God is incomparable. The psalmist closed out his songbook with a series of offerings that reverberate with a single idea: Praise the Lord. Today we assemble to acknowledge His greatness; the only appropriate way to begin the week. The knowledge of God will see us through the unknowable days that await us.
Our worship is an acknowledgement of His magnificence. This is our opportunity to show Him how much He means to us. The songs on our lips express the adoration in our hearts, and that is good (Psalm 147:1). What could be a better or more suitable way to start the week?
The Lord promised to build His church (Matthew 16:18), and that construction is still underway. His kingdom is not one that impresses the world, at least not yet. Time will reveal the indestructible nature of it, but now it looks like a bunch of strays that have been brought together (Ps. 147:2). The Jews celebrated their return to Jerusalem, but our assembly is much more significant. Our city is a heavenly one, and that puts an eternal stamp on it. We must never forget.
We come to Him in the worst shape. Hearts are broken. Wounds are festering. Dreams are dashed. The future could not have seemed any worse. With the gentleness of the good shepherd, He takes us in. We are an unlikely group, but that is only the way that we see it. His view of us is quite different. The church is the apple of His eye. He mends hearts and heals hopes (Ps. 147:3). Praise the Lord!
We feel insignificant and unnoticed. We are not. Remember the hair numbering (Luke 12:7)? He does not forget birds or stars. He certainly will not forget you and me. Our society, with a number for this account and for that credit card, makes it easy to feel like nothing more than a collection of digits. We are much more than that to Him. He knows. He sees. He remembers.
When we think that no one could possible comprehend what we are going through, we are wrong. There is no limit to His understanding of our situations (Ps. 147:5). He is intimately acquainted with the problems that we have and has an infinite capacity to solve them. His never-ending resources are for our benefit. Never forget that He is on our side.
His is the hand that is extended to help us along the way. In our weakness and stumbling, He keeps us going (Ps. 147:6). It is the wicked that He opposes, and that is not us. He gathers and comforts His people. He offers a cure for our ills with full knowledge of what they are and how to treat them. We have a book full of remedies. When the world seems gloomy, praise the Lord. It is always a good thing.
The world was a disgusting mess when God determined to wipe the slate clean. Thoughts were evil and actions were worse. It was wicked and violent, and the time to destroy them all had come. Forget finding a good city. There was not even a tiny village. For all we can tell, there was not even a houseful. There was one; Noah. He was a solitary figure in the midst of all that wickedness, a single good man among many rotten ones.
The Israelites had been slaves for four centuries when God decided to deliver them. They pleaded and He listened. We might draft an army or call in the Marines. He summoned one man. Okay, the resistant deliverer persuaded the Lord to provide a sidekick, and they rocked the Egyptian world. A sea parted and a nation was freed. It is amazing what a good man or two can do when they team up with the Lord.
They were a dozen unimpressive, ordinary guys. At least, they appeared to be until that “Follow Me” call came. They had their stumbling moments. They wrestled with their faith. They were often confused, but they eventually turned the world upside down. They were not a giant mob but twelve who went about the Lord’s business largely in anonymity. We know a little about a few of them. Most of them are mysteries to us now. The Lord sent those apostles and nothing has been the same since.
Paul was an antagonist. He did not just resist the Christian movement. He did all that he could to eradicate it. Yet, he had a critical role in the eternal plan of God. There was a particular segment of society that would be his to evangelize. He did so with a passion. He was beat down and locked up. He preached and wrote and traveled. He made enemies and converts, but most of all he made a difference. One man can do that.
Saturday is “A Day Just for Men,” an opportunity to step into those difference-making shoes. Wickedness surrounds us. Will we dare to be a Noah? Sin enslaves our neighbors. Could we have another Moses to liberate them? There never has been very many. One here, another there. Maybe a dozen. More likely, a single man with a fire burning in his bones that cannot be quenched. He is ready to be “Clay in the Potter’s Hands.”
America is in the midst of an epidemic of ingratitude. “Thank you,” seems to be the forgotten phrase. It is one more clue that we have turned our national backs on God. Has it affected us? Probably, and that is a shame. Expressions of gratitude should be as natural to a Christian as breathing. Our lack of thanksgiving demonstrates that we have closed our eyes to much.
The church should be saturated with thanksgiving every day. God has blessed us beyond measure. There is no way that Christians could ever list all that the Lord has done for them. In our hopeless state of sinfulness, He plucked us up and made us something new. It was, to be sure, not without our cooperation, but He did the dramatic makeover. The Bible describes it in terms of being born again. We might say a second chance, a fresh start.
We had tarnished that magnificent image in which we were created beyond recognition. Any resemblance to our Creator was lost under the layers of worldliness. The scars of sin had left their marks, and the only fitting place for us was somewhere out of the sight of a holy God. All of that changed when that mess was washed away, and He fitted us for the inheritance (Col. 1:12). That is sure a reason to give thanks.
