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Friday, January 29, 2021

Do You Mean It?

This past Sunday, we were singing the hymn "I Need Thee Every Hour." 

Every once in a while, I pause as I did this Sunday, to remind the people to pay attention to what they are singing.

Here it was a prayer to God acknowledging our need for Him.

Sometimes as in "I Surrender All" we're actually promising something to God - something pretty big in fact.

So often we sing the great hymns of the faith with gusto because they are so familiar. Or because they are our favorites, Or maybe our mother's favorite. In the moment, we forget what we're actually saying when we sing the text of the hymn. I know I've done it.

In my Bible reading this week, I actually found a text that I believe we can adapt to this subject.

And behold, you are to them like a love song by one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument; for they hear your words but they do not practice them. Ezekiel 33:32 NASB

God is talking with His prophet Ezekiel and telling him that when he prophecies the people will listen thinking how eloquent he is and what great things he is saying, but they won't do it.



For us, we have great texts: texts that are prayers to God, texts that are words from God, and texts that are directed to each other about the things of God. We sing the lovely words to the beautiful melodies, but our hearts and our lives are not impacted.

So, the next time you sing, look at the words. What are they saying? And do you mean it?

Blessings,
Richard

Friday, January 22, 2021

Which Side Is God On?

In our political climate at this time, we read or hear about people on all sides of the aisle claiming God's agenda. Members of both sides claim religious affiliations. They pray and they read the scriptures. It's as if we all want to say that God is "on our side."

It's probably not so crazy since we also want to claim that God is on our side for wars and ball games.

However, if anybody in history could claim that God was on their side, it would be the ancient people of Israel. God had sent Moses to lead them from Egyptian bondage. He had led them through the wilderness in times of obedience and disobedience. They were His people.

Yet, I find a very interesting story in Joshua 5.

The people have crossed over the Jordan River into the promised land and they are preparing for their assault (as unusual as it would be) on Jericho.

It appears that Joshua was doing some personal surveillance of Jericho when he looks up to see a man with a drawn sword in his hand. So, Joshua steps toward him and asks a logical question, "Are you for us or for them?" Then, comes the surprising answer, "No."



Actually, it's a little longer than that: "No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord." (NASB)

Here we have the leader of the Lord's armies telling Joshua, "No, I'm not on your side." Then, Joshua falls down before him and asks, "What has my lord to say to his servant?" (NASB)

To me, this appears to be a pre-incarnate appearance of our Lord, as he says to Joshua, "Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy." Remember Moses and the burning bush? Then Joshua did as he was commanded.

In our lives it is imperative that we remember that God is not "on our side." Not in ball games, not in politics, not in war, not in church, not in anything. What is imperative is that we bow before our King, ask, "What do You want me to do?" and then act in obedience to His command.

There is an old hymn that I grew up with entitled, "Who Is On the Lord's Side?" by the great hymn writer, Francis R. Havergal who also wrote, "Take My Life, and Let It Be Consecrated." Now, the lyrics don't necessarily speak to our theme here, but the title can be helpful.

It's important that you and I are on God's side and that's very, very different than Him being on our side.

Blessings,
Richard

PS: Please understand that I am not addressing the fact that God is for His people, loves and cares for His people, or supports His people.

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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Listen to Him

I was reading my Bible the other day and the text was from Mark 9:2-8.

As I read, I was reminded of texts that included the words "the law and the prophets."

Here are some of them:

  • Matthew 11:13 - For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
  • Matthew 22:40 - On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
  • Luke 24:44 - And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
  • John 1:45 - Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.
  • Acts 28:23 - And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.
  • Romans 3:21 - But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

Now, in our text, we have the Transfiguration scene. Moses, the giver of the law, and Elijah, one of the prophets, appear with Jesus. Peter wants to honor all three, but then the voice speaks: "This is My beloved Son, listen to Him." (NASB)


We need to hear the law and the prophets, but recognize that they lead us to Jesus. Jesus is the One we must listen to. More than hearing with our ears, our hearts should grasp what He says followed by an obedient response.

After the voice, when they looked around, they saw only "Jesus alone."

I hear the Savior say, "Thy strength indeed is small,
Child of weakness, watch and pray, Find in Me thine all in all."
Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.
          ("Jesus Paid It All" words by Elvina M. Hall, music by John T. Grape)

Jesus alone. Listen to Him.

Blessings,
Richard

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

For God So Loved the World

As I've mentioned before I'm a Baptist, and I grew up a Baptist, and we celebrated Christmas and Easter, but we never ran across most of the traditional church feasts or celebrations. Advent we didn't know about and Lent, well, it belonged to another segment of the Christian church.

I'm developing an understanding, sometimes an appreciation, of many of these celebrations, even those which I will probably never embrace myself, but I came upon one several years ago that seems really, really important.

In the scriptures of the Old Testament, we run across some clues to it:

In Genesis 26:4, we read this promise to Abraham, "And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed."

Then in Psalm 72:8-11 KJV, we read this: 
8 He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.
9 They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust.
10 The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts.
11 Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.

And again in Isaiah 60:1-6 KJV:
1 Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.
2 For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.
3 And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
4 Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side.
5 Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee.
6 The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the Lord.

Within the church, this festival is called Epiphany or Three Kings Day. It's the day that follows the 12 Days of Christmas (January 6), and as the name Three Kings shows, it celebrates the arrival of the Magi, or Wise Men to worship the Christ Child.



And why is that important?

Look with me at Romans 15:10-12 KJV: "And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. 11 And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. 12 And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust."

Here it is: Jesus came to bring salvation to all people!

In the church, Epiphany (related to a Greek word meaning "reveal") is celebrated as the revelation of Christ to the Gentiles, and that my brothers and sisters is most of us. In fact, this celebration, as I understand it, pre-dated the celebration of Christmas because it was so important.

It gets really personal. If Jesus had not come to bring salvation to Gentiles, then I would not have the opportunity to know Him as my Savior and Lord. But He did, and that is a very big deal!

So, if you celebrate Epiphany in a big way, I encourage you to do so with gratitude and thanksgiving. And, even if you choose not to make a big deal of the day, recognize what it means and give glory to God for His great mercy, love, and grace.

Thanks be to God! Amen.

Blessings,
Richard

PS: In what ways are you grateful that Christ came to save you? Let me know in the comments. And if you'd like to sign up for my email newsletter so you can know about new blog posts as well as videos and other opportunities, send me an email at richard@rsdickson.net.


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The Popular Hymnal

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