Archive for March, 2010

Out of the Abundance of the Heart

Recently, I heard two national news items that centered on foul language. First, Vice President Biden used particularly vulgar language in a whispered aside to the president while microphones were recording. People everywhere quickly rushed to defend and justify his words. John Dickerson at stated that Biden’s language was entirely acceptable for the occasion. In fact, he asserted that vulgar language is sometimes the most appropriate way to express your thoughts. (One might hope that a professional writer would have a vocabulary extensive enough to avoid that.)

The second incident occurred at the recent NFL scouting combine. Apparently, Tim Tebow suggested that players bow in a word of prayer before taking the Wonderlic exam. To this, a player told him to shut up using the same vulgarity as the vice president. The room filled with the laughter of other players.

We could probably agree that this type of language is far more prevalent than in years gone by. Words that at one time would never have been broadcast now find their way onto even “family-friendly” television programs. Language that was once reserved for “sailors” can now be heard in the mouths of preteen girls. As foul words grow more accepted in society, it is important for believers to remember the biblical guidance we have about our language.

Deceitful, slanderous, hypocritical, vain, idle – God’s Word warns about the dangers of these types of speech. Gossip and lying are condemned as particularly damaging. In contrast, the words of Christ are described as gracious and full of life. The book of Proverbs is rich with instruction about how our language can produce blessings or bitter consequences. The New Testament offers counsel about controlling even the most difficult tongue (James 3). We must remember that God hears all the words, even the idle ones, that slip past our lips (Matthew 12:36). Why does Scripture devote so much attention to our words? They are powerful and important.

What will my words accomplish today? A whispered exclamation when surprised or upset. Personal conversations between two friends. Public statements of my opinions or judgments. Each of this expressions reveal what lies in my heart. We don’t have to stand behind a pulpit to share the words of eternal life with another person. They should be an integral part of our daily life.  What comes out of my mouth originated in my heart.

The Psalmist reminds us that ultimately there is only one to whom we must give account. May David’s prayer be ours as well.
“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14

The Words of Patrick, Missionary to Ireland

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me, God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me from snares of demons,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear, Alone and in multitude.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

– selected lines from the Breastplate of Patrick

May the Lord help us to live each day with every thought focused on His Son, Jesus Christ.

Wherever I Am

This weekend all types of of new technology will be unveiled at the South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, Texas.  Experts say that the most exciting trend centers on geo-location services.  For instance, Foursquare is a popular smartphone application that allows people to tag their precise location using GPS coordinates.

When some hear this, they imagine how exciting it would be to let all their online friends know where they are at any moment.  Others hear it and are equally frightened that all their online friends (or parents!) would know where they are at any moment. 
Many of us heard repeatedly as children that God was watching us all the time and everywhere we went.  We even learned the song…
Oh, be careful little feet where you go
Oh, be careful little feet where you go
For the Father up above,
Is looking down in love,
So be careful little feet,
Where you go.
This was to encourage us to evaluate every activity in light of His presence.  Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten that this truth applies to adults as well. 
The Psalmist David acknowledged God’s omnipresence and omniscience by stating, “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? [8] If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. [9] If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; [10] Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” Psalm 139:7-10  
This is not ominous thought, but a reassuring one.  Rather than striking fear in David, he was comforted in the knowledge that God not only knew where he was, but was there with him. 

I am constantly amazed at the precision with which my GPS receiver determines my exact location.  The signals from a handful of satellites can follow my every move.  Greater still is the knowledge that the all-powerful God who created me never loses track of me.  When I step out in faith to serve Him, He is there to lead me.  When I am discouraged and believe that no one else knows or cares, He is there to console me.  When I stray from His will and follow my own path in life, He is there to draw me back.  If you are God’s child, rejoice today that wherever you are…He is there.

The Spirit in this Place

Just before last night’s church service, a friend commented, “The spirit in this morning’s service was awesome.”  I quickly agreed and added that I noticed it from the first song through the final conversation at the door.  I am sure that we were talking about the same thing – the environment or atmosphere as God’s people met together.  Because it is hard to define completely, perhaps it must be experienced firsthand to understand it fully.  Although we refer to an earthly environment, I am convinced that it is a sense of God’s presence in our midst that we feel. 
Certainly, we can experience God’s presence in a personal way, but there is something wonderful and unique about the atmosphere in a gathering of God’s children.  I am convinced that preachers are acutely aware of the congregation’s spirit every week. We often talk of the “liberty” sensed in preaching to a group where “the Spirit of the Lord is” (2 Cor. 3:17).  Without His presence, we cannot duplicate or manufacture that environment.  We can have an enjoyable or exciting time, but not a spiritually meaningful one. 
How do we experience that spirit in a worship service?  Music certainly can play a part in tuning our spirit to meet with God.  Yesterday, we were blessed with a great brass trio, a choir rejoicing in God’s great mercy and love, and a congregation singing energetically about the victory we have in Jesus.  I especially appreciated how the songs directed our minds and hearts toward the message about our possessions in Christ and how that enables us to overcome the world. 
More than just music, the hearts of those gathering must be in tune with God’s Spirit.  We must find ourselves walking in the Spirit in the days before we meet together.  Obedient living aligns our spirit with His will and allows for genuine worship. 
Finally, earnest prayer is a vital component to invite God’s presence in our midst.  Can you imagine the impact of hundreds of God’s children seeking His face in the days and hours before they gather?  “Lord, renew a right spirit in me and meet with us as we worship you this week.”  He has promised to answer. 

Psalm 145:18-19  The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. [19] He will fulfill the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them.
If you are a part of New Testament Baptist Church, I hope you were there yesterday to experience it for yourself.  If not, I invite you to come next week with a heart prepared to meet with God. 
If you read this from somewhere else in the world, I pray that you find the opportunity to worship with a Bible-believing church that is filled with God’s presence.