Posts by date :

Give thanks to the Lord

Posted by Mike Heady on November 21, 2016 with No Commentsas , , , , , ,

Worship based on Psalm 107

psalm-118_1

During this time of thanksgiving, I’d like to offer this worship activity for you to focus on God’s redemptive story in your life.

Psalm 107:1-3 reads:

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good,

For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,

Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary

 And gathered from the lands,

From the east and from the west,

From the north and from the south.

This psalm focuses on experiences that call us to give thanks to God. There are 5 categories of his work in the rest of the psalm. Before reading the rest, pray for the Spirit of God to lead you to see how God has redeemed you and to enable you to express your gratitude…

 

WANDERING (verses 4-9)

They wandered in the wilderness in a desert region;

They did not find a way to an inhabited city.

 They were hungry and thirsty;

Their soul fainted within them.

 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble;

He delivered them out of their distresses.

 He led them also by a straight way,

To go to an inhabited city.

 Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness,

And for His wonders to the sons of men!

 For He has satisfied the thirsty soul,

And the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.

This is a picture of insecurity, loneliness, empty uncertainty, personal hunger & thirst. Nothing satisfies. The Lord hears our cry and takes us home and fills our souls.

How have you wandered? How has God heard your cry and led you home to rest and nourishment? Give thanks to the Lord…

 

IMPRISONED (verses 10-16)

There were those who dwelt in darkness and in the shadow of death,

Prisoners in misery and chains,

 Because they had rebelled against the words of God

And spurned the counsel of the Most High.

 Therefore He humbled their heart with labor;

They stumbled and there was none to help.

 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble;

He saved them out of their distresses.

He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death

And broke their bands apart.

Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness,

And for His wonders to the sons of men!

For He has shattered gates of bronze

And cut bars of iron asunder.

This is a picture of trying to break free of God-centeredness to live by our own ideas and ways. Godless freedom only results in bondage. We become prisoner to sin, Satan, self-centeredness. Jesus enters dungeon and breaks the chains and brings us out to freedom and new life.

How have you rebelled and found yourself in bondage? When you cried out, how did Jesus come and set you free? Give thanks to the Lord…

 

 SELF-DESTRUCTION (verses 17-22)

Fools, because of their rebellious way,

And because of their iniquities, were afflicted.

Their soul abhorred all kinds of food

And they drew near to the gates of death.

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble;

He saved them out of their distresses. 

He sent His word and healed them,

And delivered them from their destructions. 

Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness,

And for His wonders to the sons of men! 

Let them also offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,

And tell of His works with joyful singing.

This is a picture of refusing what we need for life – suffering spiritual anorexia. We reject God’s provisions for our souls and self-destruct. In our weakened condition we cry to God and he saves. He speaks what we need to hear; he nourishes and heals. By grace, brings us back to life.

How have you refused what God has for you? How has God poured out his grace to save you and restore your life? Give thanks to the Lord…

 

OVERWHELMING ODDS (verses 23-32)

Those who go down to the sea in ships,

Who do business on great waters; 

They have seen the works of the Lord,

And His wonders in the deep. 

For He spoke and raised up a stormy wind,

Which lifted up the waves of the sea. 

They rose up to the heavens, they went down to the depths;

Their soul melted away in their misery. 

They reeled and staggered like a drunken man,

And were at their wits’ end. 

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,

And He brought them out of their distresses. 

He caused the storm to be still,

So that the waves of the sea were hushed. 

Then they were glad because they were quiet,

So He guided them to their desired haven. 

Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness,

And for His wonders to the sons of men! 

Let them extol Him also in the congregation of the people,

And praise Him at the seat of the elders.

This is a picture of overwhelming odds, crisis times – like being in a storm at sea. We are at our wits’ end, don’t know what to do. When we cry to Lord, we find him in the ship with us. He leads through the crisis to safety and peace.

What storms have you been threatened by? How has God shown he is with you and given you peace? Give thanks to the Lord…

 

REFINING (verses 33-43)

He changes rivers into a wilderness

And springs of water into a thirsty ground; 

A fruitful land into a salt waste,

Because of the wickedness of those who dwell in it. 

He changes a wilderness into a pool of water

And a dry land into springs of water; 

And there He makes the hungry to dwell,

So that they may establish an inhabited city, 

And sow fields and plant vineyards,

And gather a fruitful harvest. 

Also He blesses them and they multiply greatly,

And He does not let their cattle decrease. 

When they are diminished and bowed down

Through oppression, misery and sorrow, 

He pours contempt upon princes

And makes them wander in a pathless waste. 

But He sets the needy securely on high away from affliction,

And makes his families like a flock. 

The upright see it and are glad;

But all unrighteousness shuts its mouth. 

Who is wise? Let him give heed to these things,

And consider the lovingkindnesses of the Lord.

