America was preparing to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1876. A 35-year old rector of a small Episcopal church in Brandon, Vermont, thought that the country should have a new national hymn for the occasion. Daniel Crane Roberts introduced the song he wrote to his parishioners on July 4, 1876, and they sang it together at their Brandon village church. Later, there was a National Centennial Observance to commemorate the adoption of the Constitution. Roberts' song was selected as the official hymn for the event. The words remind us of the rich heritage of our country and how God was a part of the foundations. It is called "God of Our Fathers."
God of our fathers, whose almighty hand leads forth in beauty all the starry band; of shining worlds in splendor thru the skies, our grateful songs before Thy throne arise.
Thy love divine hath led us in the past, in this free land by Thee our lot is cast; be thou our ruler, guardian, guide and stay; thy word our law, Thy paths our chosen way.
From war's alarms, from deadly pestilence, be Thy strong arm our ever-sure defense; Thy true religion in our hearts increase; Thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace.
Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way. Lead us from night to never ending day; fill all our lives with love and grace divine, and glory, laud, and praise be ever Thine.
The words of this song are powerful! Can you imagine the delight it gave God when it was first sung? It includes praise, thanksgiving, confession of our need for Him, requests for His presence, and truth. To me, it seems like the perfect song for us to sing today. We have strayed from our country's foundation and are in desperate need of God's continued guidance, defense, and peace. Without the Lord in charge, I believe our nation is doomed.
I found an interesting quote on the Internet from John Mathison of Leadership Ministries. He says, "The first two colonies established in American made it clear that they were being established for 'the glory of God and the propagation of the Christian faith.'" How far we have fallen from their intent! How we need the breath of God to blow upon us and bring us back into His fold!
In Genesis 18:23-25 we read how Abraham spoke to God about saving Sodom on behalf of the righteous. He asked, "Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?...Far be it for you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked..." Abraham began to test God, asking Him if He found 50, then 45, then 30, then 20, and finally 10 righteous, would he still destroy Sodom. Each time, the Lord would relent. When Abraham asked about saving the city for only 10 people, here is how God responded: "For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it." (Genesis 18:32)
How merciful is God that he would have saved all of Sodom for the sake of ten righteous people! We need to join together in a chorus of repentance, humility, and worship to ask for God's mercy on the United States. Perhaps He will have compassion on us and bring our nation back to its intended purpose. Psalm 33:12 says, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance." I believe that God chose our nation, along with Israel, to represent Him on the earth. Join me in interceding for our country. Surely, we have more than 10 righteous in our nation. Let's bow before the God of our fathers to remind Him of our past and plead for our future.
One of my favorite CDs is Paul Wilbur's "Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem." It is not unusual for me to replay this CD repeatedly. At the beginning of the week, I was doing this, and lines from various songs began to stand out to me. I started to think that praying these lines would be powerful. Each song contributes to a way that we can pour our hearts out to the Lord. Pouring out our hearts is an important thing to do in this ever-changing season of loss, shock, trauma, and chaos. Many weigh in with possible solutions to solve the problems of our beloved nation. However, we should realize that man cannot legislate righteousness in humankind or change hard hearts; only God can do this!
The people of God frequently strayed from His ways. God, acting as a good parent, disciplined them and then he would bring them back to Himself. He said to Ezekiel, tell my people, "I had concern for my holy name, which the people of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone...I will show the holiness of my great name...Then the nations will know that I am the Lord...I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." (Ezekiel 36:21-27)
We see how God has the power to change a heart. How we need Him to do this for the heart of our nation! Without God we are helpless. The bad reports coming from our media make me want to hide. This thought is wonderfully expressed as Paul sings "In Your Presence Oh God" by Lynn Deshazo. One of the verses says, "I want to hide where the flood of evil cannot reach me, where I'm covered by the blood. I want to be where the schemes of darkness cannot touch me—In your presence oh God!" We all need to be in the presence of God, especially in this season. It is in these places of intimacy with the Lord where He gives us His heart for the nations and reveals how to pray.
Scripture is clear that we are called to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: 'May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.' For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, 'Peace be within you.' For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your prosperity." (Psalm 122:6-9) The last verse of Paul's song, "Shalom Jerusalem" portrays God's desire to change the hearts of His people: "Israel, beloved Ephraim my son, How my heart would thrill to hear you say The Messiah has come. Oh, my brother, hear these words; may they pierce your soul. Turn again to worship Adonai, Messiah you will know."
