Make a Joyful Noise

Make a Joyful Noise

Feb 27, 2014

Most of you know that I’m a retar … retired educator. Now, after 37 years in the classroom, I’m a substitute teacher. Maybe I didn’t make an error in that first sentence. Anyway, I’m teaching a music class today, choral music. My wife and daughter got a real kick out of that. There is a reason I’m not in the church choir. My singing sounds like a sick water buffalo. But I argue, “The Psalmist said to make a Joyful noise before the LORD”

The standard reply … “Hoss, trust us, your singing is definitely sorrowful.” I think the dogs howl and cats screech before I open my mouth to sing. I sometimes get upset because of my inability to make music for others, but I’ve learned to deal with and I do find solace in the fact that someday I will be able to sing with a beautiful and harmonious bass voice. Even if it isn’t that good, no one will care.

When we get to Heaven, we will be singing God’s praises. We will all be in the choir and it will sound great!

Actually, when we sing praise to God here on earth, it matters not how we sound to our fellow man, because we aren’t singing to each other. We are singing to God Almighty. Granted, we want to give a good performance, but when we give our best, we are giving a good performance. When we sing for our LORD, He always applauds. He gives a standing ovation for us. WOW! A standing ovation from the Holy Trinity!

That is the main reason I will not applaud any performance in a worship service. The performance was for our LORD, not for me. I may get to enjoy it and I will try to tell that person how I enjoyed his/her work and dedication, but I don’t want to rob them of any recognition they may receive from Him. That may sound cold, but that’s just me. Besides, not receiving accolades keeps me humble and makes me strive to do better.

While we all need an occasional pat on the back from others, lets us remember that what we do, we don’t do for that pat on the back, we do it for God. It’s called “Laying up treasures in Heaven.” That is including our worship activities and our attitudes. When each individual is worshiping God in his/her own way (A way that does not take away from others), it is a wonderful sight. After all, that’s what we will be doing in Heaven.

Remember, when our focus is on the LORD, what anyone else is doing is irrelevant.

IHS

Steve (Hoss)

Thanksgiving… Prelude to Advent

Be Thankful and Look Ahead…

11-23-13

“We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is good, because it is good; if bad, because it works in us patience, humility, contempt of this world and the hope of our eternal country.” ~ C. S. Lewis

It’s the time of the year to be thankful. Isn’t it great that we manage to compartmentalize our emotions and feeling into certain times of the year? I’m amazed that someone actually realized the need to be thankful for the blessings we receive in life and set aside a day just for that purpose. Our lives are so filled with other concerns (Jobs, family, church, etc.) that we just don’t have the time to feel thankful for what we do have (or don’t have).

And we have such preparations to prepare to be thankful. If we are hosting the day, someone will have to plan the menu, go to the grocery and prepare a meal. Then if we are hosting relatives and friends who are coming from a far distance, we need to prepare guest accommodations. Should we be traveling, there is packing and making arrangements for our homes to be secure and make travel plans. Wow! So much to do, so little time.

And think about it. As soon as we finish being thankful, we will start preparing for Advent. You know, the celebration of the coming of the Savior. Lessee, there’s the four Sundays of Advent and then Christmas day. More cooking, guest accommodations, travel, oh and the gifts, we need a head start on them. But we are so grateful to the retailers there. They are giving up their time to be thankful so they can be open on Thanksgiving day to help the shoppers get a day ahead on the shopping rush.

We are so fortunate to have our lives so organized in this way. No pressures, we have time to do what we need to do and we can be happy and feel good about our fellow man, be thankful, Peace on earth, good will toward all men, and all that sweet talk and thoughts. Yes, Life is grand.

You know I find it hard to believe that people actually think this way. We should live every day, as it was a day of Thanksgiving. Every day we should be grateful that God sent His Son. On every day we should rejoice that He is risen! Every day should be a new beginning!

