Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand, But I know who holds tomorrow, And I know who holds my hand.
The beginning of
a new year tends to make you stop and evaluate where you have been and where
you are going. Self-evaluation is a good exercise. It can also be a troublesome
or discouraging one.
For instance, am
I walking closer to God than I did a year ago? Am I more victorious over
temptation than I was a year ago? Am I putting my heart into the Kingdom of God
like I did a year ago? Is my love for my fellowman growing or diminishing?
I suspect that
most of us feel we fell short in these areas last year. But what are we going
to do about it? Write up a list of resolutions which will fall by the wayside
during the next month or so? I’ve been there and done that. I know one or two
people with enough self-discipline and determination to make a change in their
lives if they decide to. But that is not true for most of us, and we may as
well admit it. I will not become a better person this year than I was last year
without some help.
That help may come
from my brothers and sisters. I am not discrediting that because we all need
that kind of help. But I’m troubled with our increased dependence on accountability
groups and counselling centers. In the long run, human helps will only help us
if we have allowed God’s grace to operate in our lives. Ephesians 2:4-10 is a
wonderful passage that should be precious to every Christian. But
unfortunately, so many people stop reading at the end of verse 9. According to
verse 10, grace turns us into a new creation. We become God’s workmanship not
happen overnight. All of us need to continue to grow. But that growth will only
come as we allow God’s grace to work in us. Our victory and our spiritual
development are intrinsically linked to the closeness of our relationship with
God. This coming year will be one long progression of tomorrows. At this point we
have no idea what those tomorrows hold for us. But if we walk with God today,
we can leave tomorrow in His hands. At the end of 2020, we can look back and
say, “I have walked with God this year.”
He holds tomorrow
in His control. He holds this year in His hands. I can face this year with the
power of His grace, because I know He holds my hand. If I fall, He will help me
up. If I lose my way, He will guide me back to the right path. If I face grief,
He will comfort me. If I find new victories, He will rejoice with me.
Lord, I have shut the door, Speak now the word Which in the din and throng Could not be heard; Hushed now my inner heart, Whisper Thy will, While I have come apart, While all is still.
Worship can spring from many things. For instance, watching the beauty of a sunset or holding a new baby might trigger worship. Or a Bible verse we read or a song we sing might spark it. But these things just plant the seed for worship. Worship can grow from these things, but they are not worship themselves.
God will respond to worship. When King Solomon prayed, fire fell from heaven. When Elijah worshipped God spoke in a still small voice. When David worshipped, he wrote psalms expressing the feelings in his heart. When Jesus worshipped—spending whole nights in prayer—He was strengthened for His work.
I get the feeling that too many Christians seldom worship. They may go to church and call it a worship service, but how many people really worship in church? I suppose worship can be many different things to different people. Personality can influence our concept of worship and so can our background or culture. But genuine worship is more than a formula. It doesn’t come and go in deference to our schedule.
But what is worship? It is one of those indefinable things; almost impossible to explain. But when you worship you know it. Worship will always change you and draw you closer to God. About the best parallel I can think of is a nursing baby. A hungry baby lives to nurse, and lives because they nurse. Nursing is more than a physical experience for a baby, it is a time of spiritual union with its mother. It is important for the mother to realize this and to take time for her little one, because the child’s future depends on that bonding.
I think we could describe worship as a time of spiritual bonding between us and God. It moves both our heart and God’s heart. Unlike some human mothers, God will always take time for our worship. He never rushes through it, and He gives us his complete attention. I believe that the Christian who never worships will eventually die spiritually.
To be genuine, worship needs to include emotion, but not all emotions are genuine worship. For instance, I can feel the emotion of a Hillsong musical piece, but I don’t feel as if I’d worshipped after listening to it. I am more sympathetic with the Quaker concept of worship being quietness; a time of communion with God—a time when God speaks to you, and you listen and a time when you speak to God and He listens, though that is often secondary.
Worship is a merging of natures—our nature becoming more blended with God’s nature—and we come away from it spiritually renewed by our contact with God’s presence.
Abstract: A history of the early church writen from a socialogical perspective.
I ran across this book during my research for the current project I’m working on, and it is quite intriquing. The author was Professor of Sociology and Comparative Religion at the University of Washington when he wrote this book toward the end of the 20th century.
Stark was especially interested in explaining the growth and development of Christianity in the first three centuries after Christ. He notes that the Roman Empire didn’t consider Christianity a political threat or it would have wiped it out very quickly in its earlier stages. He tosses around various growth rates. That was what drew me to the book in the first place–I wanted an accurate estimate of the size of the Christian population at the end of the third century.
If you are like me, you have been told that Christianity was mostly a religion appealing to the poor and the slaves. Stark makes a convincing argument that this wasn’t really the case. He feels that Christianity had a lot of friends in high places and that the cult-like status of Christianity would have appealed to part of the upper class of the Roman population.
I was also quite interested in his discussion of the animal-like behavior of the general population that led them to be interested in killing as a spectator sport. Christians were thrown to the lions or slaughtered by gladiators to the cheers of a blood-drunk crowd. He also notes that had all of those Christians recanted and been cleared, the spectacle would have continued. The authorities would simply have found other people to be slaughtered. This was part of the essence of being Roman. But he goes on to note how the pressure of Christianity forced this to change gradually.
In our world today, Christianity is often degraded. I enjoyed reading a positive book by a scholar who gives good reasons for not feeling that way about my faith.
This book is well worth reading, if you enjoy reading an accademic level treatise.
One final note: I got this book through an interlibrary loan but there was only one library in Alberta that seemed to have it. But it is available at Amazon and on special at Christian Book Distributors during this Black Friday season.
If you’re still denying climate change, this is a street in #FortLauderdale right now. No hurricane. Not even a thunderstorm. This is just high tide and it never reached these extremes 20 years ago. pic.twitter.com/pvxyeR0FBW
Despite Mark’s lighthearted reaction, finding him at the market in the middle of the afternoon told Maria that something unusual was in the air. The sober look on his face as they walked down the street together was further proof. She remembered suddenly about his planned meeting with Eusebius and wondered what had happened. Evidently something unusual had taken place.
glanced at him while they walked and noticed that he was deep in thought. She
wouldn’t disturb him, she decided. He’d tell her when he was ready. She stepped
a little closer to him, drawing strength from his presence.
amazing how God brought us together, she thought. I never expected to get remarried after
James died. I suppose Mark felt the same way when he lost Lydia. Yet here we are
at him again, noting the wrinkles in his forehead and the bit of grey sprinkled
through his hair. His face could have been cut from marble—it was rugged and
showed the hard times he’d been through. Yet it was also the face of a man. A
man who had faced life and overcome it. A man who didn’t need accolades and
flattery to make him feel needed and useful. A man who had looked at the
answers to life, evaluated them, and thrown out the artificial ones.
A man who
had made peace with his God and with himself.