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Thursday, October 10, 2019

Favorite Songs - Lord, Have Mercy On This Town (Song for Sonoma) by a Pastor in the "Wild West" of the Wine Country

(Are there some songs that never get old for you? You can listen to them over and over again, even after you've just listened to them, and you still enjoy them? When they also make you think about interesting and important stuff, you get the kinds of songs I'm talking about in this series of blog posts.)

Since I started a trend of posting some favorite songs that I've written (I'm not saying they're the best songs, just my favorites:), here's another one. 

I wrote this song in 2001, when I was a church planting pastor in the "wild west" of the northern California Wine Country. I had a prayer and study office in the home of a friend who lived in the hills high above the Sonoma Valley, and I could sit on the deck and pray for the city of Sonoma (where my church was) while I enjoyed a view of it much like that in the picture on the video.

When I left the Wine Country in 2005 to move back to Pennsylvania, where I had grown up, I recorded some songs like this and "Shining Eyes" with our music minister to give as a parting gift to the congregation. I figured they had heard me preach too many times in the years I was there, and I had given them many books already, so me singing would be something new and memorable for them. Again, I'm not saying it was a good gift--just memorable, but I did hear that this song in particular was somewhat of a hit among some of the kids who heard it. 

If it encourages you to pray for the area where you live, and to reach out with the gospel in whatever way you can there, it will be worth a listen. And please pray specifically for Sonoma and the laborers in God's harvest there--that town is still in desperate need of His mercy!

Lord, Have Mercy On This Town

Lord, have mercy on this town
It’s so lost, can it be found?
Though I know I’m just one man
Won’t You use me if you can
Lord, have mercy on this town

Lord, have mercy on this town
Can You loose what has it bound?
Though I know I’m filled with flaws
I’m the long arm of Your law
Lord, have mercy on this town

I watch the vultures circle high above the valley floor
The life below that bids them stay one day will be no more
Descending with a lust for blood, by justice not delayed
They’ll feast upon the dead…
‘Til the penalty is paid

Lord, have mercy on this town
Break apart its fallow ground
Though I know I’m just a fool
Won’t You use me as Your tool
Lord, have mercy on this town

Stung by the summer heat I saw of a vision of this land
Saloon and bank and farm and stagecoach covered by the sand
But then the ground was moving and the dust was swirling high
The bones became a man…
And that man became alive!

He said, “Unless you die, you can never live.
“And before you can take...
you must learn to give.”

Lord, have mercy on this town
Spread Your gracious love around
Though I’m not sure where to go
Won’t You use my hands to sow
Lord, have mercy on this town

Lord, have mercy on this town
(I watch the vultures circle high above the valley floor)
Will its wounds yet be unwound?
(The life below that bids them stay one day will be no more)
Lord, it looks like harvest time
Grow some fruit among these vines
Lord, have mercy on this town
(Stung by the summer heat I saw a vision of this land)
Judgment day it’s going down
(Saloon and bank and farm and stagecoach covered by the sand)
When I stand before Your throne
I don’t want to stand alone
Lord, have mercy on this town
(I watch the vultures circle high above the valley floor…)

Yes, when I stand before Your throne
I don’t want to stand alone
Lord, have mercy on this town

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Favorite Songs - Shining Eyes (Song for Jill) by some (very undeserving) guy

(Are there some songs that never get old for you? You can listen to them over and over again, even after you've just listened to them, and you still enjoy them? When they also make you think about interesting and important stuff, you get the kinds of songs I'm talking about in this series of blog posts.)

I've been doing this series about favorite songs of mine, and this one is occasioned by the date today (October 6). On this day 29 years ago, a most blessed man hit the jackpot by marrying the girl of his dreams, and he wrote this song as a wedding present for her. He had noticed while gazing repeatedly into her eyes that there were bright gold streaks inside the blue of her irises that made it look like some kind of light was bursting forth from inside. So he riffed on that theme and Voila!, one of my favorite songs was created. About fifteen years later he recorded it with a musician friend who accompanied him on piano. It was far from the full professional production with a full band and strings (and much better vocals) that he hears in his mind, but it would have to do because it was his only opportunity to get it on tape.

Through the years that light of Jesus inside her has shone to and through many other blessed people, especially her seven children, so the video for the song (also a gift for her) celebrates that as well. This amateur songwriter is even more grateful for her now than he was 29 years ago because she has graciously stuck with him through thick and thin, and by that he means much more than his weight fluctuations.

