Symbol Man

Hebrew - Beth

No worries, I am not following in the footsteps of Prince and becoming symbol man or the blogger formerly known as The Pastor. But if I were to become a symbol man or something of the sort, I like this one. Not just for is aesthetic appeal but for what this symbol refers to. So I am keeping this symbol in front of me.

So why the symbol?

The symbol is called a bet, and it is the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

O.K., that makes sense but that still leaves more questions.

Hold on, there is more.

Psalm 119 is an acrostic poem. It is broken up into 22 sections of 8 verses (one section for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet). Each verse within a particular section begins with that corresponding Hebrew letter. The section titled, bet, (the above symbol) refers to verses 9-16 which reads as follows:

(9) How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.
(10) With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
(11) I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
(12) Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes!
(13) With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth.
(14) In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.
(15) I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
(16) I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

These verses caught my attention yesterday as I was preparing devotions for our local radio station; particularly verse 9 about how to keep one’s way pure.

You see, (and you really don’t need me to tell you this), our world is filled with so many distractions. Satan is on the prowl, looking for someone to devour. Just yesterday I read about a pastor who got caught up in prostitution and was arrested. He said he had a moment of “great weakness”. I am not judging him but I can’t help but wonder if that weakness was due to taking his eyes off of God; by not guarding his way according to the Word of God.

I am not suggesting that I am tempted to engage in prostitution (and I am definitely not tempted) but there are other temptations that Satan uses to attempt to draw me away from God. We all face these attacks. Some battles we win and many we lose. And in those defeats I look to another symbol; one that points to God’s incredible love and grace:

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Forgiven, I live to continue to fight the fight of faith.

How?

By guarding it a according to the Word of God; by loving God’s Law; learning it; meditating on it; memorizing it; reading it. And keeping at it, for when you drift away from reading scripture you quickly forget, because we all have very short term memories when it comes to God’s Law and the Gospel.

Guarding one’s way can not be done through clever tricks or strength of mind or simple human will power. Guarding one’s way is only done through the strength of God through the Holy Spirit. The Word of God.

And so I am going to keep this symbol in front of me as a reminder to fight the fight of faith; guarding my way according to God’s Word. And you too, Christian, fight on, going in the strength of God, guarding your way according to His Word and clinging to God’s awesome grace in Jesus Christ.

Holy God, may I always keep Your Word in front of me; that I may not turn away and go astray. But when I do go astray, retrieve me as a shepherd hunting down a lost sheep and restore me to life. It’s in Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor (a.k.a. Symbol man)  -|—

The Church being the Church

This pastor experienced a first yesterday, during worship, that reaffirmed how proud and thankful I am to be part of this ministry; watching the church be the church.

[I didn’t witness any of this but am relaying on second hand accounts]

During the scripture readings our back-up organist started not feeling well. Some guys in the balcony noticed that she laid her head on the organ a couple times and kept dabbing her forehead. That prompted those guys to get up and head downstairs to keep an eye on her; alerting the ushers. Eventually she got up from her organ bench and laid down on the floor up front. That’s when I heard some thundering foot steps come from behind me and a rush of people (including 3 nurses) running to help Linda. My wife was included in that group of nurses (who was also holding our 9 month old son). Kevin, who also responded, grabbed Malachi so Connie could help and then Kevin’s wife, Emily, came down from the balcony to watch our children. Someone then called 911 and helped arrived in minutes. Linda walked out of the sanctuary being escorted by her entourage and was eventually taken to the ER as a precaution.

(NOTE: Linda was later discharged and is now home, doing fine).

After the scripture reading, while people were still attending to Linda, I lead the congregation in prayer and then continued with the Gospel reading and then the sermon. We never missed a beat. Following the sermon, Sharon got up to play piano for the final couple songs.

I think those who were involved would say that they didn’t do anything usual but rather just responded to someone who needed help. As the pastor I was proud to see people jump into action and fill in the voids so that worship could continue and Linda could be cared for. A couple times I caught myself tearing up in concern for Linda but also in pride at watching the church be the church. People knew their parts. It didn’t seem that anyone had to question what to do or who should do what.

They just did it.

That’s the Church in action; responding in faith in such a way that it is as natural as breathing. And I never really questioned that people would respond in such a way, but it was nice to see it first hand, even though I could do without the ambulance visit.

Father God, I an thankful that You were watching out for Linda and that Your Spirit was in action through the Church to provide care in so many ways. May You continue to bring healing to Linda and may the Church continue to be the Church; all to Your glory. In Jesus name, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Worship prayers for 07-26-15 ~ Awesome God

Good morning and a blessed Lord’s Day to you all. I commend these worship prayers to you as you prepare to worship our awesome God. May this day be filled with praise and holy wonder as you glorify God through your life.

