How and Why to Praise the Lord (Psalm 100)

Praising the Lord, acknowledging all that He is and does, is the best way to experience joy. How can we do it?

How many people that you know lack joy a lot of the time? What do they do about it? Some people eat. Others sleep. Many binge watch movies. Some drink or use drugs. What do you do when you lack joy? How does a lack of joy impact your confidence, your clarity of mind, your strength? Though it can be hard, the best thing that any of us can do when we lack joy is to praise the Lord.

The Joy of the Lord is my Strength is an old song derived from Nehemiah 8:10

G                             D

The joy of the Lord is my strength

                                G

The joy of the Lord is my strength

                                C

The joy of the Lord is my strength

G                     D                G

The joy of the Lord is my strength.

Psalm 100, and many other passages in Scripture, tell us that the key to joy is praise. Of course, believers don’t praise the Lord so that we can have joy. Instead, we praise God for who He is. We thank Him for what He has done for us. In acknowledging the magnificence of our Creator and Sustainer, in focusing on His truth, beauty, and righteousness, and in marinating our souls in His awesome love, we receive joy. As surely as the sun rises in the morning, honest praise with a clean heart will bring joy to all those involved. Over and over again, the Bible records God’s people praising Him. Psalm 100 provides a fine example.

How to Praise the Lord

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Equation of Sin

Sin can be illustrated by an equation, and that can help us understand it and reduce it.

Our Sunday School class is studying the New Testament book of James, written to the Jewish Christians of the diaspora by James the brother of Jesus in the late 40s AD. James was the pastor of the church in Jerusalem, and He provides powerful, practical advice for successfully living the Christian life. The first eight verses of chapter 1 discuss the Christian’s need for wisdom and God’s promise that He will provide it, so long as the believer asks in faith. Verses 9 to 11 mention the transitory nature of life, and the consequent even more transitory nature of riches.

James 1:12-18 takes a different track, discussing the nature of temptation and sin, and explaining that God cannot tempt or be tempted, but instead creates His people and provides every good thing for them. One could summarize these verses with the following equation:

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Anger and the Christian

Should Christians be angry? What are the dangers of human anger, and how do we avoid them?

Several weeks ago, my son David was engaged in a discussion with a classmate about whether a Christian should ever be angry. My son argued that God shows anger and Paul writes “Be angry but do not sin (Ephesians 4:26).” His disputant suggested that God alone can be angry, but humans never should. Like many conversations, this one dragged on, with neither man convincing the other. David remained calm, but his counterpart did not. Resolving nothing, they parted company.

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Bible Lessons – MBC

Memorial Baptist Church

Villains of the Bible – First in a sermon series by Pastor Mark Harris

22 Nov 2020 – Your Love is Your Life

Sunday School

3 Jan 20211 Timothy 5 – How Christians Treat Others

 

Blind by Design

Reality is hard, and we don’t like it. So we blind ourselves, and others blind us, to the truth, to the real world.

I work in Northern Virginia (NOVA) outside of Washington DC, a bustling metropolis of steel and glass, American history, and Federal workers, from janitors to the President. For decades, this area has been a stronghold of Democratic politics, with Republicans having nary a chance at the ballot box. I am also taking tap dancing lessons in NOVA, and the fine arts in America are another area in which you are more likely to get kicked by a Donkey than trampled by an Elephant. Last week, America endured a bitter presidential election, and waited days for the results.[1] So, I was unsurprised when I heard exclamations of joy and sighs of relief from class members.

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Rotten Wood

How to eliminate rotten wood – the thoughts, word, and actions that drag you down, whether they seem big or small – in your life.

The wooden plank on the deck gave a soft “squish” as I stepped down. I pushed a little harder with my heel and the wood collapsed, leaving a hole in the deck, and exposing the dirt several feet below. “Ugh” I thought, and began to check the rest of the deck for rotten spots. In total, only five boards needed to be replaced, all touching each other in the same part of the deck. I looked up. There was a leak in the gutter above the rotten spots, and I recalled seeing a nearly continuous stream of water hitting this part of the deck during several rainstorms over the past several months. While working on the deck, and lying in bed thinking about it, I recognized many parallels between rotten wood and sin in our lives.