Shining Eyes (Song for Jill)

When I look in your eyes I see sunlight
and I wonder what makes them shine
You say "The Son of God, the Light of the World"
It's Jesus living deep inside

Now I know what makes you seem so
beautiful to me
Jillian, I knew something about you
had to be heavenly

Shining eyes
a sure-fire sign of a Son-kissed life
Eyes that shine
from the Light of the World inside

When I look in your eyes I see love
and I can't believe it's for me
But by His plan you took my hand
Together from eternity

If you don't know what you mean to me,
those eyes they must be blind
I'm gonna pour my love out for you
until the end of time

Shining eyes
Girl of my dreams, the only one with those
eyes that shine
from the Light of the World inside

Eyes that shine
from the Light of the World inside

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Favorite Songs - O Sacred Head Now Wounded (and American Tune)

(Are there some songs that never get old for you? You can listen to them over and over again, even after you've just listened to them, and you still enjoy them? When they also make you think about interesting and important stuff, you get the kinds of songs I'm talking about in this series of blog posts.)

Not only does this classic hymn have one of my favorite tunes, which was used repeatedly by Johann Sebastian Bach in his music, but it also has one of my two all-time favorite hymn verses...

What language shall I borrow
To thank Thee, dearest friend
For this, Thy dying sorrow
Thy pity without end

Oh, make me Thine forever
And should I fainting be
Lord, let me never, never
Outlive my love for Thee

Wow. Try to beat that.

(In case you're wondering, my other favorite hymn verse is from "Rock of Ages," by Augustus Toplady:

Nothing in my hand I bring
Simply to Thy cross I cling
Naked, come to Thee for dress
Helpless, look to Thee for grace
Foul, I to the fountain fly
Wash me Savior or I die

That's the only verse that can rival the final one of O Sacred Head, IMHO.)

The music from O Sacred Head Now Wounded was also the inspiration and foundation for another of my favorite songs--American Tune by Paul Simon...

Friday, September 13, 2019

Favorite Songs - Cautionary Tale by Wake Up John

To hear "Cautionary Tale" click here. (For some reason Blogger wouldn't let me import the video.) To order Wake Up John's new EP click here.

(Are there some songs that never get old for you? You can listen to them over and over again, even after you've just listened to them, and you still enjoy them? When they also make you think about interesting and important stuff, you get the kinds of songs I'm talking about in this series of blog posts.)

I wanted to post this right now because today is the release day for Wake Up John's new EP Fugitive Closure. So this will be shorter than my other Favorite Songs posts in order to get it out on time and get back to work on things I actually get paid for.

I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that the singer/songwriter is my son Nathan, but I try to be as unbiased and critical as I can of his music, and this is still one of my favorite songs after many, many listens. And I'm thrilled to hear the polished production touches that have been added to it for the EP, especially the strings section that makes the climactic ending even more powerful. They remind me of a similar use in "Comfortably Numb" and "The Final Cut" by Pink Floyd, but unlike those songs the lyrics of this one are actually congruent with the feeling of hope created by the music.

That's one of the things I love about this song--the emotional and spiritual "rags to riches" story arc traced by it. It accurately depicts the real struggles that we face but also rightly suggests that there is a solution--not necessarily in finding all the answers we've been seeking but in surrendering to the light we have been given, and specifically to the life that is in Jesus Christ. That's what I hear when I listen to the song, anyway (not being sure which word is actually in the lyrics, I hear both of them:).

Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12). The ancient writer named John woke up to the fact that Jesus was "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), and I pray that everyone who plays the song will wake up to that as well.

Here's a live acoustic version of the end of the song, before the other band members joined Nathan and Hannah:

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Favorite Songs - Eden and How You've Grown by Natalie Merchant

(Are there some songs that never get old for you? You can listen to them over and over again, even after you've just listened to them, and you still enjoy them? When they also make you think about interesting and important stuff, you get the kinds of songs I'm talking about in this series of blog posts.)

I couldn't decide which of these two songs to post about, so I'm doing both. They're from the same album, which also happens to be one of my all-time favorites. All the songs on Our Time In Eden by 10,000 Maniacs are really good (something I can't say about very many albums), but the best among them, besides these two, are Noah's Dove, Gold Rush Brides, and Jezebel. My only complaint about it is the name of the band...has there ever been one that is more incongruent with the nature of the music and the leading member? Thankfully Natalie Merchant went on to make the rest of her albums under her own name, including another of my all-time favorites, Ophelia

"Eden" literally sends chills up my spine every time I listen to it, and my emotions always pinball. From the most beautiful and satisfying one-sound chorus ever recorded to the profound poetry of lyrics that always conjure interesting ideas (you can read them below), this is the rare perfect song (IMHO).

