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Family. We have our immediate family, I would classify as those that live under the same roof. We have our extended family, Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, cousins, etc. We have our work family. We have our church family. I think you get what I’m saying. We all have a family, to some degree, that we are a part of.
Webster says a Family is: 1 : a group of individuals living under one roof : household. 2: a group of persons of common ancestry. 3: a group of people united by certain convictions or a common affiliation : fellowship
The Family that I want to talk about right now is, The Family of God. Let’s look at Ephesians 1: 3-7:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,”
Being a part of the family of God was a part of God’s plan. It was his idea, his purpose. Paul says he predestined adoption. He planned it. It wasn’t an afterthought.
Our adoption into God’s family, through Jesus, is rooted in God’s eternal love, His eternal plan, and His grace. Look at verses 5 & 6, IN LOVE we have adoption through Jesus, according to his will (his plan), to the praise of his GLORIOUS GRACE.
When you are adopting a pet you might put cuteness or attractiveness way up on the list of attributes to consider. Well, praise God our adoption into God’s family isn’t based on that because we are all a bunch of ugly sinners.
John Piper says, “So our adoption is not based on our being worthy or cute or attractive. It is based on the free and sovereign grace of God planned before the world and bought for us by the blood of Christ.”
Another Piper quote, “We are adopted by God not so that we will rejoice that God made much of us. We are adopted by God so that we will enjoy making much of God’s grace”. Verse 6, “to the praise of his glorious grace.”
Summary: We can be a part of the family of God through Jesus. In Jesus we have redemption, forgiveness, according to the riches of His grace. Grace is a gift. The appropriate response to a gift is thanksgiving. Praise is a form of thanksgiving. Psalm 135 says, “Praise the Lord, Praise the name of the Lord, sing to Him…”. So as we gather this weekend to worship, lets respond to the God of all Grace with praise and thanksgiving!!
Psalm 81, Sing aloud to God our strength, shout for joy to God!!
If I were to say the word, “Ebenezer”, most of us would have some sort of image like the one above pop into our minds.
I guess technically you wouldn’t be wrong by visualizing a grumpy old man.
What if I were to say you could also visualize something like the picture below?
Now you are probably asking how in the world can one word produce the image of a grumpy old man AND a set up stone?
Lets take a look at 1 Samuel 7. Samuel and the Israelites found themselves under attack by the Philistines. The Israelites asked Samuel to pray for them and the imminent battle. Samuel offered a sacrifice to God and prayed for His protection. God listened to Samuel, causing the Philistines to lose the battle and retreat. After the Israelite victory, the Bible documents, “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, ‘Up to this point the Lord has helped us’ ” (1 Samuel 7:12).
Our english word, Ebenezer, comes from the Hebrew word, ‘Eben ha-`ezer (pronounced eh’·ven hä·e’·zer). It means “stone of help”.
I mention all this because this weekend at Brookstone Church we are singing the song, ‘Come thou fount of every blessing’. In 1758 a man named Robert Robinson wrote a hymn. This hymn was a prayer that the Holy Spirit would flood hearts with streams of mercy enabling the people to sing God’s praises and remain faithful to The Lord. ‘Come thou fount of every blessing’ has been sung in the church since that day in 1758.
The second verse of the song begins with these words: “Here I raise my Ebenezer.” When Robinson wrote his lyrics, he followed the word Ebenezer with the phrase, “Hither by Thy help I’m come.” You see, an Ebenezer, was simply a stone set up to signify the help that God provided. It was acknowledging God’s blessings and help in their lives.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:15 that he is going to sing with his mind. He mentions in verse 19 that he would rather speak words with his mind to instruct others. He would rather speak in such a way that it instructs others and builds them up (v.17).
So this weekend when we sing about raising our Ebenezer, we will be able to sing with our minds because we know what the word means now. We will be able to acknowledge, through song, God’s blessings and help in our lives!
Everyone wants to be a winner. We all have different things we want to win or care about winning. We all have certain things we find ourselves being slightly competitive with. Some of us want to win so badly we have a pretty bad attitude when we lose. Although I have never had a bad attitude personally I’ve just observed others with questionable behavior (that’s believable, right?).
For the last three years my wife and I have signed our kids up for the Healthy Kids Running series. It is a points based race series for kids 2 years old to 6th grade. You get points for where you finish in each race. Then at the end of the series, the overall all winners of each age group get trophies. So, you don’t have to win every time, but if you consistently do well each week you could still end up with the coveted trophy.
Each week my wife and I are “those parents” that straight up give our kids tactics for winning. We tell them where to line up, what lane to try to get in, we talk about pace, we tell them when to kick it into high gear. We tell our son, who sometimes looks around at those he is up against (during the race I might add), “LOOK STRAIGHT AHEAD”. We have to tell him don’t look around just look straight ahead at the finish line. (That would have been a great illustration for the post from last week titled, What are you looking at?).
