Oct 292011

One week ago today, I enjoyed spending a beautiful, fall day hiking with family and friends. Talking and laughing, we reveled in the fresh air and sunshine. The air began to cool as we reached the end of our hike. Rounding a bend, we came upon an abandoned ammunition storage bunker. Wisely, the door had been left open to reduce unsatisfied curiosity.

We entered the bunker, a large, round, concrete room, it’s domed ceiling completely buried in the surrounding hill. The first word spoken echo-bounced around the room. We all joined in hollering and making all sorts of strange and wild noises, enjoying the booming sound. Someone suddenly said, “Guys, we have to sing in here!”

And so we did. With our two dogs watching with rapt attention, four couples, three young and one more seasoned, lifted our voices in praise and worship to our Father! We let our voices lift without restraint. Strong male voices leading and lifting, clear female tones echoing. Joining in melody, completing with harmony, we let it all out. No audience but Him. No critic or censor, no restraint of convention or tradition.

The sound lifted higher and higher, filling the room, the sound flowing out of the open door and down the trail. We sang hallelujahs to the Lord. We sang about the sweet sound of amazing grace. We sang our plea for Him to abide with us, even as the day faded into night.

Then some … stood up and praised the LORD, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice. 2 Chronicles 20:19 NIV.

Praise our God, all peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard;  Psalm 66:8 NIV

The last time you sang your praise, did you do it with your chin buried in a hymnbook, hoping that your voice would be drowned out by those around you? Did I mumble the words out of habit, letting the meaning slip through my ears, not stopping in my mind to register?

If someone heard my voice, would they believe that the sweet sound of grace is truly amazing? Would they really trust that my heart knew one thing, that Jesus loves me? Or does my lack of enthusiasm and passion tell a different story, one that contradicts my words?

Whether a dark and dusty bunker or a soaring cathedral shot with sunlight,

Whether eight voices or eight hundred,

Whether voices perfectly modulated and pitched or throats straining to reach unfamiliar notes,

Whether the simple melody of a praise song or the swirling melody of a traditional hymn,

Stand up,

Lift your face heavenward,

Lift your voice,

Lift it long and loud,

Pour your heart as a living offering,

Through the sound of your voice.

Oct 242011

I recently enjoyed sitting with a group of teens around a roaring campfire. We ate, we laughed, we talked, we laughed! We sang praise songs together and we worshipped together. I asked them a question. “How could you best show love someone you meet on the street, someone you don’t know?” Several  felt that hugging the person would be the best way to express love. Another thought that listening to them would be a good way to show love. Great answers, I thought.

God, the Father asked Himself the same question. How do I show love for people who don’t know Me? Worse than that, how do I show love for people who hate Me? How do I communicate the simple equality, that Me = Love, to them? How do I share with them a picture of what unselfish love really looks like?

In my Bible, I read many stories of God showing grace, mercy, love to a rebellious people who kept running away from Him. Over and over, He welcomed them back. Did more than that! He ran after them!

A couple of weeks ago, I viewed The Passion of The Christ, the 2004 film directed by Mel Gibson.  In a very  graphic and violent way, the film let me experience the last twelve hours of Jesus’ life. It was the best of films. It was the worst of films. It forced me to experience Jesus in a way  that I had never done before. Although the spoken language is either Latin, Aramaic, or Hebrew, even without the supplied subtitles, the message comes through loud and clear.

What message is that? Our Father God sent His Son, His only Son, to live, and then to die in the most vicious, violent and degrading way known to man. And this death was at the hands of the very ones for whom the message was intended!

This movie is not for the faint of heart. If you don’t want to be affected to your very core, don’t watch it.  Yet, I urge you to watch it and let the message wash over you, pierce you, trouble you, sadden you, anger you, amaze you.  And change you.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were  still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5 NIV.

Father, I am amazed at Your message of violent grace and love. How could you give that way? How could you love that way? Help me to love that way. Help me to look more like Your Son.

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