A child’s prayer: “Dear God, maybe Cain and Abel would not kill each other so much if they each had their own rooms. It works out OK with me and my brother.” belief.net
Last week one of our granddaughters had a medical emergency. I’ll tell you, no matter where you are in your relationship with God, this is one of those times you approach Him with all the vigor you can muster. The prayer might not sound pretty or sophisticated, but it’s real. “God, I’m worried. God, we need answers. God, give the doctors insight. God… help.” The second half of James 5:16 says, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” Some translations replace “effective” with “fervent.” That’s the kind of prayer you utter when you really want to get God’s attention. God, this morning I was praying, but right now, I’m PRAYING!
In broad strokes, when I think about our relationship with God, I consider understanding God by reading the bible, and communicating with God by prayer. God makes it clear that our attitude toward Him needs to be one of contrition and honesty. If there is anything standing in the way of our relationship with God we need to get it out in the open. Sometimes that means sharing it with a brother or sister you trust. You could also tell a group of believers you meet with on a regular basis that you have a struggle you need prayer for. Use wisdom deciding how much to share, and with whom. In the same way secrets stand in the way of our personal relationships, refusing to bring issues to God and stubbornly refusing to give up stuff we know God doesn’t approve of will cause our relationship with Him to go cold. Over and over the Bible admonishes us to take our sins, our needs, and our praise to God, who welcomes us as His children.
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins they will be forgiven him. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
James 5:13-16 NASB
God, show me everything I am
the things I won’t look at,
the things you can’t stand.
Encourage in my life
of your glory and praise
that I’ll reflect your blessings
the rest of my days.
©Joel Tipple 2/29/2020
Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash
Our pastor came to visit the other day. He said that at my advanced age I should be thinking of the hereafter. I told him, “Oh, I do it all the time.”
“No matter where I am – in the living room, upstairs, in the kitchen, or down in the basement, I am always asking myself: ‘Now, what am I here after?'”
The Bible does reveal to us quite a bit about what we should be here after. When it comes to where it is, we often assume it’s found between four particular walls. However, as they say, “It ain’t necessarily so.”
“Many come to bring their clothes to church rather than themselves.”
Now, if you think I’m getting ready to advocate for not going to church because you don’t have to go to a church building, you’re only partially right. We absolutely should be part of a church body that regularly meets together. The Bible says, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:25 NLT But that’s only part of the story, isn’t it? Although we should do all we can to strengthen our traditional church body, we need to make sure we aren’t leaving it in the building we visit on Sunday, and if we are to have any hope of bringing Christ to a world starving for Him, we have to exploit every opportunity to do that. That means bringing church with us. Whether we like it or not, we’re all in the advertising business. If God has used your local body of believers to make a positive change in your life, isn’t that worth sharing? Yes! Also, if you can bring church with you by being a positive influence where you work or having coffee with a friend and sharing their burden, shouldn’t you do that too? Expand your ideas about what church can mean in your life and all the lives of those within your sphere of influence. Recognize that while, in truth, God may not need our hands, feet, and voice, He both desires our service and has all authority to direct our path.
That includes, in all its various manifestations, “bringing church.”
“I tell people, and it’s the truth, I could sit in my garage for a week and it won’t make me a car. And you can sit in church till your bottom is flat and that won’t make you a servant of Christ.”
Bring church, yes,
the scriptures memorized,
but more, the principals
when you’re tired,
and you’d rather
take a nap.
and their dog
takes one fork in the road,
and God tells you to take the other.
when all the person in front of you
is a smile, a sincere word of encouragement,
and a genuine attempt to understand.
even when you’re discouraged
with the state of the world
and any effort you make
seems like bringing a squirt gun to a forest fire.
because, in the final analysis,
God told you to,
and He’s kept His promises.
So, now, it’s time to keep yours.
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Ephesians 4:11-13 NIV
©Joel Tipple 2/9/2020
Just like Jesus, when I was born I was the youngest in my family. Okay, Jesus was the oldest too, but that’s because he was the first. A mere technicality. Me? I was actually fourth, and last in line. Then, since my parents were convinced they couldn’t do any better, they quit. That’s one version. The truth is a little more pedestrian, but seriously, can you imagine that early sixties Christmas card without me holding little Santa? That’s right, I didn’t think you could. We still get a few family-photo Christmas cards from friends and family in the mail, and they’re wonderful. My sister especially is good about sending one every year. As we all have grandchildren now it’s cool to see hers as they grow. The pictures are a reminder that the clock seems to move faster as the years go by. Fewer and fewer people send any Christmas cards, let alone the family photo variety. I suppose that’s a side effect of the internet. Social media and all the other various means of electronic communication we enjoy allow us to drop in on each other instantly, so waiting for the mail carrier has largely fallen out of fashion.
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”
Luke 1:35 NIV
No matter how we go about doing it, Christmas is traditionally a time when families try to get together and celebrate. However, although we hope it’s a joyous time, circumstances and idealistic expectations can conspire to make the holidays tremendously difficult for many. Some are estranged from their families or simply don’t have adequate connections in their lives to make celebrating easy. For that matter, there are those who either don’t believe in Jesus or are jaded by the abundant commercialization. So, since not everyone has the desire or is in a position to celebrate Christmas, and since it’s often a time that seems to highlight not what they have, but what they lack, how can Christians be part of the solution? How do we please God in this?