Opening Prayer
Holy God, to worship You is our honor and joy for You are awesome and worthy. We long to see the beauty of Your face and long for the peace that surpasses all understanding. We also long for the faith to turn away from the temptations of this world and long for the strength to run away from the Father of lies. Holy Father, we long for life in You and for that perfect fellowship with Your son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Receive our praise, hear our prayers and change our hearts that the world may see our worship and run to glorify You. Through Jesus Christ our Lord we pray, Amen.

Prayer before Preaching
Mighty King, Sovereign Lord, by the power of Your Word Your created the heavens and the earth. Through Your infinite wisdom You created life. And through Your awesome grace Your redeemed all of creation through the death and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ. And now He lives and reigns over all creation. This and this alone should be enough to draw all people to you in endless worship, but yet we continue to look for other authorities in our lives. We think we know what we want but we really have no clue. We think we can save ourselves but we are sorely mistaken. We think there is something better than you but nothing ever comes close. Through Your compassion continue to draw us back to you that we may see Your awesomeness. And may we ever be fixated on Your beauty. It is through Jesus Christ I pray, Amen.

Prayers of Intercession
As finite creatures, created out of Your awesome love, we do not know how we ought to pray. We do not see the whole picture and therefore we do not know what to ask for that would bring You glory. But we boldly come before You with these prayers asking that You may give to us according to Your will and that we may have the faith to receive from Your gracious hand. Lord in Your mercy…“Hear our prayer”.

For those affected by violence in someway, please show Your love and peace. May they find healing through Your Son, Jesus Christ and may they know a peace that surpasses anything this world can promise. Lord in Your mercy…“Hear our prayer”.

For Christians around the world who deal with persecution, torture and death because of their faith. Grant them strength to cling to Your Word and grant them Your Spirit to speak Words of hope to those who would try to silence them. Lord in Your mercy…“Hear our prayer”.

All these petitions and anything else You see that we need, we commend to You through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen

Offering Prayer
Through the depths of Your love You have given us Jesus. Through the richness of Your mercy You have offered forgiveness through his death and resurrection. Through the wideness of Your grace you have given us salvation. Now may these gifts given here be blessed, multiplied and used that we may share this Good News to others. We pray this through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen

Benediction
May the One, in whom we have redemption through the blood of Jesus; the forgiveness of sins in accordance with the riches of His grace, lavish on you all wisdom and understanding,
so that you might keep your heart on the right path.
Amen.

The Pastor -|—

The Unknown is not Unknown

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” [Joshua 1:9]

A great nation (Israel) was encamped on the banks of the Jordan River. Their leader for over 40 years, Moses, is dead; the one who taught this nation God’s Law. Large and powerful armies are standing in the way of Israel. And now Joshua stands ready to succeed Moses. Large shoes to fill, to put it mildly. I think I would be nervous to take on such a calling, considering the unknowns that lie ahead. But God is encouraging and commanding Joshua to obey and to be courageous, for it is God that continues to go with them. None of what they have accomplished was due to their strength. None of their victories were due to their military might. None of the fear they put into other nations was due to their stature. Everything; all glory and honor, belongs to God. Therefore, God says, be strong and courageous. That alone was enough to encourage Joshua and make him a successful leader throughout his life. He feared and followed and obeyed God, and he encouraged and commanded the nation of Israel to do the same. God did his thing, Israel flourished and God was glorified.

Imagine what you can accomplish when you consider who is going before you. Imagine what you can do when you remember who has won victories on your behalf. Imagine what you can do when you remember who fights for you. When you are praying and living “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” then fear of the unknown is irrelevant.

But yet, when people are faced with the unknown, fear still creeps in and dictates their course of action. Human logic becomes their wisdom as they try to deal with the unknown and the fear that goes with it. But this is not the way of God. God alone deals with the unknowns for our unknown is not unknown to God. Think about that. Our unknown is not unknown to God. God sees the whole picture. By taking matters into your own hands or being paralyzed with fear is basically telling God that you don’t trust him. You are telling God that He does not know the unknown and therefore can’t handle things. This is an attack on God’s Sovereignty.

But God says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not fear, for I am with you and will always go with you.”

Think about that. Consider this promise and command. Imagine what you could accomplish if this verse were always in front of you, I mean, imagine what GOD can accomplish through you if you actually trusted that God knows your unknowns. So,

Do not fear
Be strong
Be courageous
Be bold
Trust
Take that leap of faith

and let God handle the rest.

Oh God, I am thankful that You know my unknowns and that You always go before me. Grant me the faith to trust You and place everything in Your hands. May my courage bring glory to You. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

The Nose Poke

Sometimes it is the little things in life that can break through crabbiness, a downtrodden spirit and/or selfishness; putting a smile on one’s face and placing things in perspective. Last night was one of those nights for me.

My wife was at camp; volunteering as a camp nurse, and wasn’t going to be home until after bedtime. That meant I was on my own with two kids; something I have done before. Everything was going great. My two year old was behaving and being a good little girl until…

…I was about to lay down a sleeping 8 month old. At the moment Mayah thought it was necessary to bring one of Malachi’s noisy toys into the room to show me.

Enough said.