One of the reasons it's so great is that the lyrics can be understand in various ways and have different meanings depending on the listener. But considering the title itself and other biblical allusions in the song, I think I'm well-entitled to hear it with Christian ears and allow it to lead me into regret and repentance for my own participation in the Fall, but also into the ecstatic hope of the promised restoration of our world (both universally and personally). I don't know exactly how the song moves so subtly but inexorably from one to the other, from ennui to euphoria, but by the end of it I've always experienced both.

"How You've Grown" also makes me smile and cry, often at the same time. If there ever was a song that captures the conflicting feelings of time passing us by, this is it. And when it finally launches into its chorus, and then again the second time after a gorgeous violin solo, it has a kick that to me is as powerful as any ear-piercing hard rock anthem. This is a testimony not only to its subtly catchy riff of notes, of course, but to the effectiveness of five words that capture the quintessential emotional experience we could call "the sweet sorrow of parting."

Every time we say goodbye...

Like "Eden," "How You've Grown" also draws my mind and heart toward the wonderful truth that one day God will separate the bitter from the sweet, so that the latter will be all that remains. As Romans 8:18-23 says, "The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us....the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God....For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as son, the redemption of our bodies."

And Revelation 21:1-5: "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth....He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' Also he said...'these words are trustworthy and true.'"

We are the roses in the garden, beauty with thorns among our leaves
To pick a rose you ask your hands to bleed
What is the reason for having roses when your blood is shed carelessly?
It must be for something more than vanity
Believe me, the truth is we're not honest, not the people that we dream
We're not as close as we could be
Willing to grow but rains are shallow
Barren and wind-scattered seed on stone and dry land, we will be
Waiting for the light arisen to flood inside the prison
And in that time kind words alone will teach us, no bitterness will reach us
Reason will be guided another way
All in time, but the clock is another demon that devours our time in Eden, in our Paradise
Will our eyes see well beneath us, flowers all divine?
Is there still time?
If we wake and discover in life a precious love, will that waking become more heavenly?

How You’ve Grown

"My, how you've grown."
I remember that phrase from my childhood days too.
"Just wait and see."
I remember those words and how they chided me, when patient was the hardest thing to be.
Because we can't make up for the time that we've lost, I must let these memories provide.
No little girl can stop her world to wait for me.
I should have known.
At your age, in a string of days the year is gone.
But in that space of time, it takes so long.
Because we can't make up for the time that we've lost, I must let those memories provide.
No little girl can stop her world to wait for me.
Every time we say goodbye you're frozen in my mind as the child that you never will be, you never will be again.
I'll never be more to you than a stranger could be.
Every time we say goodbye you're frozen in my mind as a child that you never will be, will be again.
© Downtown Music Publishing

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Favorite Songs - At My Parties by Dire Straits

(Are there some songs that never get old for you? You can listen to them over and over again, even after you've just listened to them, and you still enjoy them? When they also make you think about interesting and important stuff, you get the kinds of songs I'm talking about in this series of blog posts.)

"At My Parties" is catchy, funny, meaningful, and impressive in its musicianship, all at the same time, which is pretty rare. On top of that I happen to really like the style of the music and Mark Knopfler's vocals. So I can listen to it over and over.

It's from Dire Straits' much underrated final album, On Every Street, and it's a satire about people who spend large amounts of time and money entertaining while they should be concerned about more important things. The lyrics are down below in case you can't discern all of them while listening to the song.

Speaking of discernment...As with most of my favorite songs by non-Christian artists, there is are both truth and error in this one. Knopfler captures well the insanity and sadness of hedonism and points us to something bigger and greater that we should be caring about. Because he's not a Christian, however, he doesn't point us to glorifying God and helping others to know Him, but to environmental concerns.

This provides an interesting illustration of what God says will happen when people don't want to accept His will as the greater meaning for our lives: "They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator" (Rom. 1:25).

Romans 1 also gives us a hint about why even very intelligent and talented people don't accept the truth of God as the guide for their lives. Verse 18 says that they "by their unrighteousness suppress the truth," meaning (at least in part) that they don't want to live by God's law because it would keep them from some practices that they enjoy. Perhaps for Knopfler at the time this included sexual immorality like the menage a trois described in "You and Your Friend," a song on the same album that I choose not to listen to, even though the music is great, because I don't want to be thinking about things that dishonor God and are detrimental to my spiritual life.