The prophet Habakkuk understood that we must wait for the revelation of the Lord. He promised to look to see what the Lord will say to him. God gives a warning: "Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by injustice." (Habakkuk 2:12) Habakkuk cries out to God, "Lord, I have heard of Your fame; I stand in awe of Your deeds. Lord, repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy." (Habakkuk 3:2) We need the truth of God's Kingdom to reign in us. It is time for us to confess and repent for the sin of turning away from God's ways and for rebellion against Him. It is time to invite the Lord to come and take His place on the throne of our hearts.
The song "Even So" was written by Steve Merkel. As Paul sings, we need to join Him in the invitation to our Lord, "You are welcome in this place; be enthroned upon our praises. May our worship rise like incense as we magnify the Son. Mighty God of Israel, Lamb upon the Throne, all blessing, and honor to our God forevermore. We join our hearts together, we come in one accord; the bonds of peace unite us in the Spirit of the Lord...Let the Spirit and the Bride say come...To the Lion and the Lamb, Heaven's King, the Great I Am; Come take your place on Your throne.” Revelation 5:8 tells us that the 24 elders around the Throne of the Lord had harps and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. Let us fill those bowls with our prayers of repentance and invitation to the Lord. Let worship of our God arise!
After leaving Egypt, the children of Israel walked by the desert road to the Red Sea. "By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light..." (Exodus 13:21) In the meantime, the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart so that he decided to pursue the Israelites. There was great fear in the Israelite camp when the Egyptian armies arrived. But the angel of the Lord, along with the pillar of cloud, stood between the Egyptians and the Israelites. During the night "Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left." (Exodus 14:21-22)
According to Chuck Pierce of Glory of Zion Ministries, the Israelites crossed the Red Sea on the eighth day after Passover. Fascinating! Prophetically, the number eight stands for death and resurrection/ new beginnings and sanctification. Remember how God required that every male baby boy be circumcised on the eighth day as part of His covenant? There was a cutting open of the foreskin as a sign of covenant. Doesn't opening the sea and separating it remind you that God was confirming the covenant that He made with Abraham over 400 years before? When that covenant was made, Abraham brought the Lord a heifer, goat and ram and cut them in two so that the halves could be arranged opposite each other as a sign of "cutting a covenant." (Genesis 15:10-15)
God was always faithful to His covenant with His people. As they walked through the Red Sea, it was as though they were dying a death to be resurrected on the other side. They were headed toward the Promised Land and a new life where the Lord would provide everything they needed in the way of food, clothes, shelter, protection, and victory in battle. However, they would learn that God provided for them in His way—one day at a time. Every morning there was manna for the day. The Israelites needed to learn how to trust the Lord. We need to do the same thing. Fear and uncertainty have arisen as we are in the middle of a pandemic. Restrictions on the way we live are in place. Yet, we must not let the news of the Coronavirus stop us from praising the Lord for His unfailing love and compassion. Two Scriptures come to mind: Proverbs 3:26 in The Passion Translation declares, "God is your confidence in times of crisis, keeping your heart at rest in every situation." My "go to" verse in times of difficulty comes from Lamentations 3:22-23. "Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail, they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness."
Hymn writer Thomas Chisholm understood about the faithfulness of God. He saw it in the day in and day out circumstances of his life. He knew that God's presence was the premier sign of His faithfulness. He is Emmanuel—God with us. God showed Himself to the Israelites in different manifestations just as He does today. The greatest manifestation of His faithfulness, however, was shown when the Son of God, Jesus, came to live on earth. Thomas Chisholm was inspired to write a classic hymn that has been consistently sung from the time it was written. Shortly before his death he explained the inspiration for his song, Great Is Thy Faithfulness: "I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care which have filled me with astonishing gratefulness.”
During this season, let us remember that we have a faithful, covenant-keeping God. Singing the words of Chisholm's inspired hymn will help us walk through the Red Sea of our lives to get through to the other side:
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father! There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not; Thy compassions, they fail not: As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest, sun, moon, and stars in their courses above, join with all nature in manifold witness to Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow—blessings all mine with ten thousand beside.