My point is we are attempting to give our kids resources for victory. We, as Christians, have some great resources for victory. I want to quickly point out a few.
1 John 4:4 …greater is he that is in you then he who is in the world
1 Corinthians 2:12 Now we have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God
Romans 8: 10-11 Christ is in you, the Spirit of him who raised Jesus dwells in you. The Spirit who raised Jesus will also give life to you!
Nehemiah 4:20 …our God will fight for us
Romans 8:31… If God is for us, who can be against us?
Romans 8:35, 37 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (For more on the conquerors part CLICK HERE)
This weekend at Brookstone Church all the songs we are singing are great resources for victory.
Set List: Open up our Eyes, Because He Lives (Amen), Call upon the Lord
Below is a mash-up of a few of the lines from each song to help you see these as resources for victory;
Greater is the one who’s in us / Stronger is the one within us / Your love endures forever / Our God is fighting for us always / We are not alone / Because He lives I can face tomorrow / Because He lives fear is gone / I know He holds my life my future in His hands / I’m alive because he lives / For he alone is strong enough to save / Your shackles are no more / For Jesus Christ has broken every chain / Jesus Name will break every stronghold / Freedom is ours when we call His name / Every enemy will flee as we declare your victory
Being that I’m 5 nothing and a hundred nothing I don’t really have the most intimidating stature. So I’ve never been one to utter this phrase, “What are you looking at”, with malicious intent. Now, have I used this phrase to authentically inquire what some one is looking at? Certainly.
..look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith… Hebrews 12:2
But before we focus on that lets look at the verse that precedes it.
…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2
We can only run the race as we look to Jesus. He is our focus, our inspiration, our example.
Looking to Jesus is a looking away from other things.
Verse 1: …let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…
This weekend we are singing about the Lord’s goodness, the hope we have in Him, the peace that comes from Him, the joy. We are saying through song our heart is yours, we surrender to you, trust you, and we want to sing no other name than the name of Jesus and conveniently enough we are also singing about running… “I’m running to your arms…”.
My wife is a runner (I’m a cyclist that rarely runs) but I get the illustration. When my wife has ran marathons and other endurance distances you better believe she is going to lay aside anything and everything that could possibly hinder her from running effectively.
What do we need to lay aside or look away from that could be hindering us from running effectively and with endurance the race God has for us?
So, what are you looking at?
Psalm 47 reads, Clap your hands, shout to God with loud songs of joy. Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth, sing praises!
Worship in this psalm seems quite noisy: ‘Clap your hands’ shout to God’ ‘loud songs’ ‘sing praises’. These are all ways of responding in worship of the Lord and these are all pretty loud options. Interestingly enough the chapter prior to this one, Psalm 46, has a verse that reads to “Be still and know that I am God”. That is actually meaning more along the lines of ‘hold your ground’ or ‘stand firm’. Like in Exodus 14:13, Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today’. If you read all of Chapter 46 you will better understand the context for ‘Be Still’. The whole chapter is talking about God is our refuge, strength, help, fortress, etc. So you can see now, to be still, means to actually stand firm and trust the Lord. But that is another post for another day.
I mentioned the loud, noisy, worship options because I read this quote recently
“God gave us emotions for more purposes than just being enthusiastic at a ball game or about a new car. Surely God wants us to employ our emotions in expressing our love and gratitude to Him… “
Interested thought to ponder, huh?
Ever heard of William Temple? Yeah, me either. He was the Archbiship of Canterbury (1942-1944). Listen to what he said about worship
“Worship is a submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by his holiness; the nourishment of mind with his truth; the purifying of imagination by his beauty; the opening of the heart to his love; the surrender of will to his purpose – and all this gathered up in adoration.”
Simply put – Worship is a WHOLE LIFE response to God for who he is and what he has done. All of who we are responding to all of who He is. Sometimes that response can be loud and noisy and that’s ok. Sometimes that response might position you more face down (refer back to this post).
The point is, there should be a response… Some. Kind. Of. A Response.
It is in our very nature to respond to things. I like to ride my bike… when I get some new nerdy piece of bike gear I respond with more expression to that than I sometimes do when singing about my Savior. Just being honest. I’m a Clemson fan and I remember, vaguely, when Clemson won their first National Championship in football back in 1981. So this past year when Clemson won it for the second time, not only will I remember it better, but that win produced in me a response. A rather jovial one.
So why? Why do things that really don’t matter in life get more of a response from us?
Worship saves us from being self-centered and makes us God-centered.
Take steps daily towards being more God-Centered in life
Filter everything through this – Colossians 3:17, WHATEVER you do, in word or deed, do EVERYTHING in the name of Jesus. Giving thanks to God (there’s the response)
When WHATEVER we do and EVERYTHING we do or say is filtered through Jesus the response of thanks, gratitude is directed in the right direction. God-Centered.