But "My Parties" is definitely a keeper, as long as we understand that the greatest crime of wasteful hedonism is not against created things, but against the Creator whom we should be worshiping and serving.

My Parties

Well this is my back yard
My back gate
I hate to start my parties late
Here's the party cart
Ain't that great?
That ain't the best part baby
Just wait
That's a genuine weathervane
It moves with the breeze
Portable hammock honey
Who needs trees
It's casual entertaining
We aim to please
At my parties
Check out the shingles
It's brand new
Excuse me while I mingle
Hi, how are you
Hey everybody
Let me give you a toast
This one's for me
The host with the most
It's getting a trifle colder
Step inside my home
That's a brass toilet tissue holder with it's own telephone
That's a musical doorbell
It don't ring, I ain't kiddin'
Plays America the beautiful and tie a yellow ribbon
Boy, this punch is a trip
It's okay in my book
Here, take a sip
Maybe little heaven on the fruit
Ah, here comes the dip
You may kiss the cook
Let me show you honey
It's easy, look
You take a fork and spike 'em
Say, did you try these?
So glad you like 'em
The secret's in the cheese
It's casual entertaining
We aim to please
At my parties
Now don't talk to me about the polar bear
Don't talk to me about ozone layer
Ain't so much of anything these days, even the air
They're running out of rhinos
What do I care?
Let's hear it for the dolphin
Let's hear it for the trees
Ain't runnin' out of nothin' in my deep freeze
It's casual entertaining
We aim to please
At my parties
Songwriters: MARK KNOPFLER
© Universal Music Publishing Group

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Prayers and words for my family (and anyone else who dares to read them)

I try to pray every morning before I get out of bed, if possible, and many times I get so caught up in thoughts (and sometimes confusion) about the matters of prayer that I'm not sure exactly what I should be saying to the Lord about them. So at those times I often reach for my Kindle and read a prayer by Charles Spurgeon from this wonderful book, and pray along with his words. The prayer I read this morning contained some words (in italics) that I thought were especially relevant to the members of my family (always my biggest topic of prayer), and perhaps they will be to others as well...

Blessed are the hearts that have been softened, that have been made ready to receive the truth in the love of it! Blessed be the sovereign grace of God that hath chosen unto Him a people who delight in His Word and who meditate in it both day and night!

Do you delight and meditate on God's Word? God creates a desire for it in his children, so if you really know him you will have at least some of that inclination in your heart, even though it might be crowded out by the cares of this world or dampened by sin. As Martin Luther said in the very first of his 95 Theses, "The whole life of the true believer is one of repentance." So don't be surprised if you need to repent (even if it's the thousandth time or more) of your lack of delight and meditation on God's Word. I have to do that regularly, and I'm guessing you do too. Ask God to forgive you for not recognizing the value of this gracious treasure where the thrice holy God of the universe actually condescends to communicate with insignificant, undeserving sinners like us.

Lord, we ask that Thy Word may chasten us whenever we go astray, may it enlighten us whenever for a moment we get into darkness. May Thy Word be the supreme ruler of our being. May we give ourselves up to its sacred law to be obedient to its every hint, wishing in all things, even in the least things, to do the will of God from the heart and having every thought brought into captivity to the mind of the Spirit of God.

Not only should we desire and meditate on God's Word more than we do, but we should allow it to be the authority for all of our thinking and actions. Whether it's the issue of how we spend our time and money, whether we believe in hell, who we date, what we put into our body, what we watch on TV, what we do with doubts about God and Scripture, whether we participate in gossip, or whatever else, the way we go should never be determined by what we feel or think is right according to our wisdom, but our choices should all be based on what God says in the Word.

I know the battle is real--believe me I know. I know that some things God says can feel so wrong to us at any given time in our lives and some things that are against what he says can seem so right to us. But remember, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Prov. 14:12, 16:25). Do you realize how many millions of times the strongest feelings and intuitions of people have tragically been proven wrong by the timeless Word of God? "The grass withers and the flower fades, but the Word of the Lord stands forever" (Isa 40:8, 1 Pet. 1:24). Don't let that happen to you--put your trust in the Creator rather than the creature when it comes to what you believe and do.

