Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sounds of the Season

I wanna take a break from the freshly-picked-back-up series on remembering, in order to post a thought or two about the holiday season.

Let me start out by saying that my dear friend Ellen Samples has begun writing a blog! (You can find it at http://ellenhasanopinion.blogspot.com/) A prouder friend I could not be!!! Lately she's been sharing a lot of her Christmas music with us, which i absolutely LOVE! I'm a sucker for Christmas music, although my tastes are somewhat different from hers.

My absolute favorite Christmas song is "O Come, All Ye Faithful". I started out liking this song as a young child, for reasons that i may explain later, as Ellen would say, if you beg me to enough. But as an adult, I LOVE the message. An invitation to all the faithful, joyful & triumphant, to come to Bethlehem and adore Him who was born...an adjuring of the choirs of angels to sing glory to His name...a celebration of the Word of the Father, here on earth in the flesh...and an invitation to adore Him, for He alone is worthy! Folks, the good news doesn't get any better than that!

Another song I've come to appreciate more recently is one that actually used to get on my nerves. I don't care much for songs that are too repetetive, and the overly-drawn out "Glooooooooooooooooria" of "Angels We Have Heard on High" was almost more than I could take. Then one day I started paying attention to the words to the verses. We start off talking about hearing the angels sweetly singing, and the mountains echoing their joyous song. Then it's asking the shepherds what inspires their heavenly song...and finally, not all too different from "O Come All Ye Faithful", there's an invitation to come and see Him whose birth the angels sing...to come and adore on bended knee Christ the Lord, the newborn king.

And while we're talking about the angels, another of my long-time favorites is "Hark the Herald Angels Sing". I'll admit on this one it's that it reminds me of so many incredble passages of scripture! Peace on earth! (Luke 2:14) God and sinners reconciled! (Rom. 5:9-10) He lays his glory by (kinda reminds me of Phil. 2), born that man no more may die! (John 11:25-26) Born to raise the sons of earth (John 6:40), born to give them second birth (John 3:3)! Healing in His wings (Is.53:5), Light (John 8:12) Life (John 11:25) Son of Righteousness (II Cor. 5:21), Prince of Peace(Is. 9:6)! GREAT SONG!

But the reason I started writing this tonight was to tell you of a new favorite that I've got to add to the list. I was never too familiar with the song "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day". It wasn't one that I ever listened to or really even cared to listen to. But I listen to a lot of contemporary Christian music, so a lot of positive, encouraging KLOVE gets played in my car, and last year, about this time of year, I kept hearing a new version of this song by Casting Crowns. I don't own this song, or their Christmas CD, and I've yet to catch it on the air this year. :( But I may just have to get this song because it's beautiful!

The thing about this song is that it's SO real. So HONEST.

In class the past couple of Sundays, and even this past Wednesday night, we talked about how we don't always feel the peace/joy that is promised to us as Christians. This song expresses that so beautifully, as the writer hears the bells, with the songs of "peace on earth". But he bows his head in despair, feeling that there's no peace on earth, "for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men".

Yet the song of "peace on earth"persists...he realizes that God is still in control...so despite what is going on around him, in his heart, he knows that righteousness and peace will prevail.

Below are the words to the song, along with a link where you can hear Casting Crowns' outstanding version of this song that has grown on me so quickly.

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth good will to men

And the bells are ringing
Like a choir they're singing
In my heart I hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men

But the bells are ringing
Like a choir singing
Does anybody hear them?
Peace on earth, good will to men

Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men

Then ringing singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men

And the bells they're ringing
Like a choir they're singing
And with our hearts we'll hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

Do you hear the bells they're ringing?
The life the angels singing
Open up your heart and hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men
Peace on earth, Peace on earth
Peace on earth, Good will to men

© 2008 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Publishing Designee (Public Domain?), Mark Hall Publishing Designee, Bernie Herms Publishing Designee, Dale??? Publishing Designee, Stephen Lamb Publishing Designee

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0haVO07qOI

Also, if you are fortunate enough to have my cell phone # and you happen to call it, this song will be the answer tone you'll hear during this holiday season! You're welcome.

Wishing you all much love and peace this Christmas season!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Remember (Part 3)

So, a hundred years ago, I started writing a series of notes/blogs on the subject of remebrance, particulary how God remembers. (Okay, maybe it wasn't QUITE a hundred years ago. Maybe it was more like this past August. But it FEELS like a hundred years ago.) Anyway, I've decided to pick that back up and finish it.

The idea for this series came after an excellent lesson from Beth Moore's "Believing God" study. In one lesson, she read from Joshua, where the Israelites cross over the Jordan and into the Promised Land, and as she describes God's instructions for the Israelites to set up a memorial to remember what the Lord had done for them, she talks about how she believes God is remembering His covenant that He made with Abraham.

A biblegateway.com search of the NIV yielded 233 occurrences of the word "remember". Of those, 182 were in the Old Testament. I've been looking at those, and in my last post, I wrote about the examples of people asking God to remember (or NOT remember) certain things, and His response to them. There were approximately 35 instances of that in the OT.

