When to Worship

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Honestly, the book of Habakkuk was not on my radar. It’s a small book near the end of the Old Testament, written by a prophet we don’t know much about. A theme in much of the Old Testament is man’s relationship with God. In a nutshell, man has always had a habit of forgetting God when things are going well and complaining when the situation worsens. The reigning king at the time of Habakkuk, Jehoiakim, was described by the prophet Jeremiah in this way: “your eyes and your heart are intent only upon your own dishonest gain, and on shedding innocent blood and on practicing oppression and extortion” Jer. 22:17 It was against this backdrop, during a time of increasing evil in Judah and oppression by the Babylonians, that Habakkuk writes of praise in chapter 3. I quote chapter 3:17-19 here: “Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds feet, and makes me walk on my high places.”

It’s easy to praise God when the sailing is smooth and complain when we are buffeted by storms. The self discipline required to stop for a moment to consider how we might grow and learn during those times is neither automatic nor easy to come by. However, God is always worthy of our praise and deference, and although we may not always be able to understand His ways, He remains on the throne. Of that we can be certain.

God, please accept my worship.
Let my song be lifted high.
When I focus on what’s difficult in my life,
help me remember the times
you’ve renewed my strength and joy,
carried me when I couldn’t walk.
When my foundation felt unstable
You were always my solid rock.
Increase my understanding,
in the darkness let it be my light.
Give me the same breath to sing in the valley
that I breathe when I sing on the heights.

© Joel Tipple

Animals Discuss Church in the Field

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Covid 19 has led to many changes in our lives, for instance how our church meets. Indoors, we’re spaced further apart and wear masks. We also broadcast our services online. That’s all good, but since it’s Summer and the weather is pleasant, we decided to take advantage of it and have services in back of our church building, something we call, “Church in the Field.” For the last several weeks this enjoyable alternative has reminded us that necessity really is the mother of invention, and there’s no reason church can’t be fun, even in the middle of a pandemic. The neighbors in back of our church have a variety of farm animals that we get to see during our services. We’ve purposely left out slats in that rear section of chain link fence so we can see them, and so the animals form the backdrop to our outdoor services. At any given time one might see goats, chickens, or horses. Then, there’s one animal that we’ve seen up close while having church that, because of the way they operate, didn’t bother with checking us out from the other side of a fence. Although gophers do have a purpose in nature, most people consider them a pest, because of their tendency to produce random mounds of dirt in the landscape, in the process often destroying garden plants. Some church goers have taken videos of gophers happily tossing up hills of dirt while the service can be heard going on in the background. We haven’t had this much animal induced excitement during church since the “bats flying out of the belfry” incidents. All this causes me to wonder: What if the animals had their own story to tell? If they had some understanding of what was happening on our side of the fence, and could successfully communicate it, what would they say? Today, the first installment of, “Animals Discuss…”

Horse #1: I want to thank everyone for coming to the meeting tonight. It was really hot today and I know you guys are probably beat.
Goat #2: You said it. Even my hop is gone. I’m so drained. And you know us goats, we usually have hops for days!
Goat #1: H1, did you and H2 actually get to run in the surf at Centerville today?
Horse #1: It was glorious! G1, I hope you and the other goats get to run in the water the next time it gets super hot.
Goat #2: Not likely. The best we can hope for in the way of travel is getting lent out for landscaping. Mind you, I’m not complaining. I had a rose bush once. It got blamed on deer though, he said, snickering.
Chicken #1: I wanted to brief everyone on my notes from last week. I believe we’re continuing in Nehemiah, and if anyone missed it I’ll catch you up.
Thanks C1. Before you do that though, I think it’s important we hear from Gopher 2. Is it true you all are calling yourself the Underground Church?
Gopher 2: That’s not official. Although attending church can be hazardous at times (there was the tent stake incident). The risks we take don’t really rise to that level.

To be continued…

©Joel Tipple

Someone Needs Jesus

Though a heavy blanket of darkness
threatens to overwhelm me
I search through its suffocating fabric
for a spot of light
and tear it open.

Someone needs Jesus.

When I’m bound up in my troubles
and can’t seem to get out
of my own head,
when my biggest issue is my list of issues,
I set them aside.

Someone needs Jesus.

When any effort I make
seems to be just a drop
in the ocean of the world of troubles,
I take up an oar anyway
and row with the strength I do have.

Someone needs Jesus.

Walking down a crowded street
people part around me
like water swirling round a stone.
How many are really drowning
while pretending they can breathe?
How many?
God could use me
to lift them out of the water
and point the way home.
Will I reach out?
Lord, give me the courage to reach out.

Women who feel weak and used,
men convinced they’re not enough,
children forced to grow before they’re ready
need real help and compassion
fueled by Jesus.
For those cast aside by those who should have cared,
for the people even advertising ignores,
let them know they are precious
in the sight of Jesus.

Lord, please keep in the front of my mind
names of those I know
who don’t know you.
Help me take down barriers
while it is day
and there is time.

God of wonders,
author of the world,
each soul is precious to you.
Give me a heart with a burden
to share and proclaim your good news.
This is my prayer,
Amen.

©Joel Tipple

Peace

Prayerfully seek your heavenly Father.
Earnestly engage as you seek Him.
Ask intentionally and specifically when you pray.
Cry out your heart’s desire.
Enter, walking in faith the path God has prepared for you.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 NLT


©Joel Tipple 8/1/2020