Have we lost our senses? Don’t answer that because we would be lying to ourselves and to God. While holidays are a time for family and reflection, shouldn’t every day be that time? When we come to the meeting house to worship, there should be that joy of seeing a loved friend or family member we haven’t seen since the last time we were here together.

I have been truly blessed to see my friends and hear their voices after being home so long recovering from knee surgery. I am thankful for what God has done in my life and in the lives of my friends. Just seeing a smile and shaking a hand and hearing a kind word is something to treasure.

C. H. Spurgeon once remarked, “It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.” I had forgotten how good it felt to stand and walk without pain. I don’t think I will ever take that for granted again.

Lets be thankful and look to God, our maker and Savior. Lets do that daily, not just on certain days of the year. The true gift of God is Love. It is meant to be shared.

I thank God for my church and the opportunity to serve in whatever way He lets me. It may not be in the same manner I’ve served elsewhere, but then I realize, I’m not serving man, I’m serving God. Much of that service involves loving my fellow man. May I let His love shine as we greet one another. May we all let His love shine.

In His Service

Steve (Hoss)

 

I Pledge…

A past look into the past…

11-20-13

“I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God’s Holy Word. I will make it lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path, and I will hide its words in my heart that I might not sin against God.”

I have recited that pledge, along with Pledges to the American and Christian flags, each year at Vacation Bible School.  As I reflect on these words, I pause to wonder… How serious do we take this pledge? Do we really believe the Bible is God’s Holy Word? If so, then we also must believe it’s inspired… God breathed.

There are Bible scholars that will tell us that the first eleven chapters of Genesis is a myth, a “fairy tale”. One dear friend once told me that he believed it was simply a story, but there were certain truths God wanted us to know. As I spoke with him I realized that he was still telling me that the scripture was inspired and that he and I were experiencing a difference of interpretation.

There is a similar difference between “Day-Age” creationists and “Young Earth” creationists. The “Day-Agers” say that a day in Genesis 1 is an indeterminate amount of time and the earth is billions of years old. The “Young Earthers” maintain that a day refers to 24 hours and that the Earth is only six thousand years old. Then there are ideas located somewhere between these two extremes. I have my ideas, but to tell the truth, I wont be surprised either way at what God or His angels tell me when I reach eternity.

You see I know one thing for certain… Every word in that book is truth. Now I may not fully understand that truth to its fullest, but someday I will and that’s good enough for me. Look at what Paul wrote the church at Corinth. I Cor 13: 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. … 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. At the moment, we don’t know everything. God lets us know what we need to know and what we need to know is the way to salvation and eternal life. The day will come when we know fully. That will be when The Creator says we are ready, and not before then. It is enough to know that God don’t lie.

I have discovered two amazing truths… The less I read the Bible, the less I want to read… but the more I read, the hungrier I get for His Word and the more I read, the more I remember.

These words have life, and life abundantly. I really do not understand how a person can read any portion of this book and not be changed. Yes, I know the “Begats” can be a challenge, but there is some interesting information contained in those genealogies.

Check this out… Methuselah died before his father. The flood occurred the same year that Methuselah and His son, Lamech, died. Interesting…

I have found that every time I read a scripture, I gain a new understanding of God. It matters now how many times I’ve read it before. You cannot read the Bible enough. Just when you think you know it all, God shows you some hidden gem in an obscure passage. Reading the Bible goes hand in hand with prayer. When we read, God talks to us. When we pray, we talk to God. Conversation is good and reading with a prayerful mindset, puts in tune with the Creator.

He died for me; I’ll live for Him

Steve (Hoss)

As You Go…

A look at “The Great Commission”

11-14-13

Matthew 28: 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

We are very familiar with what we know as “The Great Commission.” But as I look at this passage I see a command. Jesus has told us, the church, to make disciples. We are to evangelize the world. We are to be on mission. I remember discussing this with a preacher friend and he noted that the word “Go” in verse 19 should be translated, “As you go.” We aren’t to make any special trips to evangelize. Evangelism and discipling should be a way of life for the Christian. Telling others about Jesus is not an option. Being an ambassador for Christ is not a special calling (granted some are more gifted than others, but we are all commanded to share His love).