Chorus: Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; all I have needed Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.
It was during the month of Tammuz, the fourth month on the Hebrew calendar, that Moses sent the spies into the Promised Land to explore it. He appointed one leader from each tribe to investigate the situation. They were to check out how the people lived and the soil conditions and the kind of trees that grew in it. If possible, they were to bring back some fruit. Twelve men returned on the eve of the ninth of Av, the next month, with a mixed report. All acknowledged that the land was flowing with milk and honey and that the fruit was huge. However, ten of the twelve men insisted that the giants who lived in the land, descendants of Anak and part of the Nephilim described in Genesis 6:4, would be too much for them to overtake. Even though Joshua and Caleb reminded the Israelites that God had promised to go before them and give them the land, fear overtook them, and they were unwilling to move forward into their destiny.
Since we are now in the month of Tammuz, it would benefit us to look at the story in Numbers 13 and 14. It was the giants in the land and the belief of the ten spies that they could not overcome them that kept the children of Israel, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, from receiving their inheritance. God had promised His children that they would overcome the giants and take possession of the Land. (“Then the Lord said to Moses…'Go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, I will give it to your descendants.’” - Exodus 33:1) They were on the threshold of victory but allowed fear and oppression to overtake them.
At a recent Global Awakening conference, Sean Smith, prophetic evangelist and Director of Point Blank International, spoke about this situation and suggested our present generation is in a battle with the spirit of Anak. That spirit causes us to doubt and accept mediocrity. It erodes our resolve to fight and keeps us from occupying our promises and producing fruit. The spirit distorts our goals so that we do not want to take on a challenge and desire to return to "Egypt." Anak piggybacks onto trauma and disappointment and causes us to become complacent, apathetic and passive. In essence, that spirit puts a cap on us.
Sean gave us some truths to remember in order to deal with Anak. Bill Johnson, lead pastor at Bethel in California, inspired this one: "When you come into agreement with the principles of the world, you come under the authority of the principality that released it." Do not believe in the magnitude of the problem, but in the certainty of God's promise. Sean says we must be aware of the spirit of Anak and develop a game plan to overcome it. Why? "You face your greatest obstacle when you are on the doorstep of your greatest miracle."
Let's be aware of this challenge and push ourselves to move forward instead of regressing into the territories we have already won! We must make the month ahead of us a time to stand on the promises of God and a time to worship Him. Evaluate your situations through the eyes of Christ. I would like to suggest that Rita Springer's song "Defender" articulates a strategy for success in our battles to take the ground that God wants to give us. Soak in her words and let them inspire us to have confidence in our God and every promise He has given to us:
"You go before I know that You've gone to win my war. You come back with the head of my enemy; You come back and You call it my victory. (1st Verse)
You go before I know that You've gone to win my war. Your love becomes my greatest defense; It leads me from the dry wilderness. (2nd Verse)
You know before I do where my heart can seek to find Your truth. Your mercy is the shade I'm living in; You restore my faith and hope again. (3rd Verse)
All I did was praise; All I did was worship; All I did was bow down; All I did was stay still. Hallelujah, You have saved me; So much better Your way. Hallelujah, Great Defender; So much better Your way."
Hallelujah indeed! Our Great Defender goes before us to prepare the way and give us the victory. He is worthy of all praise and honor!
"When religion has said its last word, there is little that we need other than God Himself. The evil habit of seeking God-and effectively prevents us from finding God in full revelation. In the and lies our great woe. If we omit the and we shall soon find God, and in Him we shall find that which we have all our lives been secretly longing." So writes A. W. Tozer in his book, The Pursuit of God.
God wired us to worship Him. It is part of our DNA. This unique characteristic that God placed inside of every person must be satisfied. The desire to worship is so strong that we will do anything to fulfill it. We will build an altar and bow at it, if not to God, to someone or something else.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us this: "...He has set eternity in the hearts of men..." God is an Eternal God. Worship is a condition of the heart. Our hearts are on a quest to be satisfied through worship. The truth is that worship that is not God-centered will never satisfy. However, worship that is God-centered is sacrificial and requires that we yield ourselves to Him. Here is how Romans 12:1 says it: "...In view of God's mercy, offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—This is your spiritual act of worship." Worship is a choice. We get to choose the altar where we will bow.