This is a picture of God refining his redeemed people with a process of blessing and trauma – sometimes it’s like paradise, sometimes like desert. God refines our character to make us like Jesus – God-centered and holy. All is in “lovingkindness” – the ferocious passion of awesome God. 

What in your character has needed changed? How has God refined and transformed you more into the likeness of Christ? What a loving gift! Give thanks to the Lord…

 

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good,

“For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”

 

worship-i-have-a-reason-to-worship

 

How I stopped being a racist

Posted by Mike Heady on November 17, 2016 with No Commentsas , , , , , , ,

Racism and the division it produces has become a serious issue in the U.S. during the recent few of years. Well, it has always been a serious issue, that’s for certain.  But it has again come to the forefront of our society.  I don’t need to rattle off all the  examples; you know what’s happening.

 

A lot of people know what’s happening and want it to change. Can it change?  When the civil rights movement resulted in new laws and policies, it seemed that change was happening, but now look at the anger and fear and hatred and violence that are present – if there was change it certainly didn’t last.  Why not?  What needs to happen?

I want to share succinctly what happened to me.

I am a white man and I was a racist, growing up in Texas during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Not the white supremacist kind; I didn’t hate or fear other races.  I just felt we whites were somehow better than other races, specifically African-Americans, and to some extent Hispanics .  Well, yes, that is a white supremacy stance.  I grew up in a culture that functioned with that belief.  I have a very poor memory and there are only a few specific things from my childhood that I can remember.  One is going with my mother to the Leonard Bros. department store in Fort Worth when I was about 6-8 years old.  The image is still in my memory: separate water fountains and restrooms marked “Whites Only” and “Coloreds Only.”

We lived in a small town. A railroad ran through it.  I heard stories from years past when black men riding in boxcars would try to get off in our town, and they were physically stopped by some of the local men.  I felt proud of my town.

One day when I must have been about 10 years old, I was playing in our front yard. A two-lane road ran by.  I saw a dump truck coming around the bend just south of our house.  A black man was driving it.  When he passed me, I blurted out a racial slur without even thinking about it.  When the driver jerked his head around and looked at me, I ran into the house.  Fortunately, he didn’t stop and beat the hell out of me.

Schools were integrated when I was in the 5th or 6th grade. I didn’t even know there was a separate school for African-Americans in our area.  Only a couple of families from it enrolled in our school.  One of the boys was in my class.  Obviously, he was treated poorly.  For my part, I can say that I liked him but I felt he was inferior to me because of the color of his skin.

My church in that small Texas town fostered that racist attitude. When there were protests and marches and demonstrations going on all over the country, my church voted on and adopted the policy that if any black person came into a service, the deacons would escort him out.  The purpose of that was supposedly to avoid a confrontation and the disruption of the worship of God.  “Go away!  You’re not welcome here!” instead of, “Welcome!  Let’s worship together!  Let’s work together and make things better!”

I am embarrassed and saddened by these things.

When I was 19 years old, I put my faith in Christ and surrendered my life to him. I became a Christian, a follower of Jesus.  Abracadabra – racism disappeared!  Well, no it wasn’t that easy.

One of the critical features of my new life was learning that I needed to look at things, everything, from God’s point of view. I couldn’t have explained it very well at the time, but looking back now, I was developing a new belief system.  Not just doctrine – an internal guidance system, core beliefs that shape my values and behaviors.  There were truths that God wants his people to accept and live by instead of the ideas, values, and feelings they had been living by.

Then I read this (using the King James Version of the Bible at the time): “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus… There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ” (Galatians 3:26, 28). From the apostle Paul’s perspective, being a first-century Jew, there were two “races” in the world: Jews and Gentiles (“Greek” in KJV). God’s point of view is he doesn’t distinguish between these different kinds of people, including races, but makes all of us his children, unifies us in a faith relationship with Christ.

I had to compare what I had been believing with that and follow it to its logical conclusion. I realized if God doesn’t put the different races in any kind of pecking order, then who am I to think my race makes me better than another?  Here was a new belief for me.  It took some time of course, but I accepted this truth for myself.  The Spirit of God changed my racist mindset.  I began and have continued, imperfectly, to look at all people from that perspective.  (I’ve learned many other truths which reinforce this key idea that God does not make a distinction between us and he desires unity in place of division.)

In the efforts to overcome racism, the idea often presented is that we need to try to understand others and appreciate others’ perspective and gain insight from others so we can reconcile and be united. I’m thinking maybe the process needs to be turned around.  We need to be united then we will be able to understand and appreciate and gain insight from others.  That kind of unity happens when we follow Jesus Christ and accept truth from him as our core belief system, when we pay attention to the Spirit of God transforming our hearts.

This is my basic story. I know that in practice overcoming racism is a complex process.  I want to share that change can happen.