I remember sitting through seminars and workshops on how to share the gospel.  I remember going out into the community in pairs to share Jesus door to door. I also remember the thrill of leading someone to Jesus as Savior. That joy was followed by the disappointment of hearing my partner practically requiring this new convert to come to our church and make their decision public.

I reckon some will say I’m not a good Southern Baptist here. Let me make one thing very clear and I’m apologizing to No person for the following statement. I am a Christian first and foremost. The ONLY reason I am a Southern Baptist is that the church where I am a member and I choose to worship is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention. I will expound on this in another posting.

What I felt was important for this new convert was that they should make their decision public as soon as they could. But I didn’t see any reason to come to the church I was attending. If that person felt comfortable elsewhere and that church was a New testament Church, then that is where they should go.

While Jesus tells us to preach, baptize and make disciples, I don’t think he meant for the same person to be doing all these tasks for the same converts. I also realize that some of us are better equipped to preach or proclaim the gospel to others while others are better equipped to teach believers what it is to be a Christian. Under God’s leadership (remember, it is His Church) and individual may only be asked to perform one task for one person while he is performing another task for a different person. Let me remind myself that I must keep my focus on the LORD Jesus Christ and to always seek first the kingdom of God.

One reason I write these e-mails is that I am commanded to teach God’s people. It may be good to tell about our heroes of the faith: Wesley, Calvin, Luther, Augustine, Spurgeon, Edwards and others, but I must first tell about the architect and builder of my faith, Jesus of Nazareth. My boss is not the Deacon Chairman, My Sunday School teacher, the Pastor, or even the President of the Southern Baptist Convention. My boss, my LORD, is a Jewish carpenter. And He has commanded me to preach and teach. I intend to do that. And may I never get so caught up in how to do my job, that I forget to do my job.

In His Service and Through His Love…

Steve (Hoss)

 

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross

Without the shedding of blood…

11-13-13

Keep me near the Cross

How is salvation possible? True, we strive to keep God’s law. We follow the teachings of Jesus. Is that what saves us? Some people would say so. I mean if you are a good person and you do what God says in the Law and go to church and tithe and take part in visitation and such, Is that what its all about?

I admit, a Christian should show all those attributes and then some but I ask one question… What about the cross? If following Jesus’ teachings is enough, why did He have to go to the cross? We have to remember something. All have sinned. All fall short of God’s Glory. We need forgiveness for our sins and that requires a blood sacrifice. Scripture tells us that there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood.

Salvation is not by things we do physically, not by our good works, but by our humility and acceptance of what Jesus did through his sacrifice, his death, the cross. One must accept the work of the cross to receive salvation. No amount of good deeds is going to do that for us.

Every Major world religion has people doing good works. But only Christianity has the Cross. Good works is not enough. That can be a tough pill to swallow. We all know nonbelievers who put Christians to shame with their good works, but they will not be in Heaven. I hate to be so blunt, but we must speak the truth. It hurts and it tends to alienate folks. It ain’t politically correct. I’ve said it before and it bears repeating, Jesus was not politically correct and as His follower, I don’t need to be either.

Our faith is all about the Cross and what happened at Calvary. Our salvation was purchased there. It isn’t simply obedience, but it is faith and acceptance of what the LORD did on that hill. One constant prayer should be, “Jesus, keep me near the cross.” When we focus on the Cross, we focus on the LORD. We realize that since He died for us, we need to live for Him.

In His Service

Steve (Hoss)

The Church

From November…

11-12-13

The Church

Matthew 16: 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” … Jesus replied, 18 “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”

Notice something here; Jesus said He would build HIS church, not the church. It is not my church, or your church. The church belongs to the LORD Jesus Christ. Actually, His church is much more than the local congregation where we attend bible study and worship.