The psalmist knows how to express the details of worship. "Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before Him; strength and glory are in His sanctuary. Ascribe (Offer a concrete expression of praise.) to the Lord, O families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering and come into His courts. Worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness; tremble before Him, all the earth." (Psalm 96:4-9)
Here is the good news: The Lord draws closer and closer to us in response to our worship. (James 4:8) Worship is total surrender to God's will. God's desire is for us to be immersed and saturated in His Presence. He wants us lost in worship. Lost means that we are hidden in Christ, ruin for anything else and cannot find our way back to life as it used to be. As we abide in Him and express our love and awe for Him, we will begin to carry the evidence that we have been with God.
I want to leave you with the words of a worship song written by Israel Houghton--"I Live to Worship You."
"Away, Away from the noise, alone with You.
Away, Away to hear Your voice, and meet with You.
Nothing else matters. My one desire is...
Chorus: To worship You, I live. To worship You, I live; I live to worship You.
To worship You, I live. To worship You, I live; I live to worship You.
Oh, Oh, Oh, Ohhhhh. Oh, Oh, Oh, Ohhhhh. Oh, Oh, Oh, Ohhhhh. Oh, Oh, Oh, Ohhhhh.
Away, Away from the noise, alone with You.
Away, Away to hear Your voice; It's been a while,
But hear my heart cry again." Chorus.
These are words that demonstrate a true heart of worship!
The song "Reckless Love" by Steffany Gretzinger recounts some of the ways the Lord displays His love for us. He sings over us, breathes life into us, fights for us, and paid it all for us. The love of God is relentless! The song declares, "There's no shadow You won't light up, mountain You won't climb up, coming after me. There's no wall You won't kick down, no lie You won't tear down coming after me." Indeed, God's love is reckless! This word conveys the thought of a person who is so consumed with love that all concerns for their own welfare are set aside. The dictionary defines reckless as careless, heedless, foolish, wild and rash.
When trying to describe God's love the chorus of the song says, "Oh the overwhelming, never ending, reckless love of God. Oh, it chases me down, fights 'till I'm found, leaves the ninety-nine. I couldn't earn it, I don't deserve it. Still, You give yourself away. Oh, the overwhelming, never ending, reckless love of God."
Let's think about this word reckless. The Lord loves us so much that He would leave 99 others just for you or me. Both Matthew and Luke tell how Jesus taught this truth using sheep as an analogy. After having explained to His disciples that they need to be humble like little children in order to be great in the kingdom of heaven, Jesus launches into a teaching on the love of God. "See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost." (Matthew 18:12-14)
Luke 15:5-7 repeats the words of Jesus on this subject with more insight regarding finding the lost sheep. "And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulder and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."
Those hearing the story of the shepherd who left 99 sheep to find one would understand that the head shepherd would leave the rest of his flock with his helpers so that they are not unattended. However, it is significant that the head shepherd is the one who leaves to seek the lost sheep. His priority is saving that one! So too our Shepherd King, Jesus. He left the throngs of heaven that worship Him day and night to come to earth to seek the lost. "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save who was lost." (Luke 19:10)
Every single person on the face of the earth is important to our God. As it says in 2 Peter 3:9, He is patient with us, "not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." He went to extraordinary measures to run after us. Our King Jesus gave up everything and subjected himself to death on a cross so that we could have everlasting life and be in heaven with Him for eternity. Oh the love of God! It is incomprehensible! His love is overwhelming, never ending and reckless!
God longs for fellowship with us. He looks for a cooperative relationship with us. As we respond to His desire for fellowship He increases our spiritual hunger for more. The way for us to draw closer to the Lord is through worship. Through worship we reveal the nature of our commitment to Him. Commitment involves sacrifice. "The sacrifice You desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God." (Psalm 51:17 - NLT)
At the Washington Crossing United Methodist Church we have made a yearly commitment to dedicate the evenings of the last week of July to the Lord. During that time we remember how He visited us in 1994 and changed everything that we did. His sweet Spirit led us to amend our priorities so that the only thing that seemed important was worshiping Him. We connected with Him in a deeper way and realized the importance of setting aside time for Him. Last week that is what we did.