There are approximately 25 instances where God says He will remember something in particular. Let's look at some of the things He's said He will remember:

"I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth."--Gen. 9:15-16

"Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the LORD. He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace. So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived."--Gen. 19:27-29

"Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and opened her womb. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, "God has taken away my disgrace."--Gen. 30:22-23

"Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the LORD and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah lay with Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, 'Because I asked the LORD for him.'"--I Sam. 1:19-20

"During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them."--Ex. 2:23-25

"'But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their fathers—their treachery against me and their hostility toward me, which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies—then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. For the land will be deserted by them and will enjoy its sabbaths while it lies desolate without them. They will pay for their sins because they rejected my laws and abhorred my decrees. Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely, breaking my covenant with them. I am the LORD their God."--Lev. 26:40-44

"He remembers his covenant forever, the word he commanded, for a thousand generations"--I Chron. 16:15 "He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God."--Ps. 98:3

"The LORD remembers us and will bless us: He will bless the house of Israel, he will bless the house of Aaron, he will bless those who fear the LORD—small and great alike."--Ps. 115:12-13

"I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more."--Is. 43:25

These are just a few of the examples that I found.

God remembered Noah and promised never again to destroy the earth by flood.

God rememebered His promise to Abraham and spared Lot from being destroyed when He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.

God remembered Rachel and He have her a son. God remembered Hannah and He gave her a son, too.

God heard the cries of the Israelites enslaved in Egypt. He remembered His covenant with their forefathers, and He was concerned for them.

God has said that if His people would confess their sins, He would remember His covenant with them and relent from destroying them completely.

God will remember His covenant for a thousand generations. Because He remembers His covenant, all the ends of the earth have seen His salvation.

He will remember us and bless us.

He will even NOT remember our sins and blot out our transgressions.

I'm still noticing a pattern here... "God remembered and..." or "God will remember and..."

His remembrance is always followed by action. In my next (and final) post on this series (which will hopefully be written sooner than 4 months from now), we'll look at some scriptures where God commands US to remember...and what that means for us.

"Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures forever... to the One who remembered us in our low estate; His love endures forever; and freed us from our enemies; His love endures forever."--Ps. 136:1, 23-24

Sunday, December 13, 2009

More Praying God's Word--Prayers for Peace

The other day in our Sunday morning class, we talked about peace. We looked at some scriptures that have God's promises of peace for us as Christians. We also looked at a passage in Romans 7 that so epitomizes the turmoil that we, as Christians, sometimes experience. What is peace? How do we have peace in the midst of life's troubles? These are the questions we asked. We ended class with a prayer for His peace.

So I've spent some time the past few days in God's word, as i prayed for His peace. Here are several things that stood out to me, based on the passages I read.

1. God is a God of peace. He is THE God of peace. He's in charge of it...He's the One that gives it...you can't have it without Him. This makes sense to me, as it reminds me of one of my favorite verses in Ecclesiastes, which says that He has set eternity in our hearts. We won't be fully satisfied/at rest/at peace without Him.

2. You can't explain it. Jimmy asked us for a definition of peace. He said his wife told him that was an unanswerable question. He asked us to prove her wrong by trying to help him define it. But I'm not sure it can be done. At least not completely. To be able to fully define something, you have to be able to understand it. And His peace surpasses all comprehension.

3. His covenant is one of peace, as He reconciles us to Himself.

4. To live in peace requires effort on our part.

5. Peace is very, very closely related to righteousness. It is because we are reconciled to Him--we are in a right standing with Him--that we can have His peace. His word says that peace is the fruit of righteousness. When we do what is right we avoid the struggle spoken of in Romans 7, and peace is a result.

Below are some of the passages that spoke to my heart:

"The Lord bless you, and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift His countenance on you, and give you peace."--Num. 6:24-26

"Many are saying, 'Who will show us any good?' Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, O Lord! You have put gladness in my heart, more than when the grain and new wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety."--Ps. 4:6-8

"The Lord will give strength to His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace."--Ps. 29:11

"Depart from evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it."--Ps. 34:14

"I will hear what God the Lord will say; for he will speak peace to His people, to His godly ones; but let them not turn back to folly. Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him, that glory may dwell in our land. Lovingkindness and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth springs from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven. Indeed, the Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its produce. Righteousness will go before Him and will make His footsteps into a way."--Ps. 85:8-13

"Those who love Your law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble."--Ps. 119:65

"When a man's ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him."--Prov. 16:7

"For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us, and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or peace, on the throne of David and over His kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this."--Is. 9:6-7

"The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace because he trusts in You."--Is. 26:3

"And the work of righteousness will be peace, and the service of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever."--Is. 32:17

"'There is no peace for the wicked,' says the Lord."--Is. 48:22

"But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed."--Is.53:5

"'For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,' says the Lord who has compassion on you"--Is. 54:10

"I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever."--Ezek. 37:26

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."--Luke 2:14

"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful."--John 14:27

"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."--John 16:33

"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."--Rom. 5:1

"For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace."--Rom. 8:6

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."--Phil. 4:4-9

"For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven."--Col. 1:19-20

"All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord."--Heb. 12:11-14

"But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace."--James 3:17-18