The Church, The Bride of Christ, is made up of EVERY person who has confessed and repented of his/her sins. Denomination is irrelevant. Whether one is Catholic or Protestant, has no bearing. There is only one common denominator… Has that person received Jesus of Nazareth as LORD and Savior?

The Church is much more than the meetinghouse we attend together. WE are the Church, not the building. And since we are the Church, we need each other. We need to be with one another as often as we can. We need to support and encourage one another. That simple fact that we need one another is plenty of reason for us to strive to be at the church building every time the opportunity presents itself.

But, our individual ministry does not stop with the people who attend worship with us. Jesus has a plan for the whole Church, and we are a small part of that body.

Just as a small part of your body has an effect on the body as a whole, what we do as individuals affects both the local church and the Universal Church. That is not always a good thing. What we must remember is that nonbelievers watch what we do and how we behave. When we begin to think we run things within the church, we are making a huge mistake. Jesus is the head of the Church, even on the local level. Not the Pastor, not the Deacon chairman, not the Sunday School director, not the treasurer, not the worship leader… Jesus is the head. It is HIS Church.

We must never think we have the solution or we know what is best for the Church. Our LORD knows that and when we follow His leadership, there is no need to look toward a human leader, and we will know what direction to go, because He guides our paths. If you feel people are not following you, take a moment to think, and remind yourself of who the leader is.

My church doesn’t stand a chance, but the Gates of hell will NEVER prevail against the Church of Jesus Christ. And FYI, those saints include saints for all time.

 

In His Love

Steve (Hoss)

 

Immersed in the Word

I’m subbing at the Christian school today. I’m in the Spanish classroom. This should be interesting, My Spanish vocabulary is limited to taco, burrito and about 5 other words. Wednesday is Chapel day. One of the teachers (I’ll call her “Eve,” although that’s not her name) spoke and she did a great job with the program. I really enjoyed it. It is really neat when Christians of different denominations can come together, put doctrinal differences aside and just talk about the LORD and His teachings.

I won’t go through all Eve had to say, but she did remind me of my responsibility and purpose. “A Voice Crying in the Wilderness” … That was the purpose of John the Immerser. He knew his purpose in life. He knew the plan God had for him. Eve spoke of the “Advance team.” That was what John did for Jesus. His message pointed people to Jesus. He even proclaimed Jesus as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

Her message reminded me of a sermon I preached on “Playing Second Fiddle.” The Baptizer was definitely second fiddle to the Messiah. He knew it too. He played his role and then stepped aside to let the LORD have center stage.  Folks, that was not easy to do. John had a great following. Some believed he was the one he was pointing to. But John set the record straight when he said, “He must increase and I must decrease.”

Eve’s homeroom was leading the service and “Heart of Worship” was one of the songs we sang to prepare us for Eve’s words.  You see, John knew about the Heart of Worship, Jesus. We need to be more like John. We may not run around in camel hair coats and feed on honey covered grasshoppers, but we can still proclaim and point others to Jesus. That is our purpose. That is one reason we are here.

Wait a minute! Isn’t that the preacher’s job? Well yes, but it’s also our job, each and every one of us. I matters not that one has been to ceme… seminary. Any of God’s children can proclaim the Gospel. Consider Peter and Paul. Peter was an uneducated fisherman, impulsive, loyal, but frightened. He boldly preached one sermon and 3000 people accepted Jesus as LORD and Savior. Paul was highly educated, a tentmaker and a Roman Citizen. Paul loved the LORD with a great passion, but he was unaware of the Truth. He was the greatest persecutor of Christians of his day. He became the Jew who carried the Gospel to the Gentiles. In both cases the difference in their lives was Jesus. It was Jesus who equipped them to perform the task God had for them.

