succumb to that.
Through Christ’s death on the cross, he, “Has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.” Ephesians 2:14
Friday, July 15, 2016
Most mornings, I read the Charlotte Observer, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal. That is a tough way to start the day. Global turbulence is on the increase; terrorism, economic upheaval, violence, abuse, fear, polarization and human trafficking. Distress screams at us. Somebody, do something! The need for change is a constant. We need a fix.
Jesus said, “Follow me.’ If we are serious followers, we ask daily, “What is the redemptive thing to do?” Christians live out their faith in real time and space. Yes, your beliefs matter but the evidence is in how you live.
Fred Buechner wrote, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” In other words, God’s call comes to us in real time and space. Not just in sacred seclusion. At some point, we put wheels on our faith and jump into the tough arena of Christian obedience. At some point, we have to get out of the stands, put on the uniform, get in shape, and get in the game. The material world is not the enemy of the spiritual world. We are body, mind and spirit. We are expected to be salt, yeast and light in the world. Christians are expected to be catalysts for good in this world. Christian compassion shows up in the flesh.
After reading the papers, I take time to pray. Yes, I express my praise to God and my concerns. Add to that, I allow some time for silence. I need to listen for God’s prompts. “Be still and know that I am God.” The psalmist was insightful. Sure is hard in this culture to embrace that stillness!
Friday, July 8, 2016
One of God’s insights for me came when I realized God’s love for me is expressed in Jesus Christ. I can give love away because I have experienced it – unconditional love through the Savior.
Thankfully, I am loved, imperfections and all. There is no demand for perfection. Romans has it, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” God loves us just the way we are but he does not expect us to stay that way. In John 3, it talks about “everlasting life”. In other words, God’s love for us comes from an inexhaustible supply. I celebrate salvation in Christ because it is not based on my behavior. That’s the significance of God’s grace.
Here is the liberating element; we do not have to perform in order to experience the love of God. Are good deeds important? Yes. However, that is not the basis for our acceptance in this redemptive program.
We cannot do anything to make God love us more. That love will not embrace bartering of any kind. Our obedience to God’s Word is a response to God’s love. God wants a relationship with us.
St. Augustine put it this way, “Love God, and do as you please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.”
What is this all about? When others refuse to change, we do not withhold love. We share that love with no strings attached. It is true even when people are hostile towards Christianity.
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13.
Friday, July 1, 2016
The quest for freedom in America was a royal pain for King George, III. The freedom established by our forbearers in this remote agrarian backwater has miraculously survived and thrived. Today, we are party to the longest-running revolution in the world. So, we celebrate America’s birthday party, July 4. Parades, speeches, cookouts, picnics, Sousa marches, doubleheaders, demonstrations and fireworks are all part of Independence Day.
America’s contribution to the world is in the realm of ideas and ideals. This county is still the biggest market for foreign goods and the most powerful magnet for foreign capital. Our greatest challenge is in the area of values. What do we cherish for ourselves and our neighbors?
The Lady in the Harbor cries, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”
Robert Bellah poignantly stated, “Freedom is the most resonant deeply-held American value.” America embraces freedom from arbitrary authority. We want nothing imposed in terms of work, family, politics or religion. Less than half the people on this planet have the freedom we do!
The freedom we celebrate on July 4 was a religious concept long before it became a political concept. It is the nature of God to give freedom to all people. For me, there are two great symbols of freedom; the Statue of Liberty and the Cross of Christ. No, you cannot equal the two. Political freedom is built on the formation of spiritual freedom; the majority will govern but the minority will not be oppressed. Every freedom we have was paid for by somebody else. That’s worth pondering.