Aaron Summers

What Is Your Heart For Worship?

In Gospel Living on August 23, 2016 at 1:27 pm

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At the very heart of worship is the sense “to bring glory”.  While broad, this encompasses the crux of the issue.  When we worship, we bring glory.  What each must be mindful of is what the object of that worship is going to be.  Today is no different from what it has been for centuries.  There are many objects of human worship, of which only ONE is worthy.

But, in reality, many of those we go to church with have multiple objects of worship and we desperately try to manage this in our lives.  In an effort to not offend and coexist, as the sticker says, we don’t fully commit and offend the ONE who is worthy.

We do this.

So did Israel.

The intention of the Psalms, though, is to provide songs of worship that bring glory to God’s Word, God’s work, and God’s promise in Jesus.  While most are not using a hymn book any longer, I grew up with one in my hands.  While Mom would be printing the bulletin on the mimeograph machine ( I have provided a link for those who are too young to know), I would sit and read through it; I would sing through it.  The ancient follower of God would sing through these songs.

What we call the Psalms, they call the “song book”, or psalter.  While written as poetry, most of them would set to music and sung as a part of worship.  As you read through them, you discover the love of God’s Word, God’s work, and God’s promise.  The focus of worship was God and His character and activity rather than OUR activity to and about God.

Did you catch the difference?

Here is a BRIEF list of the types of Psalms and what they reveal about God.

  1. Hymns – songs of praise and thanksgiving to God for who He is and what He has done (Psalm 8, 136, 150)
  2. Penitential – Confess sorrow for sin, appeal to God for grace and forgiveness (Psalm 38, 51)
  3. Wisdom – General observations on life, especially God and our relationship to Him (Psalm 1, 14, 73)
  4. Royal – Focus on the king as son of David and as God’s special instrument to rule people (Psalm 2, 45, 110)
  5. Messianic – Describe some aspect of the Messiah’s person or ministry (Psalm 16, 22, 45, 110)
  6. Imprecatory – Call for God’s judgment against enemies ( Psalm 35, 69, 137)
  7. Lament – statement of lament, trust in God, and praise to God (Psalm 3, 4, and 6)

(Based in part on the Gospel Project Summer 2016 Session 13 lesson)

The first value of reading the Psalms on a regular basis is that we learn to delight in God’s Word.  Do you delight in them?  I know we read scripture.  I know you probably have a plan chosen to read scripture.  But is it your delight?  Is it that cheat day on your diet delight?  Is it like that favorite, drink or snuggly pillow or date night with your love delight?  This is our issue.  God’s word is great to study and to live by, but is it our delight?

A second value of reading the Psalms is that it reminds us of God’s character with a call to celebrate.  I worship God because He alone is worthy, but also because I see who God is and what God has done and I am drawn to bring glory to His name; I worship.  When we focus on our feelings and activities with lose sight of God because we are focusing on ourselves.  Reading these brings to light the nature of God’s goodness and His love for us and how that is displayed for the world to see and know.  When I begin to fathom the grandeur of God compared to me I ask like the Psalmist, “What is man that you would think about me?”  When I begin to relay the works of HIS hands and the blessings provided to me by God, I am brought low.  I worship.  Do you?

A third value of reading the Psalms is that we are taught how to respond to God.  In this list above, we notice praise, thanksgiving, confession, and lament.  These are our responses, in worship, to the knowledge of God’s goodness and holiness juxtaposed to our sin and filth.  Reading, even singing, these words brings discipline to our lives.  Worship is not just hype and lights and excitement.  Worship, as seen in these songs of old, involves meeting a holy God and rendering glory to HIM.  Recognizing our sin and blurting our confession, weeping over it.

A final value of reading through the Psalms is that we are presented with the promise of God in Christ. God’s promise is the redemption of humanity to Himself.  Ultimately, God was doing this through Jesus.  The promise of the Messiah is seen on several occasions in the Psalms and calls us to faith and trust in a promise not yet seen.

As noted in a video linked above, Billy Graham is said to have read 5 Psalms and 1 chapter in Proverbs each day.  12 times a year he read through those books.  Is it any wonder God used him mightily for the Kingdom?  Make the psalms a regular part of devotional life because you want your heart and character to be aligned with the Psalmist.  Let your passion overflow to the group over which you have influence.