Look at our heroes. Abraham was an old man with a wife past child bearing age; Joseph was sold into slavery and cast into prison; Moses may have had the best education man could offer (but then man’s best pales in comparison to God’s worst), but he was a murderer and had a speech impediment; Rahab was a prostitute; Hannah was barren; David was the runt of his family; Daniel was a captive teenager; Mary was a peasant girl; James and John has tempers; Matthew was considered a traitor; Simon was a member of a faction advocating a violent overthrow of the Government… But God used these people. Why? Because they were willing…

Here is a truth that needs to soak in. God isn’t really interested in your ABILITY as much as He is in your AVAILABILITY. What skills you lack, He will provide. Just recognize what God would have you do and then do it. He will take care of the rest.

But then, that’s the hard part, isn’t it? Trusting God to take care of the rest. What He did for these, our heroes, He will do for you.

Red Skelton ended each episode his TV show by stating his belief that God has put each of us here for a purpose. I do share that belief, and one thing I’ve noticed is that as my life has progressed, my purpose has changed. Yes, there have been times where I wondered what I was to be doing (Like now) but God has always showed me, and I strived to do what He wanted. As we seek God and draw closer, we will find our individual purposes for our lives. As He increases in our lives, we will decrease. It is all about Jesus. The better we realize that, the closer we get.

 

Because He Lives!

Steve (Hoss)

Lessons from James

10-06-13

Today’s Sunday school lesson came from James 5:1-11. It was an Interesting lesson and I came away with some new angles at some concepts.

Before we look at these concepts, let’s remind ourselves of whom James was talking to and whom is he talking to today. For starters, The Bible, in a general sense, is written to all humanity. But we must realize that the general message, besides a history of God’s people (both the nation of Israel and the early church), is to accept Jesus of Nazareth as LORD and Saviour. That is really all the nonbeliever is really able to comprehend. The nonbeliever’s eyes and ears are not open to the specific truths God wants to reveal to us as His people, as His children. Now in the specific sense, this book we as Christians hold sacred is a blueprint for life. It IS the TRUTH, the whole TRUTH, and nothing but the TRUTH. In that sense, God is speaking to His people.

Now for starters, to the rich who we’re “successful” because of their misuse of those less fortunate, the LORD’S brother was saying, “God will get you for that!” These rich we’re Christian rich. Why would a nonbeliever care? He won’t believe these words anyway! But to a Christian, especially one who has not fully grasped the concept of love thy neighbour as thyself and who one’s neighbour is, these first 5 verses hit home.

Then James, in verse 7, shifts gears a bit. “Don’t worry about retaliation, revenge, etc., that’s Gods job, so let God be God. You have your own chores to tend to.” When our mind is on payback, we aren’t able to focus on serving God, and that is our job. We have no business trading evil for evil. It is our place to turn the other cheek. I am reminded of God’s admonition to the Hebrews in Deuteronomy, “Vengeance is mine.” Sayeth the LORD, “I will repay.” James is telling us to be patient, keep on sharing the Love of Jesus, Leave any retaliation for evil to God.

Now you may ask, “Well what am I supposed to do?”

In Verse 7 James starts to tell us.

First, Patience is a virtue… God will take care of everything, but it is on His timetable.

Second, strengthen one’s spirit. Now that, like patience is easier said than done. But it is done by spending more time with God, more Bible study, and more knee work. Yep, I’m lacking there myself. I can study His word and sometimes I feel I know it well enough to head for the cemeter… , er seminary and teach a few classes. My problem is that I don’t spend time actually talking and listening to God. Simply reading our Bible is not listening. We … I need a stronger attitude of prayer and working to be as David was… a man after God’s own heart.

Finally, James tells us to squelch the complaining and gossip. Say What? You mean I can’t even let my frustrations out to a friend? Nope… Take it to your best Friend, Jesus. Leave it there. You won’t be sorry. I know I’m not when I do.

Keep praying and seeking…

In Christ

Steve (Hoss)

 

Got Faith? Pray!

Nov 5, 2013

Got Faith? Pray!