Satan had us in his clutches. We had surrendered all control to him, and he was more than glad to take it. Once in those powerful hands, we could not free ourselves. He was our king. Darkness dominated until the Light took over (Col. 1:13). We made the choice and He took the reigns. Christians look to a different king now, one who has only our best interest at heart. The Lord freed us from the old rule and gave us a new citizenship. We belong! Thank you Lord.
All of those poor choices and rebellious acts of the past are erased. We have been redeemed, and the redemption price was blood (Col. 1:14). Pure, holy, sinless, perfect blood cleansed the slate. He suffered, and we receive the benefits. Guilt is awful, and He took care of that with the most precious gift imaginable. For God so loved the world….Can you imagine that much love? And for that, let us always give thanks.
Thoughts of the church in Corinth give us a headache. Their troubles ranged from moral to doctrinal and everything in between. God had blessed them with an abundance of miraculous gifts, but they were stuck in spiritual immaturity. It revealed itself in a dismal array of ills within their ranks.
Unlike many of today’s news stories, there were no unnamed sources that provided Paul with his information (1 Corinthians 1:11), and they had been very clear about the situation. The church was in disarray. Some followed this man and others followed that one (1:12). They had obviously lost sight of the one to whom they should have been loyal. He had died for them. They had been baptized in His name. Yet, their focus was elsewhere. The church of the Lord was a disaster.
Where do you begin straightening out such a mess? Paul showed them the eternal perspective of who they were. They were the church of God (1:2). He had not disowned them or thrown them overboard. Not only had He not rejected them, they were also sanctified. This bunch was holy? They hardly appeared that way, but they were. The Lord really does look at things differently.
They hardly seem the type for which to be grateful, but they were (1:4). Paul was thankful that they had been recipients of grace (1:4). Without that, none of us would have a chance. We are saved (Ephesians 2:8) and educated by it (Titus 2:11-12). It gets us out of the mess that we make for ourselves in sin and teaches us how to stay out. The Corinthians needed it in the worst way. So do we. They received it. We do, too.
It was time to grow up. Internal strife is a clear indicator of a maturity issue. They were tongue-speaking, prophesying babies (3:1), and it was displayed by the division among them. It is both cause and effect. Following men stunts growth which results in further reliance on them which inevitable leads us in different directions. They were more devoted to some man than they were to the Lord, and it was ripping them apart. Unity is a product of the Spirit of God (Ephesians 4:3) not following human paths.
How important is unity? Of all the problems that plagued the Corinthian church, division was the first one that the letter addresses. Others are not unimportant, but it came before any doctrinal discussion or moral issue. It is not an afterthought. Neither was it for Jesus. He prayed for it (John 17:20-23) and died for it (Ephesians 2:14-15). Spiritual maturity demands it. We must grow together.
It is hard to make sense of the world today. Recent events leave us scratching our heads and looking for answers. The very people who have been charged to keep us safe are discovered to be unsafe. A major in the army turns a weapon on his fellow soldiers and kills more than a dozen people. In another case, body parts are discovered in a Cleveland home, eleven more are dead. The news is bleak, and the times appear to be getting worse. It may be a better time than we think.
People are searching. Discouraged Americans find themselves continually bumping into walls of despair, seeking answers in new age philosophies and old-timey remedies. Neither works, and frustration builds. They look for relief in the bottom of a bottle or through emptying a syringe and do not find it. Pills fail and phony preachers disappoint. People are fed up with superficial answers to deeply profound questions. God alone has the real solution, and He has been squeezed out of the public square.
Americans no longer want to be bothered with the Lord, and we are reaping the consequences. We are seeing the unavoidable results of abandoning biblical principles and the God who stands behind them. Disillusionment and disappointment are spilling over into angry actions. It is no different than the times described in Romans 1. Pushed out of our collective minds, God allows people to go their own way. That is always a disaster.
Lost respect for our fellow man follows. Life becomes cheap. Normal relationships within the family falter. Healthy relationships are perverted. People would rather assassinate someone’s character than build one within themselves. The entire culture suffers, just as we are now. Without a doubt it is a dark moment in our history, but we should seize the opportunity because that makes the light even more visible.
Now is the time for us to step up and shine. We can do so by simply living up to who we are. Our neighbors have never needed that more. Christians should have perpetual optimism. We walk with direction. Our existence is neither pointless nor hopeless. We have a reason for being and a future that knows no limits.
We are the richest of people, and no economic downturn can rob us of that. Our treasures are securely stashed where no human hands or natural deterioration can touch them. Death does not intimidate us, because we have a conviction of the resurrection. Declining health only leads to anticipation of the eternally incorruptible spiritual body that awaits us. We look with excited expectation at today and tomorrow because we are Christians, and that makes all the difference.