Malachi was awake and I was frustrated; frustrated with the situation and frustrated with Mayah. My attitude became sour and therefore I probably wasn’t as playful with Mayah as I should have been. The evening was lost.

I finally got Malachi down and then got Mayah ready for bed. Still crabby I read her some books, prayed with her and laid her down. A couple minutes later, as I was enjoying some peace and quiet; trying to calm down, I hear Mayah calling out for me through the baby monitor. Still crabby, I went in to see what was the matter. She just wanted to rock some more. So we cuddled up in the rocking chair and then she broke through.

As I am looking at her she gently reaches up with her finger, pokes me in the nose and smiles.

That was it
A nose poke
and a smile

My eyes immediately teared up. What did my crabby attitude get me that night? Nothing but lost time with a playful toddler. I squeezed her tighter and confessed my crabbiness to God.

Oh God, forgive me. Help me to repent. May I not lose time like this again.

It never ceases to amaze me how God uses the little things to break through. I was intent on being crabby; to show Mayah that she interrupted my schedule and my expectations for the night, but she just wanted to be my little girl. And I wonder if God feels something like this at times. We have our expectations but then they go south that leads our attitudes to blow up. All the while God has something else in mind and just wants to be our God.

Maybe we just need to be a little patient, go with the flow and let God be God. And if you forget, don’t worry, God will playfully poke your nose :-)

Father God, break through my “tough” exterior and show me your love when I am intent on being my own god. Amen.

The Pastor -|—

The First Love

God bless you as you prepare to worship tomorrow. May you enter His gates with thanksgiving and praise.

My preaching text for Sunday, July 19 is Mark 11:15-19; Jesus cleansing the temple. The sermon focus deals with Church returning/keeping focus on it’s “first love” (Revelation 2, the letter to the Church in Ephesus).

May you, too, remember and keep your eyes focused on your first love, Jesus Christ.

Opening Prayer
Father God, our faith in Jesus Christ leads us to worship You, for it is our joy to lift our praises to You. You sent Your son to save a rebellious bride, the Church, and to sanctify her; washing her clean through the blood of the Lamb.
Oh God, we praise Thee and worship Thee.
Oh God, we thank Thee and adore Thee.
Oh God, we come before Thee, humbled and thankful.
Receive our worship and send Your Spirit. Fill our hearts with praise and may we spill that praise throughout our lives. It’s in Jesus most holy and awesome name we pray, Amen.

Prayer before Preaching [the words of Charles Spurgeon in bold]
Holy Father, do not let any of us lose our first love. Let not our church grow cold and dead. We are not, we fear, what once we were. Lord revive us! All our help must come from Thee. Give back to the church its love, its confidence, its holy daring, its consecration, its holiness. Give back all it ever had and give it much more. Take every member and wash their feet, Sweet Lord, most tenderly, and set us with clean feet on a clean road, with a clean heart to guide us, and do Thou bless us unto your glory. And so, Lord God, I ask that Your Holy Spirit may guide my Words that we may hear Good News and receive encouragement and faith to be Your hands and feet. It’s in Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Prayer following the Sermon
Holy God, may we not be founding lacking. May we not be found clinging to other loves in this world, but may we be found clinging to our first love, Jesus Christ. Strengthen our faith through Your Holy Spirit; revealing to us, over and over, the truth of the Gospel and the hope of the resurrection. It’s in Jesus’ name that I pray, Amen.

Offering Prayer
Receive these gifts here this morning, oh God, as an expression of our thanks and worship. Though our offerings don’t even come close to what You have done for us, may this offering be multiplied according to Your wisdom and will for the advancement of Your most glorious Kingdom. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Morning Praise

Holy God, faithful Father,

You blessed me with peaceful sleep last night and now I ask for a peaceful day.

May I bask in the glow of Your mercy and love, and may I radiate that glow to those around me unto Your glory. May the hope of the resurrection beat away all temptations; making me so bold to tell Satan to go back to hell when he dares to challenge this child of Yours; but may I not take pleasure or satisfaction in any victories but rather rejoice and worship You for the victory given me through faith in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Creator God,

I take great pleasure in knowing not a breath proceeds from my lungs outside Your divine providence.
I take great pleasure in knowing that You have my life secure in Your mighty hand.
I take great pleasure in knowing that You have my ways ordained to bring You glory through my words and deeds.

And so I pray that
I may be ever mindful of each and every word that proceeds from my mouth ~ Do they point to you?
May I be ever mindful of my actions ~ Do they reflect Your love?
Oh God, guide me.
Oh God, help me.
Oh God, show me.

This is indeed the day that You have made, so I will rejoice and be glad in it; I will be glad I You.

So,
thank You for this morning light.
Thank You for this morning grace.
Thank You for this morning peace.

May this not end but rather carry me to that day when I find myself on my knees before You; soaking in Your perfect radiance in endless worship.

All glory and praise and thanks and honor and worship be onto You, oh God, through Christ Jesus my Lord.

Amen.

The Pastor -|—