In John 4 we read how Jesus had a conversation at Jacob's well with a Samaritan woman. He told her, "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks." (John 4:23) I was reminded of this verse as we worshiped with one another at The Crossing last week. Several times we sang the song, "Worthy of It All" by David Brymer. The song tells about heavenly worship: "All the saints and angels, bow before Your throne. All the elders cast their crowns before the Lamb of God and sing. You are worthy of it all..." 24-7 all the saints, angels and elders worship around the throne of God, and yet He seeks true worshipers on earth. He would leave the throngs of heaven for the sacrificial worship of earth.
The worship that took place at The Crossing did have a sacrificial element to it. We made worshiping the Lord each evening a priority. But the most fragrant offering of all was offered up at The Crossing on Friday morning. A dear couple from our Church invited us to share in their sorrow of the death of their new baby girl a few hours before delivery. They gave her a name that means abundant life, and they acknowledged that in heaven alone will she experience the truth of her name. They led us in songs declaring their trust in the unfailing love of God. A true sacrifice of praise was offered to Him through a veil of tears.
The words of the songs that our brave and committed couple had us sing with them let us know—along with the hosts of heaven—of their steadfast belief in the goodness of God in the midst of tragedy. The offering that was made to the Lord declared these truths: "I believe in You; I believe in You. You're the God of miracles. The God who was and is to come, the power of the Risen One. The God who brings the dead to life; You're the God of miracles!" and "It is well; it is well with my soul." and "How great Thou art; how great Thou art!" Their spirits rose above their souls to present the perfect offering; the kind that the Lord seeks.
The worship that takes place in heaven does so in a perfect environment where there is no sorrow or tears. It pales in comparison to the sacrificial worship that took place on Friday morning. The Lord received the sacrificial offering, and His Spirit came to dwell with us. In the midst of pain and suffering and trials, may we all offer unto the Lord the pure worship that He desires—sacrificial worship in spirit and truth!
On July 4th I had the privilege of going to the Johnson Ferry House at Washington Crossing State Park in New Jersey. The curator of that house planned special events in honor of our country's Independence Day. Outside of the Ferry House, raspberry ice cream was being made the way it would have been made in colonial days. As we stood outside, the sound of patriotic melodies with beautiful harmonies came wafting towards us and drew us inside. Several musicians and singers dressed in period costumes greeted us. We were invited to join them in song.
Singing all of the verses of the patriotic hymns moved me emotionally as I contemplated the words that describe the founding of the United States of America. Each song that we sang recognized that God is the one who has blessed us and confirmed that our forefathers truly established our nation on a godly foundation. Most of us would be familiar with the first verse of the songs we sang but not the subsequent ones. I want to record the powerful words of some of the lesser known verses of three of these songs.
America the Beautiful by Katharine Lee Bates (1859 - 1929)
Katharine Bates wrote about the message of her hymn: "We must match the greatness of our country with the goodness of personal godly living. If only we could couple the daring of the Pilgrims with the moral teachings of Moses, we would have something in this country that no one could ever take from us." I am particularly fond of the third verse of her hymn:
"O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved and mercy more than life! America! America! May God thy gold refine, till all success be nobleness, and every gain divine."
Battle Hymn of the Republic by Julia Ward Howe (1819 - 1910)
Julia Howe wrote this hymn in the midst of the Civil War. It inspired the entire nation when it went public. The third and fourth verses speak of God's plans and the birth of Christ as our Savior:
"He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat. He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat. O be swift, my soul, to answer Him; be jubilant, my feet! Our God is marching on." Refrain: "Glory! Glory! Hallelujah" (3 times) "His truth is marching on."
"In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea, with a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me. As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free! While God is marching on.” Refrain: (See above.)
The Star Spangled Banner by Frances Scott Key (1779 - 1843)
It was during the War of 1812, while on the deck of a ship, that Frances Scott Key wrote what was to become our national anthem in 1931. Rarely do we sing the second verse, but I believe it is noteworthy:
"O thus be it ever, when free men shall stand between their loved homes and the war's desolation! Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just; and this be our motto: 'In God is our trust!' And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!"
Psalm 33:12 says, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance." The authors of the above hymns understood this. We must add the Amen!k here to edit.
