Showing posts from March, 2010

Worship & Psalm 33, part 4

Everyone worships something.  Some worship their bodies -- though the older we get, the harder that becomes!  Some worship sports.  Some worship money or possessions.  Others worship their own children.  On and on it goes.

The writer of Psalm 33 describes worship to the one true God.  First, we learn who is to worship God: the righteous.  This is not about judging who is righteous and who is not.  It's about understanding righteousness through the lens of the psalms.  And through that lens, we see that the righteous are those who trust God and are grateful.

The writer of Psalm 33 then explains why righteous people worship God.  Verses 4-5 state four reasons why the righteous rejoice, praise, make melody, sing and play to his glory.

1) "The word of the Lord is righteous."  God's word provides life.  His ways are good.  The writer of Psalm 19 describes God's word as being sweeter than honey.  In the ancient Near East, honey had restorative powers.  Much like coffee…

Jeff Walling & Northside Christian Church

I've heard a few bad sermons in my day.  Shoot, I've preached a few bad sermons.  Do I hear an Amen?

But last night was not a time for bad sermons.  Jeff Walling traveled across the US from Charlotte to Fresno to speak all weekend at Northside Christian Church.  Jeff preaches for the Providence Road Church of Christ.  That's "Church of Christ" as in a cappella Churches of Christ.  That's "Church of Christ" as in the group that has tended to think they were the only ones going to heaven. 

With that kind of mentality, you shouldn't be surprised to learn that our preachers didn't get many invitations to speak outside our "bonds of fellowship."  Sure, Max Lucado is "one of us."  Thanks to his success as an author and to his gentle, ecumenical spirit, he speaks at churches of all persuasions.  But he is the exception.

Since 2005, a handful of our preachers have received occasional invitations to speak in Christian Churches.  …

Worship & Psalm 33, part 3

Verse 1 tells us who should worship. As I said in Monday's post, the righteous should worship God. I described what the Book of Psalms means by a righteous person -- not a perfect person, but one who trusts in God and is grateful for his help.

Some worship for the wrong reasons, but at least they are worshiping. In Philippians Paul spoke about people who preach Jesus with the wrong motives. He describes these preachers as selfish and competitive (Phil 1:15-17). They are neither humble nor gentle in their approach. Nevertheless, Paul says that it's okay. Even though their reasons might be all wrong, they are still preaching Jesus. And he rejoices because Jesus is still proclaimed.

So it is with those who worship for the wrong reasons. They may be show-offs or show-ups or camouflagers. But at least they are praising God.

Some who are righteous, however, do not praise God. Perhaps they were originally grateful to God. Over time, though, they drifted off into self-righteousness. They…

A Little Golf Humor

Thanks to Jim Miller for sharing this one.

Worship & Psalm 33, part 2

In Psalm 33, the psalmist begins by describing the type of person who worships or rejoices in God. "Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous." Righteous worshipers are the ones God wants. But this begs the question: who is an unrighteous worshiper?

Let's talk a bit about types of worshipers. We've all seen people worship in a way that strikes us the wrong way. Now this is dangerous ground because it sounds judgmental. But that's how our minds work. We constantly make judgments -- right or wrong -- about things we see around us. We certainly shouldn't judge the way other people worship.

But let's admit that not everyone has the best motives when they worship publicly. Jesus addressed this problem in the Sermon on the Mount (see particularly Matt 6). Here are some types of worshipers who seem less than righteous.

(1) Show offs. Some want to receive praise for their worship. Whether it's the long, flowery prayer or the aggressively raised hands, some people wan…

Worship & Psalm 33, part 1

Differences in worship divide many Christians. The greatest schism in the history of Christianity ostensibly happened because of worship -- namely, whether or not images (icons) could be tools in helping believers worship. Many contemporary Christians choose their place of worship based upon style of worship. Other factors may be important to many people, but worship is clearly one of the most emotional, personal and divisive issues within Christianity today.

I'm going to take my time with this issue. For the foreseeable future, we'll look at worship through different lenses. Some will be personal. Others will be textual or historical. Please note that this is a very broad subject, and I hope some of you will feel free to comment and add your perspectives and thoughts to the conversation.
I'll start with a look at Psalm 33. This psalm from our Bible is all about worship. If we're going to learn about worship, we will do well to listen to the testimony of scripture. The B…

Villanova's Scottie Reynolds

I follow Big East basketball. For years now, I've watched Scottie Reynolds of the Villanova Wildcats improve and become the best player in the Big East and a first-team All American. Even though I was typically rooting against 'Nova, he always seemed like a class act.