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
Matthew 2:1-2 NIV
First, although Christmas is a time of great celebration for followers of Jesus, if it’s a day by orders of magnitude so different from our everyday life that we become someone else, something is wrong. Yes, cheer for Jesus’ birth! Yes, take the time to enjoy the unique traditions we all know and get excited about! But so infuse your everyday life with Jesus’ love to the degree that Christmas is the exclamation point to the person you already are. Second, recognize that not everyone relates to your experience. It’s your responsibility to communicate why we are so excited about Jesus coming to earth in the first place. Don’t assume people know. One may have heard the Christmas story seventy times and yet it was the seventy-first that touched their heart. Third, find practical ways to express the love and hope within you. There’s a reason so many hospitals were founded by Christians. We should allow God to use us to be the light shining in the darkness and the glue that binds our communities together in times of difficulty.
Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV
Let this Christmas,
no matter how many I’ve seen,
be the Christmas
others see Jesus in me.
Let the joy and hope
of Jesus’ birth
infuse my walk
while I’m here on earth.
©Joel Tipple 12/21/2019
The House of Worship
O Lord, you are my God;
I will exalt you; I will praise your name,
for you have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
Isaiah 25:1 ESV
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Psalm 103:1 ESV
I recently learned that some churchgoers actually skip the worship portion of their service. I was incredulous. Seriously? Don’t get me wrong, I love the sermon too. A message that moves or convicts you can change your life, but it’s part of a service, not THE service. There has always been something about the musical portion of a church service that transports me to a place where I feel closer to God. I’ve felt that way for as long as I remember feeling anything about going to church at all. But even though my strongest emotions about music find their home in a church worship service, music has always impacted most aspects of my life. My feelings of nostalgia for different waypoints in my life are strongest when combined with the music I was listening to at the time, whether secular or spiritual.
In the same way that we know music doesn’t have the same strong effect on everyone, we also know that singing and playing instruments aren’t the only way to worship God. It’s important that we understand there are many ways to worship God like prayer and serving others. How do you worship?
One Summer night
as I was walking
around dinner time
and it was cool.
There came a sound
of children singing
all joyful and out of school.
They were singing
their hearts out to Jesus
like they’d mostly burst
if they could.
I thought angels were singing with them,
but it was youth worshiping
like they should.
Looking for the house of worship,
looking for the heart of praise.
There doesn’t have to be a steeple
or even a particular age.
If your aim is to lift Jesus higher
and to leave all your burdens behind,
any place can be your place of worship
and any folks can worship God in that place.
Lift your hands, lift your voice,
if there’s a drummer, give him time.
Be careful of claptastrophies.
Music opens hearts
and can help them soften too
when we just let Jesus lead.
The sound can be country, rock,
or rhythm and blues.
Style’s less important than substance.
Jesus is more about
the shape of your heart
than your circumstance.
So take a chance.
Your house of worship
may be any shape at all,
the seats be pews, bleachers,
or even beanbags.
Just find some human beings
who want to be redeemed,
and some music
that can start some healing.
The house is less important
than the Holy Spirit’s lead.
© Joel Tipple 6/15/2019
Take Me to Church
If you want to transport me to a place where faith works,
Load me up,
buckle me in,
take me to church.
Can you believe it?
We make a joyful noise!
That must be why
they call it a service.
It’s our offering to God.
we are the ones
who are served.
We open up to the word.
We test ourselves to prove we’ve heard,
and try to absorb
the lesson we thought we heard
the last time
we went to church.
© Joel Tipple
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,
Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV
We fellow ships,
not neglecting to meet,
we band together.
We seek God and focus our minds and hearts
on a Christ centered plain.
We fellow ships,
we build up one another,
we know our meeting is not in vain.
We fellow ships,
should one stumble,
or shoulder a burden that threatens to overcome,
we will lift up each other in prayer.
We know by the Word and experience
that those words don’t disappear in air.
We fellow ships.
We fellow ships,
in God’s harbor.
© Joel Tipple
In Your Presence
In Your presence Lord,as we approach the hour of your sacrifice, we’re reminded of how unworthy we are for redemption. That’s just it, isn’t it? We’re not deserving. In so many ways we hope to build ourselves into something worth the struggle, the emotional and physical cataclysm that the earthy shell you inhabited underwent. When we go to war, we know there is a risk that we may die. When you went to war, you knew that you would be captured and die a miserable death. It wasn’t an endurance event. It wasn’t even a suicide mission. It was walking into war with a price on your head. In order to win for us, you had to lose. Triumph over sin would not be achieved without giving everything. Satan tried to get you to throw the whole game by using your powers, but you refused. The whole time you knew! You knew what it would be like to inhabit a human body and endure punishment certain to cause every cell in your body to scream. You allowed no short cuts. Every prophecy was fulfilled. We are forever in your debt, Lord. We bow before you in worship and only ask to be allowed to serve you, while you teach us how to serve each other, humbly, as you taught us.