God-Centered will produced a response centered on God
Self-Centered will produce a response centered on self
Seems simple enough, right?
So we mentioned Colossians 3:17 lets end with looking at the verse just before.
Verse 16 reads, Let the word of Christ dwell in you, teaching and admonishing in all wisdom, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God
Remember William Temple? Oh, now you know who I’m talking about. He said, “the nourishment of mind with his truth”.
Let the word of Christ, his truth, nourish you, teach you, reprimand you. Let it produce within you A RESPONSE, a response of singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
If you spent any amount of time in the south you might have picked up on some unusual words we might say.
Piddle = to stay busy but not really with any particular plan of action
Fixin = repairing something or about to do something or a side dish to go along with your main entree
Mash = to press or push something
You all, or I should say, y’all could come up with many more words or phrases I’m sure.
Another word or words I’ve noticed get pronounced slightly different are the days of the week. Instead of SunDAY, MonDAY, its more along the lines of SunDEE, MonDEE. I bring this up for one reason… today is Maundy Thursday. Upon pronoucing Maundy it made me think of hearing people say MonDEE.
The Maundy in Maundy Thursday comes from the Latin root mandatum, or commandment, taken from Jesus’ words in John 13:34: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Just before speaking these words, Jesus knelt down to wash the disciples’ feet.
“For the sandal-wearing disciples, washing feet was a common cultural practice. It was proper hospitality to offer your guests a basin of water for their feet. But guests were usually expected to wash their own feet. Washing the dirt off someone else’s feet was a task reserved for only the lowest ranking servants” – Richard Bauckham
Jesus took the position of the lowest servant to wash the disciples’ feet in John 13. The disciples were shocked, confused, maybe even embarrassed. Jesus took the lowest position, which is interesting because the disciples entered the room debating who was greatest among themselves. By what He did, Jesus illustrates he was.
“It was customary that the lowest servant of the house would wash the feet of the guests as they came into the house. For some reason, this didn’t happen when Jesus and the disciples came into the room. So they ate their meal with dirty feet. Why didn’t any of the disciples do this first? Any of the disciples would have gladly washed Jesus’ feet. But they could not wash His without having to be available to wash the others’ feet, and that would have been an intolerable admission of inferiority among their fellow competitors for the top positions in the disciples’ hierarchy. So no one’s feet got washed!” -David Guzik
So this day, Maundy Thursday, is a day we can think back to the Last Supper and Jesus washing the feet of the disciples the day before the crucifixion. The full explanation for why Jesus washed their feet would only start to make sense after the next day, (tomorrow) Good Friday. The day Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8 ) They would look back and understand the act of deep humility in the cross that brought us a once-for-all, head-to-toe, cleansing from our sin.
Well… it’s a little something different for me and stylistically for us as a church. But I’m loving practicing for it. What am I talking about, you ask? How about I give you a little back story about the songs we are singing this weekend.
For some of you, you’ve grown up listening to these songs. For others, these could be totally new. What I really enjoy about these songs is how they can bring together generations. Conjuring up memories and simultaneously introducing something new to someone else. These songs are, well…old. But that’s ok.
The first song we are singing this weekend was written in 1947. It was the prayer of a backslider who lives in the hope of redemption.
I wandered so aimless life filled with sin
I wouldn’t let my dear savior in
Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night
Praise the Lord I saw the light
Ironically ‘I saw the Light’ was written to a melody quite similar to a song written in 1939 by Albert Brumley titled ‘He set me free’. This little nugget of information helps segway us to song two, written by Brumley in 1932.
‘I’ll Fly Away’ sounds like it was birthed from Psalm 90:10, The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly way.
Interesting enough Brumley was working his families cotton farm, picking cotton and singing this song. The idea of flying away seemed pretty nice in comparison to his current state. So he began writing ‘I’ll Fly Away’.
Another song for this weekend, written in 1971. Why don’t I just let you know what the composer said… “While pondering and praying about things, we came to realize that our courage doesn’t come from a stable world, its because the resurrection is true! Over the years this song has reassured us that our Lord’s resurrection is the central truth of life. ‘Because he lives’, we can face tomorrow.”
1779 was the year, ‘Faith’s review and Expectation’ was written. Or, I guess you might have heard of it as ‘Amazing Grace’. It is based on John Newton’s study of 1 Chronicles 17. Newton actually had a slow growth spiritually. Coming out of his years at boarding schools and the British Navy it is said he lived a life unrivaled by fiction. It was in 1748 Newton says, “The Lord came from on high and delivered me out of deep waters.”
What these songs all have in common is their expression of the personal hope of eternal life through Jesus Christ all these writers shared.
So, like I said at the beginning of this post. It’s a little something different for me and stylistically for us as a church, but the message is the same.