4 Ways to Have a SWEET Year!

In Gospel Living on August 22, 2016 at 9:10 am

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Today was the first day of school for my kids.  As I look out across a new year and the masses of students, teachers, staff, and administrators I consider what kind of year will it be?  Will the friends they start with be there at the end?  Will the teachers they like still be like at the end?  Will the administration still be in tact at the end of the year?  What changes can we see?  What stability will we see?

As I read in Isaiah 5, God likened Israel to a vineyard that he had planted.  Once everything had been done, all waited in anticipation for the harvest.  What they expected were sweet grapes.  Bu they brought in bitter grapes.

Will this year be a year of sweet or bitter harvest?

According to Damon Smith of Oklahoma State University, bitter grapes can be a result of several things.  He offers a few suggestions as to how to avoid a bitter harvest and I think it applies to our lives as well.

  • Sanitation – this is so obvious, yet we can go or days or weeks without cleaning ourselves. We bathe daily, but do we sanitize our spiritual life that often?  The primary source of spores and infection results from the filth and dead fruit on us.  We have to be cleansed for us to remove the problem.
  • Proper pruning – there are some things and people we just need to prune from our lives. Removing the dead canes and parts can reduce the spores that create bitterness.  What is there in your life that needs pruning?  Is there that hateful “friend” that drags you into bitterness?  Is there a relationship that is souring you?  What are you bringing into your life through media outlets?  Is it causing rage, anger, resentment, hatred, or the like?  When they root, you will not be able to produce sweet fruit.
  • Increase airflow – when the leaves cannot dry, the wetness causes fungus that leads to greater and lasting problems. What is your schedule like?  Do you have every minute planned without the ability to breathe?  How about time with God, in the Word, or in worship with a church?  Do you have the time space to allow for freshness?  How about your money?  Are you so overspent that you couldn’t tithe, let alone give, even if you wanted.  There just isn’t any space.
  • Fungicide – chemical management allows for the fungus to be controlled and eliminated. Consider what outside agent you need to bring into your moment to allow the fungus of sin to be eliminated.

In your life and relationships, are you experiencing a bitter harvest?  Maybe it’s time to take action.  The joy of the Lord is our strength.  Joy comes from a vibrant, healthy relationship with God that produces a sweet harvest.

 

Are You a Fact Checker?

In Gospel Living on August 17, 2016 at 8:53 am

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Each morning I receive an email from the New York Times that gives me brief headlines across several categories.  In this election year, and maybe because of the candidates involved, it seems there is a distinct increase “fact-checking” the speeches.  While it is not new, it seems to be done with more frequency these days.

There are several websites that devote resources to just this concept.  Here are 2.

In addition, the major networks and national papers have their own version of fact checking those in major public view.

For those urban myths and Facebook “just so you know” items there is www.snopes.com.

In Christian circles and, mostly, churches we must not throw caution to the wind and run on assumptions and guesses.  We have too much at stake with the Gospel to not be accurate.  In John 7, Jesus is speaking to the crowds.  Some thought he was the One they had been expecting; longing for in their hearts.

Then it happened.  They didn’t fact-check.

An argument arose that Jesus could not be the Messiah because it was “clearly stated” that Jesus would be of the royal line of David and born in Bethlehem.  So the crowd was divided about Him.  Some even wanted Jesus arrested now.

Here’s the problem: THEY DID NOT FACT CHECK.

Jesus’ mother was of the line of David, and so was Joseph.  Though we know Joseph was not the biological father, the crowds did not know this intimate detail.  BOTH parents fulfilled the prophecy.  Further, He was born in Bethlehem, though the family did not remain in that town. Also, it was stated by the religious leaders that no prophet ever comes from Galilee.  That is not true.  Jonah was from Galilee.

If the people had just fact-checked their lives could have been radically changed!

For the Christian, we must be cautious in our judgments.  Too often we judge based on

  • “I feel” – How we feel about the matter/person
  • “I heard” – What someone has said
  • “They said” – One moment out of context
  • “I don’t like them” – Personality differences

Before raising an argument or making accusations in church, in culture, or in the comfort of your home be sure to check your facts.  We cannot take the chance of messing this up!

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