Oh! dear, dear Saviour, what could we do without Thee. We are as yet in banishment, we have not come into the land of light and glory; it is on the other side the river, in the land where Thou dwellest, Thy land of Immanuel, and till we come thither be Thou with us. We have said unto ourselves, How shall we live without our Lord; and then we have said unto Thee, “If Thy Spirit go not with us, carry us not up hence.” Oh! be to us this day as the fiery cloudy pillar that covered all the camp of Israel. May we dwell in God; may we live and move in God; may we be conscious of the presence of God to a greater extent than we are conscious of anything else.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

What kind of people does God choose?

Over the last year or so, my wife Jill and I have had the privilege of ministering in a women's and men's prison with a transition program called CHILL OUT (the prisons are next to each other, so we make it a regular "date" to go together once a month or so). Recently I was asked to speak at the graduation ceremony for the "kinmates," as we call them, so I had to decide what to share with thirteen prisoners (some of them Muslim) and their families, as well as the program staff. Because I didn't want to talk too long, I wrote out a message for them on my tablet, which unfortunately I was not allowed to take in to the prison. So I ended up with no notes whatsoever, and I'm not sure exactly what I said (or how long I said it)! But the following is what God led me to prepare for them. (Incidentally, on a theological note, these things are true and biblical regardless of whether you believe in conditional or unconditional election, though obviously I favor the latter.)

God has given me a true love for you guys in my heart, and that makes me want to give something to you, anything I can, with the limited opportunity I have. Last cycle God led me to give you a little play to act out—that was fun—now this time, other than my prayers, couple letters, and a visit, all I have the opportunity to do is take a few minutes to share something with you here upon your graduation from CHILL OUT. So I thought and prayed about it, and I realized that the best thing I could give to you today is some good news. We can all use some good news, right? So I want to tell you about what we Christians call the good news, or “the gospel,” which is an old word for it.

But I’m gonna do it in a different way that you probably haven’t heard before. I want to tell you about what kind of people God chooses, because it will surprise you. I’m assuming a few things in what I say, by the way, that I won’t take the time to prove. One is that there is a God and the other is that he speaks to us in the Bible. I know that you all don’t believe those things (yet), but I believe that when you hear the good news God is able to open your hearts in his timing and give you that faith, which he does for all the people he’s chosen. And you are just the kind of people he chooses.

What kind of people does God choose to be his children, forgive all their sins, use them for a great purpose in this life, and take them to heaven when they die? 

One answer is God chooses losers. I told you you’d be surprised. You thought I was gonna say God chooses winners…people who are successful in life, who have a lot going for them, or who fix themselves after they go wrong. But listen to this passage: “Consider your calling, brothers and sisters, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that he may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by his doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord’” (1 Cor. 1:26-31). 

You’re just the kind of people God chooses. You’re losers, not that you don’t have great things about you, because you all do, but because you’ve lost a lot in your life. You’ve lost your freedom, for instance, for a time either because of your own bad choices or the injustice of others, or both. And I am one of those people too, by the way, in case you think I’m calling you losers while thinking of myself as a winner. No, far from it, I’ve lost a lot, believe me, for both those reasons I mentioned. In fact, I call myself a loser often, and my wife is always trying to correct me, because we don’t want to walk around calling ourselves that, especially once we know that God chooses and loves people like us. But it’s okay, and even good, even necessary to acknowledge that we don’t deserve anything good from God—if he chooses us, it’s not because we’re so wonderful or successful. It’s really the opposite. 

Another way to say this is that God chooses people who repent of their sins. In fact, the Bible actually says that God causes repentance in the hearts of those he chooses. Repentance simply means to recognize how we’ve been wrong, to be sorry for it, and to commit ourselves to change, for the purpose of pleasing God. But you can’t repent of your sins if you don’t realize and admit that you're a sinner. Jesus said, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” He said elsewhere that no one is really righteous, at least by God’s perfect standards, so he must mean that he didn’t come for the people who think they’re righteous, but for the people who know they are sinners.” That fits with something else he said: “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:12-13). 

Speaking of Jesus, the kind of people God chooses are those who believe in him. The Bible says that “those who were appointed to eternal life” believe in him (Acts 13:48). I know many of us here don’t believe in Jesus right now, but who can tell what will happen in the future, right? Not us, but there is someone who can, and watch this—this is really interesting. Did you hear what that verse said: “Those who were appointed to eternal life believed.” They had been appointed to eternal life—that’s another word for chosen—and that appointment or choice happened before the foundation of the world, as it says a bunch of times in the Bible. So people are chosen by God before they believe in Jesus! So you might be chosen even though you don’t believe yet, and one day in God’s timing, when you’re ready, you will call on him and be saved. And you’re just the kind of people that God chooses and that Jesus came for, so guess what? You can have every confidence in the world that he'll be there for you when you need him. 

