Church in My Backyard

DSC03385*I won’t be posting next week during Spring Break, but I’ll see you back here on March 28!

I’m not the most observant person in the world. Case in point: We helped move our daughter and son-in-law to a townhome in a new city one November several years ago, visited them on the following New Year’s weekend, and then again over the following spring break, but it wasn’t until the trip after that that I noticed they had a church in their backyard—or side yard to be exact. The point is it’s right there.

Imagine my delight when I looked out the upstairs bedroom window early one morning before anyone else was stirring and saw a church tucked behind the stand of trees lining their development. Wow, I thought. They’ve got a church right in their backyard! I could feel a blog post coming on so I grabbed my camera and started snapping away.

Even though Kristin and Shawn didn’t end up attending this particular church, I was still excited to think they had a church—such a visible reminder of God—standing tall and strong so close to their home. A picture of God, if you will, living in their midst, watching over them, inspiring worship and peace for any who would open their eyes and see (the way I finally did!)

Believe it or not, I have a church in my backyard, too. No, it’s not a building made of stone and brick. It’s simply my yard. But it’s filled with visible reminders of God. The trees, the grass, the birds, the breeze all point to him and remind me that he’s living in my midst. He’s watching over me, and yes, inspiring worship and peace when I take the time to lift my eyes and turn my thoughts toward him.

Amazing, huh? I can’t help but proclaim, “Wow—I’ve got a church in my backyard!” How about you?

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song…” Psalm 98:4

*Where are some places, other than church, where you’re inspired to worship?

*Hope this slightly revised and updated encore post from March 2010 blessed you today!

*My photo

Season of Anticipation

5387409984_a2e741f923_z*Giveaway winner announced below!

Ah, the days leading up to Christmas… Such a season of anticipation. We find ourselves looking forward to many things with excitement — visits with family and friends, giving our loved ones special gifts, indulging in our favorite holiday treats, helping make Christmas a little merrier for a hurting soul, or carrying out our well-loved traditions. We each could add our own personally anticipated events to the list, couldn’t we?

I pray that reflecting on the coming of our Savior and time spent worshiping Him will be at the very center of our season of anticipation this year. Let’s take time each day to celebrate the fact that our Savior was indeed born so many years ago. Let’s not wait until Christmas Eve to begin our Christmas worship.

One good way to do this is with music. As you sing the carols of Christmas this holiday season, truly think about the message of each verse. With songs that have become so familiar, it’s easy to merrily sing along but fail to actually hear the messages of the carols with our hearts. Let’s not miss those messages this year. Let’s sing with our hearts.

There’s no better time to start than now. Join me in hearing afresh the message of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” as we sing our worship today! (This is one of several versions of the Latin hymn, author unknown.)

“O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Oh, come, our Wisdom from on high,
Who ordered all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!”

“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” Matthew 1:23 KJV

*What special things are you anticipating this Christmas season?

*The winner of the Kick Off the Holiday Giveaway is . . .  Joanna! Congrats and Merry Christmas, Joanna! I’ll put your copy of Mother of the Bride along with the Starbucks gift card in the mail today!

*Hope you enjoyed this encore presentation of one of my December 2010 blog posts!

*Flickr photo by johanneschnelldorfer, Creative Commons License

A Sacrifice of Praise

2981762849_f270541979_oOur God is ever worthy of our praise. Won’t you join me in a sacrifice of praise to him today?

Pour out your love to him, pause in speechless wonder, ponder his greatness, and point others to him with your words.

Raise your hands before him, remember all that he’s done, realize the magnificence of our God, and rejoice forevermore.

Approach him with gladness and joy, abide in his presence daily, adore him for who he is, and announce to the world his goodness.

Illumine your darkness with songs of faith, immerse yourself in his love, invite others to join in thanksgiving, and invigorate your prayer life with praise.

Stand before him in awe, savor the wonders of his character, sing from a full heart, and share with everyone your love for him.

Enter his presence with thanks and praise, exalt and lift high his name, entwine your heart with his, and enjoy magnifying so great a Savior!

“Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” Psalm 103:1-2

*What or whom are you praising God for today?

The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out next week. All subscribers are automatically entered for a giveaway in each of the quarterly issues. A $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble will be the prize in this issue. Sign-up for Life Notes is free and to the right!

Find Me Leaning on Those Everlasting Arms

3635592950_bd7def414d_zSuch riches, such comfort, such joy can be found in the hymns of yesteryear. Those of us who can still remember the old hymns—or have churches that still incorporate hymns into their worship services—have great blessings at our disposal.

When I was feeling in the need of some extra strength not long ago, the Lord brought one of the old hymns to mind. I needed to lean on the everlasting arms of Jesus so I did. I started singing “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”, and oh, the comfort and peace that flooded my soul. I immediately thought that I needed to share it with you all.

So whether you’re reading the lyrics of this song for the first time, or if you know it so well you can sing along, be blessed today, my friends, by leaning on those everlasting arms!

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Refrain:
Leaning, leaning,
safe and secure from all alarms;
leaning, leaning,
leaning on the everlasting arms.

O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
leaning on the everlasting arms;
O how bright the path grows from day to day,
leaning on the everlasting arms.

(Refrain)

What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
leaning on the everlasting arms.”

(Refrain)

—by Elisha A. Hoffman

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”Deuteronomy 32:27a

*What’s one of your favorite old-time hymns? (By the way, if you don’t own a hymnal, I highly recommend getting your hands on one!)

*Flickr photo by Luigi_Alesi, Creative Commons License

Scattering Seeds and Watching God Give Growth

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“He also said, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.’” Mark 4:26-27

As I mentioned in a post earlier this month, Jesus specialized in telling stories from familiar daily life, stories that his listeners could relate to and draw spiritual lessons from. These stories are known as the parables of Jesus.

One of the parables Jesus told was the parable of the growing seed (the first part of it appears above.) He alerted his listeners right away that an important spiritual truth was about to follow when he basically said hey listen up, this is the way the kingdom of God works. I can just see the disciples and others nearby cocking their heads and leaning in to listen carefully, can’t you?

Jesus then reminded the people that once they scatter seeds, the seeds will sprout and grow on their own (compliments of the sun and moisture God provides and his divine design for plant growth, of course.) We are not the ones who cause seeds to grow. God is the one who gives growth.

And since Jesus said that this is how the kingdom of God works, we can see that the power to give spiritual birth and growth does not come from us. That power comes from God alone. The gospel holds power. The Word of God holds power. Our God is all powerful, and he can indeed bring life and change.

So if it’s our responsibility to plant spiritual seeds while trusting God to give them life and growth, how are we doing? Are we fulfilling our role? Are we actively scattering and planting spiritual seeds of the gospel and other spiritual truths from God’s Word? Do we need to be more alert to opportunities or more aware of just exactly how we can do this work of scattering seeds of truth?

Here are a few ways we can scatter spiritual seeds: through family devotions, by sharing scripture verses on our social media sites or in everyday conversations, leaving gospel tracts where they might be found, giving the gift of a Bible or contributing to an organization that distributes free Bibles, teaching Sunday School or VBS, etc., financially supporting missionaries and others in ministry, playing Christian music in our homes or places of business, going on mission outreaches and actively sharing the gospel, and by giving God glory for the blessings of life and answered prayers. And these are just a few ways.

Let’s give some thought to how we might be able scatter spiritual seeds this week, this month, this year. Let’s be aware and then be alert to opportunities. Let’s do our part—and then watch God give life and growth!

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants or he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” 1 Corinthians 3:6-7

*What are some other ways we can scatter spiritual seeds?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out next week. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*Flickr photo by –Tico–, Creative Commons License