First Things First

Since the first Sunday of October 2022, I’ve been preaching through Paul’s letter to the Philippians, in a sermon series at my church entitled “First Things First”. We took a brief break in the season of Advent and Christmas, but so far have spent 12 Sundays walking through this wonderful book. We’ve got two more weeks left until we finish!

If you’d like to listen to any of the sermons, they can all be found here:

Why We Sing

One of the things I love the most about my church is that we’re a singing church. We absolutely delight in singing to the Lord together. Quiet songs, loud songs, slow songs, fast songs, old songs, new songs, and everything in between.

In one of our Scripture readings from last Sunday, we were reminded of some of the reasons why we sing. From Colossians 3:16:

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…”

  • We sing because it allows the good news of Jesus Christ to dwell richly in our souls. You may have noticed that we remember what we sing. It’s why commercial jingles are so catchy! Every time we sing, we’re preaching to ourselves.

“…teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom…”

  • We’re also preaching to those people around us in the pews. In the words of the old hymn, we’re all “prone to wander…”. And we’re tossed and turned by the world during the week. When we sing, we’re encouraging our brothers and sisters with the truth.

“…singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…”

  • We sing a variety of songs, spanning centuries, written by different people with different testimonies, from the Psalms that Jesus himself sang, to hymns that have resounded through the ages, to new songs inspired today. God is worthy of it all.

“…with thankfulness in your hearts to God”.

  • God is so glorious, and his gospel is such good news, that whenever we sing, his Holy Spirit moves in our hearts to give us new reasons to praise. Sometimes this draws us to our knees, or to our feet, and sometimes this draws us to clap – or lift – our hands. These are outward signs of an inward thankfulness that God is stirring in our hearts as we sing.

So come to church ready to sing. Don’t be bashful about your voice, and don’t worry if you don’t think you’re much of a “singer”. God has given you a voice to use, and he’s given you a song to sing.

O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise
The glories of my God and King
The triumphs of his grace!

Giving God Our Kicked-Over Nighstands

We all know what it feels like to get so deeply frustrated with ourselves, when we can’t do something we wish we could do, or when we’re faced with our limitations or inabilities. For me, I experience this frustration quite often, whenever I try to build something with my hands, or as I’ve shared previously, try to fix anything in my house.

Years ago, when Catherine and I were newly married, we bought a small (and cheap!) nightstand from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. This simple particle-board creation came in a simple box, with simple instructions, for simple assembly. Not so much for me. After a few hours of getting more and more frustrated with myself, I did what anyone would do. I threw a small fit, and kicked the lopsided nightstand over on its half-assembled side, out of frustration.

And then I asked for help. And Catherine put it together in about 10 minutes. Simple.

Where do you get frustrated with yourself, in your walk with the Lord? Where do you often find yourself coming face-to-face with an area of limitation, inability, or failure? We all have those areas, whether or not we’re honest enough to admit it. We’re all sinners in need of a Savior, and we’re all unable to do anything apart from God’s grace.

An old Anglican prayer gets at the heart of our spiritual limitations and inabilities, by expressing our need for God to enable us to do something we can’t do our own. It says it this way:

Grant us, O Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who can do no good thing apart from you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord…

That’s the key to the Christian’s walk with the Lord. With one step, we honestly admit that we can do no good thing apart from him. And with the other step, we ask him to enable us to do those things in us. A walk of desperate dependence, enjoying God’s limitless grace.

So be honest with God. He sees all your kicked-over nightstands. He’s eager to step in and help, if you’ll let him.

Praying for Double-Vision

This summer my church is devoting our sermons to digging deeply into the Gospel according to Luke. As we spend time focusing on Jesus’ interactions with all sorts of people, listening to his messages, considering his questions, and peeling back all the layers of his parables, our prayer is that two things are happening:

First, that we would see Jesus, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).

Second, that we would see through Jesus, “for by him all things were created… and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 3:16, 17).

We all need this kind of spiritual double-vision. And that’s why we’re spending so much time in Luke this summer.

C.S. Lewis once wrote: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

The gospels help that to happen. They invite us not only to look upon Jesus, but also to look through him. In this way, he is our vision, and he is our wisdom. He is the focal point of our life, and he is the light that illuminates our life. He is the Son of God that has risen, and he invites us to see his radiant light, and to see everything else by his light.

May we be a people who never grow tired of digging deeply into the gospel, and looking intentionally at Jesus, praying that he would be the object of our worship and the lens through which we see the world.