This is why Jesus died on the cross, by the way, in case you wonder what the big deal is about that. He knew we would be losers and failures in so many ways in our lives, so he allowed himself to be treated like a loser and failure so that his spiritual riches and success could be given to us. “God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made righteous in him” (2 Cor. 5:21). 

Again, that’s why you can have every confidence in the world that he will answer if you call on him. I
t could be right now as you’re hearing these words—that’s happened many times to many people. It could be tonight when you’re laying in your bed and thinking about it—that’s what happened to me. It could be when you get out of here, or get a job, or become a dad or granddad, or some other cool thing, and you are so grateful that God has blessed you in that way. It could be when things go really wrong and you feel like a loser and you remember somebody saying that God chooses losers to be his children, forgive all their sins, use them for a great purpose in this life, and take them to heaven when they die. 

That kind of future hope is good news. Thank you for letting me share it with you. 

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Saturday, February 9, 2019

I turned off the man-made stuff and looked directly at what God has made

When I go to bed at night, I usually put my phone and tablet on their chargers across the room, and I do that for a reason. When I wake up in the middle of the night and can't sleep, or wake up in the early morning and have some time to spend with the Lord, I don't want to be tempted to go online, so the only thing I have by my bed is my Kindle Paperwhite, which doesn't have the internet but has the Bible and my devotional books on it. I also want to be able to pray when I can't sleep or when I'm starting my day.

Last night for some reason I left my tablet next to my bed, so sure enough when I woke up this morning--without even thinking about it--I grabbed it and looked at the news and Facebook. Now let me say right now that I do think it's possible to honor God and even pray to him while looking at the news or Facebook, and the one article I read was actually about a spiritual issue. But then thankfully my attention was drawn away from the tablet by a big fat robin with a bright orange breast alighting on a branch just outside my window. The sunrise was making the bird's color even more brilliant, and I found myself praising the Lord for his creation.

I shut off the tablet and put it down on the floor and just lay watching the robin and the light from the sunrise, thinking about how great God is and asking him to do some things for me and my family that only a great God could do. And I was noticing that though I can praise and pray to God while I'm on my devices, it's a lot easier to do it when I'm not on them and I'm looking at what God has made. I even thanked God for the dog sleeping on my couch under the window, because he's cute and nice and basically well-behaved, except for when there's an opportunity to get food from the trash can or the table. :) I'm also more thankful for Toby lately because we recently had to put down our other dog Angie, because she was 16 years old and suffering from dementia and various other ailments.

Though they can be deeply misguided in many ways, there's something to the common sayings like "I was communing with nature" or "I never feel closer to God then when I'm out in his creation." I think we would all do well to plan times where there are no electronic devices of any kind on hand, when we can enjoy what God has made directly and praise him as we do. We probably will also talk to him a lot more at those times, sharing our struggles and requests with him, when we don't have social media and other man-made inventions vying for our attention.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Martin Luther Galatians Series

A friend of mine is starting to teach through Galatians, and I realized I never catalogued my whole series of posts on Luther's commentary, to make it easy for reference. So here are the titles and links for all my posts on Galatians and Luther, in case you'd like to check out any or all of them...

Reformation 500 - Six Days of Luther, Day 2 (from his commentary on Galatians 5:2)

Reformation 500 - Six Days of Luther, Day 3 (from his commentary on Galatians 5:3)

Reformation 500 - Six Days of Luther, Day 4 (from his commentary on Galatians 5:4)

Reformation 500 - Six Days of Luther, Day 5 (from his commentary on Galatians 5:5) 

Reformation 500 - Six Days of Luther, Day 6 (from his commentary on Galatians 5:6) 

Preachers who should be castrated (Galatians 5:7-12 and Luther's comments on it) 

Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is never alone (Luther's commentary on Galatians 5:16-26) 

Luther on restoring the fallen (from his commentary on Galatians 6:1-5) 

Blessed to be a blessing (Martin Luther's commentary on Galatians 6:6-10) 

It's a conspiracy! (Martin Luther's commentary on Galatians 6:11-18)