The National Prayer Breakfast is the brainchild of Abraham Vereide, a Methodist minister who immigrated to the United States from Norway. He, along with his friend Senator Frank Carlson and Billy Graham, saw the Breakfast as an opportunity to nurture Christian leaders in our country. After presenting the idea to then President Dwight Eisenhower, they got the green light. Eisenhower recognized that this would be a positive influence on our country.
Invitations were sent to leaders in the United States and in other countries. In part, the invitations said, "This is a time to seek the Lord's guidance and strength...and to renew the dedication of our Nation and ourselves to God's purposes." The first Prayer Breakfast was held in 1953 and has been held on the first Thursday in February ever since.
The 65th National Prayer Breakfast took place last week and can be viewed on You Tube. I found it so encouraging and inspirational! About 3,500 people gathered to be led in singing and prayer and to listen to several speakers. The keynote speaker was the Chaplain from the United States Senate, Dr. Barry Black. His address was stellar! As I listened to it I felt hope for the revival of our country rising within me and a sense of excitement over God's plans for our future.
Joel Rosenberg, Founder of the Joshua Fund, communications strategist, best-selling author and international speaker, was one of the attendees at the Breakfast. Here is what he said about Dr. Black's address: "It is one of the most powerful, most compelling, most winsome and moving presentations of the Gospel of Jesus Christ I have ever heard delivered. We all urgently need to hear and respond to the message the Chaplain preached so passionately to us."
Dr. Black encouraged his listeners to pray, calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus in three different ways.
The Chaplain made it clear that this nation will not prosper unless our faith is built upon the foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ. His impassioned presentation of Edward Mote's hymn, The Solid Rock, stirred everyone who heard it. "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand--all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand." I praise the Lord for the bold proclamation made by this man of God. He left no doubt in anyone's mind of the course this nation must take in order to prosper. It is vital that we pray in agreement with him.
The story of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, has been an inspiration for those who write poetry and music. Divine influence on those writers produced melodies and verses that have endured year after year. Details of the circumstances surrounding Christ's birth and the reason for His coming put to song draw us in so that we join in singing.
Did you ever think about how many Christmas concerts are produced each year? Many music directors in churches and schools from elementary through college level prepare their students to play and sing the Christmas songs that have been handed down from generation to generation. As I was growing up, preparing for our yearly concerts was exciting and culminated in a production attended by my family.
Life has a way of going full circle. Last week I found myself attending a Christmas concert put on by the residents of the senior living center where my mother lives. Over 50 residents were part of the choir that was accompanied by a piano player and two trumpet players. The director had a diverse program of songs including, "God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen," "Gesu Bambino," "What Child is This," "Lo, How a Rose," and "Joy to the World." Most of the choir members sang with great abandon, except for one gentleman sitting on the front row. He looked distressed and hardly moved his mouth. When I questioned my mother about this she told me that he is almost totally deaf. Yet, he wanted to be part of this celebration. I am sure that he was hearing the songs in his mind as he tried to sing along. My mother went on to tell me that everyone is welcome to participate in the choir.
As I reflected on the conversation I had with my mother a fun song by Celtic Thunder came into my head that depicts the all-inclusive choir. The verses of this song--"A Place in the Choir"--tell of different animals and how they uniquely participate in singing. Then comes the chorus: "All God's creatures got a place in the choir. Some sing low and some sing higher. Some sing out loud on a telephone wire. Some just clap their hands, or paws, or anything they've got now." This song presents a wonderful picture of God's intention to draw us all in and to use whatever He has given us to worship Him. The Lord is certainly an all-inclusive Savior! He came to invite everyone to join Him for eternity. For everyone who receives Him, His message is clear and meant for every individual on the face of this earth. As it says in the song, "Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne," "There is room at My side for thee."
Life on earth is practice for eternity where worship of the Lord will occur 24/7. John writes about what he saw in heaven in Revelation 5:11-14. "Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: 'Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!' Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: 'To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!' The four living creature said, 'Amen,' and the elders fell down and worshiped." Yes, there is a place reserved for each of us in the great choir in heaven where we will worship our Lord and King for eternity. In the meantime, we can practice as members of the choir, just as one of the lesser known verses of "Silent Night" says: "With the angels let us sing; Hallelujah to our King! Jesus Christ is here! Jesus Christ is here!"
Joan E. Mathias