Have you ever doubted your faith? How do you know your faith is the real thing? It’s a simple check on yourself… Look at your prayer life. If we have the faith we claim to have, we will spend time with the Savior. He is the source of power in our lives. He is our mediator between us and The Father.

If we truly believe then He will be the first person we speak to when we wake up and the last person we speak with before going to sleep. We will chat with Him several times throughout the day. Remember, “Enoch walked with God, and was not, For God took him.”(Gen 5:24)

Wouldn’t it be great if we could be so close to God that He just took us home with him one day? No one else was that close and we know of our heroes, our Hall of Faith. God referred to Abraham as His friend. David was a man after God’s own heart. Moses Spoke directly with God, as did Elijah.

How is this possible? We know they were men of faith. And we also know they spent time in prayer. Even God’s son, Jesus, who was God incarnate, spent time alone with the father. We need that time. And time spent in prayer is time spent learning about the Father and drawing closer to him. And on top of that, we show our faith. You don’t ask something of a person if you don’t expect to receive. You ask, expecting an answer in accordance to what you are requesting. But we must ask within His will and submit to His will.

“Well, why do I need to ask within His will? Seems that He has already decided, so why ask?”

Let me put it this way… If you don’t ask, then you are not showing your faith, so if you have not the faith, why try to prove something you don’t want to believe anyway?

I know, that sounds like double talk. But it isn’t. The closer we get to God, the more we realize what He wants for us. The more we will request from him and God being the generous Father will supply our needs and our desires within His will. If we are in His will, we will have no bad desires. Just talk to Him. He is in that empty chair next to you.

We all need to get closer to God and show our faith. To do that, we need to pray. When we pray we show we believe God will supply our needs. I’m guilty of not praying enough. I need to boost my prayer life. I know these letters I’m writing are helping me grow. Many times, as I write, I find myself talking to me. I pledge to you that I will spend more time with my Savior and God and work on that closer walk, and look forward to that day when He says, “Come home with me.”

In fact, nothing tells the story about your faith like your prayer life. Nothing.

And to top it off, as you pray, doubt will flee.

You have my prayers

Steve (Hoss)

 

In God I Trust

11-03-13

In God I Trust

Dan would have been 59 today. April will mark the eighth anniversary of his passing. It seems like yesterday. A year earlier he was complaining to me about low back pain on his right side. In July of 2005 we found he had a cancer that had affected his kidney and he lost the right kidney. Something told me this was not over and the diagnosis confirmed it. The cancer had moved into the bone marrow, Stage 4. I was simply a matter of time. Why would God do this to our family? Dan was the baby and here he is the first to enter eternity.

I know death of a loved one is a difficult subject for some to discuss, but I also know that bringing pain into the open among Christian friend is a great healer. There is one scripture I claim above all others when what I believe are bad things. In the 28th verse of Chapter 8 of Paul’s letter to the Church in Rome, The Apostle wrote, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

“What good can come out of that?”

The best answer I can give is, “I don’t know, but God knows and that’s what matters.”

As I looked back at my little brother’s life I realized that during those final 9 months, he had changed. He was studying scripture and asking questions. He had never done that before. He was seeking God and he found Him. I had the honor of participating in his funeral. It blessed me to say that I knew where he is. He is with our LORD. The night before He was sent from his hospital room to ICU, He looked at me and said, “I think I’m dying.”

As I choked back the emotion welling up, I asked Dan if he was ready to meet God. He assured me he was. That was all I needed. I’ll never forget what the other minister at his funeral said at graveside. He told us that only two people know if a person is ready to meet God, God and that person. Dan knew, and I’ve come to realize that his illness and death have led at lest two people toward a closer walk with Him.

There are times we may never know why God lets things happen, He simply says, “Trust Me.” When we do we will find abundant blessings. I keep trusting Him. And when a loved one is called home, I know one thing.

We’ll meet again, I surely know where, I just don’t know when. But I know we’ll meet on a sunny day.

Sunny because the light of Jesus permeates all the darkness.

 

I love you because He loved me.

Steve (Hoss)