Category Archives: Scripture

Broken Hallelujah

“After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, ‘Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, ‘I do not know the man!’ At that moment the cock crowed. Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.” —Matthew 26:73-75

Perhaps you’ve noticed it. In our times of worship over the last five weeks, a familiar word has been missing. Hallelujah is a transliteration of a Hebrew phrase meaning “Praise Yahweh.” But more than just praise, it carries the connotation of being foolishly clamorous. Throughout the ages, the church has steered away from its use during the Lenten fast.

But why? Surely God is worthy of our boisterous praise year round! God is certainly worthy! But those joyful praises can make it difficult to remember that we are not worthy, and Christ died for us anyway.

The season of Lent and the Lenten fast serve to remind us of our own brokenness. Those things that we gave up, make us realize our need for God. As we hunger for those things from which we are fasting, we turn our gaze and attentions to God, and pray with the psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Like Peter, we have denied our Lord. We have looked to own benefit, and our own interests and have kept our distance from God. The season of Lent and the Lenten fast serve as an effective tool for self examination. We do not sing “Hallelujahs” because we do not want our Joy to carry us away from discerning our sin, and bringing us to repentance. During this brief time of repentance and reflection we postpone our joy so that when Easter comes we may celebrate it more completely.

Homework this week:
Pray Psalm 139, listen for what God would reveal to you.
Identify and agree with God on any hidden sins brought to your attention.
Repent of your sin, and turn to God.
Prepare for the overwhelming joy of Easter.

Rejoice?

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” —Philippians 4:4-8

Norman Vincent Peale once wrote about the Power of Positive Thinking. He believed that simply having a good attitude about things could improve your circumstances.

It has never quite worked that well for me. Trying to drum up a positive attitude can prove to be difficult. I’m a “hope for the best, plan for the worst” kind of a guy, so it is fairly difficult for me to try and find the “positive angle” on difficult situations.

The Apostle Paul, took this idea of positive thinking to a deeper level. For Paul it wasn’t about looking for the positive angle in life, rather, it was about finding God in all situations. “Rejoice in the Lord!” We can rejoice in all situations because we believe and trust that God is Lord over all situations. There is nothing that we will ever face that God cannot use for our eternal good!

It is in this scenario that we can lay aside our worries, and with thanksgiving trust God to meet our needs! It is in this scenario that no storm can threaten us, for we rejoice in the Lord of the storm! “Rejoice in the Lord, always; again I will say, Rejoice!”

Homework this week:
Find the book Prison to Praise by Merlin Carothers. It’s short, and worth your time. Find the song I Am Ready For The Storm by Rich Mullins on iTunes, it’s cheap and worth your time.

And with a word,

Mark 4:35-5:43

Peter grew up on the sea, an accomplished fisherman, a skill he learned from his father, and father’s father. But this day Peter was about to face waves he had never before seen, created by a storm he could not navigate. It all started with a simple enough request. Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go to the other side.” Peter had made this journey hundreds of times, but today was different. As they made their way across the sea a violent storm rose up; a storm so violent that these seasoned fishermen feared for their life (4:38). But this storm was only the beginning of their wild ride. With a word Jesus stilled the storm.

Safe on land, amazed, bewildered, and thankful to be alive – the disciples stumbled out of the boat. They came out of one storm, only to walk straight into another; a man who could no longer control himself, nor be controlled. His compulsions had taken over, and he had given into his demons. This was the last place they wanted to be. The graveyard nearby is where they wanted to leave the image of this man. “Stay with the dead, out of sight, out of mind.” But with a word, Jesus freed the captive.

After another boat ride, a different storm appears. A frantic father fears for his sick daughter’s life. Jesus follows Jarius through the rush-hour traffic of the market. But not even halfway there he stops. Jarius pleads for Jesus to hurry, but Jesus looks around the market place and asks the unthinkable question, “Who touched me.” Peter surveyed the pressing crowd and said what everyone was thinking, “Everyone touched you!” But a frail and fearful woman came forward. Chronic illness almost stamped out her life, it almost took her hope. But with only hope she touched Jesus, and with that hope, Jesus healed disease.

At that moment, when the disciples were sure that nothing could make this day any crazier, someone approached and announced that Jarius daughter has died. The emotions had been redlining all day long, and now it was all they could do to keep it together. But Jesus continued on to Jarius’ house. He entered the room of the deceased daughter, and with a word, Jesus restored her life.

Like Peter, we may feel fairly accomplished at life. But before us all are storms we don’t know how to weather and fears we don’t know how to overcome. The only thing about which we can be sure is that change is inevitable. So in the face of the fearful storms, let us look to the Lord and listen for His Word.

Lord over disaster, demons, disease and death, reveal to me the storms in my life that you want to calm, the demons you want to silence, the diseases you want to heal, and the life you want to provide. Lord, by your grace make me into your fervent disciple.

Guess Who!

Exodus 34 “So the LORD passed before him and proclaimed: The LORD, the LORD, a God gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love and fidelity, continuing his love for a thousand generations, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin;”

When God proclaims his name to Moses, Moses does what any of us would do in that situation, he hit the deck! Never before had the world known this kind of God. All of their gods had to be appeased, lest they become angry and send a plague. All of their gods had to be given regular gifts, lest they forget the people who worshiped them. All the gods they knew were capricious and selfish. But Yahweh came in with a completely different personality than anyone expected. gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in love and fidelity! This description of God is used nine times in the scriptures from Exodus to Nahum. The people forgot God, and yet, He remained faithful to them, he was slow to anger. As the Psalmist said, “If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.” Psalm 130:3-4

This week, for your homework, contemplate these characteristics of our God. What do they mean for us today? Where in your own life have you seen these things true of God? Merciful. Gracious. Slow to anger. Abounding in love and fidelity. Continuing love for a thousand generations. Forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.

Guess What?

Psalm 147:11 “…the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, those who put their hope in his mercy.”

Psalm 149:4For the LORD takes delight in his people,honors the poor with victory.”

You have probably heard the words,”God loves you,” a few hundred times. But did you know that God likes you?! Not only does He like you, but He delights in you! I know, I know…I took me a while to believe too! But God really enjoys being around you! If we could wrap our minds around this amazing truth, being a disciple of Jesus would be so much easier!

It is hard to find the time to pray, or spend time in the scriptures, or fast, or…well you get the picture. It becomes even harder when we think that we are approaching a God with His arms crossed, foot tapping, and eyes glaring, because He knows how long it’s been since we were last with Him. But this is not the picture that Scripture gives us of God!

Romans 8:15 tells us that we were freed from fear, and released into being chosen by God. “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, ‘Abba, Father!'”

You have been adopted by God! God choose you! When you approach God in prayer, you approach a daddy!* God is delighted that you would spend time with Him. He is focused on the moment, not on the past. He delights in who you are as His child, and is not intent on condemning the things that we have done. (See Romans 8:1) This doesn’t mean that God will never correct us, but it means that He is much more interested in spending time with us than He is in pointing out our every fault.

This week’s homework is easy. Just pray, “God, this week, show me how you see me.”

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* Our earthly fathers shape our image of our Heavenly Father. No matter how wonderful your father was, no father can ever give a complete picture of God’s fathering love for us. But many either have no father around who can exemplify God’s fatherly love, or have fathers who make us fearful of a God as father. I think this is why Paul used the word Abba. Abba is the word that babies learn to call their fathers. It is the same as “Daddy!” This is a picture of an affectionate parent with a young child. If your image of Father God is a negative one, try adding this line to the homework, “God, show me what kind of a Father you are.”

For further reading: Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging by Brennen Manning.