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Jeremiah – Endurance in Ministry

Jeremiah was a mighty man of God, a towering figure in the late history of the Kingdom of Judah. He was also considered a traitor to his beleaguered nation at one of the most awful times in their history. How did he endure in ministry over 40 years when it seemed the whole world was against him?

Prominent anti-Christians argue that religion is dangerous because it creates certainty. Several years ago, the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC hosted an exhibit that read “Belief + Doubt = Sanity.” Pressure is overwhelming to “go with the flow.” Confidence in one’s convictions, when they differ from certain politically acceptable convictions of others, is condemned. This censure is so much the stronger when the opinions held seem to contradict “science,” whether or not they do. Someone said, “Few are those who see with their own eyes, think with their own minds, and feel with their own hearts.”

But it is not enough to be certain. Many Christians know the truth and yet do not speak it or practice it. Many think the Truth, speak the Truth, and act in Truth for a season, perhaps several years. But like Demas they start strong and then fade away. Some modern Christian celebrities have renounced their faith. To endure in service is to know, speak, and do, consistently and faithfully, for a lifetime.

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Practicing Gratitude

Gratitude is one of the keys to a happy life, but it must be practiced. Right teaching, self-sacrifice, and hardship in life often contribute to building gratitude.

For most of my medical career, I have cared for military members, past and present. Many were impressive. One patient in Schweinfurt, Germany in the late 1990s had climbed Point Du Hoc with the 2nd Ranger Battalion on D-Day. Other patients flew bombing raids over Japan in campaigns led by Hap Arnold and Curtis LeMay. Several fought with MacArthur in Korea. And of course, many had seen combat in Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan.

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Whence Identity?

A Christian view on how and where we find and build our identity. 

“To be a Turk is to be a Muslim” our Turkish tour guide announced during our tour of the Seven Churches in Revelation. I asked him why he believed that, and he replied that since Allah made him a Turk, clearly Allah intended for him to be a Muslim. Both his logic and his history were faulty. While the descendants of the Seljuk and Ottoman Turks are overwhelmingly Muslim, the modern descendants of the Khazar Turks are largely Jewish. Present-day Gagauz and Chuvash Turks are predominantly Christian.

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The Good, the Bad, and the Complacent

Every society includes the good, the bad, and the complacent. Isaiah shows us what to be, and how. 

A small, fractious, religiously dominated country was paying tribute to a rich empire with an advanced military. In a fit of hubris, the oppressed people stopped sending their wagonloads of gold, hoping that a neighboring nation would come to their aid. The empire mobilized its forces and defeated the weak intervening armies of the neighboring nation. It then turned its greedy eyes and vengeful hands on the rebels.

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Living While Dead

To strive is human, but give up the ambitions and worries of this world, seeking only God, is to have life as He intends.

Our church regularly performs Infant Dedication, a ceremony in which the parents dedicate themselves publicly to raise their child as a Christian and the congregation dedicates itself to supporting the parents in this holy work. Parents choose a special verse for their child, one intended to guide them in the ways of Christ through their lives. Psalm 23:1, Jeremiah 29:11, John 3:16, and Philippians 4:13 are popular.

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Encountering God

As we approach death, we realize that only an encounter with God is big enough to save us from despair. Too bad we don’t realize that earlier. And how do we encounter Him?

When children are young, their world is little bigger than their neighborhood; their home, their school, their friends’ houses, and their church. When people reach young adulthood, their world expands, perhaps even to encompass the whole globe. Slowly though, muscles weaken and eyes get foggy. Women lose their ability to conceive, and hair grays. At those moments, pensive people begin to truly understand that though the world will not leave them, they will leave the world. While little children anchor themselves in their parents and young adults in career and family, the aged realize that these anchors will not hold.

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Afraid to Be Holy

Holiness, being set apart, is exactly what most of us don’t want. It is scary, lonely, hard, and subjects us to all manner of injury. Yet God commands us, in company with our brothers and sisters in Christ, to be holy. 

This morning I mentioned to a member of my Bible Fellowship class that we would be studying holiness. Like many people, he asked if I meant “morally good or ethical.” “Actually,” I replied, “to be holy is to be set apart to God. Morality is only part of holiness.” To be holy, we must be morally like God, but we must also be different in non-moral ways from the world around us. Ancient Israel is a good example. Circumcision confers no moral benefit, but God required it of His people nonetheless. Following the dietary and hygiene laws in Leviticus results in better health, but not in claims to greater righteousness.

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