Yesterday, I was stunned to learn that Reynolds is a Church of Christ kid. A great article in this month's Christian Chronicle profiles this college basketball star. There's another great article about Reynolds in this blog posting from the Basketball Times Online. He's from the greater DC area and grew up going to church every time the doors opened. Even when his high school team had a Wednesday night game, he typically went to Bible study first and then went to the game.

Villanova is in Philadelphia, one of five D-1 programs in the Philadelphia area (St. Joseph's, Penn, Temple, Villanova and La Salle). Going to college hasn't stopped Scottie's involvement in church. He is active in the Kin…

Another Law Enforcement Funeral

Today, Fresno saw the second major funeral in a week for a police officer. Javier Bejar of the Reedley Police Department was killed in the same gun battle that took a sheriff deputy's life. The gunman, Rickey Liles, took his own life after trying his best to kill as many peace officers as possible.

What a bitter & horrific way to end your life. If your life is miserable, don't drag others down to the grave with you. But sin blinds us to the reality of our situations. Instead of seeing the damage being done by anger, people tend to lash out and take out their frustrations on others. Hence, people beat their children or spouses. People get crazily angry at others.
Office Bejar was a young, married policeman with his whole life in front of him. He had served in the Marine Corps. He is the first Reedley police officer ever killed in the line of duty.
This death touches even our church family. The parents of Bejar's partner attend our church. It has been an emotionally trying …

Editorial about Injuries in English Soccer

Here's an interesting article about the recent violent injury in the English Premier League. Arsenal teenage midfielder Aaron Ramsey's leg was broken above the ankle. Both bones snapped. He will need a year to recover.

This editorial in The Guardian's sports blog provides a good perspective on how we tend to view sports injuries like this. The author, Dara O'Brien, is tired of hearing people defend Ryan Shawcross, the Stoke City defender who broke Ramsey's leg. Yes, soccer is a violent sport, and these kinds of injuries do happen. But the furor surrounding this particular incident reveals yet again how bizarre and unnatural the world of sports is. You can find the article at

Spare us the sanctimony about Ryan Shawcross being a nice lad

What an incredible week it's been for fans of fracture porn. It started with the initial screening of Ryan Shawcross's "enthusiasti…

Flags at Half Mast, take 2

My good friend Dawn Frame has caught me in an error. It's a good thing I'm not keeping track of how many mistakes I make this month. But it's always nice to learn something new.

In yesterday's post, I said that the governor cannot order the US flag be flown at half staff. This is apparently incorrect. The governor may do so when a prominent state dignitary or military person dies.

Here is what I found at

When is it permitted to half-staff the U.S. flag?

Only the president of the United States or the governor of the state may order the flag to be at half-staff to honor the death of a national or state figure. Unfortunately, many city, business and organization leaders are half-staffing the flag upon the death of an employee or member. Instead, it is suggested to half-staff (if on a separate pole) the city, business or organizational flag. The federal flag code does not prohibit this type of half-staffing.

Dawn sent me the following…

Flags at Half Mast

I'm not an expert in flag etiquette, but I know a few things about how to handle the US flag. Some things were drilled into my head in junior high by an assistant principal who was a former marine. He wouldn't hesitate to reprimand any student who didn't show proper respect. I remember a few of us were talking during part of the national anthem once. Let's just say it didn't happen again!

One thing I know about the flag is that it is only to be lowered to half staff at the direction of the president. No one can decide to lower their US flag as a sign of mourning or respect unless the sitting president declares a day or mourning and orders flags be lowered. This typically only happens in times of horrific tragedy (i.e., 9-11) or when heads of state or their spouses die.
I am constantly amazed at how many people don't seem to know this protocol. Just yesterday, for example, the Woodward Park library had their flag lowered. I can only assume it was a sign of respect…

A Funeral for a Fallen Police Officer

Fresno County sheriff's deputy Joel Wahlenmaier was gunned down last week by a crazed man. The gunman, Rickey Liles, had grown hostile to everyone and everything. He had become the bane of Minkler, a tiny community southeast of Fresno.

When sheriff deputies showed up to issue a search warrant for his property, he gunned down Wahlenmaier and injured another officer. Liles later killed a Reedley police officer with a high-power rifle. The gunman died of a self-inflicted gunshot some time later.
When I drove past People's Church this morning, I could see a massive assembly of police officers, dignitaries and the like. Police forces from across the region sent representatives. I saw police cruisers from Native American tribes, San Jose, Modesto, San Francisco and many surrounding communities and counties. It was probably the largest collection of police vehicles I will ever see. They are here to pay honor to a valiant public servant who did not deserve this tragic end.
What causes a …